Wednesday, December 30, 2015

At the Drop of a Hat

Author:  Jenn McKinlay
Series:  A Hat Shop Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley

Description:  Cousins Scarlett Parker and Vivian Tremont’s fashionable London hat shop, Mim’s Whims, is visited by a new customer bearing an old hat box. Ariana Jackson is getting married and wants to restore her mother’s bridal hat and veil for the occasion. The elegant item was made by Scarlett and Vivian’s grandmother over thirty years ago, so Viv is delighted to take the job. 
When Scarlett goes to Ariana's office to consult about the restoration cost, she finds her outside, standing over her boss’s dead body. Though Ariana claims to know nothing about his demise, the investigation unveils a motive for murder. Now, with the bride-to-be in custody and the wedding on hold, Scarlett and Viv must find the real killer before Ariana's future is boxed up for good.

My Review

I enjoy this series more with each new installment.  At the Drop of a Hat is the third book in this series and is a delightful addition.  I really enjoy character driven series and this one fits the bill nicely.  Wonderful characters and their relationships are typically what draws my attention first and keeps me reading.  This series does not disappoint.  The characters are charming, funny and becoming more developed with each new book.  Scarlett, our main character and narrator has shown considerable growth in the course of the three books and I am delighted that her relationship with Harrison has settled and is not being rushed. I think that Viv is a little more prominent in this book than she has been in the past and I enjoyed getting to know a bit more about her. The cast of secondary characters round out the story nicely. There is plenty of witty dialogue and fun moments in the book that keeps the reader turning pages.  

The story is well written and this author does a wonderful job of providing clues that misdirect the reader.  I have to say that I was a bit surprised by the resolution to the mystery but that is the great think about this author.  She writes in such a way to take the reader down one path and them completely surprises them with the ultimate outcome.  There is also an unexpected surprise at the end of the book which will definitely keep me coming back for the next installment to see what happens.

In summary, this is a wonderfully written story with charming and funny characters that will keep you turning pages until the end and leave you wanting more.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

License to Dill

Author:  Mary Ellen Hughes
Series:  Pickled Preserved Mysteries #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley Prime Crime Mystery

Description:  Piper Lamb knows how to make fruits and vegetables keep for months. Unfortunately, it’s the people around her who are expiring too soon…

After her fiancé left her, Piper came to Cloverdale to rebuild her life and open up her shop, Piper’s Picklings, to sell pickles and preserves. When her ex decides to drop in for a visit—just as things are heating up between her and a local Christmas tree farmer—Piper finds herself in a jam.  But there are other visitors to worry about…

An Italian soccer team is set to play the Cloverdale All-Stars in an exhibition game. Their manager, Raffaele Conti, was a bitter rival of Piper’s dill supplier, local farmer Gerald Standley. After Conti is found dead in Standley’s field, Piper must work to clear Gerald’s name and find out who relished killing Raffaele before the town is soured by another death.

My Review

This is the second installment the Pickled Preserved Mystery series. I found the second book to be just as enjoyable as the first. Set in a small town, I think that the characters are well written, charming, and likable; they are just what you would expect from residents of a small town.  While the book description may lead readers to think the romantic sub-plot may take over the mystery, rest assured this sub-plot was well done and stays in the background.  First and foremost, this is a mystery and that is evident from the beginning of the book.

The story and the mystery are both solid and have a great pace. The author’s storyline kept me engaged and turning the pages. The mystery was well thought out and the author did a very good job of setting up the tension between the victim and some of the suspects from the beginning.  What I liked about this mystery is that while there are plenty of suspects, Piper has to slowly dig through the victim’s history with the townspeople to find those suspects and their motives.  Although I did figure out the identity of the killer about 2/3rds of the way through the book (which almost never happens for me) it did not take away from my enjoyment of the remainder of the book. I was just as interested in see how Piper would put the pieces together and how the mystery would be solved. It had a very climactic ending and I am definitely looking forward to other books in the series. 

I thought License to Dill was a charming story with a really good mystery.  I will definitely be returning to Cloverdale for the next installment of the series.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Death Crashes the Party

Author:  Vickie Fee
Series:  Liv and Di in Dixie Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery

Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  December 29, 2015

DescriptionIn the quirky, close-knit town of Dixie, Tennessee, party planner Liv McKay has a knack for throwing Southern-style soirées, from diamonds-and-denim to black tie affairs, and her best friend Di Souther mixes a mean daiquiri. While planning a Moonshine and Magnolias bash for high maintenance clients, Liv inconveniently discovers a corpse in the freezer and turns her attention from fabulous fêtes to finding a murderer. Together, Liv and Di follow a trail of sinister secrets in their sweet little town that leads them from drug smugglers to a Civil War battlefield, and just when they think they're whistling Dixie, Liv and Di will find themselves squarely in the cross-hairs of the least likely killer of all. 

My Review 

This book is the first in a new series by author Vicki Fee. I am an avid reader of cozy mysteries so it is nice to have an opportunity to try a new author to the genre. This was a very enjoyable read for me. The story is set in a charming southern town that is filled with great fun characters. For the first book in a series, I thought the characters were well written. They are written to be quirky with wit and humor. I enjoyed the mystery and found the book to have a nice pace. Overall, I enjoyed the book as a whole and at a few parts of the story found myself laughing out loud at some of the characters and their antics. For me, that is a sign that the author has engaged me as a reader. This is definitely a great start to a new series and I will be looking for more by this author in the future.

I was provided an ARC of this book by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

To Brew or Not to Brew

Author:  Joyce Tremel
Series:  A Brewing Trouble Mystery
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley Prime Crime

Description:  The Allegheny Brew House is a dream come true for Maxine “Max” O’Hara, who went all the way to Germany for her brewmaster certification, and is now preparing to open her own craft brew pub in a newly revitalized section of Pittsburgh. But before she can start pouring stouts and lagers to thirsty throngs, there’s trouble on tap. Suspicious acts of sabotage culminate in Max finding her assistant brewmaster and chef Kurt Schmidt strangled in one of the vats.
Between rescuing a stray gray tabby she names Hops and considering a handsome ex-hockey player as her new chef, Max doesn't have a lot of time to solve a murder. But with a homicide detective for a dad, she comes to criminal investigation naturally. And if someone is desperate enough to kill to stop her from opening, Max needs to act fast—before her brand-new brew biz totally tanks.
My Review
This is the first in a series by a new voice in cozy mystery, Joyce Tremel.  I found this to be a very enjoyable first book.  I initially picked up this book because I had heard really good advance buzz, I loved the cover and I liked that this was a new theme in cozy mysteries.  I haven't seen anything set in a brewery and liked that it was a female brewmaster.
The story grabbed me right from the beginning and started out strong.  The story was well written and I found the mystery to be solid.  For as many cozy mysteries as I read, you would think that I would be better at figuring out the identity of the killer.  With this book, I figured out who the culprit was along with Max, our main character.  There were plenty of suspects and a few red herrings thrown in for good measure.  The only criticism is that I thought there was a lull in the story toward the mid part of the book.  However, the author used this as a way to set up the back story for some of the characters that I think will be beneficial for future installments.  By the end of the book, the pace did pick back up leading to a terrific ending.

I found all of the characters to be well written, likable and fully rounded.  There are plenty of secondary characters including Max's family, which includes most of her brothers, along with some other shop owners in the area of the brewery.  There is a budding romance between Max and Jake, her brother's friend and the chef for the brewery.  I liked that the author is taking it slowly and building their relationship.  The two have know each other since they were children so it was realistic for them to take their time when changing the dynamics of that relationship.  The characters and their various relationships, for me, are what drove the book and kept me turning the pages quickly.

In the end, I found this to be a wonderful first book in a new series, by a delightful new voice in cozy mysteries.  The book provides a preview of the second installment in the series and I have to say I can't wait to go back to the brewery and visit with all of the characters again soon.  There are also a few recipes provided at the end of the story.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Murder Fir Christmas

Author:  Joyce and Jim Lavene
Series:  A Christmas Tree Valley Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  J. Lavene

Description:  Down the mountain from Sweet Pepper, Tennessee is Christmas Tree Valley, a place filled with hundreds of Christmas tree farms where generations of growers have made people’s lives brighter. Yet even here in this quiet, postcard-perfect corner of the world, darkness and murder can still stalk the night. 

Federal Wildlife Agent Bonnie Tuttle has always had a special gift with wild animals. It was one of the reasons she decided to train with the wildlife agency. She’s spent the last ten years in Alabama working, but her mother needs her home and she’s back despite all the bad parts of her life she hoped to leave behind. 
Her first day home begins with a fire on the island in Sweet Pepper Lake and the death of Harvey Shelton, the wildlife agent she’s supposed to replace. Bonnie manages to rescue dozens of animals from the fire – including a wolf pup that was shot with the same bullet that killed Harvey. 

Now she’s hot on the trail of Harvey’s killer and trying to reintegrate the wolf back into the wild even though he seems to want to stay with her. Yet old memories persist in the small community where she grew up, and the killer now seems to believe that she has what he killed Harvey for. All she has to do is figure out what that is before it’s too late. 

My Review

This is the first in a new series by prolific cozy mystery authors Joyce and Jim Lavene. Anyone who is a fan of this writing duo know that anytime they pick up one of their stories they will not be disappointed.  Murder Fir Christmas is no exception.  This particular book is a little bittersweet for fans of the writing duo since Joyce Lavene passed before it was released.  

I thoroughly enjoyed this story.  If you are a fan of the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Series written under the duo's pen name J.J. Cook, you will find that there are some old friends as well as some new.  Don't worry if you are not familiar with the Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade series, it will not impact your enjoyment of this book in the least.  As with all of their books, this one grabs the reader’s attention from the very first pages and keeps you engaged until the end.  The characters are excellently written, well developed and full of warmth and heart.  The characters, both old and new, are blended well into this story.

The story has a good pace and moves along nicely without any lulls.  As with all stories by these authors, the mystery is a strong solid mystery that has some twists, turns and a few surprises.  For me the identity of culprit was not obvious.  With the number of cozy mysteries I read you would think I would get better at guessing the identity of the killer before the end of the book.  However, the draw, for me, of a Joyce and Jim Lavene book is that I get so lost in the story, the setting and the characters that it is just as much about the journey the characters take as it is about solving the mystery.  If you are a fan of this writing duo, do not hesitate to read this story.  You will find a terrific first installment to a new series that has plenty of promise. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

On Thin Icing

Author:  Ellie Alexander
Series:  A Bakeshop Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher: St. Martin's Press/Minotaur Books
Publication Date:  December 29, 2015


 Welcome to Torte-a small-town family bakeshop where the treats are killer good.

It's the dead of winter in the sleepy town of Ashland, which means no tourists-and fewer customers-for Jules Capshaw and her bakery. But when she's asked to cater an off-season retreat for the directors of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, business starts heating up...until Jules finds a dead body in the freezer.
Someone at the retreat has apparently iced the bartender, a well-known flirt with a legendary temper-that is, before a killer beat him to the punch. Then, from out of nowhere, Jules's own ex-husband shows up at the shop-and soon becomes a suspect. With accusations piling up higher than the snow-and thicker than a chocolate mousse cake-Jules has to think outside the (recipe) box to find the real culprit...and make sure he gets his just desserts.
This is the third book in this series and is quickly becoming one of my favorites.  Set in the Pacific Northwest, the setting for this series is a bakery.  Jules and her mother run Torte, the small town bakery.  Part of why this series is becoming one of my favorites is the way the author writes her characters and the relationships between them.  The characters are all likable and written so that the reader can relate to them.  Jules has come home after marriage trouble and I feel that the author has written a great story line involving the mother daughter relationship and family ties.  In addition, she also does a great job of developing the relationships between the main character and all the secondary characters.  And, in my opinion, this series has a great cast of secondary characters.  Things are not always easy for Jules as she tries to find her footing but the characters are written with warmth, humor and in a way that the readers can relate.  The atmosphere of the town and the bakery are delightful and add to the pleasure of reading this story.
In this third installment, the author has created a mystery that is isolated to the resort where Jules is catering the annual board meeting for the town's theater board.  The mystery is solid and there are plenty of twists and turns with the introduction of Jules' husband Carlos, who has come to win her back and in the process becomes a suspect.  The plot has a nice pace and I didn't feel as if there were any lulls as the mystery unfolded.  With all of the characters located in one place, there was no shortage of suspects.  I liked how the author laid out the clues to the mystery without being obvious as to the killer's identity.  
All in all, I think is a wonderful series, with great characters that are warm, funny and likable. Each story has had a solid mystery with twists and turns that keep the reader engaged throughout the story.  Add in a culinary cozy theme, set in a great location with wonderful recipes included at the end and the result is a charming series.  I am looking forward to the next installment which is due out mid-2016.
I received and ARC of this book from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  Look for this book to be available December 29, 2015.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Driven Series -Box Set

Author:  K. Bromberg
Series:  The Driven Series
Genre:  Romance
Publisher:  JKB Publishing, LLC

Description:  In a world full of willing women, I’m a challenge to the roguish and achingly handsome Colton Donavan. A man used to getting exactly what he wants in all aspects of life. He’s the reckless bad boy constantly skating that razor thin edge toward out of control, on and off of the track. 

Colton crashes into my life like a tornado: sapping my control, testing my vulnerabilities beyond their limits, and unintentionally penetrating the protective wall around my healing heart. Tearing apart the world I rebuilt so carefully with structure, predictability, and discipline. 

I can’t give him what he wants and he can’t give me what I need. But after a glimpse beneath his refined exterior into the dark secrets of his damaged soul, can I bring myself to walk away? 

Our sexual chemistry is undeniable. Our individual need for complete control is irrefutable. But when our worlds collide, is the chemistry enough to bring us together or will our untold secrets and battle of wills force us apart? 

My Review

Let me start by saying that while this series is not brand new, it was recommended to by some members of a group I belong to on Facebook because I had read and enjoyed the Crossfire Series by Sylvia Day.  I had not read anything by this author and the group members thought I would enjoy this series just as much.  Boy were they right.  I'm not sure where to start because this series was a roller-coaster ride of emotions.  This is a well written series that draws you right in from the very beginning.  The author writes with such emotions that you instantly connect with the characters Rylee and Colton.  And what characters they are.  Both are emotionally scarred by their past.  K. Bromberg gives the reader such an incredibly well written emotion packed series that it is hard to forget that the first book in this series, Driven, was her debut novel.  The characters are flawed, complex, and feel deeply.  The story is tight and so well crafted that you just want to continue reading to find out what happens to these two people.  Ms. Bromberg rounds out the cast with a great group of secondary characters that are all calling out for their own turn in the spot light (some of which already have their own stories).  I was very impressed with this debut by K. Bromberg.  This is one of those series that will stay with you after you have finished the last page.  In fact, this series will be on my keeper shelf and I can imagine that I will be re-reading this in the future.  It should be noted that this series contains mature sexual content so if you are offended by such content this is not the series for you.

 If you are looking for a story that has emotion, romance, great characters and plenty of hot steamy scenes then look no further.  This is one of the best series that I have read in this genre in a long time and I will be reading the other books in the series that are already available as well as looking forward to those to be written in the future. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Hiss and Tell

Author:  Claire Donally
Series:  Sunny and Shadow Mystery
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley (Prime Crime Mystery)

Description:  Political heiress Priscilla Kingsbury is about to marry Carson de Kruk, son of business mogul Augustus de Kruk, at the Kingsburys’ waterfront compound. For reporter Sunny Coolidge, an assignment from the Harbor Courier to cover the event is like catnip.
But when Sunny photographs men pulling the body of a dead woman out of the water, the Kingsburys’ private security isn’t happy. They claim the woman’s death was an accident, but the story seems fishy. Now, with a little help from her police officer boyfriend and her cunning cat Shadow, Sunny is determined to get the scoop on a killer.

My Review

This is the fourth installment in this series and I found it to be just as enjoyable as the previous three books.  The characters are developing nicely.  Each of the main characters (Mike, Sunny and Will) have depth and with each story the reader begins to feel like they know most of the main characters and those character that appear only in this story have dimension as well.  While not a cat person myself, I find that I enjoy the character of Shadow and his contributions to solving whatever mystery the characters seem to be faced with solving.  I find myself chuckling at his antics and attitude in this book.  I also think the author is doing a nice job with the pace of the budding romance between Will and Sunny.  It feels like it is progressing realistically and does not feel like it is being rushed.

The mystery in this story was a good solid mystery.  It had plenty of twists and turns along with an element of the unexpected.  As for suspects, there was no shortage in this mystery.  The author did an excellent job of crafting the plot so that the culprit is not obvious in the beginning of the story with the reader left to find out how he/she is caught.  With this mystery, it was not easy to figure out the culprit with the evidence that was presented during the story.  In fact, I was surprised at the identity of the killer, which I did not figure out, and the reason that the killer committed the crime.  The author did a good job of wrapping up all lose ends and any unresolved questions by the end of the story.

This is a solid series and I feel with the way this author crafts her stories, each entry could almost be a stand-alone.  Even if you haven't read any of the previous books in the series, you will not be lost if you pick up this book.  I will definitely be back for the fifth installment due out next year to check on Sunny and Shadow and see what new mystery needs solving.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Fudging the Books

Author:  Daryl Wood Gerber (a/k/a Avery Ames)
Series:  A Cookbook Nook Mystery
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley

Description:  Pirate Week is sweeping through Crystal Cove and keeping Jenna Hart and her bookstore, the Cookbook Nook, plenty busy. But she’s not too swamped to also host the local Chocolate Cookbook Club’s meeting—especially because the guest of honor is her friend, candy maker and cookbook author Coco Chastain.

Jenna whips up a delicious event amidst the rowdy festivities, but the mood is soon broken by robberies, simmering tempers, and a dead body—Coco’s editor, Alison. The suspects turn out to be more plentiful than a pot full of gold doubloons, so to prove Coco isn't responsible for the dastardly deed, Jenna will have to stir up some clues and figure out who’s the real sticky-fingered killer.

My Review

This is the fourth installment in this series and I have to say that each one just seems to get better.  Daryl Wood Gerber is a wonderful cozy mystery author and this book is a wonderful read. The town is full of quirky wonderful characters that always make each mystery fun. Over the course of the series, the reader has been able to see the characters grow and develop.  As a reader, character growth and development is part of what continues to draw me back to a series. The small town setting also lends charm to this book and the series.  I mean Pirate Week alone was enough to catch my interest, but throw in chocolate and who could resist picking up this book.  The pace was good (I finished over the course of three nights) and had a strong, solid mystery. There were plenty of suspects to choose from and enough twists, turns and red herrings to keep the reader guessing. In the end, I was surprised and did not know the real killer until it was revealed. 

This is a wonderful series full of charm, wit, humor, warmth, and family. The author writes solid mysteries that have plenty to twists and turns and there is a little romance thrown as well. I have thoroughly enjoyed this series and look forward to more books in the future.