Saturday, November 18, 2017

Cremains of the Day

Author: Misty Simon
Series:  A Tallie Graves Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  October 31, 2017

Description:  For Tallulah Graver, marrying wealthy Waldo Phillips seemed like the best way out of the family business, the Graver Funeral Home. But when her marriage falls apart and Tallie is left with next to nothing, she turns to cleaning houses to make ends meet. As humbling as it is to tidy the mansions of the snobby socialites she used to call friends, at least she doesn't have to be around dead bodies. Until . . .
She discovers one of her employers lying in a closet with a knife sticking out of her chest. This unpleasant shock seems to be part of a web of weird experiences: Tallie's friend Gina's shop is broken into, her ex is stun-gunned where it hurts the most, and now she's receiving flowers from the dead woman. Granted the deliveryman is handsome, but seriously, that's enough to cast a pall over anyone’s day. Now Tallie needs to dig deep to clean up this mess—before she finds herself in a grave situation.

My Review

This is the first book I have read by this author and I found it to be very enjoyable. Tallie Graver is a character whose personality just jumps off the page. She is a woman who had money and status but is now rebuilding her life after a divorce. She is doing it on her own terms, which I think readers will like. She is spunky, independent but not foolish. She decides to solve two murders because she is the top suspect and the chief of police holds a grudge because of her actions and attitude during the years she was married. There is a nice cast of secondary characters that include Tallie's best friend Gina, Tallie's parents and Max, who is a potential romantic interest for Tallie down the road.

I thought the mystery was well done. There was a lot of intrigue, gossip, jealousy, twists and turns. I thought the author did a very nice job in weaving the mystery throughout the entire story keeping me engaged and guessing until the very end. I was pleasantly surprised by the the identity of the killer.

Tallie's language in this book is colorful and there is some instances of swearing so if you are sensitive to that type of language you may want to keep that in mind. It wasn't a lot and didn't bother me but I know some readers don't care for it.

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

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Eaves of Destruction

Author:  Kate Carlisle
Series:  A Fixer Upper Mystery #5
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  November 7, 2017

Description:  At the annual Victorian Home and Garden Tour, Lighthouse Cove, California’s premier contractor, Shannon Hammer, realizes that the competition is about to turn deadly.... 
Shannon is in high demand among rival homeowners, who will do anything to win Best in Show. One-upmanship and even espionage break out among neighbors, construction crews, decorators, and landscapers. Thanks to several new hires, Shannon is sure she can handle the extra load—until murder throws a wrench in the works.
The small town’s corrupt building inspector is found dead on one of Shannon’s jobsites, and soon plenty of suspects are coming out of the woodwork. When another body is discovered, Shannon calls on her team of close friends and devilishly astute thriller writer Mac to help her nail down the details and build a case against the killer before the door shuts on someone else—for good.

My Review

This is the fifth book in this series and I look forward to each new release.  Kate Carlisle crafts such wonderful stories with quaint settings, wonderful characters and mysteries that keep her readers on their toes.  I look forward to each new trip back to Lighthouse Cove to catch up with Shannon and the rest of the characters to see what the author has in store form them.

One of the things I love most about this genre is that the stories are so character driven.  With each new entry in a series the reader gets to know the characters better and they begin to feel almost like friends.  That's the way I feel about this series.  From the very first book I just fell in love with Shannon Hammer.  I think part of it is because she is so different from me in terms of her profession and skills. Shannon is one of those characters I could see as a friend in real life.  She is a great friend, thoughtful, and warm-hearted. If she has a drawback it is her penchant for finding dead bodies.  Not a "gift" I would want for myself.  

All of the regulars are back and we are also introduced to some new characters as well.  I hope we get to see a bit more of Amanda, someone new Shannon hires for the company. I think she fits in perfectly with Shannon, her friends and her crew.  I think readers will be happy with Shannon and Mac's blossoming romance.  I like that the author is taking is slow and letting it develop with a natural feel.

The mystery was engaging.  Once again, Shannon finds another dead body, this time Joe Scully the building inspector that is not well liked at all.  He makes a great victim because there are so many plausible suspects who had reason not to like him and maybe even be driven to murder.  There are plenty of twists and turns which make for a great read and kept me turning the pages.  There are two murders and some mystery surrounding Amanda's history which the author tied together nicely.  

This book is just an all around fun and enjoyable read.  I never hesitate to pick up the next book in this series because I know that I will be entertained for hours.  If you like quaint settings, likable/personable characters, great mysteries and are a fan of DYI, you will probably enjoy this series.  If you have seen the movies on the Hallmark Movie and Mysteries Channel (I haven't) but haven't read the books yet, I say what are you waiting for?  We all know the books are always better.

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

Saturday, November 4, 2017

A Deadly Eclair

Author:  Daryl Wood Gerber
Series:  A French Bistro Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Crooked Lane
Publication Date:  November 7, 2017

Description:  It’s always been Mimi Rousseau’s dream to open her own bistro, but it seems beyond her grasp since she’s been chased back home to Nouvelle Vie in Napa Valley by her late husband’s tremendous debt. Until her best friend Jorianne James introduces her to entrepreneur Bryan Baker who invests in promising prospects. Now, working the bistro and inn until she’s able to pay it off and call it her own, Mimi is throwing the inn’s first wedding ever.

The wedding will be the talk of the town, as famous talk show host Angelica Edmonton, daughter of Bryan’s half-brother, Edison, has chosen the inn as her perfect venue. Anxious, Mimi is sure things are going to turn south, especially when Edison gets drunk and rowdy at the out-of-towners’ dinner, but by the evening, things begin to look up again. That is until six AM rolls around, and Bryan is found dead at the bistro with an éclair stuffed in his mouth. And the fingers point at Mimi, whose entire loan is forgiven in Bryan’s will.

Now it’s up to Mimi to clear her name and get to the bottom of things before the killer turns up the heat again in A Deadly Éclair, the scrumptious series debut by Agatha Award-winning author Daryl Wood Gerber.

My Review

I am already a fan of this author's work so it wasn't too much of a leap for me to pick up this first book in her new series. Ms. Wood Gerber does the culinary cozy theme very well and this is an excellent edition to her credits.

Mimi Rousseau is a wonderful character.  She is a terrific chef but due to some events in her past, she lacks the confidence she needs to go out on her own.  When Bryan Baker invests in her both financially and as a mentor, Mimi's dream begins to take flight.  I loved watching her blossom as the story unfolded.  We as the reader are treated to a front row seat as Mimi has to deal with the loss of her friend and mentor as well as try to clear her own name.  The author surround's Mimi with a rich secondary cast of characters that are well rounded, dimensional and entertaining.  

I thought this book was well written with the author's usual descriptive style that just flows.  The setting is charming and enhances the characters and the story line.  I thought the mystery was well plotted.  It unfolded nicely at a steady pace throughout the entire story.  The author provides us with plenty of plausible suspects throwing in clues, twists and turns along the way.  There are plenty of red herrings thrown in making it challenging to identify the killer.  The mystery came to a climatic conclusion and I learned the killer's identity as it was revealed.

The food plays a wonderful part in this story as well.  The descriptions of the menu items will leave plenty of readers wishing they were chefs or wanting to visit this bistro.  The food also played a unique role in the murder itself which was a nice twist.  There are plenty of delicious sounding recipes at the end of the book that will tempt those readers who can cook. 

I think the author has given us a well written first book in what promises to be another terrific culinary cozy series.  I am looking forward to reading more about Mimi and the rest of the characters.

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

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Secret, Book & Scone Society

Author:  Ellery Adams
Series: Miracle Springs, North Carolina #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery/Women's Fiction
Publisher:  Kensington
Published:  October 31,2017

Description:  Miracle Springs, North Carolina, is a place of healing. Strangers flock here hoping the natural hot springs, five-star cuisine, and renowned spa can cure their ills. If none of that works, they often find their way to Miracle Books, where, over a fresh-baked “comfort” scone from the Gingerbread House bakery, they exchange their stories with owner Nora Pennington in return for a carefully chosen book. That’s Nora’s special talent—prescribing the perfect novel to ease a person’s deepest pain and lighten their heaviest burden.
When a visiting businessman reaches out to Nora for guidance, she knows exactly which novels will help. But before he can keep their appointment at Miracle Books, he’s found dead on the train tracks. 
Stunned, Nora forms the Secret, Book, and Scone Society, a group of damaged souls yearning to gain trust and earn redemption by helping others. To join the society, members must divulge their darkest secret—the terrible truth that brought each of them to Miracle Springs in the first place. 
Determined to uncover the truth behind the businessman’s demise, the women meet in Nora’s cramped and cozy bookstore to share stories and trade support. And as they untangle a web of corruption, they also discover their own courage, purpose, and a sisterhood that will carry them through every challenge—proving it’s never too late to turn the page and start over . . .

My Review

I am a fan of this author and her work so I was excited to see that we were getting a new series from Ellery Adams. For me, this was a fabulous first book in what promises to be another hit cozy mystery series for Ms. Adams. Her writing style lends itself to the type of story telling that pulls readers in and keeps them turning pages until they find themselves at the end of the story and are immediately left wanting more.

The characters she delivers in this new series will resonate with her readers each in their own way. These are four women who all have a secret in their past that has brought them to Miracle Springs and this point in their lives. These women have all been damaged or hurt in some way but they are not broken.  It is this commonality that draws them together, for some reluctantly.  For me, part of the joy of this book was watching these four women, who are all so different from each other, form a terrific friendship and bond that starts to heal them and begins to allow them to release the hold of their pasts. Reader will find themselves moved by each of these women's stories and you will be rooting for their friendship and bond to thrive and grow. There is a terrific cast of secondary characters that complement the women and play a part in helping them grow. 

The mystery is just as strong and the characters and the story of their growing friendship and bond. It is woven through the story nicely and is the impetuous that drives these women to solve two murders and get one of them out of jail for these crimes. The women prove to be tenacious and determined which results in a very climatic conclusion where the full magnitude of the crime is revealed. There are plenty of suspects to choose from, all with believable motives for committing the crimes. I think the readers will find this to be an engaging mystery.

I am excited to see what Ms. Adams has in store for her readers with this new series and where she takes us on the journey of friendship that these four women have begun to form in this first book.

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

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Blackberry Burial

Author:  Sharon Farrow
Series:  A Berry Basket Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  October 31, 2017

Description:  As owner of The Berry Basket, Marlee Jacob has learned a thing or two about surviving the summer tourist season in Oriole Point. So she gladly agrees to help run the annual road rally in honor of the local Blackberry Art School’s centenary celebration. While alumni arrive from around the country, Marlee hopes the expansive Sanderling farm will make an appropriate starting point for the race—despite rumors that the land is cursed . . .
But when Marlee surveys the property, she stumbles upon a long-dead body hidden in the bramble. It’s a horrifying mystery to everyone except her baker, who’s convinced the skeletal remains belong to a former student who had gone missing twenty years earlier. As the Fourth of July activities heat up, Marlee must rush to catch an elusive murderer—before the next ‘blackberry victim’ is ripe for the picking!

My Review

I thought this second book in the Berry Basket Mystery series was a terrific read.  It was fun, fast paced, and an easy read. It kept me entertained and engaged the entire book.  One of the reasons I've enjoyed both books in this series is the location.  The series is set in the fictional town of Oriole Point in my home state.  I always find it fun to read books set in my home state as I can easily picture the setting while reading. This book was no exception.  As Ms. Farrow describe summer on Lake Michigan with the berry farms and the Fourth of July in full swing, it was easy to picture the entire scene which always keeps me engaged in a book.

Once again, Marlee is involved in a murder.  This time, along with Piper's dog Charlemagne, she is the unfortunate one to discover the skeleton of a former art student in town.  I really enjoy Marlee's character.  She is fun, outgoing, caring, independent, and smart.  I like that she tries to keep the police involved with anything she discovers along the way.  I also enjoyed the secondary cast of characters.  The Cabot brothers are fun and provide some humor along the way.  I like how Marlee's relationship with Theo, her baker, progresses in this book.  Tess makes an appearance along with Piper, Ryan and some newcomers.  I think one of the newcomers may play a part in whether Marlee eventually marries Ryan like they have planned.

I thought the mystery was really well done.  Because this is a cold case there is not a lot of evidence to rely upon.  In fact, before the body was discovered, everyone thought this art student had drowned the summer she attended the Blackberry Arts School.  The author did a wonderful job at providing the readers with plenty of suspects.  Personally, I didn't care for any of the core group of suspects which made it harder for me to determine who I thought was the killer. The author strings her readers along with suspicion, lies, betrayal and plenty of clues scatter along the way.  Marlee does eventually put together how the student was killed which results in a very climatic ending.

I thought this was a wonderfully entertaining read that is set in a charming lakeshore resort town with likable characters and a well plotted mystery.  This book is sure to keep you turning pages to find out how the mystery is solved.  There are also some wonderful sounding recipes included at the end of the book.

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

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Murder over Mochas

Author:  Caroline Fardig
Series:  A Java Jive Mystery #5
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Alibi
Publication Date:  October 24, 2017

Description:  As a newly minted private eye, Juliet Langley has sworn to leave homicide to the authorities, limiting the scope of her investigations to cheating spouses and dirty business partners . . . like her ex-fiancé, Scott O’Malley. When Scott shows up unannounced at her coffeehouse, Java Jive, Juliet’s first instinct is to punch him in the nose. Her second is to turn down his desperate plea for help with a case that’s way too dangerous for her liking. But when Scott drops dead before her eyes, Juliet isn’t going to wait around for someone else to clear her name.

It’s only a matter of time before her tumultuous past with her ex-fiancé comes out, so Juliet teams up with her ex-boyfriend, detective Ryder Hamilton, to figure out who poisoned Scott. They soon confirm that Scott was involved in an illegal scheme that’s definitely grounds for concern.

Just as romance is finally beginning to percolate for Juliet and her best friend, Pete Bennett, she has no choice but to head back to her hometown to seek out the truth. And she’ll need help from the locals to find the real killer—otherwise her happily ever after could easily end up including an actual ball and chain.

My Review

This is the fifth book and final book in the Java Jive Mystery series. I have been a fan of the series since the first book and have enjoyed them all, but I think that this is the best one yet. Juliet is such a wonderful main character. She is smart, funny, sarcastic, and feisty. The cast of regular secondary characters make their return appearances as well.  Juliet just can't keep herself out of trouble and murder finds her once again.  This time, because the victim is her former fiancee, she has to clear both her name and Pete's.  

As someone who has read this series from the beginning, I love the growth we see in all the characters.  Pete is more accepting of Juliet's sleuthing and will even participate where he can.  I also think that the author did a great job with the friendship that has grown between Juliet and Ryder.  Even though they dated and it didn't work out, the author has written their relationship as a fun friendship.  Not having read this author prior to this series, it was nice to get a glimpse of the characters from her Lizzie Hart Mystery series, who make an appearance providing Juliet, Ryder and Pete with assistance.  Perhaps my favorite part of the book is that we finally have a resolution to Juliet's romantic life, which I think will make readers happy.

The mystery in this book was fast paced and kept me guessing until the very end. There was so much going on and so many suspects that the twists and turns kept me on my toes. Just when I thought I knew who was behind everything, Juliet, Ryder and Pete would uncover new information and I was right back to being stumped. The mystery was wrapped up nicely with Jules and Pete managing to save themselves.

This series has well crafted mysteries filled with wonderful, quirky and interesting characters. If you haven't had the chance to give this series a try, I recommend it. I don't think you will be disappointed.

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Secrets and Pies

Author:  Jenny Kales
Series:  A Callie's Kitchen Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publication Date:  October 9, 2017

Description:  Summertime in Crystal Bay means tourist season for Calliope “Callie” Costas, owner of Callie’s Kitchen, a Greek-meets-Midwest from-scratch eatery. Business is booming but so is the stress. Callie can barely keep up with the demand for her famous summer fruit pies and savory Greek delicacies, plus she’s agreed to bake dozens of “pitas” for the annual Greek Fest.

When Callie is asked to deliver cast party treats for a Murder Mystery Night at the historic Harris House, it seems like a welcome break from her hot stove. That is, until she finds herself an unwilling player in yet another suspicious death. Worse yet, the victim is a family friend and graduate student working on a project involving Crystal Bay’s colorful past.

Before long, a motley crew of suspects makes things as juicy as the succulent berries strewn around Callie’s Kitchen. And that’s not all Callie’s got on her plate. Add family obligations, a deepening romance with a local detective and unexpected personnel problems to the mix. 

One thing’s for sure: Callie’s got the recipe for a long, hot summer!

My Review

This is the third book in a very entertaining cozy mystery series.  Set in the Midwest, this series centers around Callie Costas, the owner of Callie's Kitchen in Crystal Bay Wisconsin.  I love the combination of the focus on family and food.  Like the Greeks, family and food is a common thread for Italians so there is a sense of familiarity when I read these stories.

Callie is one of those main characters that readers can't help but like and be drawn to.  She has a wonderful Midwest sensibility which is part of what draws me in and keeps me coming back.  She is fun, loyal and loving but has a penchant for finding dead bodies.  The secondary cast is terrific as well.  Callie's father George is larger than life and s a wonderfully supportive father.  Callie's daughter, grandmother, staff and boyfriend/detective round out the cast nicely.  I like the pace of the relationship between Callie and Sands.  It makes it feel authentic and not rushed.  

The mystery in this third book was terrific.  There was a bit of history involving the old homes in Crystal Bay that plays a large part.  There were plenty of suspects for the reader to choose from and quite frankly I was completely surprised by the identity of the killer.  The author did a wonderful job of providing twists and turns to distract the reader (which generally works on me) so that when the killer was revealed in a dramatic fashion I didn't see it coming.

This is a terrific series that is filled with wonderful characters and has a great sense of family and food.  The setting is charming and adds to the atmosphere of story.  The mystery is well plotted with plenty of distractions, clues, twist and turns to keep the reader engaged and guessing.  I will definitely be back to Crystal Bay for Callie's next adventure.

I was provided an advanced reader copy of this book by the author.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Murder on the Toy Town Express

Author:  Barbara Early
Series:  A Vintage Toyshop Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date:  October 10, 2017

Description:  Liz McCall has come to love running her father’s vintage toyshop back home in East Aurora, NY, so when the Train and Toy Show comes to town, she’s all aboard for a fun toy-filled weekend. The only hitch is that her childhood bully Craig McFadden, now local business rival, has set up a booth next to hers. But the fun and games are over when Craig falls from the ceiling in a publicity stunt gone wrong.

What was initially thought to be a fatal accident proves much more sinister. Pulled into the case by her feelings for both Ken, the police chief, and Jack, her high school sweetheart whose brother is one the prime suspects, Liz dives headfirst into the investigation. But as she digs deeper, she’s shocked to learn her father may have been the intended target.

The trouble train is barreling down and Liz may have just bought herself a first class ticket in Murder on the Toy Town Express, Barbara Early’s delightful second installment in her Vintage Toyshop mysteries.

My Review

This is the second installment in this series, but the first book I have read.  I was a fan of this author's previous series written under the name Beverly Allen, so I when I was offered the opportunity to read and review an ARC of this book I didn't hesitate.

I very much enjoyed this book.  The setting of a vintage toy shop was unique and I found myself smiling with the nostalgia of the old toys and games mentioned in the book. Liz and her dad are fun characters and I liked that this was sort of a father/daughter crime solving duo.  Liz comes across the page as very real and authentic.  Her dad and his puns made me smile as well.  He was also a very well written character and the father/daughter bond felt very genuine.

The mystery, in my opinion, was well-plotted.   The author did a great job of presenting the reader with plenty of suspects, all with plausible motives, as well as throwing in great twists and turns.  There were some red herrings, which I have to say fooled me, and so I was concentrating on other characters who I thought might be the killer.  As a result, when the identity of the killer was revealed I was really surprised.  I would not have guess this one at all.  I love when an author is able to surprise me with someone who flew under the radar.  I will say, without giving anything away, that I think readers will probably be surprised at how this one ends.

All in all, I thought this was a charming story, filled with great characters, a well crafted mystery and plenty of nostalgia that had me revisiting some childhood memories.

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

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Twelve Slays of Christmas

Author:  Jacqueline Frost
Series:  A Christmas Tree Farm Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date:  October 10, 2017

Description:  When Holly White’s fiancé cancels their Christmas Eve wedding with less than two weeks to go, Holly heads home with a broken heart. Lucky for her, home in historic Mistletoe, Maine is magical during Christmastime—exactly what the doctor prescribed. Except her plan to drown her troubles in peppermints and snickerdoodles is upended when local grouch and president of the Mistletoe Historical Society Margaret Fenwick is bludgeoned and left in the sleigh display at Reindeer Games, Holly’s family tree farm.

When the murder weapon is revealed as one of the wooden stakes used to identify trees on the farm, Sheriff Evan Grey turns to Holly’s father, Bud, and the Reindeer Games staff. And it doesn’t help that Bud and the reindeer keeper were each seen arguing with Margaret just before her death. But Holly knows her father, and is determined to exonerate him.The jingle bells are ringing, the clock is ticking, and if Holly doesn't watch out, she'll end up on Santa's naughty list in Twelve Slays of Christmas, Jacqueline Frost’s jolly series debut.

My Review

This is the debut book for the Christmas Tree Farm Mystery series.  I was drawn to this book by the beautiful cover , the Christmas theme, and let's be honest who wouldn't be curious about a holiday themed cozy written by Jacqueline Frost.  I'm glad that I was provided an ARC by the publisher because this was a delightful, whimsical debut of what promises to be a terrific series. 

The characters in this book are well written for a debut book. The author has crafted authentic, whimsical, fun, dimensional characters that will draw readers in and keep them coming back for more.  I really liked Holly White, the main character. She has returned home to recover from a broken heart but she is strong, independent and begins to rebuild her life.  She is loyal to her family and determined to find out who killed one of the townspeople on her parent's tree farm.  The Christmas theme really added to the whimsical, magical holiday feeling that this author created.  Add in a touch of romance for Holly and I think this author has created a cast of characters that reader will really enjoy to and want to read more about.

I thought the mystery was well done.  The victim had been getting into disagreements with many of the townspeople so there were plenty of suspects to choose from.  The author did a terrific job of weaving the clues throughout the story and throwing in plenty of twists and turns.  The author revealed the killer's identity in a very climatic fashion.  As you may have already guessed, I didn't figure out the identity of our culprit until the portion of the book where the author began the veal.  The light bulb went off and it just came to me (which probably won't happen again for another year.)

I think this was a very well done debut cozy mystery for Jacqueline Frost.  It has everything that I look for in a cozy mystery - terrific characters, quaint/charming setting, and a well crafted mystery that kept me guessing.  Throw in the Christmas theme and I couldn't have been more delighted or entertained as I read this book.  I am excited about this series as well as to see where this author takes the characters and the readers.

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

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Death on Tap

Author:  Ellie Alexander 
Series:  A Sloan Krause Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Minotaur Books
Publication Date:  October 3, 2017

Description:  When Sloan Krause walks in on her husband, Mac, screwing the barmaid, she gives him the boot. Sloan has spent her life in Leavenworth, Washington becoming an expert in brewing craft beer, and she doesn’t have time to be held back by her soon-to-be ex-husband. She decides to strike out on her own, breaking away from the Krause family brewery, and goes to work for Nitro, the hip new nano-brewery in the Bavarian-themed town. Nitro’s owner, brewmaster Garrett Strong, has the brew-world abuzz with his newest recipe, “Pucker-Up IPA.” This place is the new cool place in town, and Mac can’t help but be green with envy at their success.

But just as Sloan is settling in to her new gig, she finds one of Nitro’s competitors dead in the fermenting tub, clutching the secret recipe for the IPA. When Mac, is arrested, Sloan knows that her ex might be a cheater, but a murderer? No way. Danger is brewing in Beervaria and suddenly Sloan is on the case.

My Review

I am a big fan of the Bakeshop Mysteries written by this author, so when I heard she had a new series there was no doubt that it would go on my to be read list.

For the most part, I enjoyed this first installment in the Sloan Krause mystery series.  This author writing style flows beautifully and her descriptions just make the town come alive.  This fictional town has a German theme and the way Ms. Alexander describes the decoration and building, the reader can just picture the quaint German inspired town and feel fall in the air.  The characters are also what we come to expect from this author.  They are well written and come across with an authentic feel.  Sloan Krause is at an unexpected cross roads in her life and with her history, the author does a good job of making the reader relate to her  and sympathize with her all while rooting for things to come out in her favor. The secondary cast of characters are all well written and I think a group that the readers will enjoy.

My only criticism of this book is the mystery.  While I did not guess the identity of the killer, I felt that the mystery took a bit of a backseat to setting up the characters and their history. For me, there wasn't as much focus on the crime or as many twist and turns as I have seen in other books from this author.  In the end, the mystery wasn't as strong as I have would have liked to see.  

That said, I did enjoy the story, the setting, the theme and the characters.  As I have always said, it is not easy writing the first in a series.  It is a balance between characters and the mystery.  I will be back to see what this author has in story for Sloan, the brewery and the rest of the town in the next installment.

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

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Yuletide Homicide

Author:  Jennifer David Hesse
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Series:  A Wiccan Wheel Mystery #3
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  September 26, 2017

Description:  After years of practicing in secret, Keli has come out as a Wiccan to her boyfriend, and she feels like this Yuletide she’s the one who’s being reborn. But the Solstice is the longest night of the year, and Keli is about to stumble on a mystery so dangerous, she’ll be lucky to make it to morning.
Paired with her unbearably stuffy colleague Crenshaw Davenport III, Keli goes undercover at a real estate company owned by mayoral candidate Edgar Harrison. An old friend of Keli’s boss, Harrison, is being blackmailed, and it’s up to her to find the culprit. But the morning after the company holiday party, Harrison is found dead underneath the hotel Christmas tree. The police rule the death an accident, but Keli knows better—and she’ll risk her own rebirth to nab a missing killer.

My Review
I am a fan of this series and have been since the very first book. Keli Milanni is one of those characters that I instantly felt a connection to in the first book.  I have several things in common with this characters and that is what initially engaged me as a reader.  But what keeps me coming back is this authors storytelling and character development.

Over the course of these three books, Keli had continued to evolve and grow as a character. She is a rich, well rounded, dimensional characters that has a genuine feel to her. I love her friendship with Farrah and I think it is one that readers enjoy as well. Farrah is vivacious, fun and loyal to Keli. She is open and accepting of the things Keli fears will make people turn away from her - her Wiccan religion. I also think her relationship is progressing well with Wes. He is understanding and protective even though he wishes Keli would leave the sleuthing to the police.  I also like Crenshaw's character.  He is a bit stuffy and curmudgeonly, but you can see he respects Keli and her mystery solving ability.   

I thought the mystery in this third book was really well plotted. It takes place around the Christmas holiday and is full of suspicion, drama, betrayal, twists and turns. And you guessed it, Keli is right in the middle of it. It felt like there was always something going on in this story that kept me engaged and turning the pages to see just how this mystery would unfold.  I was surprised at the character who turned out to be our murder but his motive was believable and plausible.  There is a secondary mystery that runs through the background of this series and that is what happened to Keli's Aunt Josephine who years before lived in a commune located in Edindale.  I think we are getting closer to finding out where she has been all these years and Keli is getting closer to finally meeting her.

This is a terrific series and I really look forward to each new book.  I will definitely be back to see what adventure Keli finds herself involved with next.

I read an advanced reader copy of this book provided to me by the publisher, Kensington, through Netgalley.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A Hive of Homicides

Author:  Meera Lester
Series:  A Henny Penny Farmette Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington 
Publication Date:  September 26, 2017

Description:  When Abigail Mackenzie left the police force to become a farmer and beekeeper in beautiful Las Flores, California, she thought her days of criminal investigation were behind her . . .
Her present life is mostly filled with hard work and happy occasions, including the upcoming event with her friend Paola, a truffle maker, who's renewing her vows with her husband Jake, owner of the Country Schoolhouse Winery. Abby is delighted to provide her trademark lavender honey for the occasion.
But after the ceremony, the guests of honor are nowhere to be found. When Abby goes looking for them, she hears a gunshot and discovers Jake dead in his car and Paola injured beside him.
Who was the intended target? Jake had a reputation as a busy bee with the ladies. Is it possible that one of his flings, stung by rejection, took revenge? Or could it be sour grapes with one of his colleagues at the winery? If Paola was meant to be the victim, Abby needs to protect her as she searches for the shooter.
When a second murder occurs, it's up to Abby to crush the clues—before the killer gets her over a barrel.

My Review

I found this third book in the Henny Penny Farmette series to be a quick, enjoyable read.  I have read all the books in the series to date and have to say this each one, in my opinion, is entertaining and engaging.

Abigail MacKenzie ("Abby") is a well written and developed protagonist. She is smart, spunky, loyal to her friends and in this story we got to see her vulnerable side. Being an ex-cop she her sleuthing abilities are fairly well honed and she tries to assist the police and not go rouge on her own. The author continues to grow and develop Abby in each new book and I think readers will like what they see in this one. The secondary cast of characters round out the story nicely and we see old and new friends.  There is also a bit of romance brewing for Abby, which I like.  The author is not rushing the characters by no means and it feels natural as it is unfolding in the series.

The mystery had a steady pace that unfolded throughout the entire story with plenty of twists, turns and drama leading up to a very climatic reveal. I also like how the author throws in tips about beekeeping, recipes and snippets from the Henny Penny Farm almanac. I enjoy this series and its characters and will be back for the next book in the series.

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy provided to me by the publisher, Kensington, through Negalley.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Body on Baker Street

Author:  Vicki Delany
Series:  A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Crooked Lane Books
Expected Publication Date:  September 12, 2017

Description:  Gemma Doyle and Jayne Wilson are busy managing the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium on Baker Street and adjoining Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room in anticipation of the store’s upcoming book signing with the illustrious Renalta Van Markoff, author of the controversial Hudson and Holmes mystery series. But during the author Q&A session, dedicated Sherlockian Donald Morris verbally attacks Renalta and her series for disgracing Sherlock’s legacy, only to be publicly humiliated when the author triumphantly lashes back and gains the upper hand. That is until Renalta collapses on the table―dead.

My Review

I loved the first book in the series so was happy to dive into the advanced reader copy I received of Body of Baker Street. This was a quick fun read that I just didn't want to put down. I was so engaged I just kept turning pages to see how the story would end.

What I enjoyed so much about the first book was the character of Gemma. She is, at least in my opinion, unique among cozy mystery protagonists. She is highly observant and has great logical deductive reasoning skills which makes her a good amateur sleuth. What endeared her to me was her social awkwardness. In this second installment the reader can see she is trying to work on this to help her relate better to people. She is asked by her friend and fellow shop owner to help clear him of murder charges, and in typical Gemma style she goes about observing the suspects and trying to put the clues together without thought to her own safety.  The secondary characters from the first book are all back, but I was a bit disappointed that Jayne's role in helping Gemma uncover the killer was not larger.

The mystery was once again well crafted, woven throughout the story with plenty of clues, twists and turns. The story was fast paced, with plenty of viable suspects.  It was fun watching Gemma peel back the layers of these clues to determine who really killed the author. The is still a tension between Gemma and Ryan regarding Gemma's "interference" in police investigations.  Ryan does respect her observations but still have difficulty with how that comes across. And of course, Detective Estrada still has it out for Gemma.  

I think this author has done an excellent job of crafting a smart, sophisticated series with great characters and engaging mysteries.  I am looking forward to more great stories in this series and will definitely be back to Baker Street for the next installment.

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

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Death Distilled

Author:  Melinda Mullet
Series:  A Whiskey Business Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Alibi
Publication Date:  September 5, 2017

Description:  It’s been three months since Abi Logan last checked in on Abbey Glen, the celebrated whisky distillery she inherited. With her oversize wheaten terrier, Liam, by her side, Abi returns to the quaint Scottish village of Balfour. But her relaxing Highland homecoming takes a stressful turn when she unearths an unseemly bit of village history, welcomes a group of Japanese whisky enthusiasts, and becomes shepherdess to an unexpected flock of sheep—all within the first twenty-four hours. Still, nothing’s more stressful than murder. . . .

Local celebrity Rory Hendricks is the hotheaded, hard-rocking former frontman of the Rebels—and Abi’s girlhood crush. After meeting him in person, Abi can’t say no to anything he asks, like photographing his upcoming show . . . or figuring out who’s trying to kill him. Turns out someone’s been bumping off his old bandmates, with the drummer dead under mysterious circumstances and the keyboardist in a coma following a hit-and-run. Now a series of threatening messages leads Rory to think he’s next on the chopping block. And the band has a devil’s share of broken hearts and bitter disputes in their past, leaving Abi a huge batch of suspects to sift through—all before the killer takes another shot.

My Review

This is the second book in the Whiskey Business Mystery series and I found it to be just as enjoyable as the first book. It is quickly becoming a series I look forward to reading. 

Set in Scotland, this series has a unique theme for a cozy mystery.  It is one of the things that drew me to the series and keeps me coming back.  The characters are smart, sophisticated and well developed.  In this installment we once again find Abi called upon to investigate murder and mayhem.  Because of her background and what she has witnessed as a photojournalist, Abi has a keen sense of observation but she is not trying to out-do or show up the police.  And, in this installment, there are occasions where the police actually seek her out for her observations and insight. I felt like Abi was at a crossroads in this story, trying to reconcile her old life and the career she has built with her new home in Balfour and the Abbey Glen distillery.

There are two mysteries in this story - one modern and one historical.  The two are woven together nicely throughout the entire story and actually compliment each other.  The modern day mystery is a smartly crafted with subtle clues, twists and turns. The historical mystery allows the reader a glimpse into the history of the Scottish Village of Balfour, where the story is set, as well as the history of Scotland itself.  As I said, I think the author tied the two nicely together in the end.

I am definitely looking forward to more in this series.  I think there is a lot more of Abi for us and for her to discover.

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