Saturday, April 30, 2016

Kernel of Truth

Author:  Kristi Abbott
Series:  Popcorn Shop Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley Prime Crime
Published:  March 2016

Description:  Opening a gourmet popcorn shop was never on Rebecca Anderson’s bucket list. But after a failed marriage to a celebrity chef, she’s ready for her life to open up and expand. She has returned to her hometown of Grand Lake, Ohio, with her popcorn-loving poodle Sprocket to start a new business—naturally called POPS. As a delicious bonus, Cordelia “Coco” Bittles, a close family friend who has always been like a grandmother to Rebecca, owns the chocolate shop next door, and the two are thinking of combining their businesses.
But when Coco’s niece, Alice, discovers her on the floor of her chocolate shop, those dreams go up in smoke. The local sheriff thinks Coco was the victim of a robbery gone wrong, but Rebecca isn’t so sure. As suspects start popping up all over, Rebecca is determined to turn up the heat and bring the killer to justice in a jiffy!

My Review

This is the first in a new series by author Kristi Abbott that centers around a Popcorn shop owned by the protagonist Rebecca Anderson.  This is a well written story and is very much a character driven book which I enjoy.  For me, the thing that keeps me coming back to a series is the characters.  I have to connect with them and want to see what happens next in their lives.  In this book, I really enjoyed the relationship between Rebecca and her sister Hayley as well as her brother-in-law Dan, the sheriff.  Rebecca also has a poodle, Sprocket, who is very much like a secondary character in this book.  I enjoyed Sprockets antics throughout the story.  I also felt that this book had  a well rounded cast of secondary characters.  The only thing that detracted from my enjoyment of this book was that I wasn't sure if I really liked Rebecca as the protagonist.  During the middle part of the story, I found Rebecca to be impulsive in her search for the real culprit.  She had returned to her hometown after leaving as a somewhat wild teenager and her continued complaint that the town saw her as nothing but a failure did wear on me as well.  However, that did change toward the end of the book.

The story had a good mystery and premise, but I didn't feel as if the mystery was a strong as other cozy mysteries I had read.  In this book, about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way into the book I guessed the identity of the killer as well as the reason behind it.  While Ms. Abbott did have other suspects and some twists and turns, I didn't feel that they were strong enough to create doubt in the readers mind as to the identity of the real killer.   Part of the fun with cozy mysteries is that the reader is kept guessing as to the identity of the real killer until the end.

Be sure to check out the recipes at the end of the book.  There are some really delicious sounding popcorn treats the reader can try for themselves.

For the first book in a series I thought this was a good effort.  I would like to see a few tweaks to the characters and a stronger mystery in the next book.  I enjoyed this one enough that I will look for the second book in the series.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Girl on the Run

Author: Daryl Wood Gerber
Genre:  Suspense/Thriller
Publisher:  Chucklin, Inc.
Published:  April 2016

Description:  When a fairytale fantasy night becomes a nightmare, Chessa Paxton must run for her life...but will the truth set her free?

Chessa Paxton, an event planner in Lake Tahoe, celebrates a successful night at the Happily Ever After Ball, but her dream quickly becomes a nightmare when she wakes up beside the body of her dead husband. Nauseous and confused, feeling as if she's been drugged, she can't explain to the sheriff why her princess costume is bloodied. With her father already a convicted murderer, she feels invisible shackles ratcheting onto her wrists and ankles. She runs! But she can't escape vivid flashes of memory: a massacre in a meadow; men and women in fairy tale costumes; Snow White's dead body shielding her from bullets.

Though Chessa is a former costumer and a master of disguise, she quickly learns that hiding while trying to prove herself innocent is the most difficult task imaginable. Especially when the sheriff wants to throw her in jail and the real killer wants to silence her forever.

My Review

I am a fan of the cozy mystery series written by Daryl Wood Gerber so when I had a chance to read her first foray into the Suspense/Thriller side of the mystery genre, I was excited.  I can report, that she did not disappointed.  This author is a wonderful writer and had me engaged from the beginning and kept me turning pages until I reach the end.  This is a departure from her cozy mystery writing in the best way.  The characters in this story are complex with depth and layers.  Chessa Paxton is a wonderful protagonist and is smart, vulnerable, strong, and determined .  She finds herself in an impossible situation wondering who she can trust.  

This was well plotted, compelling story that has intrigue, twists, turns, suspense, and tension.   Daryl Wood Gerber takes you along on a thrill ride that just keeps getting better and better as the story progresses.  The reader is kept engaged in the story as the plot races along to a great ending.  While I am a fan of her cozy mystery series, I hope that this author continues to write in this genre a well.   She has combined all her talents to write a top notch suspense/thriller novel that leaves readers wanting more of these types of novels from her.  

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

Saturday, April 23, 2016

All Murders Final!

Author:  Sherry Harris
Series:  Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Expected Publication Date:  April 26, 2016

Description:  When Sarah Winston started the virtual garage sale, it seemed like a keystroke of genius and the next logical step in her business. No more collapsing card tables and rainy-day washouts. But what began as a fun way to run garage sales during the long New England winter has become a nightmare of managing people and putting out fires. Online, she can avoid the crowds--but not the crazies. 

May Be Her Last

She certainly never bargained on dealing with frightening threats. And when a client is murdered, it's time for Sarah to swallow her pride and seek the help of her ex--C.J. Hooker, chief of police. Forging a tense alliance, they search--online and off--for the killer. But solving this crime before someone else gets tagged seems virtually impossible.

My Review

This is the third installment of the Sarah Winston Garage Sale Mysteries and the first book I have read by Sherry Harris.  I have to be honest, Tagged to Death, the first book in this series is on my to be read shelf.  I picked it up at a used book sale and for whatever reason I just haven't been able to bump it to the top of the pile.  Well that will soon change.  Having been offered a copy of this book to review, I thought it would be a good time to jump in and I wasn't disappointed.  Now, if you've read my reviews before, you know that I am one of those who like to start a series with book one.  That being said, I did not in anyway feel lost or that I enjoyed the story less because I didn't read the first two books in the series.

This author has a wonderful writing style.  She is very descriptive and drew me into the story right from the opening scene, when Sarah finds the body of the first victim.  The story line is well plotted and moves along and a nice pace keeping the reader turning the pages to find out the culprit.  I found the mystery to be well crafted.  The author did a really nice job of laying out clues and providing twists, turns and surprises that leads to a climatic ending. There were several occasions where I thought I knew the identity of the killer only to end up seconding guessing myself, as new clues or red herrings emerged.

I really enjoyed Sarah's character.  I think she is well developed and has dimension to her. She is smart and involves the police when she has evidence or information.  The secondary characters are wonderful, fun and quirky.  The round out the story nicely providing much enjoyment and in some cases help in solving the mystery.  It appears that in the first two books there may have been a love triangle that started to develop.  I am not a fan of those in cozy mysteries, but can say that the author appears to have wrapped up that story line with this book.  I am looking forward to see how the relationship story line develops in future installments and it could play a role in mysteries to come.

When I finished the last page, I walked away having enjoyed this book and will definitely be going back to read the first two in the series.  

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

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Mug Shot

Author:  Caroline Fardig
Series:  Java Jive Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Random House LLC

Description:  Former musician Juliet Langley has barely had a day off since taking over management of the coffeehouse owned by her best friend, Pete Bennett. But there’s always more to be done—such as prepping for the annual Holiday 5K Race organized by Pete’s snobby socialite girlfriend, Cecilia Hollingsworth. This year, Java Jive has a booth right at the finish line, and since Juliet and Cecilia don’t always see eye to eye, everything has to be perfect. Nothing can go wrong. Nothing . . . like Juliet stumbling over Cecilia’s dead body on the morning of the race.

When Pete is arrested for Cecilia’s murder, Juliet sets out to clear his name. She’ll do whatever it takes—even if it means standing up to the police, her ex-boyfriend, and the grande dames of Nashville. But there isn’t enough espresso in the world for the greatest challenge in her path: infiltrating Nashville’s high society to uncover the hidden hotbed of scandal without running afoul of the law herself. With her last dime staked on Pete’s bail bond and her staff growing jittery, the last thing Juliet needs is for her trademark temper to land her behind bars. As time drips away, Juliet needs to crack this case before the killer comes back for another shot.

My Review

It is time to return to Java Jive for the second installment in this Caroline Fardig series.  I was fortunate to have read an ARC of the first book and so when I was offered an opportunity to read and review an ARC of this second book I didn't hesitate.  This is a fun series that is well written.  It has a solid story line and a mystery that keeps you guessing until the end (at least it did for me).  There are plenty of suspects to choose from and I like reading a story where I cannot easily determine the identity of the killer before the end of the book. The author does a wonderful job of casting doubt on the innocence of a number of suspects and laying out believable clues and motives.

The characters in the series are becoming some of my favorites.  Juliet, or Jules as she is referred to, is smart, sassy, impetuous and very loyal to her best friend Pete.  Let's just say that she is not a redhead for nothing.  She has a temper and that, combined with her impetuousness gets not only her into trouble, but others as well.  I like the relationship between Pete and Jules, and we get a glimpse at more of their history in this  book.  It is becoming easy going even though there is a hint a deeper feeling between the two, other than friendship. The characters are well written and where they should be for a second in a series.   There are characters from the first book that make a return, namely Detective Cromwell and Ryder.  There is a romance brewing between Ryder and Jules, albeit a rocky one.  I hope that this is the path the author chooses to continue - the romance with Ryder.  I am not a fan of the love triangle and would hate to see this happen in this series.  

I really have enjoyed the two books in this series and will be looking for future installments. So far the series has everything I look for, which is a well written story, with great, likable characters and a solid mystery that keeps me guessing until the end.

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

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Moss Hysteria

Author:  Kate Collins
Series:  Flower Shop Mystery #18
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley/Obsidian Mystery
Published:  April 2016

Description:  Flower shop owner Abby Knight and her husband, Marco, are ecstatic to finally be moving into their new home, despite the prospect of unpacking a seemingly infinite number of boxes. After all, Brandywine—their new subdivision—seems like an oasis with its welcoming neighbors and beautifully manicured lawns. 

But their idyllic community is suddenly uprooted when a body is found floating in a nearby pond. The police think Abby and Marco’s helpful next door neighbor is the culprit, but the newlyweds aren’t convinced. 

Meanwhile, Marco distrusts his mother’s slick new boyfriend, and Abby’s cousin Jillian has agreed to decorate their new home, resulting in comic chaos. Even worse, as Abby and Marco dig through Brandywine’s secrets in search of a killer, they discover that some flowers come from very bad seeds...and danger stalks even the sunniest small-town streets.

My Review

This is one of my all time favorite series, so when ever a new book is released it is on my automatic buy list.  I have loved every book in the series, and Kate Collins did not disappoint with this installment to the series.  With 18 books in the series, one might think that it would be hard to keep this series fresh and the readers coming back for more, but this author has such a wonderful writing talent that the reader is engaged from the very beginning and left wanting more from these characters when the story ends.

Marco and Abby Salvare are wonderful characters.  We have had the chance to watch them grow as individuals, then as partners in business and life and finally as a married couple. The characters in this series just jump off the page and pull you in until whatever mystery they run across is solved.  Kate Collins does a wonderful job of keeping these characters fresh and they begin to feel like old friends.  Each new mystery is a chance to stop by and catch up in the lives of character who feel like people you have come to know.  In this story, I like how we are seeing Francesca, Marco's mother, grow and her life take a new path.  I also enjoyed how the relationship between Abby and Rosa is written in this story.

The mystery, as with all the books in the series, is strong.  Kate Collins does a fabulous job of providing the reader with multiple suspects, each with a very plausible and believable motive for being the killer.  On top of that she weaves plenty of twists, turns, red-herrings and misdirection throughout the story until a very climatic conclusion.  You know that Abby, with her sometime impatient and impulsive personality will put herself right in the middle of this mystery in a way that will put her jeopardy.  As always, Marco's cooler head and investigative background centers Abby and is there to save her in her time of need.  I also thought the tone of this story was a bit different because, while still secondary characters, we did not see as much of Abby's family as we have in prior stories.  

I just love this series and I look forward to each new book release.  These characters are wonderful and have become familiar friends.  The plot is well written, which is what we have come to expect from this author, and mystery will keep the reader engaged and guessing until the very end.  If you haven't had a chance to read one of these stories, I would suggest that you start at the beginning of the series and try one today.  You will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Two Down, Bun to Go

Author:  H.Y. Hanna
Series:  Oxford Tearoom Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Wisheart Press
Published:  April 2016

Description:  A sinister phone call in the middle of the night throws tearoom owner, Gemma Rose, straight into the heart of a new murder mystery—this time with her friend, Seth, arrested as the key suspect! The grisly killing in the cloisters of an old Oxford college points to a bitter feud within the University—but Gemma finds unexpected clues popping up in her tiny Cotswolds village. 

Meanwhile, her love life is in turmoil as Gemma struggles to decide between eminent doctor, Lincoln Green, and sexy CID detective, Devlin O’Connor… whilst her quaint English tearoom is in hot water as she struggles to find a new baking chef. 

With her exasperating mother and her mischievous little tabby cat, Muesli, driving her nutty as a fruitcake—and the nosy Old Biddies at her heels—Gemma must crack her toughest case yet if she is to save her friend from a life behind bars. 

My Review

I have been fortunate enought to read both of the first two books in this series and have loved both of them.  When I was asked by the author to read and review the third book in this series, how could I say no.  This series just keeps getting better and I look forward to each new installment.  This time around, Gemma Rose is called upon to help one of her oldest friends, Seth, who has been arrested as the key suspect to a murder.

This author has created wonderful, full, layered characters that also provide a bit of humor. The author has also done a great job in growing and evolving the characters over thes three books.  Gemma Rose, our main character, is smart, sassy and loyal to her friends. She doesn't go looking for trouble, or prying into other people's affairs; she just stumbles into her amatuer slueth role by circumstances.  In this book, she is called upon to help her old college friend Seth, who has been arrested for murder. With the help of the "Old Biddies" Gemma, also aided by Devlin, rises to the task. While I thoroughly enjoy Gemma, Cassie, Devlin and the Old Biddies, I love to check in and see what Gemma's mom is up to in each book. She doesn't disappoint. This time, she brings along her best friend Helen for the ride. We are also introduced to a new member of the cast, Dora, who helps save Gemma and Cassie from a culinary disater and becomes the new baker at the tearoom.
The mystery is as strong in this book as in the first two. There are plenty of suspects with viable motives for the crimes. Throw in well crafted twists, turns, and red herrings and this book will have readers turning the pages to see how the story ends. The story has a wonderful pace that keeps the reader engaged througout the entire story.

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, April 9, 2016

Rest in Peach

Author:  Susan Furlong
Series:  A Georgia Peach Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Published:  April 5, 2016

Description:  The annual Peach Cotillion, Cays Mill, Georgia’s biggest event, is fast approaching and Nola Mae Harper is just as excited as the rest of the town—even though she’s busy juggling both the cotillion dinner and the grand opening of her new shop, Peachy Keen. But she never expected that plans for the cotillion would end up in the pits because of the cutthroat competition between local debutantes.

When Vivien Crenshaw, insufferable church organist and despised mother of the town’s spoiled-rotten Peach Queen, is stabbed to death, the police turn to Nola’s friend Ginny as prime suspect. Apparently the two had fought over a one-of-a-kind cotillion gown. As Nola steps in to prove Ginny’s innocence she soon finds herself picking through a bushel of suspects, twice as many motives, and at the mercy of a killer all too keen on killing again.

My Review

This is the second installment in this series and one I found to be very entertaining.  This author has a wonderful writing style.  I was engaged right from the start as the people and the place just jumped right off the page for me.  This book is full of wonderful southern charm and the author has captured the feel of the south vividly.  The characters in this story are delightful and I particularly enjoy the main character Nola.  I like that she has a past and is written with dimension and complexity.  To me, this makes her a much more likable and realistic character.  The relationships between Nola and her friends and family are also very well written, adding depth to this story.  This is an important element for me in a cozy series.  I want to relate to the characters and be drawn back book after book to check in and see what is happening in their lives.  Ms. Furlong has hit the mark with this book.  I definitely want to know more about these characters.

The mystery in this story was well plotted and strong.  There are plenty of suspects to chose from and each one is plausible.  The mystery takes twists and turns along the way with some red herrings thrown in for good measure by the author.  I had a few guesses as to the identity of the killer but did not really know for sure until the end.  I like when I have to work to figure out the identity of the killer and most of the time I am either wrong or don't guess at all.  This mystery kept me engaged and while I had guessed the right suspect at one point, this author did a great job with misdirection and I moved on to others who I thought were the killer, leaving me turning pages until the reveal.

This book has wonderful characters, a great story line and a well plotted mystery along with a setting that is so well described that it seems like a secondary character in the book.  I will definitely be back to see what this author has in store for Nola and company in future installments.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.  This in now way influenced my review, and the thoughts expressed are my own.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Fat Cat Takes The Cake

Author:  Janet Cantrall
Series:  A Fat Cat Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley

Description:  When their former classmate Richard “Dickie” Byrd throws a high school reunion to gather support for his mayoral campaign, it drums up some not-so-sweet memories for dessert shop proprietor Chase Oliver and her friend Julie Larson. Julie would rather not reconnect with Ron North, the creepy kid who had a crush on her back in the day. His social graces haven’t exactly improved with age, but is he creepy enough to kill?

The next day, Chase is in the park testing a new cat harness for Quincy, who quickly proves that he cannot be leashed. But when his escape leads Chase to Ron’s body, the police wonder who else got away. Now, with Julie suspected of murder, Chase must prove her innocence before the real killer plans another fatal reunion.

My Review

This is the third book in the Fat Cat Mystery series, and the first book that I have read by this author.  I have made it a goal this year to expand my cozy mystery reading to include themes that I haven't necessarily embraced in the past.  I am not really a cat person, so I don't usually gravitate toward cat themed cozies.  When I had the opportunity to read and review this book I thought it was a win-win - a chance to read a new author and a book with a theme outside of my usual reading.

While this is the third book in the series, I found that I didn't need to read the first two in order to follow the characters or story line in this book.  I will start by saying that this author has a nice writing style and the book flows pretty well.  That said, I found the mystery to take a back seat to other things happening in the plot.  For example, there was a lot about Anna's entry into the cooking contest and Chase having old feelings resurface for an old high school flame that she reconnected with at a recent reunion.  For me, I thought the mystery could have been stronger and had more prominence in the story line.

I enjoyed the characters and their relationships.  Chase and Julia are old friends and that flows through in the story and the writing.  I thought the high school flame was not that likable and couldn't see what Chase saw in him.  I was disappointed with Quincy's role in this book.  I have read one other series where the cat is really like another character and thought that would be the case here.  What I found was that Quincy's role seemed to be limited to finding another dead body and hiding an important clue that Chase needed to solve the mystery.  I thought Chase's detective skills need more development.  In this era of cozy mysteries, the lead character, once a series progresses, develops more honed skills in solving the mystery.  Here, Chase made some rookie mistakes (especially for a third book) in assuming people were where that claimed to be for the entire period and missing a big clue that was right in front of her.  This was one of the only times where I was able to guess the identity of the killer before the end of the book and I was right.

This was an enjoyable read and I would be willing to give this author another chance, but would like to see the mystery more prominent in the story, an expanded role for Quincy and some development in Chase's sleuthing skills.

I received a copy of this book from Berkley, through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence my opinion and the thought reflected are my own.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Ripe for Murder

Author:  Carlene O'Neil
Series:  A Cypress Cove Mystery  #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Pulbished:  March 2016

Description:  Penny Lively loves running her family’s winery, but to keep business growing, she needs to find a way to attract more guests. When she’s approached to invest in a new train line through wine country, Penny and her intoxicating winery manager, Connor, hightail it to a lavish resort to hear the details. Unfortunately, her neighbor’s daughter, Chantal, is also there, swirling up trouble by flirting with the married investors—and with Connor too.   

When one of the investors’ wives is murdered, Chantal, who was seen fighting with the woman, is the prime suspect. Chantal may be a sour grape, but she’s no killer. So Penny, who’s become a sleuthing connoisseur, starts sniffing out the real suspect—and discovers that her fellow potential investors have been savoring more than their share of deadly secrets.

My Review

This is the second book in this series and I found it to be just as good as the first.  Ms. O'Neal has a wonderful writing style that is descriptive and flows at a nice pace.  This book had me engaged from the begining and I didn't stop turning the pages until I knew the identity of the culprit.

In this second installment, the author does a great job of setting up the new characters that are relevant to this story while continuing to develop the main characters.  I like Penny Lively as the protagonist.  She is smart, independent, a little sarcastic and has a really good sense of humor. I really enjoy the character of Antonia as well.  She is a strong woman with her own opinions and isn't afraid to voice them.  The relationship between Antonia and Penny is developing nicely despite the age difference and they are becoming better friends. They are thrown together in this story as they work to clear Antonia's daughter Chantal, who is suspected of murder.  I also like the way the relationship is developing between Penny and Connor.  I am interested to see how it develops in future installments.

The mystery is perfectly plotted with several plausible suspects and plenty of clues, twists and turns.  I like that the mystery still involved the winery business, but this time we leave Cypress Cove behind and are introduced to a whole new cast of characters.  There is plenty of tension as Penny tries to clear Chantal's name and the story line has a wonderful pace. The author has done a wonderful job staging the murders in this story.  There is a lot of suspense and I was kept guessing as to the identity of the killer until the very end.

This was a wonderully written book, full of suspense, tension, a well plotted murder and wonderful characters.  I am really enjoying this series and can't wait to return to Cypress Cove to see what trouble Penny can get herself into in the next installment.