Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Cracked to Death

Author:  Cheryl Hollon
Series:  Webb's Glass Shop Mysteries #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  June 28, 2016

Description:  When a treasure hunt leads to deadly plunder, it's up to glass shop owner Savannah Webb and her trusty investigative posse to map out the true motives of a killer. 

It's the dog days of summer in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Webb's Glass Shop proprietor Savannah Webb has an eco-friendly plan to help locals escape the heat--a recyclable bottle-crafting workshop taught by reticent store manager Amanda Blake. Turns out, the class is a bigger smash than expected, thanks in part to a pair of staggeringly old bottles brought in by snorkeler Martin Lane.

Linked to a storied pirate shipwreck, the relics definitely pique Savannah's interest. But intrigue turns to shock when Martin's lifeless body washes ashore the next morning, another glass artifact tucked in his dive bag. With cell phone records connecting Amanda to the drowning, Savannah must voyage through unchartered territory to exonerate her colleague and capture the twisted criminal behind Martin's death. 

My Review

This is another wonderful addition to this series and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.  While part of a series, I think these books can be read (at least to date) as stand alone stories and the reader will not feel like they have missed out on anything from previous books. 

Ms. Hollon has crafted a solid, intriguing mystery with plenty of viable suspects who have very plausible motives.  The mystery this time around centers around the possible discovery of an old pirate's treasure and at the head of the suspect list if Webb's Glass Shop's new manager Amanda Blake.  As with prior books, the author does a wonderful job of weaving knowledge of glass in a way that is interesting without overpowering the story line.  The culprit was not a surprise.  That being said, at least for me, the culprit was not completely obvious and I actually thought another character was going to turn out to be the culprit. There is a nice climatic ending to the story that has a good pace and keeps the reader moving along as the team tries to clear Amanda and find the real killer.  

I enjoy the characters in this series because they are unique and well developed.  Each time I return to a book in this series I feel like I know these people and it is just time to sit down and catch up with their latest adventure.  I like that in this story the author has written some of the characters as branching out and coming into their own in some way during the story. There is a bit of romance developing but that is secondary and does not take away from the mystery at all.

With all that said, I find this to be a very enjoyable series and I am looking forward to more of them to come in the future.

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.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Caught Bread Handed

Author:  Ellie Alexander
Series:  Bakeshop Mystery #4
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Expected Publication Date:  June 28, 2016

Description:  Jules Capshaw is still chewing over her husband Carlos’s return to Ashland, Oregon. Could there be too many cooks in the kitchen? Whatever is stirring between those two will have to wait. Despite the Oregon Shakespeare Festival being dark for the winter, the bakeshop is bustling, the dough is rolling, and there’s no rest for the weary…especially when murder is thrown into the mix.

When Mindy Nolan, the owner of a new restaurant in town, turns up dead, the batter at hand thickens. Jules knows that there was bad blood between Mindy and others in town, and tracking down the killer could prove to be an unwelcome treat. And to top it all off, there’s Carlos, who is pleading―with those delicious dark eyes and sexy Spanish accent―for Jules to take him back. Is home where the heart is or will she make a fresh start…and risk getting burned?

My Review

This is the fourth book in the Bakeshop Mystery series by this author and it is a very enjoyable addition to the series.  The cast of characters is wonderful.  Throughout the series, I think this author has done a good job with her character development.  These are full, well rounded characters that continue to grow with each entry.  In this installment, you can really see how the staff at Torte has grown and come together as a team.  There is a real family feeling when they are working together in the bakery.  This author is also wonderful at her descriptive writing.  When the characters are working in the bakery you actually feel like you are there and part of the action.  The story line for this book gives us another glimpse into Jules' growth and the decisions she has to make regarding her marriage to Carlos.  As for Carlos' character, in this book, I thought the author gave us much more of a glimpse into who he is as a person and his love for Jules.  He is more dimensional and not just a latin lover chef type character.

The mystery in this book is different from the previous installments in that while there is a muder at the beginning of the book, Jules is not as involved in helping to solve the mystery as with prior installments.  There are plenty of suspects to choose from as the victim was not well like, but I thought there was much less emphasis on finding the killers identity.  For me, I felt that the focus of this book was more on the relationship between Jules and Carlos and deciding their future as a couple.  I have to say, I like Carlos in this book and I am rooting for him but it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

I think that the author ended this book in a way that gives her many options for future books. There is a lot going on and it will be interesting to see how the author deals with the future of some couples and businesses in Ashland.

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

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Engaged in Death

Author:  Stephanie Blackmoore
Series:  A Wedding Planner Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Expected Publication Date:  June 28, 2016

Description:  After dumping her cheating fiancé and cancelling the wedding, Mallory Shepard can't bear another disaster. So when the former bride-to-be unexpectedly inherits Thistle Park, a ramshackle mansion in her ex's hometown of Port Quincy, it's a problem she can't afford--literally. Abound with stray cats, peeling wallpaper, and nosy neighbors, Mallory is dying to sell it off--once she finally fixes up both the place and her messy life. . .

Turns out, Thistle Park has its charms. But the honeymoon phase is abruptly cut short when an unwanted visitor is found dead on the front lawn. Enlisting the help of her sister Rachel, Mallory vows to unveil the killer before she herself becomes married to the suspect list. 

My Review

I found this to be a very enjoyable first book in a new series by author Stephanie Blackmoore.  This is the first I have read by this author and it appears to be her first foray into the cozy mystery genre.  I think she is a delightful addition to the genre and will be on the lookout for more books in this series.

The story is well written and grabs the readers attention right from the beginning.  Poor Mallory is finalizing her wedding plans and the reader gets a glimpse of her future mother in law.  Let me say that I would have called off the wedding just so that I wouldn't have to be related to that woman.  Helene Pierce is not a pleasant woman to say the least.  However, due to her cheating fiance Mallory calls off the wedding, inherits a run down mansion and her life is thrown into chaos.  The pace of this book is steady throughout the story.  I liked our main character Mallory, as she tries to find the identity of a killer, wrangle cats and deal with whether to sell the crumbling mansion or chase her own dreams.  Her partner in crime so to speak throughout the story is her sister Rachel.  I very much enjoyed the relationship between the two sisters and how it play out in the story.  There is a wonderful cast of secondary characters which may include a new romance down the line for Mallory.  I felt the characters were well written for a first in a series.  There were plenty of personalities and someone for everyone to relate to (or dislike as the case may be).

There were actually a couple of mysteries that tied in nicely at the end of the story.  The main focus is on Mallory trying to find out the identity of the killer before something happens to her.  Her sleuthing has to fit in between keeping her job at the law firm, wrangling cats and trying to ultimately decide what to do about the inherited mansion.  The author has written a solid mystery weaving in plenty of clues, twists, turns and some misdirection to throw the reader off the track of the killer's identity.  I thought she did a wonderful job of concluding the mystery with a very satisfying reveal of the killer's identity.

This is a well written first book with a cast of very likable characters and a mystery that will keep the reader on their toes.  I am looking forward to returning to Port Quincy for Mallory's next adventure.

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

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Blueberry Cupcake Mystery

Author:  Naomi Miller
Series:  Amish Sweet Shop Mysteries #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  S&G Publishing
Publication Date:  May 31, 2016

Description:  In the small town of Abbott Creek, IL, Mystery is a part of everyday life. 

Katie Chupp spends her days at The Sweet Shop, baking and taking care of customers . . . not exactly a profession where one expects to be thrown into the midst of mysteries and murder investigations. 

But when the bakery is broken into, someone has to find the thief . . . someone has to solve the problem of where to do the baking, how to get the orders to customers - and what to do about the messy thief who is trying to ruin the town's Independence Day celebration. 

My Review

I am a big fan of Amish themed cozy mysteries.  Maybe its because I have travelled quite often to several of the predominately Amish communities in the Midwest, but whatever the reason, I enjoy finding new authors who write in this theme.  This is not a full length cozy mystery, in fact it is a novella with just about 77 pages.  However, don't let the fact that this is a novella stop you from giving this book and author a try.

The author has created a wonderful cast of characters, both Amish and English, that will draw the reader into the story.  She has written a terrific story full of compassion, forgiveness and faith.  Katie Chupp, our Amish protagonist, is sweet, warm hearted and compassionate.  She doesn't set out to solve a mystery but she can't ignore evidence when it is found.

The mystery in this particular story is not like a typical cozy mystery.  There is no murder to solve, rather what Katie finds when she opens the bakery is that someone has broken in and stolen all of the bake goods.  She doesn't set out to discover the identity of thief but when she happens to accidentally discover evidence leading her to the identity of the thief her reaction is heartwarming.   In fact, the way the entire cast of characters reacts to the identity of the thief and the circumstances leaves the reader with a feeling of simpler times when communities and neighbors knew one another and lent a hand.

This is a terrific debut short story from Naomi Miller.  She has crafted a well written story with wonderful characters that captures the feelings of the Amish community and the longing perhaps for simpler times.  I was completely delighted by this story and will be looking for the second book in the series.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Baking is Murder

Author:  Kathy Cranston
Series:  Bee's Bakehouse Cozy Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publication Date:  May 23, 2016

Description:  Newly redundant and recently divorced, there’s never been a better time for Jessie Henderson to pack up her life in the city and move to Springdale, the small town where she spent childhood summers with her Aunt Bee. 

Luckily for Jessie, Springdale is every bit as quirky and idyllic as she remembers, and Bee’s baking is just as mouth-watering. 

Then the unthinkable happens and there’s a murder on the outskirts of town. Worse still, Jessie’s new friend is the prime suspect. The cops think the case is cut-and-dry, but Jessie’s gut tells her there’s more going on than meets the eye. Can she get to the bottom of it? 

My Review

Baking is Murder is the first book in the Bee’s Bakehouse Cozy Mystery series.  I thought this was a fun, quick and enjoyable read.  I was able to read this over the course of a couple days during my lunch hour at work.  This book is shorter in length containing approximately 112 pages.  

The author has a very nice writing style that flowed throughout the book and kept the pace even.  She has crafted some very nice characters in this story.  As you know, for a first in a series it is a balancing act to give us some of the characters background without bogging down the story line.  I think the author accomplishes that nicely.  We get to meet Jessie, our protagonist and understand a little about her background and the circumstances that have brought her back to where she spent her summers as a child.  Jessie comes across the page as a warm, caring person who is likeable.  There are also secondary characters that are just as enjoyable, especially her aunt, whom Jessie finds out is not as conservative or straight laced as she thought.  

I thought the mystery was well done for a shorter story.  As I mentioned, the book is only 112 pages so the mystery will not be as deep perhaps as longer books, but I found it to be well plotted.  The identity of the killer is someone you would expect, but the author does a good job of crafting plausible evidence to throw suspicion on another suspect.  I would like to see a longer story for this author's next book so that the mystery and its conclusion could be developed a little deeper.  

All that being said, I thought this was an enjoyable story with likeable characters and a pretty decent mystery for a first in a series.  The author has indicated that each of the books in the series will be stand alone stories.  I will be back to see what Jessie is up to in the next installment.  

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.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Crime and Poetry

Author:  Amanda Flower (also writes as Isabella Alan)
Series:  A Magical Bookshop Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley/Obisian Mystery
Published:  April 2016

Description:  Rushing home to sit by her ailing grandmother's bedside, Violet Waverly is shocked to find Grandma Daisy the picture of perfect health. Violet doesn't need to read between the lines: her grandma wants Violet back home and working in her magical store, Charming Books. It's where the perfect book tends to fly off the shelf and pick you...

Violet has every intention to hightail it back to Chicago, but then a dead man is discovered clutching a volume of Emily Dickinson's poems from Grandma Daisy's shop. The victim is Benedict Raisin, who recently put Grandma Daisy in his will, making her a prime suspect. Now, with the help of a tuxedo cat named Emerson, Violet will have to find a killer to keep Grandma from getting booked for good.

My Review

I will start by saying that I am a big fan of Amanda Flower after having discovered her through her Appleseed Creek Amish Mystery Series.  This is the first in a new paranormal cozy mystery series by this author.  For me, not only was the cover exceptionally attractive, but the premise of the story sounded fresh and unique.  I will say that I was not disappointed.

Right from the beginning of the book I was drawn right into the story and it continued to keep me engaged all the way through until the end.  There isn't once specific thing I can pinpoint as to why I was so drawn to this story.  I think that it is a testament to this author that she has such a way with her craft that her stories just resonate with the readers and you want to continue to see what happens in the lives of these characters.  And they are great characters.  I think maybe some of the best characters for first in a series that I have read.  I immediately felt comfortable with them.  Like these people were old friends and I was just taking a glimpse to see what was happening in their lives.  Violet is a terrific protagonist. She is reluctant to claim her heritage due to the paranormal aspect.  She is also a reluctant sleuth.  She understands how an innocent person can be made to seem guilty by circumstance and a rush to judgment so she feels she must do whatever she can to make sure her grandmother is not accused of a murder she didn't commit.  Violet is also smart in her sleuthing.  She is not out to prove she is smarter or better than the police so she doesn't do anything rash and she does keep the police informed.  There may be a budding romance for Violet and I hope the author doesn't decide to write in a love triangle. 

The mystery in the story was also excellently woven throughout the story.  I really enjoyed how the paranormal aspect of the bookshop played a part in the clues that Violet received and how she put pieces of the puzzle together.  To me that was a fresh and unique spin on the paranormal element.  There are many viable suspects in the story and they each have a very plausible reason to be part of the suspect pool.  The author also does a wonderful just of throwing in twists and turns throughout the story to throw the reader off track or divert their attention.  I was beginning to suspect the person who turned out to be the killer, but it was very close to the end and the reason for this person committing the crime was a surprise to me.  

I thoroughly loved this book.  If you read my review on Goodreads, you will notice I gave this a five star rating which is not something I commonly give out or do so lightly.  But this book was just so fresh and entertaining with a story and characters that just drew me in and wouldn't let me go until I finished.  I will definitely be back to see what Ms. Flower has in store for Violet and the rest of the cast in the next installment.  If you haven't tried anything by this author I would encourage you to pick up this book.  You will fall in love.  If you are already a fan, don't miss this book.  You will not be disappointed (at least in my humble opinion.).

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Madness of Mercury

Author:  Connie di Marco (a/k/a Connie Archer)
Series:  A Zodiac Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Midnight Ink
Publication Date:  June 8, 2016

Description:  San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti's life is turned upside down when she becomes the target of the city's newest cult leader, Reverend Roy of the Prophet's Tabernacle. Driven out of her apartment in the midst of a disastrous Mercury retrograde period, she takes shelter with a client who's caring for two elderly aunts. One aunt appears stricken with dementia and the other has fallen under the spell of the Reverend Roy. To add to the confusion, a young man claiming to be a long lost nephew arrives. The longer he stays, the more dangerous things become. Is the young man truly a member of the family? Can astrology confirm that? Julia's not sure, but one thing she does know is that Mercury wasn't merely the messenger of the gods―he was a trickster and a liar as well.

My Review

This is the first in a new series by Connie di Marco, who also writes the Soup Lover's Mysteries under the name Connie Archer. This review was a little difficult for me to write because I was torn about how I felt in about the book.  Initially, I was drawn to the book because of the bright, beautifully done cover as well as the book description.  The fact that the protagonist was an astrologer was not something I had seen done before as a theme or occupation for a cozy mystery.

To begin with, this is a very well written first book in a series and if flows very nicely.  It has a steady pace and things just continue to unfold throughout the story.  The author has a very descriptive writing style that draws the reader into the story.  However, unlike the books written under Connie Archer, I didn't feel as if the mystery was that strong.  I felt like it was disjointed.  There was a death at the beginning of the book, then Julia and some of her friends were harassed by a religious group and finally one of her elderly clients was having problems that everyone thought were connect to her health.  It just didn't seem as if all of these were tied together in a way that allowed the reader to see them as being connected.

As for the characters, for the most part I found them to be likable, but in some parts of the book I found the main character to be a little contradictory.  She would advise her friends to do one thing but when she was confronted with something similar she would waive off her own advice.   I thought that Julia being an astrologer was interesting, but at times I thought the book was too heavy with astrology, especially for a lay person, and it distracted from the story and some of my enjoyment.  The secondary characters were interesting and provided for a well rounded cast.  

As I said in the beginning, I struggled with this review because the book was so well written but I just felt that this was not what I was used to reading from this author.  Starting a new series is always difficult and because I am a fan of Connie Archer, I am willing to give the next book a try to see where she goes with the characters and a new mystery.

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

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Murder at the Mansion

Author:  Janet Finsilver
Series:  A Kelly Jackson Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington (Lyrical Underground)
Published:  June 7, 2016

Description:  It’s whale-watching season in Redwood Cove, and B&B manager Kelly Jackson’s battening down the hatches for the tourist rush at Redwood Heights—a Victorian-style estate owned by her boss. And due to recent jewelry thefts, her duties include keeping track of the many dust-covered artifacts spread throughout the property. But when Kelly finds Sylvia Porter’s lifeless body, menial tasks don’t seem so terrible. Enlisting the help of a ragtag group of brainy retirees, aka the “Silver Sentinels,” Kelly’s on the hunt for clues hidden behind the mansion’s glamorous façade. . .and for a killer who may want to make history of her next!

My Review

This is the second book in the Kelly Jackson Mystery series by Janet FInsilver and is a welcome addition to the series.  This is a well written book with a steady pace that keeps the reader engaged until a very climatic ending.  The author has a wonderful descriptive style which is beneficial to the reader, especially when she describes some of the places throughout the story.

I like Kelly Jackson as a protagonist.  She is smart, determined but careful when she is investigating a mystery.  At the same time, she is very warm hearted to her new friends and the Redwood Cove Bed and Breakfast.  The secondary cast of character all make a return in this next installment and they are just as wonderful and helpful as in the first book.  The Silver Sentinels are a great group of diverse older people who help solve mysteries for people in the community.  They once again come to Kelly's aid in helping to resolve the mystery at a sister location to the Redwood Cove B&B.

The book is well plotted, with a main plot involving a murder and two sub-plots - one involving some thefts and the other surrounding a historical mystery.  The main plot that involves the murder of a guest is solid.  There are plenty of suspects to choose from, which is the way I like my mysteries.  The more clues I have to puzzle out the better.  Although, I did not guess the identity of the killer until it was revealed in a very climatic conclusion.  The theft of the jewelry at the sister inn was interesting and at first everyone believes it could be tied to the murder.  However, when the identity of the thief is revealed, it was a total surprise and what I thought was a nice twist I did not expect.  Finally, the historical mystery was interesting.  As Kelly is asked to inventory items at the sister inn because it is due to be sold, there are documents she discovers that bring into play the mystery surrounding the first wife of the original owner of the mansion/sister inn.  This is tied to the present day murder and blends in to the story nicely.  I enjoyed the historical elements about the mansion and thought it blended well.

This book is well written with great characters and a wonderful mystery that the readers are going to enjoy.  I am looking forward to more in this series.

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.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Berry the Hatchet

Author:  Peg Cochran
Series:  Cranberry Cove Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  May 2016

Description:  The entire town of Cranberry Cove is popping with excitement. Monica Albertson is baking cranberry goodies by the dozen and shopkeepers are decking out their storefronts for the first annual Winter Walk—an event dreamt up by the mayor to bring visitors to the town during a normally dead time of year.

But it’s the mayor who turns up dead during the grand opening ceremony, his lifeless body making its entrance in a horse-drawn sleigh. Monica’s mother and stepmother quickly become the prime suspects when it’s discovered that the mayor was dating both of them, and to make things worse, her half brother Jeff uncovers a clue buried near one of the bogs on Sassamanash Farm. Now it’s up to Monica to find out who really put the mayor on ice.

My Review

Peg Cochran is another one of my favorite cozy mystery authors and any new book by her is an automatic buy for me.  She is a fantastic writer and never disappoints.  Her books always keep me engaged from beginning to end with mysteries that have plenty of twists and turns coupled with wonderful characters.  

This is the second book in the Cranberry Cove Mystery series set in a fictional town in Michigan.  I enjoyed is as much as the first book, in part because the series is set in my home state and I always think its fun to read a story set in a place where you live.  Ms. Cochran has crafted an excellent story and draws the reader in right from the beginning with the charming setting of Cranberry Cove.  Once there, the reader is kept engaged with the cast of wonderful characters that Ms. Cochran has so deftly crafted.  In each book so far, we have had the pleasure of getting to know Monica, her brother Jeff, and the rest of the cast. These are all very enjoyable characters that grow each time we stop in for a visit.  In this book, we get to meet Monica's mother, Nancy, which is a treat considering Gina (the second Mrs. Albertson) lives in Cranberry Cove.  And lets just say Ms. Cochran provides a nice little twist to begin their story line.   The relationship between Monica and Greg is coming along nicely as well.

The mystery in this book, as with all of the author's previous works, is fast paced and full of plenty of suspects including Gina and Monica's mom.  The author crafts this mystery with plenty of twists and turns so that the identity of the killer is not obvious until it is revealed in a dramatic ending.  Once again, Monica is the reluctant sleuth but undertakes the job because Gina and her mother are both suspects.  She is smart in her sleuthing and always makes sure that she keeps in contact with the local detective.  I like that about this character.  She is not hasty, rash or reckless which makes her very realistic for me.

This is a great series and I am excited to see what happens for the characters in the future. If you are a fan of this author, pick up a copy of this book or the first, Berried Secrets.  You will not be disappointed.  There are also some delicious sounding recipes at the end of the book.