Saturday, August 12, 2017

All Signs Point to Murder

Author:  Connie di Marco (a/w/a Connie Archer)
Series:  A Zodiac Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Midnight Ink
Publication Date:  August 5, 2017

Description:  Julia Bonatti is alarmed by the astrological signs looming over Geneva Leary’s wedding day, but nobody asked Julia’s opinion and being a bridesmaid means supporting the bride no matter what. Even with the foreboding Moon-Mars-Pluto lineup in the heavens, no one’s prepared for the catastrophes that strike: a no-show sister, a passed-out wedding planner, and a lethal shooting in the dead of night.

With anger and grief threatening to tear the Leary family part, Julia is determined to understand how such a terrible tragedy could occur. As she digs deeper into the family’s secrets, her astrological insights will lead her to the truth about a criminal enterprise that stretches far beyond the California coast.

My Review
I requested an advance copy of this book from Netgalley with a bit of trepidation.  I am a fan of this author's writing as Connie Archer, but I found the first book in this series too overwhelming with its focus on astrology.  Because I liked the uniqueness of the main characters profession and I very much enjoy this author's other work, I decided to give the second book a try.

I have to say, I enjoyed the second book much more than the first.  I thought this time around the author did a better job balancing the inclusion of astrology with the overall mystery and story line.  I like that Julia's profession is unique to the cozy mystery genre and it is interesting to me how she can use astrology charts to really discover things about people. Julia herself is a character that has a lot of potential.  I would love to see more development in the next few books.  The author has made a good start but I think that there room for growth both personally and professionally.  The secondary cast of characters are interesting.  I like Gloria, Julia's grandmother.  I am hoping we get to see more of her in future books.

I thought the mystery in this installment was much stronger than the first book.  The murder victim was the sister of one of Julia's good friends and so armed with some astrological information, she attempts to help her friend discover why her sister was killed.  Given how and when the murder occurred, there are not a lot of suspects.  However, the author does a good job of making a plausible case for each of them as the killer.  I had my suspicions of who committed the crime and it turned out I was correct for a change.  However, I did not guess the full motive for the crime.    The story had a good, steady pace and the mystery unfolded over the course of the entire story.  It have a very climatic reveal and what I thought was a bit of a cryptic ending.

I think this series has good promise as long as the author continues to balance the mysteries and characters with the astrology.  If you are not familiar with astrology, it can be a bit overwhelming when the author focuses on Julia reading someones chart.   I think there is plenty of room for the characters to grow and develop and I think the author could take Julia's amateur sleuthing capabilities in a couple of different directions.

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

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Cat About Town

Author:  Cate Conte (a/w/a Liz Mugavero)
Series:  A Cat Cafe Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Minotaur Books
Published:  August 1, 2017

Description:  Maddie James has arrived in Daybreak Island, just off the coast of Massachusetts, eager to settle down and start her own business—and maybe even fall in love. When a stray orange tabby pounces into her life, she’s inspired to open a cat café. But little does Maddie know that she’s in for something a lot more catastrophic when her new furry companion finds the dead body of the town bully. Now all eyes are on Maddie: Who is this crazy cat-whisperer lady who’s come to town? If pet-hair-maintenance and crime-fighting weren’t keeping her busy enough, Maddie now has not one but two eligible bachelors who think she’s the cat’s pajamas . . . and will do anything to win her heart. But how can she even think about happily-ever-after while a killer remains on the loose—and on her path?

My Review

I had been seeing some early reviews for this book and so I decided to give it a try.  I'm glad I took a chance on both a new author and a new series.  I am new to this author, not having read anything under her other pen name Liz Mugavero.  I was delightfully entertained by this book.

For me, this did not read like a first in a new series.  Right from the start I felt like the characters were well-rounded, dimensional and nicely developed.  I instantly liked and connected with Maddie James.  There was none of that awkward getting to know you, first date feeling.  I found Maddie to me warm, fun, loyal and loving.  She is someone we would all like to know.  I also really liked her Grandpa.  Although he lost his wife and is grieving, his life continues and he is not going to just stop living.  The rest of the secondary characters contribute to the story nicely giving us a good picture of the diverse community that lives in this New England town.

I also thought the mystery was really well done.  The victim turns out to be not so well liked by the community because of his personality and the way he is trying to go about changing the community.  As a result, this allows the author to provide the reader with plenty of suspects to choose from with plausible and believable motives.  The mystery is woven nicely throughout the story and I thought there were enough twists and turns that unfolded to keep me guessing as to the killer's identity until the climatic reveal at the end.

Overall, I thought this was a well-plotted cozy mystery with a charming setting and inviting characters.  It did not read as a first in a series as the writing and pace kept me engaged and turning pages until the very end.  I think the author also did a terrific job of using this book to set up the Cat Cafe theme for future books.  I was delightfully entertained by Maddie, her Grandpa and JJ, and will be back to see what this author has in story for this series.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced reader copy provided to me by Minotaur Books, the publisher, through Netgalley.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Death At First Sight

Author:  Lena Gregory
Series:  A Bay Island Psychic Mystery#1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  November 2016

Description:  Since she left her psychiatric practice in New York City to open up a psychic shop in her hometown on Bay Island, Cass Donovan has given her fair share of readings to conflicted customers. But what she sees in Ellie Callahan’s future doesn’t bode well. 
When Ellie’s mother, Marge, publicly confronts Cass about the reading, the embarrassment makes her want to curl up and die. And when she later stumbles across Marge’s body—and is a suspect in her murder—Cass is suddenly the star of Bay Island’s rumor mill.
Cass is determined to prove her innocence and save Ellie from meeting the fate in her unfortunate vision. But even with the help of her friends Bee and Stephanie, Cass will have to channel some serious sleuthing instincts to find the real killer.

My Review

This book has been on my TBR pile since it was first published.  I was lucky enough to win a copy of the second book in the series which spurred me into picking up this one and beginning the series. 

I thought this was a good story for the first in a new series.  The characters are all likable and I think the reader will be able to relate to them.  I really enjoyed the friendship between Cass, Bee and Stephanie.  It felt authentic and it was fun to watch Bee's reaction to Cass and her profession. Cass is what I like to call an accidental amateur sleuth.  She doesn't go looking for mysteries to solve, but when she finds the dead body of a woman who was not a fan she becomes the prime suspect.  Not one to sit by and let herself be railroaded, Cass takes matters into her own hands, with the help of her two best friends, and tries to solve the murder to clear her name.  The secondary cast of characters completes this story and there is a hint at a potential future romance for Cass.

The mystery was solid and layered throughout the story.  The author did a wonderful job of providing the reader with multiple suspects peppering clues, twists and turns throughout the story.  She also did a great job of misdirecting the reader, at least in my opinion.  I was positive that I had determined the killer's identity and was so proud of myself. As I was congratulating myself for solving the murder, the author takes a sharp turn and reveals the actual identity of the killer in a very exciting conclusion.  I was surprised by the identity of the real killer and have to say I did not see this one coming. 

I thought this was a well done first in a new series.  Cass is an accidental sleuth finding her way to clearing her name with the help of her two best friends.  The mystery was solid and kept me engaged and guessing right up until the end.  I really enjoyed this book and can't wait to dive into the second book to see what the author has in store next for Cass.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Killer Party

Author:  Lynn Cahoon
Series:  A Tourist Trap Mystery #9
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Lyrical Underground, 
Publication Date:  July 18, 2017

Description:  For a gang of old college buddies, the quaint resort town of South Cove, California, is the perfect spot for a no-holds-barred bachelor party. But for Jill Gardner—owner of Coffee, Books and More—this stag party is going to be murder . . .

After a few months of living with her boyfriend Greg, Jill is still getting used to sharing such close quarters, but she’s got no hesitation about joining him for a weekend at South Cove’s most luxurious resort. While Greg and his college pals celebrate their buddy’s upcoming wedding, Jill intends to pamper herself in style. But when the groom is found floating face-down in the pool, Jill must find the killer fast, or she might not have a boyfriend to come home to any more . . .

My Review

I was a latecomer to this series, but now that I have found it and read a few I can't wait to go back and catch up on what I missed.  As someone who is pretty strict about reading a series in order, I have to say that with the Tourist Trap Mysteries I don't feel like I have missed anything (other than the evolution of Greg and Jill's relationship) by not having read any book before the 8th in the series.

This book picks up not long after the end of the previous book with Jill and Greg away for the weekend to celebrate the upcoming wedding of one of Greg's old friends.  I have to say, almost right from the beginning the author hints that everything may not be quite what it seems.  What I love about this series are the characters.  The ones in this series are well written, complex, and multi-layered characters but there is still much to learn and plenty of room for them to grow and develop further.  Jill is quickly becoming a favorite amateur sleuth for me.  She makes no bones about her investigating and doesn't try to hide it from Greg. I liked in this book that Greg actually needed her investigative skills.

The mystery was fast paced and the readers will be flying through the pages to try and resolve the identity of the killer. The suspects are plenty and plausible.  The clues are subtle and woven throughout the course of the story.  I was really surprised by the identity of the killer - I was so focused on where I thought the author was directing us that I didn't see this one coming.  I think long time readers, and even newer readers, will be surprised by how the author ended this story.  It will leave you clamoring for the next book in the series.

If you love cozy mysteries set in a quaint California setting, with terrific characters that are relatable, likable, complex and multi-dimensional coupled with well plotted, multi-layered mysteries then I would recommend this series to you.  

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

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 café 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 flambéing 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. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Dead and Berried

Author:  Peg Cochran
Series:  A Cranberry Cove Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Published:  May 2, 2017

Description:  It's June in Cranberry Cove and Monica Albertson's plan to sell cranberry relish to chain stores is taking off. The cranberry bogs are in bloom, and local beekeeper Rick Taylor and his assistant Lori Wenk are bringing in bees to pollinate the blossoms.  When a fatal prick fells Lori, the buzz is that Rick is to blame. 

In trying to clear her friend’s name, Monica discovers that more than a few people in Cranberry Cove have felt the power of Lori’s venom, and it looks as if this time she may have agitated the hive a bit too much.  With the fate of the farm on the line, Monica must get to the bottom of the crime before another victim gets stung.

My Review

For me, reading a Peg Cochran cozy mystery is like returning to visit old friends and this book is no exception.  Ms. Cochran is so adept at creating quaint towns that fill us with comfort and then she fills them with fun, quirky, interesting characters while weaving a mystery and sometimes education on the theme throughout the story.  

This is the third book in the Cranberry Cove Mystery series and can be read as a stand alone without a reader feeling lost or like they have missed out on something.  I love Monica.  She is settling in to her new life in Cranberry Cove, with the exception of murders occurring on the farm or in her new town.  She is a smart and cautious amateur sleuth.  She does not try to show up the police, but rather alerts them to any new clues and evidence she finds.  I also like the relationship that is developing between her and her half brother Jeff, who owns the farm.  Between the first book and the third the reader can see the growth in the characters and will enjoy the changes occurring in their lives.

The mystery was woven throughout the story and there seemed to be a few suspects who had motive to murder. There are plenty of twists as well as clues aimed at misdirecting the reader.  It turns out the victim was not all that nice.  I did suspect the killer about 1/2 way through the story, but it did not affect my enjoyment.....mostly because if you have read any of my reviews I almost never figure out the culprit.

Peg Cochran is one of my favorite cozy mystery authors and her books are always a pre-order or automatic buy on release day for me.  If you haven't read one of her books but are a fan of well written stories, quaint, charming towns, well plotted mysteries and a cast filled with fun, smart, quirky and interesting characters, I would highly recommend you pick up one of her series and give it a try.  Plus, Ms. Cochran always includes some delicious sounding recipes at the end of the books in this series.  This one has a delicious cookie recipe and one for quinoa that I plan to try.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Yews with Caution

Author:  Kate Collins
Series:  A Flower Shop Mystery #19
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  May 31, 2017

Description:  It’s April in New Chapel, and Abby and her husband, Marco, are off to buy shrubs for their new house. But the owner of the local landscaping company is nowhere to be found. Abby’s best friend, Nikki, meanwhile, believes she unwittingly helped a group of her hospital coworkers conspire to kill the man.

After the police get involved, Nikki becomes a suspect. Abby digs deeper for clues to save her friend only to discover bushels of folks bearing a deep-rooted hatred for the two-faced business owner. Marco attempts to help Abby with the case but soon falls critically ill. Now Abby must find the real culprit on her own before everything goes to pot.

My Review

I was so excited to get this book in the mail.  I am a huge fan of this series and would go so far as to say it is my favorite cozy mystery series.  This is the series that introduced me to the cozy mystery genre and started my love affair.  No pressure, right?

When I was preparing this blog post, it was hard to believe that this is the 19th installment in this series.  It is still as fresh, interesting and engaging as when the series first started.  I love that we have watched Abby grow up and mature into the person she is in this book.  While she has grown and perhaps settled a bit, she is still the same loyal, heart-warming, caring and let's face it, impetuous person she was at the beginning of the series. I love how she and Marco have settled into their relationship and marriage.  They are a team and that is something that Marco is always stressing to Abby.  I like how he complements her personality and has the ability to reign in a bit of her impetuousness and her sometimes unwitting ability to put herself in harms way.  

The rest of the characters that we have grown to love are all back as Marco and Abby try to help Nikki, who has become a suspect in the disappearance of a co-worker's husband. Personally, I think this is one of the best cast of characters in the genre.  They are all well round, complex, developed characters that each provides something that Abby or Marco needs in their lives.  I always look forward to Jillian's antics and Maureen's art projects.

The mystery in this story is what reader's have come to expect from this author.  It is complex, layered with plenty of suspects, twists and turns.  I honestly didn't see this ending coming.  It was a great twist and the reveal wrapped up the mystery in a very climatic ending.  There is a minor mystery involving a job Marco and Abby took to discover the identity of an employee who is stealing.  There is also mystery surrounding something that happens to Marco that will have the readers on an emotional roller coaster.  

As I said in the beginning, I am a huge fan of this series and cannot recommend it enough.  It is set in a lovely Midwest town which is inhabited by what I think is one of the best cast of characters in a cozy mystery series.  Abby and Marco, and the rest of the cast are like old friends who draw you into the story until the very last page.  The mystery is well plotted, complex and layer which will have you turning pages to find out how this story ends.  I would highly recommend this series, but would suggest you start with the first book as it is fun to see how these characters have grown.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

One Fete in the Grave

Author:  Vickie Fee
Series:  A Liv and Die in Dixie Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  May 30, 2017

Description:  Party planner Liv McKay has outdone herself this time. She’s put together an unforgettable Fourth of July celebration for the town of Dixie, Tennessee—including breathtaking fireworks and an exciting Miss Dixie Beauty Pageant. Maybe a little too exciting.

As the party is winding down, Liv’s sense of triumph fizzles when the body of town councilman Bubba Rowland is discovered on the festival grounds. And now the prime suspect in his murder is Liv’s mother’s fiancé, Earl, who had a flare-up recently with Bubba. To clear Earl’s name, Liv and her best friend Di burst into action to smoke out the real killer before another life is extinguished . . .

My Review

This third installment in the Liv and Di in Dixie Mystery series is just as charming and fun as the rest of the series.  I really enjoyed visiting with Liv and Di along with the rest of the characters, old and new to see what mystery was in store for them this time around.  I like this series because the characters are just terrific. The friendship between Liv and Di has me coming back for more. These two can get into more trouble doing the simplest thing than any other characters I can think of but the friendship feels genuine and authentic. Readers will find humor with Liv's Mama and her wedding plans.  Plus, this book provides a good dose of small town southern charm.

The mystery is solid and is woven throughout the entire story. The  victim was not the most like person in town so this allowed the author to really provide a good pool of suspects and then through in plenty of clues and misdirection.  I did not guess the culprit until the reveal  (I know - none of you who regularly read my reviews are surprised by this.)  I like that Liv and Di are not reckless with their investigations and are not the type of characters who are trying to upstage the police.  That said, they are loyal and feel compelled to help someone they know who they feel has been wrongly accused.

If you haven't read this series I would suggest you give it a try. It is full of wonderful characters, great southern charm and mysteries that will keep the reader engaged from the beginning until a very satisfying ending.

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy generously provided by the author.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Antique House Murders

Author:  Leslie Nagel
Series:  The Oakwood Mystery Series #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Alibi
Publication Date:  May 30, 2017

Descriptions:  Mulbridge House stood, silent and decaying, deep in the woods at the heart of Oakwood, Ohio, long before the passing of Augusta Mulbridge. Yet suddenly everyone in town seems to have a stake in its fate: the greedy heirs, eager to tear it down for a tidy profit; the local preservationists, determined to maintain it as an historic site; the angry neighbors, staunchly opposed to the construction of a modern subdivision. Even Charley Carpenter is forced to admit that her beloved shop, Old Hat Vintage Fashions, could use an infusion of the estate’s treasures.

The clock is ticking. The wrecking ball is ready to swing. All that stands between Mulbridge House and oblivion is one final vote. That, and murder . . .

The trouble begins when Charley walks into auctioneer Calvin Prescott’s office to find her cherished family friend crumpled on the floor. Detective Marcus Trenault quickly connects his death to a string of increasingly violent burglaries plaguing Oakwood. But when Charley uncovers a link to a massive land swindle worth millions, not to mention a drug ring operating out of the manor’s abandoned outbuildings, that theory crumbles faster than Mulbridge House. Now Charley’s racing to catch a killer before everything falls apart.

My Review

I enjoyed the first book in this series so I was happy to read and review the second book.  I'll put this disclaimer right up front  - there is some swearing in this book.  Not much but if that isn't your cup of tea then this might not be the book for you.  For me, I was able to get past it because I really like the characters and the mystery, but for some it might be a deal breaker.

Charley Carpenter is a feisty, stubborn and fun protagonist. I think she can be a bit impetuous in her sleuthing and that can lead her into some serious trouble at times.  Usually, this occurs when she is being stubborn and won't listen to her police detective boyfriend Marcus.  I think this couple is a good pair.  While Marcus is a detective he does appreciate Charley's insights and thought process- that is until she disregards his request that she stay out of his case.  There is a great group of secondary characters that include Charley's dad, his caretaker, Charley's friends Dmitri and Frankie as well as other police officers on the Oakwood Public Safety force.

At first, the mystery in this story starts out simple - the murder of Charley's mentor and a friend of her fathers.  Because the crime is personal Charley feels she has to help solve the murder.  As the story unfolds there is a lot going on in this town and most of it centers on a old house slated for demolition.  There are plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing and this one ends in a very climatic fashion. 

I enjoy this series.  The two books so far have been fast paced and held my interest all the way through until the last page.  I am looking forward to seeing what kind of trouble Charley and her friends can get into next.  I also like the comparison to Scooby Doo in the book in reference to Charley and her friends.  It brings back a bit of childhood nostalgia for my favorite cartoon.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced reader copy provided to me by Alibi through Netgalley.  This did not influence my opinion and the thoughts expressed are my own.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Fudge and Jury

Author:  Ellie Alexander 
Series:  A Bakeshop Mystery #5
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Published:  January 2017

Description:  It’s almost spring in Ashland, Oregon, and the town is preparing for the Shakespeare and the annual Chocolate Festival. Business is cookin’ at Torte, and the store is expanding as Jules’ team whips up crèpes filled with mascarpone cheese and dark chocolate. Torte stands a chance of being this year’s confectionery belle of the ball! Life couldn’t be sweeter—unless murder taints the batter.

Evan Rowe, of Confections Couture, makes a chocolate fountain that would put Willy Wonka to shame, and his truffles are to die for—literally? Yes, the world-renowned chocolatier has just turned up dead…right after sampling a slice of Jules’ decadent four-layer chocolate cake. Now all eyes are on Jules as she tries to find the mysterious ingredient in her own recipe. Can she sift out the truth before another contestant bites the buttercream?

My Review

This is one of my favorite series and I was happy that I was finally able to read this one before the next book is released in June.  If you read my reviews, you know that I love character driven cozy mysteries.  That is the reason why I find this series so entertaining and enjoyable.

Ellie Alexander has crafted a charming cozy mystery set in the Pacific Northwest which sets the stage for Torte, a place I think everyone who reads this series would love to have exist in real life.  Added to the charming setting, Ms. Alexander has crafted a warm, wonderful, fun main character in Jules.  She is someone I think we could all see ourselves having as a friend.  One of my favorite things about this series is the relationship between Jules and her mom. It feels very real, genuine and their relationship jumps off the page.  I also like the relationship Jules has with her staff.  It is a great combination of being their boss, mentor and a bit of a friend as well.  The rest of the town rounds out a fun, interesting and sometimes quirky cast of secondary characters.

The mystery in this installment was really good.  It almost seemed like the perfect crime.  As always, this author throws in plenty of twists and turns that give the reader a number of suspects, motives and keeps us guessing.  Here's a surprise, I managed to guess the identity of the killer, albeit about 25 pages before the book ended, but I did not guess the reason behind the murder.  The mystery unfolded nicely and carried through the entire story.

This is a wonderful culinary themed cozy mystery series that has a great cast of characters and mysteries that are well written and keep the reader engaged and guessing until the end.  I am looking forward to the next book due out the end of June.  

Saturday, May 13, 2017

No Farm, No Foul

Author:  Peg Cochran
Series:  A Farmer's Daughter Mystery
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Published:  September 2016

Description:  On her blog, The Farmer’s Daughter, Shelby McDonald is growing her audience as she posts recipes, gardening tips, and her experiences raising two kids and running Love Blossom Farm in the small western Michigan town of Lovett.
Working the farm is demanding but peaceful—until that peace is shattered when the minister’s wife is murdered on Shelby’s property during a fund-raiser for a local church. But the manure really hits the fan when Shelby’s good friend veterinarian Kelly Thacker emerges as the prime suspect. Shelby decides to dig in and find the murderer by herself. As more suspects crop up, she’ll have to move fast—before someone else buys the farm.

My Review

This is another book that has been sitting on my TBR pile for way too long.  I am a huge fan of Peg Cochran so I can't say why it has taken me so long to read it but I was glad I finally go to it.

One of the things I love about this author and what I think she does so well, is she crafts these charming, quaint Midwest towns that draws readers into the story from the beginning. She creates places we long to get in our car an visit even though they are fictional.  To me, that is a sign of a good author.  Her stories and settings are so genuine and real that a reader automatically feels comfortable and welcomed into her stories.  Once she has created a place we all want to visit, she populates with strong, warm, quirky, fun, flawed, realistic characters that become our friends.  These are the people we want to say hi to when we go out to grab our mail or stop and talk to while taking a walk around our neighborhoods.

This new series is no exception.  I immediately found that I liked Shelby McDonald.  She is a single mom who struggles to run the farm she grew up on while raising her son and daughter.  She is warm, friendly and kind.  The cast of secondary characters are exactly what you would expect to see in a Peg Cochran novel.  They are fun, quirky and some are a bit gossipy.  But again, this is what you would expect to find in a small town.

The mystery was good.  The victim was the minister's wife so you would think that there wouldn't be that many suspects.  However, lets just say this minster's wife was not what you would expect.  As a result, there are plenty of people that she wrongfully accused that were upset with her.  This provides us with a nice pool of suspects to choose from.  I was a bit surprised with myself because I did suspect the killer. That said, I was way off on the motive for the crime.  The reveal was climatic and resolved the murder nicely.

As I said before, I am a big fan of this author.  I thought this was a very entertaining first book in a new series.  It has everything I look for in a cozy mystery from Peg Cochran- quaint, charming small town setting, with fun, interesting characters and a solid mystery.  I will be back for the next book in the series to see what is happening at Love Blossom Farms.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

No Charm Intended

Author:  Mollie Cox Bryan
Series:  A Cora Crafts Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  April 25, 2017

Description:  Settling into her new life and career in small-town Indigo Gap, North Carolina, Cora Chevalier is preparing to host a “wildcrafting” retreat at her Victorian home. But a specter hangs over the venture when beloved local nanny Gracie Wyke goes missing. Amidst leading their guests in nature hikes, rock painting and making clay charms, Cora and her business partner, Jane, team up with Gracie’s boyfriend, Paul, to launch their own investigation into her disappearance when the local police prove unhelpful.

Cora and her crafters take Paul in, believing he is in danger and not the suspect police have made him out to be. However as they uncover new clues and a body turns up at a local abandoned amusement park, Cora and Jane begin to question their decision. With more questions than answers arising, is Cora crafty enough to untangle a knot that could put an innocent in jail—and permanently destroy her reputation?

My Review

This is the second installment in this new Cora Crafts Mystery series by Mollie Cox Bryan and I enjoyed it just as much as the first.  As someone who fancies themselves as a crafter, I enjoy reading about the retreat and the crafts that are made there.  This series is a bit different from some other cozy mysteries in that it is told in third person and from the alternating point of view of both Jane and Cora.  I didn't find that this detracted from my enjoyment but I know that it might distract some readers, so I thought I would point it out.

The story is set in the quaint town of Indigo Gap North Carolina.  The author does an excellent job of not only describing the town but also the retreat and classes going on there as well.  Cora and Jane are still finding their footing as the owners of this crafting retreat business.  It also doesn't help that there tends to be a murder/mystery occur in the town each time there is a retreat.  Both Cora and Jane are real, likable characters.  They continue to grow and develop in this story and wit this mystery.  I like that with each story we get a new cast of secondary characters in the students and teachers attending the retreats.  The secondary characters that are residents of the town are developing nicely as well.

The mystery is this story is solid.  I thought it was interesting that it involved a video game.  This, I think, added a bit more to they mystery because it wasn't something that Cora and Jane knew much about.  I think the author did a nice job weaving the mystery with the classes at the retreat providing a nice balance.  I also liked how some of the students/teachers tried to help Cora and Jane solve the mystery.  There are a lot of twists and turns in the mystery but ironically not a lot of suspects.  That made it a bit harder for me to try and guess the culprit.  The identity of the killer was revealed in a climatic ending.  

I found this to be an enjoyable read with characters that are starting to grow and find their own in their business and new life.  The story itself was well written, with a steady pace and what I thought was a good mystery.  I will be back to see what Cora and Jane are up to in the next book.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced reader copy provided by the publisher through Netgalley.  This did not influence my opinion and the thoughts expressed are my own.