Saturday, May 28, 2016

Grilled for Murder

Author:  Maddie Day (also writes under Edith Maxwell)
Series:  Country Store Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Expected Publication Date:  May 31, 2016

Description:  Robbie Jordan may have had reservations about the murder victim, but she still needs to turn up the heat on a killer if she wants to keep her new restaurant open for business.

In the charming small town of South Lick, Indiana, Robbie has transformed a rundown country store into the runaway hit Pans 'N Pancakes. But the most popular destination for miles around can also invite trouble. Erica Shermer may be the widow of handsome local lawyer Jim Shermer's brother, but she doesn't appear to be in mourning. At a homecoming party held in Robbie's store, Erica is alternately obnoxious and flirtatious--even batting her eyelashes at Jim. When Erica turns up dead in the store the next morning, apparently clobbered with cookware, the police suspect Robbie's friend Phil, who closed up after the party. To clear Phil and calm her customers, Robbie needs to step out from behind the counter and find the real killer in short order.

My Review

This is another hit for Ms. Day. Grilled for Murder is the second installment in this series and I enjoyed it as much as the first book. It is a fast paced romp through South Lick as Robbie tries to puzzle out another murder while staying out of danger. 

The mystery is solid with plenty of suspects, twists and turns. I like the way the author crafts her mysteries; just when I think I know who did it, she throws in some red herrings and distractions and I move on to another suspect.  I like the challenge of trying to figure out the identity of the culprit in a book to see if I have caught all of the clues the author has left and have interpreted them correctly or if I was fooled by a misdirection.  Just for the record, I had considered the culprit at one point, but was fooled by some red herrings and moved on to another suspect.

All our favorite characters are back and they are developing along nicely. I really like Robbie and her aunt Adele. Robbie Jordan is a well written, warm, compassionate character that is really likable.  I also enjoy the fact that she rides her bicycle around town to get to where she wants to go.  The townspeople provide a wonderful cast of secondary characters and help draw the reader into the story and keep them engaged and turning pages until a very climactic ending.  There is a little romance developing for Robbie but you will have to read the book to learn more about that storyline.  The pace was nice and steady, holding all the way through the book.

Don't forget to read through to the end of the book as Ms. Day provides what appear to be some rather delicious sounding recipes.

A strong mystery full of twists, turns and suspects coupled with well written characters makes this a highly entertaining book. I will be back for the third book in the series to see what happens next for Robbie.

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Cracked Spine

Author:  Paige Shelton
Series:  A Scottish Bookshop Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Minotaur Books
Published:  March 2016

Description:  Wanted: A bold adventurer who wants to travel the world from a comfortable and safe spot behind a desk that has seen the likes of kings and queens, paupers and princes. A humble book and rare manuscript shop seeks a keenly intelligent investigator to assist us in our search for things thought lost, and in our quest to return lost items to their rightful owners. 

Never an adventurer, no one was more surprised than Delaney Nichols when she packed her bags and moved halfway across the world to Edinburgh, Scotland to start a job at The Cracked Spine, a bookshop located in the heart of the city. Her new boss, Edwin MacAlister, has given her the opportunity of a lifetime, albeit a cryptic one, and Delaney can’t wait to take her spot behind the desk.
The Cracked Spine is filled with everything a book lover could want, each item as eclectic as the people who work there; the spirited and lovable Rosie, who always has tiny dog Hector in tow; Hamlet, a nineteen-year-old thespian with a colored past and bright future; and Edwin, who is just as enigmatic and mysterious as Delaney expected. An extra bonus is Tom the bartender from across the street, with his cobalt eyes, and a gentle brogue―and it doesn’t hurt that he looks awfully good in a kilt.
But before she can settle into her new life, a precious artifact goes missing, and Edwin’s sister is brutally murdered. Never did Delaney think that searching for things lost could mean a killer, but if she’s to keep her job, and protect her new friends, she’ll need to learn the truth behind this Scottish tragedy.

My Review

This is the first book in a new series by Paige Shelton and it is a terrific start.  I have been a fan of Ms. Shelton's previous two series so this book was an automatic read for me.  I love this authors ability to craft a story line, plot, mystery and characters in such a way that the reader is drawn into the story from the very beginning and just becomes more invested as the book progresses.  This story has a wonderful setting (Scotland) that just adds to the overall charm of the book.  Delaney is a strong character who is up for a new life adventure and gets more than she bargained for when her boss' sister is murdered.  The cast of secondary characters are quirky and interesting lending another layer of depth to the story.

The mystery is strong and because it is not clear whether the two mysteries in the story are connected there are plenty of viable suspects along with twists and turns to keep the reader guessing until the end.  The story line moves along at a good pace and as a reader, I was so charmed by the location and characters that I definitely will be looking forward to the next book in this series.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Murder at Morningside

Author:  Sandra Bretting
Series:  A Missy DuBois Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Expected Publication Date:  May 24, 2016

Description:  Hat designer Missy DuBois opened her shop, Crowning Glory, along Louisiana's Great River Road to cater to the sophisticated Southern bride. But bless her heart, who knew creating stylish wedding veils would lead to murder? 

Hired to craft a veil for a socialite getting married at Morningside Plantation means Missy can bask in the height of antebellum atmosphere. But when the bride is found dead in a women's bathroom, Missy the milliner finds herself entangled in one unfashionable murder. With the list of suspects thicker than the sweltering Louisiana heat, including a gaggle of bridesmaids shedding nary a tear and a family with no shortage of enemies, it seems anyone at the mansion may have done away with the bride-to-be. While Missy has Southern charm to spare, she's going to need more than manners and a manicure to put a hat pin on this murderous affair. 

My Review

This is the first book in a new series by Sandra Bretting.  This author is new to me and I found her to have a nice writing style.  This book is full of delightful characters that have wonderful southern charm.  I am very character focused when I read books as my connection to the characters are what keep me coming back to a series.  I found the characters in this book to be a bit underdeveloped.  I would have liked them to have a bit more depth to them. However, I did like the relationship between Missy and Bo and it will be interesting to see where the author takes it.  I also was a bit distracted by the antics of the characters because there are certain events in the story that I did not find to be plausible.  In fiction there is a certain suspension of reality but in this story line the lack of believability distracted me from the overall story.

The mystery was well written and there are plenty of twists and turns until the identity of the killer is revealed.  The pace of the story did slow down toward the middle as Missy became side-tracked and the original plot took a back seat.  

The first book in a new series is always difficult to write.  It take a balancing act.  I love cozy mysteries and support the genre so I will be reading the second in the series because with a few changes to pace and characters, I think this series could have promise.

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, May 18, 2016

Death at a Fixer Upper

Author:  Sarah T. Hobart
Series:  Home Sweet Home Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Random House
Publication Date:  May 17, 2016
Format:  ebook

Description:  Newly armed with her real estate license, Sam Turner loves Arlinda, her quirky seaside hometown in Northern California. But life by the beach isn’t exactly a breeze: She and her teenage son, Max, are being evicted from their apartment, her long absent ex-husband unexpectedly resurfaces, and her possibly romantic relationship with sexy Chief of Police Bernie Aguilar is, well . . . complicated. All Sam wants is a quick and easy sale. What she gets instead is a killer headache—or three.

Sam’s trying to drum up interest in 13 Aster Lane, a rambling Victorian fixer-upper that’s more than a little neglected—and possibly haunted—so when a trio of offers arrive out of the blue, she can’t help thinking it’s too good to be true. But after a new client drops dead on the property, she fears she’s lost more than a commission. Before Sam’s out of house and home, she must unmask a killer targeting her clients, or the only property she’ll be moving will be plots—at the local cemetery.

My Review

This is the first in a new series by this author and I found this book to be very enjoyable.  I really liked the main character Sam.  I thought she was written as a well developed, full character for a first in a series.  This may have to due with the fact that she is a single mother raising her son alone for most of his life.  She is very likable and someone that you could easily see as your next door neighbor.  She is smart in her sleuthing, when she discovers two dead bodies along the way.  I like the relationship between her and the chief of police, Bernie, who is her former brother in law.  The secondary characters in this book are also well done and provide a nicely rounded cast.

I thought the mystery was well plotted and strong for the first in a series as well.  There were plenty of twists, turns, red herrings and misdirection until a very satisfying ending.  I did not guess the identity of the killer, nor did I see the twist coming in relation to her former husband and the mystery surrounding 13 Aster Lane.  The plot moved along at a good pace and the story kept me engaged and turning pages until the end.

This was a very enjoyable read and I will be back for the next book to see what is in store for Sam and the town of Arlinda.

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

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Heated and Spiced with Murder

Author:  J R Pearson
Series:  Josie Rizzo Cozy Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Pearson Publishing
Published:  April 2016

Description:  The heat is on, in more ways than one! 

It's date night for Josie and Tony, and what promises to be a very spicy evening is snuffed out when Tony's close friend, chef Manny Epstein, is arrested for the murder of rival restaurant owner, Marco Gonzales. 
Tony is certain police have arrested the wrong man and by all means, he is determined to find the truth. 
Unfortunately, he and Josie are up against a couple of dirty cops to uncover who the real killer is. Tagging along for the investigation, Josie's tech-savvy twin brothers are there to help prevent Manny from being thrown behind bars for a crime he didn't commit. 
All the while, Josie and Tony's relationship starts to heat up and Josie soon learns why her brother, Reese, isn't a fan of the new happy couple. 

Grab a napkin! This one tasty mystery you don't want to miss! 

My Review

This is the third book in what is a highly entertaining series. These books are a quick fun read and I find that I can read them over the course of one or two lunch hours. Josie and Tony are progressing in their relationship and are out for date night when once again Josie becomes involved in clearing another person suspected of murder. My favorite thing about this series to date are the characters. They are a wonderfully diverse cast that include Josie's large family, especially her five brothers. In this book we get introduced more to the twins, who are not happy that Tony and Josie are dating. There is a good bit of humor in the books which also adds to the enjoyment. I am looking forward to seeing where the author takes us with regard to Tony's past with his family. It should prove to be interesting.

Since Josie is a food blogger and the author does a wonderful job of describing the food that Josie is using in a blog post, I would love to see some recipes added at the end of the book if possible.

I was gifted a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my decision and the thoughts expressed are my own.

Sliced and Toasted with Murder

Author:  J R Pearson
Series:  A Josie Rizzo Cozy Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Pearson Publishing
Published:  March 17, 2016

Small container of pickle spears..............$2.99
Hot corned beef sandwich........................$6.99
Large antipasto platter ...........................$10.99
*Green olives included*
One cold dead body...............(Prices may vary)

Josie and her best friend, Brad, are next in line at Greenville's famous pastrami-sandwich-producing hotspot--Danny's Deli. Their highly anticipated lunch break turns stale when employee Gordy Fitzgerald's body is found in the freezer.

Word soon surfaces that Gordy had been stabbed shortly before being found--and the weapon is missing. Locals are devastated by the discovery, and the amount of speculation on the killer's identity is far greater than the holes on a block of Swiss cheese.

Who killed the beloved sandwich wizard?

Josie's untamed curiosity is determined to answer just that.

Along the way, she has a few tasks at hand: maintaining a blog, coming to terms with her feelings for Tony, and keeping up with the shenanigans of her corgi, Petey.

All this, and finding a killer.

My Review

This is the second book as so far the series has been very entertaining.  This book is a quick fast read, which I enjoy because I can read them on my lunch hour. In this installment, Josie is once again at the wrong place at the wrong time when another body is discovered. She can't resist snooping a little to make sure that Tony is not a suspect for this murder. I like all of the characters in this series and they are developing nicely. Josie is sassy and sweet. She is very much the girl next door and I think someone you would like to have as a friend. I love her family, which is large, loud and interfering at times. The secondary cast is great. Greta says what she thinks and provides plenty of humor. Josie best friend Brad is also a great addition. I also think the author is doing a good job a progressing Josie and Tony's relationship.

In this book he gets into trouble right along with Josie. Because the books are short it doesn't take long for the mystery to unfold and once again there is a climatic ending. I don't want to spoil the plot so I will just say that we get another glimpse in to the surprise that occurred at the ending of book one.

I was gifted a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my opinion and the thoughts reflected are my own.

Grilled and Seasoned with Murder

Author:  J R Pearson
Series:  Josie Rizzo Cozy Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Pearson Publishing
Published:  February 2016

Description:  She and her furry companion, Petey, set out to start fresh in the food loving town of Greenville. Josie is excited to introduce the readers of her food blog to the town's delicious creations.
But when a young woman is murdered at a local burger joint, Josie must sacrifice all she has planned to accomplish to prevent a person from her past from being wrongly accused of the woman's death.
And things start to heat up when the killer sets his sights on Josie.
Will she be able to enjoy Greenville's belly-rubbing cuisines and begin a new chapter in her life?

 Or will the killer cut Josie's dreams short and make sure that basket of onion rings are her last?
My Review

This is the first in the Josie Rizzo Mystery Series and I will be back for more. This is a quick and very enjoyable read. The story is well written and has a good pace that keeps the reader turning the page until a climactic ending. I very much enjoyed this authors descriptive writing style. As you read the story you can picture the places Josies goes and the food that she is eating. This allows the reader to be drawn into the story and stay engaged.

I liked that Josie, our protagonist, didn't stumble over a body but rather was recruited to help an old friend prove his innocence when he is named the prime suspect in a murder due to circumstances. The characters in this story are wonderful. Josie is independent, determined and often frustrated by her over protective mother and siblings. She is the girl next door and someone that you could see as one of your friends. Tony has experienced tragedy in his past, but is coming to terms with his new job and reconnecting with Josie, whom he knew when they were children. The secondary cast of characters, which includes Brad, Josie's best friend, and her parents, siblings, aunt and cousins are great. They are over protective and interfering, but in the best way possible for a family. They are fun and add to the enjoyment of the overall story. And lets not forget Petey, Josie's "puffy" dog. His antics will make you smile.

The mystery is a little different than other cozy mysteries in that the identity of the killer is known about 3/4 of the way through the book. However, this does not detract from the enjoyment of the story. Rather, the author uses the rest of the book to tie up how the killer is caught which leads to a climatic ending. There is also an interesting twist at the end of the story that I was not suspecting. This ending plus my overall enjoyment will keep my reading the other two books in the series to see what happens to Josie and the rest of the gang.

I was gifted a copy 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, May 11, 2016

You Can't Always Get the Marquess You Want

Author:  Alexandra Hawkins
Series:  Masters of Seduction #2
Genre:  Historical Romance
Publisher:  St. Martin's
Expected Publication Date:  April 5, 2016

Description:  They call him Chance, though in truth the Marquess of Fairlamb feels bitterly cursed: A long-ago family feud is still standing in the way of his heart’s desire. Lady Tempest is the daughter of his father’s sworn enemy, the Marquess of Norgrave. She is beautiful, innocent, and utterly untouchable. But some seductions are just too good to resist… 

Turns out Tempest is a woman of her own mind―and a true romantic who will overcome every obstacle to be with the man of her dreams. But the odds are against handsome, wickedly charming Chance if he intends to win Tempest as his bride. Will he choose loyalty to his family―or risk everything he has for the woman he yearns for?

My Review

I'll start by saying that I have been a fan of Alexandra Hawkins in the past. I had gotten away from reading historical romance for the last few years and when I had an opportunity to read and review a book by an author who had been a favorite I decided to give it a try.

This is the second book in the series and is about the children of the two main families in the first book. I didn't not read that one but it didn't affect my review of the second book. I was surprised at how disappointed I was by this book. Yes, Ms. Hawkins is still a good writer and crafts a well written story but I found the plot to be weaker than her previous series. This is a book about a relationship between the children of two feuding families. While the story line was not original, I thought perhaps the author would put some type of unique twist on it. However, that wasn't the case.

I was also very disappointed with the characters. In the past Ms. Hawkins has filled her books with wonderful hero's who jump off the pages and while have a tendency to be alpha males are likable, diverse and developed. Her heroine's are strong, feisty women who push to be partners in their relationships. That was sadly missing in this book. I found Tempest to be the feather-brained type heroine in these types of stories who goes along with whatever her parents want. I found Mathias, to be less than likable. He is the entitled type of hero that I typically dislike to see in historical romances. For me, characters are supposed to evolve and it appears that neither the parents (who were involved in the first book) nor their children grow or evolve. The characters, for me remained flat and unlikable, making this book feel like something I had to force myself to finish. Maybe it's just me because I have not read this genre in quite a while but this book was not enjoyable for me and did not leave me wanting to see what happens to the next characters in the series.

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

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Breaking for Bodies

Author:  Duffy Brown
Series:  Cycle Path Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
PUblished  April 2016

Description:  Moving from Los Angeles to small, picturesque Mackinac Island to work in a bike shop might seem crazy, but Evie knows it’s the best decision she’s ever made. That’s not to say she’s gotten rid of all her stress; after all, the upcoming Lilac Festival has everyone in town riding in circles.

But things really go downhill when a ferry full of tourists—including Evie’s friend Fiona’s former boss, the editor of a sleazy rag in LA—arrives on the island. No one knows why Peephole Perry came all the way to Mackinac, but things aren’t looking good for Fiona when Peep is found dead. Now Evie has to gear up and get a grip on the truth if she wants to clear her friend’s name.

My Review

Let me start by saying that I am a big fan of this author and any new installment to either of her series is an automatic buy for me.  This is the second book in the Cycle Path Mystery series and Ms. Brown does not disappoint.  She delivers everything we have come to expect from her as an author.

Breaking for Bodies is a fun filled, fast pace, race across Mackinac Island to discover the identity of a killer and to prove Evie's best friend Fiona is innocent.  This is an engaging read that hooks the reader right from the start and drags us along until a very climatic ending. The story is well plotted with a fast pace that keeps the reader turning pages until we find out the identity of the killer or killers.   The mystery is strong, with plenty of viable suspects since the "Peepster" was not a nice or well liked individual.  There are plenty of suspects and motives weaved throughout the story.  I particularly enjoyed that the guests of the Grand Hotel were made to believe that the discover of a body on the lawn of the hotel was part of a murder mystery weekend.  It was a nice twist that provided plenty of humor.

I love the characters in this book.  Poor Evie is living with a black cloud but she is loyal, smart, fun, sarcastic and extremely likable.  I like the way Ms. Brown is developing the relationship between Evie and Nate Sutter.  She is taking her time and letting it develop naturally.  All of our favorite secondary characters are back including Evie's mom.  These characters are so well written and just jump off the page that the next time I visit Mackinac Island I expect to see Irma and Rudy selling fudge on main street, or go rent a bicycle from Evie.  

This was a fantastic story and I can't wait for the next installment.  Ms. Brown is such a wonderful writer and has crafted a series that just draws you in and transports you to another place and makes you feel at home, just like these people are your friends or neighbors.  I am never disappointed when I pick up a book by this author but rather find myself highly entertained.  If you are fan, don't miss this installment in the Cycle Path Mystery series.  If you haven't tried Duffy Brown, I recommend you pick up a book a give her a try.  You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

One With You

Author:  Sylvia Day
Series:  Crossfire Novel #5 
Genre:  Romance
Publisher:   St. Martin's Griffin
Published:  April 2016

Description:  Gideon Cross. Falling in love with him was the easiest thing I’ve ever done. It happened instantly. Completely. Irrevocably.

Marrying him was a dream come true. Staying married to him is the fight of my life. Love transforms. Ours is both a refuge from the storm and the most violent of tempests. Two damaged souls entwined as one.
We have bared our deepest, ugliest secrets to one another. Gideon is the mirror that reflects all my flaws … and all the beauty I couldn’t see. He has given me everything. Now, I must prove I can be the rock, the shelter for him that he is for me. Together, we could stand against those who work so viciously to come between us.
But our greatest battle may lie within the very vows that give us strength. Committing to love was only the beginning. Fighting for it will either set us free ... or break us apart.

My Review

This is the conclusion of the Crossfire Series.  I was a big fan of the books up until the end of the fourth installment.  In the interest of fairness, I will say that I was not really all that happy that this went from a trilogy to a five book series and that the wait between book four and five was almost two years.  However, I enjoyed these characters and watching them grow emotionally over the course of the first four books so I thought I owed it to myself to see how their story ended.

This last book is everything we have come to expect from Sylvia Day in terms of her writing. We continue to see Eva and Gideon grow in their relationship as well as in themselves. These characters are complex, flawed, vulnerable, driven and written with so much emotion that it is easy to see how they have connected with millions of readers across the country. There is a great  cast of secondary characters that engage the reader and demand that they have their own ending and resolution.
When I finished the book I was left feel a little unsatisfied and at loose ends. While I think that the author ended Eva and Gideon's story at an appropriate place I felt that perhaps it took too long with too many extraneous elements to get us there.  This last book is filled with more trauma, obstacles and drama that are placed in the path of Eva and Gideon.  The author took a (to me) surprising turn with the story of Monica, Eva's mother, that could have been introduced in earlier books and concluded in a way that didn't cause Eva more emotional distress.  For me, these obstacles in the last book felt like they were placed there for the purpose of filing the pages of one more story.

I was also disappointed that there were several loose ends that did not get resolved.  As a fan of the series, I would have like to see Cary's story line along with a few others resolved in a more satisfactory manner.  For that reason I would have to say that this last book left me feeling unsatisfied and like perhaps the author cheated us a bit by not resolving those issues.