Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Muddied Murder

Author:  Wendy Tyson
Series:  A Greenhouse Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Henry Press

Description:  When Megan Sawyer gives up her big-city law career to care for her grandmother and run the family’s organic farm and cafĂ©, she expects to find peace and tranquility in her scenic hometown of Winsome, Pennsylvania. Instead, her goat goes missing, rain muddies her fields, the town denies her business permits, and her family’s Colonial-era farm sucks up the remains of her savings. 

Just when she thinks she’s reached the bottom of the rain barrel, Megan and the town’s hunky veterinarian discover the local zoning commissioner’s battered body in her barn.  Now Megan is thrust into the middle of a murder investigation—and she’s the chief suspect. Can Megan dig through small-town secrets, local politics, and old grievances in time to find a killer before that killer strikes again?

My Review
This is the first book I have read by this author and I found it to be very enjoyable.  This is a promising start to a new series.  The story is well written with a good pace.  There are plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader engaged in what I found to be a solid mystery.  I also enjoyed the historical mystery that was woven in to this story about the ancestors of our main character.  The author has a wonderful descriptive writing style and I enjoyed learning more about organic farming, which is becoming a more common theme of the cozy mystery genre.
I also enjoyed all of the characters and thought the author did a really good job developing them for this first in the series.  It is a balance between providing some background that helps the reader connect with the characters without burdening them in too much of the back story.  This author had just the right balance providing what we needed in this book but leaving some questions to be answered in future installments in the series.  I enjoyed Megan's character and thought she proved to be smart in her sleuthing.  I also found rest of the characters to be very likable and enjoyed the budding romance between the main character Megan and Denver, the local vet.  I am looking forward to future installments to see where the author takes this series.
I received an copy of this book from Henry Press, the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.  The thoughts expressed in this review are my own.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Silenced in the Serf

Author:  Kate Dyer-Seeley
Series:  A Pacific Northwest Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  March 29, 2016

Description:  Covering a windsurfing competition should have been a breeze for reporter Meg Reed, but with a killer in the curl, she's headed for rough waters…

Hood River in the Columbia River Gorge is the windsurfing capital of the world, and Meg is stoked to cover the King of the Hook event for Portland's Northwest Extreme magazine. Before the competition gets under way, Meg has a chance to try some windsurfing on her own. But when the current sweeps her downriver, she spots a body snagged on the rocks. The dead man is Justin Cruise, aka Cruise Control, a celebrity windsurfer and not exactly a nice guy. It's soon clear his death was no accident, and Cruise had no shortage of enemies. As Meg dives right in to discover who wiped out the windsurfer, she'll need to keep her balance--or she too may get blown away. 

My Review

This is the third installment in the Pacific Northwest Mystery series by author Kate Dyer-Seeley.  This series has been on my to be read list for a while but for whatever reason I had not yet gotten around to bumping to the top of the pile.  When I got the opportunity to read an ARC of this book I took it as a sign that now was the time to bump the series up the list.  Because I haven't read the first two books I was a little hesitant but once I started the story, the author pulled me right in from the opening pages.  I didn't feel that I was missing out on a lot by not having read the first two books, but that being said I think it would be nice if you had read them so you can see how the characters progress and maybe get a bit of the back story about the relationship between some of the characters.

This is a well written book that has a great pace and flows nicely.  The author has a wonderful descriptive style that draws the reader in and paints wonderful pictures of the town, the river and the action of the sport that Meg is their to cover.  The mystery is solid with plenty of twists, turns and maybe a few surprises.  I enjoy books where the author keeps me guessing as to the identity of the killer and this one fits the bill nicely.

If you read my reviews, you will know that while I like a good mystery, what really draws me in and keeps me coming back are the characters.  This book is full of wonderful characters.  Meg is smart, spunky and independent.  At this point she knows that she has a penchant for stumbling across murders but does her best to investigate while being circumspect.  All of the secondary characters are really great, but I have to say my favorite is Meg's grandmother who she calls Gam.  I think this is where Meg gets her spirit and spunk.  There is a bit of a romance brewing but this in no way takes away from the mystery.

When I finished the book, I walked away having read solid mystery that kept me engaged with wonderful writing and likable characters.  And, I was surprised to learn that this author also writes under the pseudonym Ellie Alexander.  I love the Bakeshop Mystery series and as I reflected on the book I could see the similarities in the writing style and the character development.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  This in now way influenced my review and the thoughts expressed are my own.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Churn for the Worse

Author:  Laura Bradford
Series:  An Amish Mystery # 5
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley

Description:  When an Amish farmer is found dead in his barn, his family accepts his death as God’s will. But Detective Jakob Fisher knows the farmer didn’t hit himself in the head with the shovel lying beside his body. And when it comes to light that a stranger appeared at the farmer’s home and now money is missing from their milk can, Fisher suspects robbery as the motive—especially when another Amish family is victimized.

Getting to the truth proves difficult, however, since Fisher has two strikes against him in the eyes of the Amish—his chosen career, and the Amish roots he left behind. Desperate to stop a murderous thief, Fisher turns to Heavenly Treasures shop owner Claire Weatherly for help. The trust she’s earned from the Amish community enables her to go where the detective cannot—straight into the path of a killer.

My Review

This is the fifth book in this series by Laura Bradford and it is one of my favorite cozy mystery series.  Any time I know there is a new installment in the series, it is an automatic buy for me.  This author does not disappoint when it comes to the characters, the mystery or her ability to craft a wonderful story that draws the reader into the charming world of Heavenly Pennsylvania and the world of the Amish.

I think that this is the best book in the series so far and that is saying a lot because I devour each new book in this series.  At the heart of these stories the reader will find rich, full, complex and heartwarming characters that are written in such a way that they jump off the page and instantly become real to the reader.  With each new story we watch these characters grow and become more dimensional.  Relationships, family and members of the community, grow and mature with each installment.  For me, that is an integral part of a good series.  I need to be able to relate to something within the characters, but I need them to have dimension and grow as the series progresses.  Laura Bradford hits the mark with her characters in Heavenly Pennsylvania.  Another thing that I really like about this series and author is that she has an authentic depiction of the Amish and their culture.  She clearly has done her research, and as someone who has spend time in Amish communities, I believe she had done justice to the culture and people with her characters.

From the very beginning the reader is drawn into a well plotted mystery.  Laura Bradford has a way of weaving a mystery full of plenty of clues, twists, turns and misdirection.  About half way through the story, I became a little disappointed because I was sure I had figured out the identity of the killer/thief (and if you read my reviews you know that almost never happens).  However, I should have known better.  As with all the other mysteries in this series, Ms. Bradford had done a classic job of weaving in clues and misdirection to give the reader a false sense of confidence.  I was completely surprised at the end of the book when the real identity of the killer/thief was revealed.

Every trip back to Heavenly is like being welcomed with opened arms for a visit with old friends and a chance to make new friends. I cannot wait for the next installment in this series.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Haunted Heist

Author:  Angie Fox
Series:  The Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Season Publishing 

Description:  Just because she can see the dead doesn’t mean Verity Long wants to spend her days hunting ghosts. Instead, she’s over the moon to land a marketing job at the local bank…until she finds her new boss dead in the vault. Even her ghost friend, Frankie, knows that's no way to start a career. 

Relieved to let the police take charge, Verity steps aside, bound and determined to keep her ghost sightings to herself. But when she learns the main suspect in the murder is a very crooked, very dead mobster, Verity knows it's up to her to solve the case. 

She teams up with her ghostly gangster buddy Frankie, as well as the irresistible and charming Ellis, as the three of them search haunted mob hideouts, hidden passageways, and historic cemeteries for the facts behind the heist of the century—and a modern-day motive for murder. 

Too bad uncovering the truth could very well make Verity the next victim.

My Review

This is the third book in The Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries series and I am enjoying this series and author more with each book.  This author has such an entertaining way of writing that the reader is drawn into the book right from the beginning.  While this third book can be read as a stand alone, I would recommend that you read the first two in the series.  After all, why deny yourself the pleasure.

The mystery in this third book is intriguing.  Right from the start, Angie Fox does a great job of setting up the mystery and weaving clues, twist, turns and plenty of surprise throughout the story.  This all leads up to a climactic ending, and I will admit, I fell for some of the author's red herrings and guessed wrong on the identity of the killer.

The characters are all fun, quirky and entertaining.  Verity is a strong character and is not going to let her almost future mother in law stand in the way of her budding romance with Ellis.  I love the ghost characters that show up in each story.  They enhance the fun and also do a great job lending a hand in helping Verity solve the mystery.

This a fun series, with a paranormal element.  It has great characters, solid and intriguing mysteries and plenty of surprises along the way.  I would recommend picking up one of the books in the series and give it a try.  If you like your cozy mysteries with a paranormal twist I don't think you will be disappointed.

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

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Point of No Return

Author:  Diana Febry
Genre:  British Mystery/Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Wings ePress

Description:  The significance of the noose left hanging outside James Palmer’s barn is obvious to everyone in the village. When threats turn to violence DCI Peter Hatherall has to unmask a master of disguise determined to have their revenge.

My Review

This is a sequel to Bells on Her Toes and the second book that I have read by this author.  I enjoyed the first book so much that when I was asked to read and review the second book I was happy to do so.  I would consider this a good old fashioned British murder mystery.  It has the elements of a cozy mystery (the death occurs off the pages) and there is plenty of elements of traditional police procedural mysteries.

This book allows the reader to return to many of the same locations as the first book but there are plenty of new locations to discover.  I was happy to see this as the author did such a wonderful job of describing the rural location in the first book that it allowed the reader to clearly picture the locations.  She continues with that same style in this book.  Both DCI Peter Hatherall and DI Fiona Williams are back as the investigative team in this story.  I personally think they make a good pair.  They are wonderfully written and we get a glimpse into how they are dealing with their personal issues as well as their relationship.  As in the first book, there is great wit and dialogue between these two characters.

The story has a intriguing opening scene and then jumps two years to when Peter and Fiona are called out on an investigation.  I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery in this second installment.  There is intrigue and suspense and just a good old fashioned, well written mystery that kept me guessing until the end.  What I have enjoyed about these two books is that they are plot-driven books that keep the reader engaged with each new clue, event or suspect.

Although this is the second in the series, I don't think you would be missing out if you didn't read the first one, in terms of characters and past history.  You would definitely be missing out on an enjoyable read.  If you are looking for a well written, wonderfully crafted story that has intrigue, action and suspense along with wonderful characters then I don't think you will be disappointed.

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

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Broken Trilogy

Author: J.L. Drake
Series:   Broken Trilogy (Broken, Shattered, Mended)
Genre:  Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense
Publisher:  Limitless Publishing LLC

Description:  My father is the mayor of New York. One day after my twenty-seventh birthday I was grabbed from behind. A cloth sack was quickly pulled over my head, and I was taken from everything I’d ever known. 

I was beaten, starved, treated like an animal, and forced to live in a room with no windows. With no sense of time and no dignity left I finally gave up hope and made a promise to myself to end it all. Unfortunately, it was going to be a slow process. 

Then one night an elite group of US Army soldiers came to my rescue. I was brought to a safe house and given two options: 

One—Stay under their protection and follow their rules or... 
Two—Leave and be guaranteed to be returned to the savages within a week. 

I chose option one. 

As I work with a therapist and begin processing my hellish ordeal things slowly begin to surface. With the help of new friends and a potential new love I fight to get my life back and make choices that will forever alter my future. 

This is my story…

My Review

This review encompasses the entire Broken Trilogy, which should be read in the following order:  Broken, Shattered, Mended.  This is the first I have read by J.L. Drake and I actually decided to give this series a try after seeing that it received so many 4 and 5 star reviews, and also because it was part of my Kindle Unlimited Subscription.  I read the three books over the course of three days and for the most part found this to be a pretty good read.

This writing is done well and the story has plenty of twists, turns, surprises and is full of a lot of emotion given some of the subject matter.  The author has a smooth writing style that flows nicely throughout the story.  In the end, it is a story of one woman reclaiming her life after being forced to endure some horrific circumstances.

I am a fan of character driven stories and for me that is what was at the hear of my enjoyment with this series.  The characters all have depth and the author is not afraid to have her characters, both male and female, show emotion.  I enjoyed the romance between Cole and Savannah and how they brought out something in each other that was missing.  I also really enjoyed the camaraderie between Cole and the other members of his team.  The story is written in such a way that you can really see how much they all care for each other and even though not related they are family.  But I have to say, I really enjoyed the camaraderie between Savannah and some of the members of the team that have larger roles as secondary characters.  Again, this is where I think the author shines.  You can feel Savannah opening up and letting people back into her life after her ordeal and her interactions and shenanigans with Mark and Keith, especially, resulted in some humorous moments that we need as a break from the emotion of the story.

That being said, there were plenty of times when I was frustrated with Savannah's character.  Given what she went through, I thought there were some times that she put herself in needless jeopardy because she was being stubborn or just naive.  I understand the story plot with the damsel in distress so to speak but some of this was just a bit too unrealistic for me.  I also thought that the trilogy was a little long.  There were points during the story where I felt the plot stagnated or the particular story line felt as if it were drawn out for too long of a period. 

However, I thought this trilogy was well written, had great characters and was full of twists, turns, and surprises that will keep the reader mostly engaged.  I enjoyed it enough that one of the secondary characters is getting his own story and I will most likely try those books if they are part of my Kindle Unlimited Subscription.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Scene of the Brine

Author:  Mary Ellen Hughes
Series:  A Pickled Preserved Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley

Description:  Business is booming at Piper’s Picklings in Cloverdale, New York. But not all is sweet in the life of Piper’s number one customer and friend, local caterer Sugar Heywood. Sugar is dating wealthy realtor Jeremy Porter, but his family doesn’t approve. After their unscrupulous accountant finds some dirt on Sugar, the family quickly urges Jeremy to throw her out like rotten fruit.
Things are further spoiled after the accountant is found poisoned, and all evidence points to Sugar’s son, Zach. With the Porter family determined to avoid scandal, it won’t be easy for Piper to preserve Zach’s innocence. And after someone falls victim to a poisoned jar of some of her brandied cherries, Piper’s got a peck of trouble to deal with herself.

My Review

It's time to return to Cloverdale for the third installment of the Pickled Preserved Mystery series by Mary Ellen Hughes.  With this series, Ms. Hughes provides readers with a well written mystery, wonderful characters, a charming small town and a unique food themed series that proves to be a winning combination.   And it is certainly a combination that I am enjoying.  In my opinion, this series just keeps getting better with each installment and has filled a space for me in the cozy genre left by the ending of Paige Shelton's Farmer's Market Mystery Series.

I love that the theme in this series is pickling.  It is unique and for me interesting.  Sure I can follow a recipe but anyone who knows me knows that I can only claim to be competent in the kitchen.   This unique theme makes me wish I had more talent to try some of the wonderful and interesting recipes found at the end of the book.  

As for the story and plot itself, as with the previous two books this is well written with a solid mystery that keeps the reader turning the pages to the end.  I've come to expect nothing different from Ms. Hughes in the short time I have read her writing.  She has the ability to weave a wonderful mystery leaving you just enough clues so you think you have figured out the culprit only to surprise you with a twist at the end.  

I love Piper and all of the residents of Cloverdale.  These are great characters and they all have depth and dimension while each providing their own contribution to helping Piper solve the mystery.  Cloverdale and it's resident's are written with such charm that it is a shame that they are only fictional characters and a fictional place.  This is definitely someplace that I would like to visit.  I also like how Piper and Will's romance is progressing and that Ms. Hughes seems to have resolved the potential love triangle.  Although I have to say Scott is growing on me and I would like to see him stick around and find someone of his own.

This series is charming and well written with great mysteries.  I have enjoyed is so much that the next installments will automatically be added to my buy/to be read list when they are released.  

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Reining in Murder

Author:  Leigh Hearon
Series:  A Carson Stables Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  March 29, 2016

Description:  When horse trainer Annie Carson rescues a beautiful thoroughbred from a roadside rollover, she knows the horse is lucky to be alive…unlike the driver. After rehabilitating the injured animal at her Carson Stables ranch, Annie delivers the horse to Hilda Colbert--the thoroughbred's neurotic and controlling owner--only to find she's been permanently put out to pasture. Two deaths in three days is unheard of in the small Olympic Peninsula county, and Annie decides to start sniffing around. She's confident she can track down a killer…but she may not know how ruthless this killer really is.

My Review

This book is the debut cozy mystery by author Leigh Hearon and the first in a new series involving Annie Carson, the owner of Carson's Stables.  Cozy mysteries involving horses or stables are a new theme for me so I was happy to take a chance on this book.  I found this to be a well written story by an author who has a descriptive style that flows nicely.  The author engaged me right from the start.  When Annie was trying to get the horse into the trailer, the way the author writes, I could actually picture the scene quite clearly.  The mystery was solid and there are plenty of twists, turns and surprises.  I enjoy stories where the author keeps me guessing as to the identity of the killer, or those where I have to work to figure out the identity of the culprit.  The book has a pretty good pace, with just a bit of a lull toward the middle but this was part of setting up the final leg of the mystery and the book recovered nicely to a satisfying ending.

I enjoyed all of the characters and felt that the author did a good job of developing them throughout the book instead of overwhelming the reader with information up front.  As the story progresses there are additional characters introduced, but again, their back story unfolds as the book progresses.  Annie, the main characters, is smart, and has some sass to her.  I like that she was smart about how she investigated the murders in the story, playing her cards close to her vest and sharing only with the Sheriff.  

In sum, I thought this was a good start to a new series with a story that had a theme just different enough to keep me interested in the book.  It is well written and has likable characters.  I will be looking forward to the second book in the series which is due out later this fall.

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher through Netgalley.  This did not influence my review and the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Indigo Nights

Author:  Louise Bay
Genre:  Romance
Publisher:  Self-published

Description:  Dylan James has no expectations when it comes to relationships. He uses women for sex and they use him for his money and power. It's quid pro quo and he's good with that. It works.

Beth Harrison has been burned. She's tired of the lies and the game playing that men bring and has buried herself in her passion--baking which keeps her out of the reach of heartbreak. As she begins her career as a TV baker, a new world opens up to her.

Dylan and Beth both know that casual sex is all about giving what you need to get what you want. Except that sometimes you give more than you need to and get everything you ever wanted. 

My Review

This is the first book I have read by Louise Bay and after having finished it I had to ask myself why.  In addition to this being a thoroughly enjoyable read, which grabbed me right from the start, it introduced me to a new book boyfriend.  It is a well written, sexy, sensual romance story that will grab the reader right from the start and keep them engaged for the entire book. Yes, there are plenty of hot steamy scenes between Beth and Dylan, but the author delivers a wide range of emotions throughout the entire book.  There were plenty of humorous and sweet moments, but also moments where you got a glimpse into the vulnerabilities of each of the characters.

I love any story that is character driven, because I think the readers connection to the characters is what keeps them engaged in a story.  How I connect with the characters is what helps make a book memorable for me.  Both of the main characters in this book are three dimensional characters that are well developed.  Beth is a sassy, vulnerable, honest and scared.  Dylan is controlled, powerful and yes little cocky.  The author has written the characters in such a way to show their vulnerabilities so that the reader can see how they grow.  Beth has strength, but as the story progresses she becomes confident that she can maintain her sobriety and make the choices that are right for her.  Dylan is controlled, sexy, dominant alpha male, but as the story progresses we get a glimpse at his sensitivity and compassion for Beth as well as his sweet side.

I also enjoyed the secondary characters, especially Haven and Ash who both have their own stories.  This is a stand alone book, so if you are new to Louise Bay and have not read their stories don't worry, it will not interfere with your enjoyment of this story.  Indigo Nights is a well written, sexy, love story with steamy scenes and great characters.  I will definitely be checking out other books by this author.

I was provided an ARC by the author through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  The thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.