Saturday, October 29, 2016

Going on Hiatus

Dear Followers and Visitors:

Well, it's been over a year since I first started this blog and the journey has been terrific.  I have met a lot of wonderful authors, along with fellow bloggers and readers.  When I first started the blog I had no illusions that anyone would really see it let alone read and comment on the reviews.  It has been so much fun to read the comments people have left and know that they found my review helpful or interesting.

I love to read and review books which is why I started the blog in the first place.  However, in addition to reading and blogging, I also hold down a full time job and have other personal commitments.  While I have enjoyed blogging my reviews this past year, recently I have begun to feel like reading has become another job.  I feel like I have put pressure on myself to read just so I have a review to put on the blog.  As a result, I feel burnt out and my love of reading has begun to dwindle, which saddens me because I have had a book in my hand since I learned to read.  So for that reason, I have decided to take an indefinite hiatus from blogging.  I still plan to read and review on Goodreads and Amazon but hopefully without the pressure of having to finish a book to post a review on the blog, I will begin to rekindle my joy of reading.

I appreciate everyone who has stopped by to read a review or leave a comment.  I am also very thankful for those authors who have asked me to review a copy of their book.  To me that is the highest compliment I could get.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Down Shift (Driven #8)

Author:  K. Bromberg
Series:  Driven Series #8 (Stand Alone)
Genre:  Contemporary Romance
Publisher:  Signet
Published:  October 4, 2016

Description:  Behind the wheel, racing champion Zander Donavan is at the top of his game. But after too much excess in his personal life, he’s forced to step away. He needs to accomplish something all on his own—outside of his famous father's shadow.  
Getty Caster is running away from the abuse that clouds her past. She thinks she’s found the perfect escape—until she discovers a stranger in the beachside cottage she’d been promised. He’s undeniably sexy, but she’s there to heal. Alone.
Before long though, fighting with each other turns into fighting their attraction. And giving into desire sets off a chain reaction that has their pasts colliding. With an unexpected love on the line, can they overcome the fallout to build a future?

My Review

I haven't been a K. Bromberg fan that long , having only discovered her last year, but she is now one of those authors who is on my automatic buy list.  With every book I have read by her, she delivers each and every time.  In my opinion, she is one of the best authors in this genre writing today.  Her stories are powerful, and evoke so many emotions in the reader.  This book is no exception.  Each of her stories are well crafted and bring the reader along on an emotional ride as she demonstrates the power of true love.

Down Shift is the story of Zander Donovan, the adopted son of the main characters in the Driven Series, Rylee and Colton.  We caught glimpses of him as a little boy who was terrified and vulnerable.  We watched him come out of that dark place with the love of his adoptive parents.  In Down Shift, we get to see Zander the man,  I was a little afraid to read this story because parts of the Driven Series between Zander and Colton were some of my favorite because they were so powerful.  With K. Bromberg writing this story, I should have known that it would be nothing but phenomenal.  Zander is struggling with his past and with each page, this author is such a talented writer that his struggles and emotions jump off the page earning him a place in the readers heart.

Getty is the perfect compliment to Zander.  She is also struggling with her past which has left her vulnerable and full of self doubt.  But in the hands of this author all the reader see is a strong woman who won't cave to the past and is writing her own story with the ending that she wants.  There were so many times in this book that I could feel tears in my eyes and yet at the same time I was reveling at some small breakthrough that one of the characters made.  This is ultimately a love story about two people who help each other heal and find that they are worth this love they have found.

This is another book in the Driven Series that will go on my keeper shelf to be read again.  I don't typically re-read many books, but with these I find that there is some nuance that I missed the first time around.  If you haven't tried K. Bromberg I would urge you to give her a try.  She is a talented author who weavers incredible stories about the power of love and how two people who are meant to be will find each other.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Dying for Strawberries

Dying for Strawberries

Author:  Sharon Farrow
Series:  A Berry Basket Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Expected Publication Date:  October 25, 2016

Description:  Much has changed for Marlee Jacob since she returned to Oriole Point, Michigan, three years ago. Between running the Berry Basket, dodging local gossip, and whipping up strawberry muffins, smoothies, and margaritas to celebrate the town’s first annual Strawberry Moon Bash, the twenty-nine-year-old hardly has time for her fiancé, let alone grim memories of her old life in New York . . . 
But unfortunately for Marlee, Oriole Point is muddled with secrets of its own. First her friend Natasha disappears after an ominous dream. Next the seediest man in town threatens to crush her business. Then an unknown person nearly kills her on the night of the Bash. When she discovers a dead body while searching for Natasha, Marlee realizes she’ll have to foil a killer’s plot herself—before the past permanently stains her future.

My Review

While this is the first book in the new Berry Basket Mystery series by Sharon Farrow, this author is not new to the cozy mystery genre.  In fact, she is part of the writing duo D.E. Ireland who write the Eliza Doolittle mysteries.  I thought this was a strong debut for this new series.  The story had my attention right from the beginning and kept it all the way through the book.  The story is set in the fictional town of Oriole Point on the lake shore of western Michigan, which was part of my reason for requesting an ARC of this book.  I love when a story or series is set in my home state.  For me, it just allows me to connect more with the book as a whole.

The characters in this book are well written and dimensional, each with their own history and back story which is nice incorporated into the book as the story unfolds.  Marlee is a strong protagonist.  She is thirty one and has some life experience behind her having lived in New York.  Her history, and the reason for her return to Oriole Point, unfolds through the course of the book which makes her a well rounded character, in my opinion.  She is a bit impetuous, but the secondary characters in the book all provide a nice counter balance to that particular aspect of her personality.  She is loyal to her town and friends and because of that she gets herself involved in solving the disappearance of her friend and a subsequent murder.  I think these characters all have great potential for future growth and there is much more to discover with them.

The book is well written with a steady plot and an intriguing mystery.  It has a pace the flows and encourages the reader to continue turning pages to see what happens next. In my opinion, this is a well done whodunit.  There are plenty of suspects for the murder and the author does a great job of keeping the reader guessing.  I had several suspects, and in my mind each one of them had a viable motive for committing the murder.

I very much enjoyed the first book in this series and I am looking forward to more to come from this author and this series.  This is a well written cozy mystery with characters the reader will like and a well crafted mystery that keeps you guessing until the end.

I received an ARC from Kensington, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my opinion and the thoughts expressed are my own.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Behind Closed Doors

Behind Closed Doors

Author:  Lisa Renee Jones
Series:  Careless Whispers #2.5
Genre:  Romance
Publisher:  Pocket Star
Published:  October 17, 2016
Format:  ebook

Description:  Jason "Red Bull" Wise. Famous millionaire poker player. Rich. Sexy. A man who knows what he wants, goes after it, and never loses. He's being blackmailed. He thinks Skye is behind it. 

Passion. Danger. Secrets. 

Are you ready? 

From New York Times bestselling author Lisa Renee Jones comes a brand new gripping and provocative novel that ties into her bestselling Careless Whispers and Inside Out series. You can enjoy this as a standalone, but fans of Careless Whispers and Inside Out will get an exciting glimpse of who Ella really is and some of the secrets she's been hiding from everyone she knows.

My Review

I only recently discovered Lisa Renee Jones with the release of the first book in the Careless Whispers series. With each new book I read, I understand more and more why she has such a large and devoted fan base.  This is storytelling done well.  The author has crafted a book that will immediately draw her readers into the world of professional poker and have them turning pages until a climatic ending.

This book is a fast paced, well written story that has great characters woven into a plot full of suspense, betrayal, romance and some steamy love scenes. I liked both the characters of Skye and Jason; they are complex, dimensional characters that are vulnerable and likeable. Jason is guarded, for good reason, and Skye is a strong, independent woman, whose past has caused her to build some walls. What also made this enjoyable was that the how the author wove in some of Ella's back story and gave us a glimpse of who she really is and where she comes from. 

This is a stand alone story, so if you haven't read any previous books in the Careless Whispers series it will not effect your enjoyment of this story. What you will find is that you want to go out and pick up other books written by this author.

I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my opinion and the thoughts expressed are my own.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Catch as Cat Can

Author:  Claire Donally
Series:  Sunny & Shadow Mystery #5
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  May 3, 2016

Description:  When a new seafood shop opens in Kittery Harbor, Maine, Sunny’s tomcat Shadow is on the hunt for tasty treats—until Sunny discovers a cold-blooded killer’s catch of the day.

Neil Garret is new to town, but his seafood shop is already going belly up. Working next door, former reporter Sunny Coolidge can’t help noticing the telltale signs. But checking on Neil one morning reveals something far worse for business than a lack of inventory—a mysterious man lies murdered in his freezer. 

Sunny’s boyfriend, Chief Investigator Will Price, nets Neil as the prime suspect. But even when Sunny learns about Neil’s secret past, the open-and-shut case seems fishy. Now it’s up to Sunny to find the real culprit and get Neil off the hook.

My Review

You may notice, if you frequently read my reviews, that I don't read a lot of cat themed cozy mysteries.  What I like about this series is how we always get Shadow's perspective on how he views what is happening or whether he is upset with his humans.  This is a wonderful series and this book is a terrific addition.  I was not disappointed.

At this point in the series, the author has crafted well developed, dimensional characters that feel comfortable and familiar.  When you pick up one of these books it is almost like sitting down to catch up with old friends, except these friends are usually solving a murder. Ms. Donally has also done an great job with allowing these characters to grow and continue to develop both personally and professionally. I like the way the author has progress both Sunny and Will's relationship as well as her father Mike's relationship with Mrs. M.  It feels genuine and real on both counts.  And make no mistake, I consider Shadow a character as well because he is written with his own history and experiences which he recalls throughout the series.  He also has his own personality that comes with expectations of his human.

The story is well written and the plot moves along at a nice pace allowing the reader to stay invested in the story.  The mystery is well done.  There are a lot of suspects to choose from and while there is a hint at the reason behind the two murder's that occur in the story, there are still plenty of twists and surprises as to who is behind them and the reason why.  While I did figure out the identity of the killer along with Sunny and Will it was a climatic ending that left me satisfied that everything was wrapped up.

This is a terrific series with wonderful characters, good writing, strong mysteries and if you are a cat person (and even if you aren't) you will enjoy the bits of the story from Shadow's perspective.  I always feel that I have been fully entertained when I finish one of these books and I will most definitely be back for the next in the series.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Crowned and Moldering

Author:  Kate Carlisle
Series:  A Fixer-Upper Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  NAL
Published:  November 2015

Description:  When Mac Sullivan—famous thriller writer and Shannon’s new beau—first moved to Lighthouse Cove, California, he bought the historic lighthouse mansion that the town is named after. Mac needs help cleaning up the place, and Shannon is more than happy to get her handywoman hands on the run-down Victorian.

But during demolition, a grisly discovery is made among the debris—the bones of a teenage girl who went missing fifteen years ago. Locals had always assumed Lily Brogan ran away from her difficult life, but it seems her troubles followed her to the grave. If Shannon has any chance of getting her renovation back on track, she’ll need to tackle the cold case. But with new suspects coming out of the woodwork every day, she’ll have to be careful to pry the right secrets and clues from the poor girl’s problematic past.

My Review

I started this series a few months back as part of my goal to dig into my rather large TBR pile.  It has quickly become one of my favorite series and with each new book I am a bigger fan of Kate Carlisle.  This is an entertaining series that is well written, has developed, full, well rounded characters and solid mysteries that keep the reader guessing until the killer's idnetity is revealed.

Once again we find Shannon in the wrong place at the wrong time discovering yet another dead body.  This time, it turns out to be the body of Lily, the sister of one of her employees, that everyone thought had run off as a teenager years ago.  The twist - her body shows up when Shannon and her crew start the renovations on Mac's lighthouse.  I enjoy all of the characters in this series.  I think they are all developed and fully rounded characters. Shannon is a strong, independent woman who can hold her own be it on the job site or solving a murder.  The way the author writes there is still room for growth both personally and professionally for all of the characters so the reader won't get bored with them.  These are what I like to call comfortable characters.  You feel like you know them and each new book is just a peek into a point in time of their lives.

The mystery in this installment was nicely plotted.  Because the murder had occurred years prior and the disappearance of Lily was not fully investigated this provides the new police chief Eric with a challenge because some possible suspects have left Lighthouse Cove.  In this book, I liked the fact that Eric looked to Shannon for help because she had some insight into what was happening when Lilly disappeared.  There are plenty of twists and turns that a reader comes to expect from mysteries written by this author.  The clues were well placed throughout the story and while I had a suspect there was plenty of evidence to point to someone else.  The killer's identity was revealed in a climactic ending that ties the story up nicely.

In sum, this is an entertaining story written by a talented author whose writing style will transport you to Lighthouse Cove where there are terrific characters and intriguing mysteries.  I've already pre-ordered the next book in the series and I am looking forward to seeing what the author has in store next.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Muffins and Mourning Tea

Author:  H.Y. Hanna
Series:  Oxford Tearoom Mystery #5
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Wisheart Press
Published:  September 20, 2016

Description:  Cotswolds tearoom owner, Gemma Rose is excited to join the May Day celebrations in Oxford... until the beautiful spring morning ends in murder. Now, she's embroiled in a deadly mystery--with four nosy old ladies determined to help in the sleuthing! Before she knows it, Gemma finds herself stalking a Russian "princess" and keeping up with the Old Biddies in Krav Maga class, while still trying to serve delicious cakes and buttery scones at her quaint English tearoom.

And that's just the start of her worries: there's her little tabby, Muesli, who is causing havoc at the local nursing home... and what should she do with the creepy plants that her mother keeps buying for her new cottage?

But the mystery that's really bothering Gemma is her boyfriend's odd behaviour. Devlin O'Connor has always been enigmatic but recently, the handsome CID detective has been strangely distant and evasive. Could he be lying to her? But why?

My Review

H.Y. Hanna has once again delivered another delightful installment in the Oxford Tea Room Mystery series.  This is the 5th installment in this British themed cozy mystery series.  In my opinion, each book is better the the last.  This is a well written story that has a great pace, humor, mystery, a bit of romance and a great cast of characters.  I love character driven cozy mysteries and the characters in this series are well developed and feel like old friends.  Even the secondary characters are strong.  Gemma is a wonderful character. She has grown both personally and with the business since the first book and I think has more confidence.  The "Old Biddies" are back in this story and you won't believe what they are up to this time.  All I will say is the Old Biddies and Krav Maga.  You'll have to read the book to find out the rest.  The romance between Gemma and Devlin has what may be a bit a twist down the road but nothing is resolved in this book.

The mystery in this story is solid and has plenty of suspects.  Ms. Hanna throws in a lot of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing and I was surprised by how this mystery turned out.  Once again, Gemma and the Old Biddies are at the center of helping the police solve the mystery.  I will definitely be back to see what happens in the next installment. 

If you haven't tried this series I would suggest you give it a chance.  It is a well written British cozy series filled with great characters, well developed plots and mysteries, a bit a romance and plenty of humorous moments courtesy of the "Old Biddies."  I don't think you will be disappointed.

I received an ARC of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence my opinion and the thoughts expressed are my own.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Murder of a Queen Bee

Author:  Meera Lester
Series:  A Henny Penny Farmette Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Published:  September 27, 2016

Description:  Former police officer Abigail Mackenzie has made a fresh start as a beekeeper and farmer in picturesque Las Flores, California—but she never suspected her new hometown would prove to be a hive of criminal activity.

When Abby invites her free-spirited friend, Fiona Mary Ryan, owner of Ancient Wisdom Botanicals, to her farmette for lunch, she never imagines that Fiona’s no-show will lead to a murder investigation.

Only hours after their lunch date, Fiona’s body is found in a burning car in what at first appears to be a tragic accident. But after the coroner’s report is issued, it’s clear she was dead before being placed in the vehicle. Someone has gone to great lengths to cover up a murder. But who—and why?

Driven by her loyalty to her friend, and her deeply ingrained skills as a trained investigator, Abby sorts through suspects—who seem to be sprouting up everywhere. Speculating that Fiona’s herbal business might hold the key to motive, Abby isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty to smoke out a killer. 

My Review

This is the second book in Ms. Lester's Henny Penny Farmette Mystery series and I found it to be just as enjoyable as the first book.  It is well written with a steady pace that moves along nicely.  In addition, it is full of colorful characters and a well plotted mystery.  There is a lot happening in this book so the reader is engage from the beginning until the mystery is solved. 

I think Abby is a strong main character.  She is once again in the middle of a murder but this time it is one of her friends so she feels compelled to assist where she can.  Not to say this doesn't get her into some trouble.  I think she is smart and cautious, for the most part, while investigating and keeps the police informed.   I thinks she is different from other main characters I have read because she is more of a professional rather than an amateur sleuth. This is due to her being a former police officer and working as an investigator.   I like her friend Kat and other members of the police force that we are introduced to with the exception of the Chief (he is a bit of a chauvinist).  There is a romance brewing for Abby and I think the readers will be happy to with his identity.

The mystery was well plotted and with the involvement of a commune/cult there were plenty of suspects to choose from.  The author wove enough clues throughout the story to keep the reader off track and threw in twists and turns for good measure.  I was surprised that I figured out the identity of the killer but that did not take away my enjoyment as I wanted to see how Abby and the rest of the cast put the pieces together.

The bottom line - this book is well written and has a well crafted mystery that will keep the reader engaged from beginning to end.  It has characters that the readers will like (for the most part) and at the beginning of each chapter you will find a recipe with a farming tip at the end of each chapter.

I was provided an ARC from Kensington through Netgalley.  This did not influence my opinion and the thoughts expressed are my own.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

It's Your Party, Die If You Want To

Author:  Vicki Fee
Series:  A Liv and Di in Dixie Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Published:  September 27, 2016

Description:  Between a riverboat gambler-theme engagement party and a murder mystery dinner for charity, Dixie, Tennessee, party planner Liv McKay is far too frenzied to feel festive. Add to the mix her duties at the annual businesswomen’s retreat and the antics of a celebrity ghost-hunting diva, and Liv’s schedule is turning out to be the scariest thing about this Halloween—especially when the ladies stumble across a dead body in a cemetery…

Morgan Robison was a party girl with a penchant for married men and stirring up a cauldron of drama. Any number of scorned wives or frightened philanderers could be behind her death. As Liv and her best friend, Di, set out to dig up the truth, they’ll face the unexpected and find their efforts hampered by a killer with one seriously haunting vendetta.

My Review

Author Vicki Fee has delivered a charming and fun second installment to the Liv and Di in Dixie Mystery series.  Part of the reason I love cozy mysteries is that for the most part they are character driven.  The ones that really catch my attention and having me coming back for more are those series that have full, rich, well developed characters.  This series delivers that for me.

Liv and her best friend Di are terrific characters and their friendship just jumps right off the pages of the story.  All of the characters in this book are fun and a little quirky.  I love that this is only the second book but yet you feel like the main characters are comfortable and that you know them.  That is a testament to the talent of this author and her writing abilities. She crafts well rounded, fully dimensional characters that are likable to the reader.   Liv just can't keep herself out of trouble and it is fun to see Di jump right in and help out her friend.  I like that they didn't set out to get involved but just eventually resigned themselves to the fact that they needed to investigate the murder.

The mystery is well done.  The author has provided plenty of twist and turns and Liv and Di attempt to solve Morgan's murder and uncover the killer's identity.  In addition to a well crafted mystery that kept me guessing, Ms. Fee writes this story in such a way that the reader is pulled into the story with its southern charm and is engaged until the final conclusion.  This is a wonderfully enjoyable story that is part of what is becoming part of a highly entertaining series.

I was provided an ARC of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence my opinion and the thoughts expressed are my own.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Book Club Murders

Author:  Leslie Nagel
Series:  The Oakwood Mysteries #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Alibi
Publication Date:  September 27, 2016

Description:  Charley Carpenter has poured heart and soul into her clothing store, Old Hat Vintage Fashions. She’ll do anything to make it a success—even join the stuffy Agathas Book Club in order to cultivate customers among the wealthy elite of Oakwood, Ohio.
Although mixing with the most influential women in town has its advantages, Charley finds the endless gossip a high price to pay. But after two women with close ties to the Agathas are brutally murdered, everyone falls under threat—and suspicion. When key evidence indicates that both murders are the work of the same hand, Charley realizes that the killer has arranged each corpse in perfect imitation of crime scenes from the Club’s murder mystery reading list. She uses her membership in the Club to convince Detective Marcus Trenault to use her as an inside informant. Not that he could stop her anyway.
Intelligent, fearless, and every bit as stubborn as Marc is, Charley soon learns the Agathas aren’t the only ones with secrets to protect. Passions explode as she and Marc must race against time to prevent another murder. And if Charley’s not careful, she may find herself becoming the killer’s next plot twist.

My Review

This is the debut cozy mystery for Leslie Nagel and I thought it was a terrific debut.  It might be a little edgier than some might consider a cozy in that there is plenty of cursing peppered throughout the dialogue.  If this is a turn off for you as a reader this might not be the book for you.  That said, I thought this was a well written, fast paced page turner and I will definitely be back for more.

Charley is a great protagonist.  I thought she was intelligent, stubborn and dedicated to trying to find out who is behind the recent murders in Oakwood.  Frankie, her best friend since high school is her companion for most of the sleuthing, and in some cases influences Charley to start investigating in the first place.  These two have a great friendship and it comes across on the pages of this story.  At first I wasn't too fond of Marc as I thought he was harsh and judgmental.  However, as his history unfolds and his past with Charley plays out he began to grow on me and by the end I was rooting for the budding romance between the two.  The Agatha's round out the rest of the cast nicely and provide plenty of suspects.

I like the mystery in this story.  It was a bit different from other's that I have read.  But I especially enjoyed how the book club reads were incorporated into this mystery.  There were a lot of twists to this story and plenty of suspects.  The author has, in my opinion, done a superb job in crafting this mystery in such a way that I never really had a firm suspect.  In the end I was surprised by the identity of the culprit and the reason.

All in all, I thought this was a well written story that had me engaged from the beginning.  It has a fast pace, well plotted mystery and great characters.  This series definitely started with a bang and I will be back to see what this author has in store for future books.

I received an ARC from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This did no influence my opinion and the thoughts expressed are my own.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Familiar Tale

Author:  Delia James
Series:  A Witch's Cat Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  NAL
Publication Date:  February 2016

Description:  Unlucky-in-love artist Annabelle Britton decides that a visit to the seaside town of  Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is the perfect way to get over her problems. But when she stumbles upon a smoky gray cat named Alastair, and follows him into a charming cottage, Annabelle finds herself in a whole spellbook full of trouble.

Suddenly saddled with a witch's wand and a furry familiar, Annabelle soon meets a friendly group of women who use their spells, charms, and potions to keep the people of Portsmouth safe. But despite their gifts, the witches can’t prevent every wicked deed in town....

Soon, the mystery surrounding Alistair’s former owner, who died under unusual circumstances, grows when another local turns up dead. Armed with magic, friends, and the charmed cat who adopted her more than the other way around, Annabelle sets out to paw through the evidence and uncover a killer.

My Review

This book has been on my TBR pile for most of the year now.  For whatever reason I just haven't had a chance to read it so when I noticed book two was released I bumped this book up to the top of the pile.  I was glad that I did because I found this to be a very enjoyable paranormal cozy mystery.  This author did a wonderful job of creating a charming, magical, paranormal cozy that just seemed to grab me right from the start with its well written characters and intriguing mystery.

For the first book in a new series, Ms. James has done a wonderful job crafting quirky, likable characters that are full rounded and engaged the reader right from the start.  Anna is a great heroine.   She is smart, likable and prone to a bit of sarcasm without being obnoxious.   What starts out as a trip to visit a friend takes Anna out of her comfort zone and into a family history that was unknown to her.  I liked that when she discovered her magical abilities she didn't just jump right in and accept everything.  Rather, she approached each of the magical situations she found herself in with hesitation.  There is a nice, diverse, well rounded cast of secondary characters that make this story interesting.  And Alistair, Anna's inherited familiar is full of surprises as well.

The mystery was well plotted and woven nicely throughout the story.  Ms. James does a nice job of weaving twists and turns in the mystery while balancing that with giving the reader enough back story without detracting from the pace of the book.  There are plenty of suspects to choose from and with everyone seeming having a secret to hide the identity of the killer was not easily discernible, at least from me.  I was pleasantly surprised by the identity of the killer by the motive was realistic.

In sum, I thought that this was a terrific first in a new paranormal cozy mystery for Ms. James.  It is a charming read full of magic, murder, mystery and wonderful characters that are well developed and for the most part likable.  I will definitely be back to see what is next for Anna and her new found coven.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Calamity Cafe

Author:  Gayle Leeson
Series:   A Down South Cafe Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Obsidian Mystery
Published:  June 7, 2016

Description:  Tired of waiting tables at Lou’s Joint, Amy Flowers doesn’t just quit—she offers to buy the place from her bully of a boss, so she can finally open the café of her dreams. Amy can't wait to serve the kind of Southern, down-home treats and dishes that her grandmother always loved to the kooky cast of regulars at the restaurant. She knows her comfort food will be the talk of the sweet, small town of Winter Garden, Virginia.

At first Lou Lou refuses to sell, but when she seems ready to make a deal, she tells Amy to come see her.  Showing up at the eatery ready to negotiate, Amy is shocked to find her former employer murdered. As the prime suspect, Amy will have to clear her name by serving up the real killer—and with Lou Lou’s stack of enemies, that’s a tall order.

My Review

This is the first book in a new series by Gayle Leeson and while I liked it, there was just one aspect of the book that detracted from my overall enjoyment.  The book is well written and has a nice steady pace that moves the story along.  It has a well crafted mystery and wonderful characters.

The characters in this story are well written, full, round characters.  I like Amy Flowers as a main character.  She is determined to follow her dream of opening her own cafe  and is overall very likable.  What really came through in the pages of this story is the friendship between Amy, Jackie and Roger.  It was well done by the author and you could fell their genuine like for each other as the story unfolded.  There is also a little bit of romance brewing for both Jackie and Amy which did not overshadow the mystery.  I also liked Homer and looked forward to who would be his hero each day and why.  Aunt Bess and Amy's mom rounded out the secondary cast well.

The mystery was well plotted.  It unfolded slowly over the course of the book and the identity of the killer was not readily evident, at least to me.  There are several suspects to choose from and plenty of twists to keep the reader guessing.  I was about 3/4 of the way through the book before I figured out the identity of the killer.  What I had the most problem with is Amy's insistence that she had to solve the murder herself because she was a suspect and "her life was on the line."  For me, this part of the story just didn't resonate.  Yes, Amy found the body of Lou Lou and there was one other small piece of circumstantial evidence, but the rest of the story did not support her belief.  Other than after she found the body, Amy was not questioned by the police and Deputy Hall told her that while she was a suspect because she found the body he didn't believe she was the killer.  To make Amy's belief more credible for me, I would have liked the author to provide more evidence and/or clues even if circumstantial that pointed to Amy.

In sum, I thought the story was well written with a steady pace that kept the reader turning page with a nicely crafted mystery and full, round characters.  I just had trouble with Amy's instance that she had to find the killer because her life was on the line.  I liked the book well enough that I will give the second book in the series a try when it is  released.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

By Cook or by Crook

Author:  Maya Corrigan
Series:  A Five Ingredient Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Published:  November 2014

Description:  Take one burned-out city girl. Add a crusty codger, a pinch of gossip, and a dash of romance. Stir in a generous helping of murder and you've got the ingredients for one truly delicious mystery. . .

Haunted by the car accident that ended her career as a cookbook publicist, Val Deniston has traded in the chaos of New York City for a quieter life near the Chesapeake Bay. Living with her curmudgeonly grandfather in the tourist town of Bayport is hardly glamorous, but she enjoys working at the Cool Down Café at the local fitness club, and she finally has time to work on her long-planned cookbook. But when one of the club's patrons is found dead, she'll have to cook up a scheme to find the killer. As the number of suspects rises like crabs in a bucket, it's out of the pan and into the fire for Val. If she can't find the culprit soon, she might as well be chum in the water.

My Review

As you can tell from the publication date on this book, it is another one that has been on my TBR pile for quite awhile now.  I have to be honest and say it feels pretty good to be digging into the pile and making progress on dwindling it down.

This is the first book that I have read by this author and I found it to be a very enjoyable read.  The author has a fluid writing style that kept the pace of the book moving along until the big reveal at the end of the story.

For a first book in a series, I thought this story had a good cast of characters that were well written.  I thought the author did a good job of developing the characters as the story progressed allowing the reader to get to know them much better.   Val was very likable as the protagonist.  She was an accidental sleuth out to clear the name of her cousin but always made sure she kept in touch with the police regarding her theories and the events that were unfolding.  

I liked the theme of the book being centered around five - five ingredients, five suspects, five clues, etc.  The five suspects provided plenty of clues, twists and turns througout the story. The suspects were plausible and for the most part the motives were believable.  I thought the author did a nice job of tying togther a couple of plots/mysteries that seemed to be unrelated but in the end connected together very well in a realistic manner.

The only thing missing for me was that I didn't feel like we got to know the town.  Part of what I enjoy about cozy mysteries set in a small town is when the author describes the place and settings so that the reader can almost picture themselves wandering the streets or stopping in the restaurants.  Unfortunately, I didn't get that from this book.  I didn't make me like the book any less, I guess I felt it would have been nice to be able to picture the town, the cafe or the diner as I was reading the story.

I thought this was an enjoyable book with an interesting premise around the five theme.  I liked the characters and enjoyed the mystery.  I will be back to check out the book number two in this series.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Spells and Scones

Author:  Bailey Cates
Series:  A Magical Bakery Mystery #6
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  NAL
Published:  July 26, 2016

Description:  When the bookshop next to the Honeybee Bakery hosts a signing for a Savannah radio celebrity's new self-help book, magical baker Katie Lightfoot is happy to provide some delectable desserts. A big crowd has turned out for the event, curious about the book (and maybe to sample some goodies), but the final chapter comes too soon for the author when she is found dead at the event.

The prime suspect is Angie Kissel, a former witch whose familiar was once Katie’s own terrier, Mungo. Katie is at first hesitant to help, afraid of losing the little dog who has become so important to her. But after a little nudge from Mungo himself, Katie decides to try to conjure up the real killer—before Angie gets served.

My Review

I think this is a terrific series and each new installment goes on my automatic buy list.  I find it to be well written with a delightful, whimsical cast of characters and strong mysteries. Ms. Cates has such a wonderful descriptive writing style that you can almost smell whatever is baking at The Honeybee Bakery.

In this installment, Katie Lightfoot is once again at the place of a suspicious death.  Being a light witch is certainly no walk in the park.  I really enjoy Katie as a protagonist.  At this point in the series she is a well developed character who is really coming into her own with her magical powers but the author has written her in such a way that there is still plenty of room for growth in her powers and in her personal relationship.  The coven is also a great cast of secondary characters.  They are there to support Katie and help her grow, but we also get to see their characters grow as well.  The romance with Katie and Declan is progressing well.  I don't feel like it has been rushed and things do take a bit  of a turn in this book.  I love Katie's familiar Mungo and he got his own little plot twist in this book as well.

The mystery was well plotted and the clues nicely woven throughout the story.  As with the other books in this series, there are plenty of viable suspects.  I like that Katie tries to work with the police even if Quinn thinks she is interfering and hasn't yet realized how helpful she really is to solving cases.  Throughout the story I had two characters I suspected of being the killer but I just kept going back and forth and couldn't make up my mind.  In the end, I guessed on of them correctly but that didn't take away from the enjoyment.

As I said in the beginning, I think this is a delightful series that has been well developed with whimsical characters, strong mysteries and well plotted stories that keep readers engaged throughout each book and coming back to see what the author has in story next.  I will definitely be back to check in on Katie and the rest of the gang at the Honeybee Bakery.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

This Old Homicide

Author:  Kate Carlisle
Series:  A Fixer Upper Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  NAL
Publication Date:  January 2015

Description:  Contractor and part-time sleuth Shannon Hammer specializes in improving the quirks and flaws of the Victorian homes in Lighthouse Cove, California. The quirks and flaws of their residents are another story.... 
Valentine’s Day is approaching, and while Shannon is delighted to be friends with not one but two handsome men, not everyone in town is feeling the love. After her elderly neighbor Jesse Hennessey fails to make his daily appearance at the local diner, Shannon swings by his place to check on him. Not only does she find Jesse dead—of an apparent heart attack—but she also realizes that his home has been ransacked.

Someone suggests that a thief was searching for a priceless necklace Jesse claimed to have retrieved from a capsized sailing ship, but Shannon doesn’t believe it. Everyone knows Jesse had a penchant for constructing tall tales—like the one about him having a hot new girlfriend. But his death is soon ruled a homicide, and shady suspects begin popping out of the woodwork. When another victim turns up dead, Shannon is convinced she must find the killer before someone else gets nailed.

My Review

This second book in the Fixer Upper Mystery series by Kate Carlisle was as enjoyable for me as the first book.  Ms.  Carlisle once again demonstrates her talent for crafting a well written mystery full of interesting fun characters and an intriguing mystery.

Shannon Hammer is a likable main character and I enjoy that she runs her own contracting business. What I find appealing with the characters is the friendship between Shannon, Jane, Lizzie, Emily and Marigold. They have a wonderful friendship that is tangible and feels genuine to me as a reader.  These women have intelligence and provide some wit to the story.  Especially with their former high school "mean girls" who just can't seem to grow up.  Ms. Carlisle also has a great descriptive writing style so the story flows and the reader can almost picture themselves walking through the town of Lighthouse Cove. There is a bit of a possible romantic dilemma for Shannon but I don't think I would call it a love triangle (yet).

She always knows how to craft a well plotted mystery that unfolds nicely over the course of the story.  Ms. Carlisle offered up plenty of suspects and provided the reader with many plausible theories of the crime, which gave me a challenge in trying to figure out the identity of Jesse's killer.  There were a few twists that surprised me and I the killer's identity was revealed in a climatic ending. 

I am looking forward to continuing with this series and will be back to for more.
   In fact, the third book in the series is in my TBR pile and I need to get through that one before book four is released in early November.