Saturday, July 30, 2016

Some Like It Witchy

Author:  Heather Blake
Series:  A Wishcrafter Mystery #5
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Obsidian Mystery
Publication Date:  May 2015

Description:  The Enchanted Village is abuzz when the old Tavistock house finally goes up for sale. Darcy’s friend Curecrafter Cherise Goodwin is hoping she will have the winning bid on the home, but Darcy can’t shake the feeling that something bad is about to happen—and her magical instincts are usually right.

Sure enough, while Darcy and Cherise are looking at the property, they discover real estate agent Raina Gallagher stone-cold dead on the floor. Clutched in her hand is a gemstone amulet and, on the wall above her, a large red A. While Raina had no shortage of enemies, there’s also a dark legend about the house itself. To track down the killer, Darcy must unlock the secrets of both the deceased and the estate—and she’ll need to act fast, because revenge is a deal that never closes.

My Review

This is the fifth book in the Wishcrafter Mystery series by Heather Blake and it is just as quirky and charming as the rest of the series.  As you know, I am trying to work my way through some of the books in my to be read pile and catch up on series where I am behind. This is one of those series and after finishing this book it made me a little sad that I hadn't allowed myself to get to this book sooner.  For those who are not familiar with this series, it is a paranormal cozy mystery series.

Heather Blake is a wonderful writer.  She crafts a story in such a way that as a reader you are transported into the story losing yourself in the characters and the mystery.  If you haven't read this series yet, I would suggest you give it a try.  The characters are charming, quirky, fun and Darcy, our main character, is very warm hearted and likeable.  By now these characters are like old friends and we get to see such growth in them, personally, emotionally and for some of them professionally.  These characters are very dimensional and have a well crafted history and mythology to their magical village.

The author has crafted a complex mystery that involves a death that takes place in the present but the reason for it is due to actions in the past.  There are plenty of twists, turns and suspects in this mystery.  I was taken by surprise when the identity of the killer was revealed.  It was not who I was expecting and I was surprised at how this person fit into the mix.

I can't wait to read book six so I am caught up when the next installment is released.  This is a wonderful series that set in a magical town full of quirky whimsical characters that will soon become like old friends.  

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Midsummer Night's Mischief

Author:  Jennifer David Hesse
Series:  A Wiccan Wheel Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  July 26, 2016

Description:  As the Summer Solstice approaches in idyllic Edindale, Illinois, attorney Keli Milanni isn't feeling the magic. She's about to land in a cauldron of hot water at work. Good thing she has her private practice to fall back on--as a Wiccan. She'll just have to summon her inner Goddess and set the world to rights. . .

Midsummer Eve is meant for gratitude and celebration, but Keli is not in her typically upbeat mood. The family of a recently deceased client is blaming her for the loss of a Shakespearean heirloom worth millions, and Keli's career may be on the line. With both a Renaissance Faire and a literary convention in town, Edindale is rife with suspicious characters, and the intrepid attorney decides to tap into her unique skills to crack the case. . .

But Keli weaves a tangled web when her investigation brings her up-close and personal with her suspects--including sexy Wes Callahan, her client's grandson. The tattooed bartender could be the man she's been looking for in more ways than one. As the sun sets on the mystical holiday, Keli will need just a touch of the divine to ferret out the real villain and return Edindale, and her heart, to a state of perfect harmony.

My Review

This author is new to me and the description sounded interesting so I decided to take the chance to read and review an ARC.  This book does have some Wiccan elements as the main character in the story is a practitioner.  While not an overwhelming part of the story, I know some reader are sensitive to these subjects.

I have to say, I was surprised when I started this book at how closely I identified with the main character.  While no where close in age to Keli, I share the same profession (although in the interest of fair disclosure I am no longer practicing so I consider myself to be a recovering estate planning attorney) along with the same birth date.   Keli is smart, fun and comes across as warm hearted.  She has a wonderful friend, Farrah, who proves to be a great side kick as Keli investigates the theft of the Shakespeare folio.  The rest of the cast rounds out the story nicely. 

The mystery is well plotted and unfolds over the course of the story.  Keli and Farrah find themselves in a couple of situations while investigating that provided some humor.  There are plenty of suspects with believable motives coupled with twists and turns that kept this reader guessing until the reveal at the end of the book.  I would say that the book has a steady pace and plays out nicely without any real lulls to the story.  There is still a mystery surrounding Keli's aunt Josephine, which I think will play out over the course of a few books.

I think this author has penned a delightful debut cozy mystery with a strong lead character, a great cast of secondary characters and a well plotted mystery that will keep you guessing until the end.  I will be back to see what adventure Keli finds herself in next.

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

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Diners, Drive-ins and Death

Author:  Christine Wenger
Series:  A Comfort Food Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  January 2015

Description:  Trixie Matkowski has a tall order to fill this fall. Aside from dishing out delicious fare at the Silver Bullet during peak fishing season, she’s helping her friend—Antoinette Chloe Brown, or ACB for short—open a drive-in movie theater in the vacant lot beside her diner. It’s just the thing to take ACB’s mind off Nick, her missing biker beau.

But their plans are fried after Nick’s body is discovered during the groundbreaking for the drive-in. And when the police connect the murder weapon to ACB, she becomes the prime suspect in eighty-sixing Nick. With the fate of her innocent friend and her business on the line, Trixie must make the guilty party pay up before someone else gets stiffed….

My Review

This is the third book in A Comfort Food Mystery and continues with my quest to help whittle down my to be read pile.  This one is a little bittersweet as the series has been cancelled as the result of Berkely's recent cuts and realignments.  However, I really enjoy the series and will read the remaining two books in the series.

This author has a wonderful style that mixes mystery and humor.  My favorite character so far in the series is Antoinette Chloe Brown (or ACB as Trixie calls her).  She is  one of the secondary characters but is larger than life and the reader cannot help but like her and become attached.  She is loud, has a sense of style all her own (muumuu's and flip-flops) and has a big, warm heart.  She is truly a good hearted character.  She is a great compliment to Trixie, the protagonist, and the two are wonderful friends.  I like Trixie's independent personality and the relationship she is forming with Ty.  The two characters have good chemistry and I like where I think their relationship is headed.  

The mystery is solid.  There are plenty of suspects all with motive and each does a good job of throwing the blame on to someone else.  There are plenty of twists, turns and distractions.  I mean who wouldn't be distracted by a pageant number about swimming Salmon.  I did eventually put the clues together and figure out the culprit but it was well into the book and about the same time as Trixie figure out the killer's identity.

This is a fun series, with great characters and mysteries that I enjoy.  I will be back to see what is in store next for Trixie, ACB, Ty and the rest of Sandy Harbor.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Show Time

Author:  Suzanne Trauth
Series:  Dodie O'Dell Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Lyrical Underground
Published:  July 19, 2016

Description:  The tide has turned for Dodie O’Dell since a hurricane upended her life on the Jersey Shore. Now she’s further up the coast in sleepy Etonville, managing a restaurant that dishes dinners themed around the community theater’s latest productions. But Dodie just never imagined she’d land the starring role in a case of bloody homicide . . .
Intrigued by rumors of vanishing box office money, Dodie has agreed to help oversee the casting of Romeo and Juliet at the modest Etonville Little Theater. If nothing else, it’s a welcome escape from the thirty-something’s usual going-to-bed-with-a-mystery-novel routine. But when Jerome Angleton, a well-respected member of the theater company, is inexplicably found murdered on the loading dock, deadly drama transcends the stage—and the page. As a crime wave crashes over the small town, the spotlight is on Dodie to orchestrate her own investigation behind the scenes . . . before someone has a chance at a killer encore.

My Review

This is the first book that I have read by this author and found it to be an enjoyable experience. This is a fast paced cozy mystery that has some humor along the way. I haven't read very many (if any) cozy mysteries in a theater setting, so this fit nicely into my challenge to read more cozy mysteries with diverse themes this year.  I found that I enjoyed the theater setting and getting a glimpse at the behind the scenes workings.

I found the cast of characters to be well developed, interesting and likeable.  I like that Dodie, our protagonist, picked herself up after a natural disaster and made a new life for herself in a new town.  I enjoy characters that have that type of inner strength.  Dodie is also smart, funny and at times a little overwhelmed in her new position. There is also a fairly large cast of secondary characters and plenty of small town charm.

I thought the mystery was solid and wrapped up in a way that allows for future adventures for these characters. There is a bit of humor throughout the story which is a nice offset to some of the twists and turns that take place.  While I did figure out the identity of the killer (which if you read my reviews almost never happens), this didn't take away from my enjoyment of the rest of the story.

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

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Address to Die For

Author:  Mary Feliz
Series:  A Maggie McDonald Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Lyrical Underground
Expected Publication:  July 19, 2016

Description:  For professional organizer Maggie McDonald, moving her family into a new home should be the perfect organizational challenge. But murder was definitely not on the to-do list . . . 
Maggie McDonald has a penchant for order that isn’t confined to her clients’ closets, kitchens, and sock drawers. As she lays out her plan to transfer her family to the hundred-year-old house her husband, Max, has inherited in the hills above Silicon Valley, she has every expectation for their new life to fall neatly into place. But as the family bounces up the driveway of their new home, she’s shocked to discover the house’s dilapidated condition. When her husband finds the caretaker face-down in their new basement, it’s the detectives who end up moving in. What a mess! While the investigation unravels and the family camps out in a barn, a killer remains at large—exactly the sort of loose end Maggie can’t help but clean up.

My Review

This is the debut cozy mystery for a new voice in the genre, author Mary Feliz.  Set in a place that she knows very well, Silicon Valley, it features our Maggie McDonald, a professional organizer.

In this book, the old adage be careful what you wish for, takes on new meaning for Maggie McDonald.  He husband has inherited his aunts Silicon Valley home.  With a new job and the newly inherited home, Maggie and Max move their family to Silicon Valley.  However, nothing goes as smoothly as professional organizer Maggie has planned.  No sooner than they arrive than Max finds a dead  body and discovers his new employer needs him overseas to start his job.  All of this would throw anyone for a loop, but I like that Maggie was calm, clearheaded and seemed to role with the punches.  She goes about doing what she has to do and begins meeting the police (probably not the first people you want to get to know in your new town) along with some of the parents who have children in the same school as Maggie's boys.  I liked the secondary cast of characters, especially Stephen and Tess.  I liked that Stephen was a veteran that was still dealing with some issues he faced during his time in the military.  I also really liked Tess.  She is funny and can switch from professional mode to mom mode in an instant.  

The author has a wonderful descriptive style and you could almost picture the house when Maggie and Max arrive with all of the flaws and character.  While the mystery started off with a bang, there was quite a lull and the mystery seemed to take a back seat until about half way through the book when a second murder occurred.  After that, the pace picked back up and Maggie, with the help of a group of new friends, tries to see if they can offer an assistance to the police with their investigation.  There are a couple of very believable suspects and I was a bit surprised at the identity of the killer in the second murder.  I was a little disappointed that the first murder was not wrapped up and the identity of the killer firmly established before the story concluded.

I liked that the author included organizing tips at the beginning of each chapter.  It was a nice play on the culinary cozy where the authors will include recipes.  

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

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Buttered and Scrambled with Murder

Author:  J.R. Pearson
Series:  Josie Rizzo Cozy Mystery #4
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:   Pearson Publishing
Publication Date:  June 2016

Description:  Murder & Maple syrup... 

Josie and Tony are back for another savory mystery! 

This time, with a stack of pancakes on the side. 

Since having their relationship outed—much to Josie's dislike—the couple has been summoned by Mama Rizzo to the family's breakfast diner for a Sunday morning brunch. 

A mouthwatering spread is expected from Josie's culinary-genius parents, but serve up a rebellious older brother, a furry bacon thief, and a wealthy businessman bludgeoned to death, makes for a very unappetizing event. 

Josie soon learns that before the wealthy stranger's demise, his plans of rebuilding the town into a flashy money-grabbing hotspot would've affected the town's hardworking locals. Which leaves quite the list of suspects of who may have wanted him dead. 

Unfortunately, Josie's parents are on the police's radar for the crime. 

Backed by an army of Rizzo brothers, she, Tony, and best friend Brad set out to uncover the truth in the beachy town of JewelCove, where a killer lurks deeper in the shadows than french toast sticks do in a bowl of maple syrup… 

My Review

Buttered and Scrambled with Murder is the 4th book in the Josie Rizzo Cozy Mystery series, and in my opinion the best one to date.  Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed the first three but this one just grabbed me and wouldn't let go.  This is a face paced easy read the I finished in the course of my lunch hour.

This series is made up of novella's so for me they are more character driven then mystery. With 103 pages to this story the mystery is not as drawn out as a full length cozy mystery. But don't let that fool you.  It is a well done mystery that is fully wrapped up in the time allotted.  I did not guess the culprit, or to be honest even have that character on the list of suspects.

What I love most about this series are the characters.  At this point, they continue to grow and develop.  They feel like old friends and each story is a chance to catch up.  With each new story we have met a few more members of the Rizzo Family.  Let me just say, I LOVE Gina Rizzo, Josie's mother.  She is the typical mama bear and provides a lot of humor in this book.  I hope we get to see more of her in future stories.  I think Josie and Tony's relationship is developing nicely as well.  It feel natural and not forced, which I like.  I also am enjoying Josie's growth in her professional career as well.

Be prepared, however.  There is a cliffhanger that has to do with a sub-mystery that has run through all of the books to date.  It left me with my mouth open and a little frustrated because the author has indicated we won't get the 5th Josie Rizzo book until the fall.  I cannot wait to see what the author has in store for us next.

If you havent' tried this series yet, you might consider it.  This series is a quick enjoyable read that has wonderful characters, good writing and solid mysteries. You will want to come back to see what this author has up her sleeve next for Tony and Josie.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Till Death Do Us Tart

Author:  H.Y. Hanna
Series:  Oxford Tearoom Mystery #4
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  H.Y. Hanna
Publication Date:  July 5, 2016

Description:  When Oxfordshire tearoom owner, Gemma Rose, enters her little tabby, Muesli, in the cat show at the local village fair, the last thing she expects is to stumble across a murder. And when her meddling mother and the nosy Old Biddies decide to start their own investigation, Gemma has no choice but to join in the sleuthing. She soon finds there’s something much more sinister sandwiched between the home-made Victoria sponge cakes and luscious jam tarts … But murder isn’t the only thing on Gemma’s mind: there’s the desperate house-hunting that’s going nowhere, the freaky kitchen explosions at her quaint English tearoom and an offer from her handsome detective boyfriend that she can’t refuse! With things about to reach boiling point, can Gemma solve the mystery before the killer strikes again?

My Review

I have been a fan of this series from the start.  It is a charming British cozy that is well written and keeps the reader engaged with a cast of wonderful characters and a solid mystery.  In my opinion this is a series that keeps getting better and better with each new installment.  I will have to say, in real life I am not a cat person, but I have grown to enjoy Muesli.

This is the fourth book in the series and at this point the characters are wonderfully developed.  To me, they are starting to feel like old friends that the reader can relate to and root for in their lives.  Gemma is growing both personally and professionally and you can really see this in her relationship with her Mom and Devlin.  I like where the author is taking the romance between  Gemma and Devlin and how she is writing it into the series.  The "Old Biddies" are back as well and are at the center of trouble, as usual.  However, this time, they get Gemma's mom to join their group.  I love Gemma's mom.  I think after Gemma she is my favorite character.  She provides a wonderful dose of humor in each story and honestly, sometimes I not sure if I look forward to a new mystery or a chance to see what she is up to.  As I mentioned before, I am not a cat person, but Muesli has been written almost like another character in these stories.  She takes after Gemma's mom and can always find a way to get herself in trouble.

As always, the mystery in this story was solid.  There were plenty of suspects, which one would expect with the Old Biddies investigating.  There are also a nice dose of twists and turns that led this reader down the wrong path when trying to decide who I thought committed the murder.  The suspects are very plausible and the motives given to each are very believable.  In the end (you guessed it) I did not figure out the identity of the killer until it was revealed.

This is a terrific series and is at the top of my favorite series list.  It has a charming British feel to it with a cast of wonderful characters, solid mysteries, a nice dose of humor and a little romance thrown in as well.  If you haven't tried this series yet, I think you should consider picking up one of the books.  I have not read a bad review on any of the books in this series to date and I think you will not be disappointed.

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

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

On the Chopping Block

Author:  Jenny Kales
Series:  A Callie's Kitchen Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publication Date:  May 2016
Format:  ebook

Description:  Building a small business has been murder, but Callie Costas didn’t expect to be confronted with an actual body. The 36-year-old Greek-American proprietor of “Callie's Kitchen,” a meals-from-scratch business in an idyllic small town, has been busy creating a post-divorce life for herself, her young daughter and her Yorkie, Koukla. After a lot of hard work (including staving off her father’s continual advice), she’s got the locals and tourists clamoring for her delicious Mediterranean dishes and Midwest comfort food classics. Recently, she’s started a budding romance with a fellow foodie, the wealthy owner and chef of Crystal Bay’s most popular bistro. 

However, success is as fleeting as one of Wisconsin’s glorious autumn days. As local businesses begin to shut down due to a slow economy, Callie is struggling not to become another statistic. A contest with a hefty cash prize seems like the perfect chance to fix her financial woes, until a shocking murder threatens not only her livelihood – but her life. 

When she’s targeted as a prime suspect by an attractive expat British detective, Callie’s situation becomes more delicate than her Greek egg-lemon soup. She’s got to find the killer and fast if she wants to protect her daughter, save her business and stay alive. 

My Review

This book has been on my radar for a couple of weeks and when I was offered the chance by the author to read and review the story I quickly agreed.  This debut cozy mystery by author Jenny Kales is simply charming.  I found this to be a very enjoyable first in a new series and will be back for more.

To begin with, the story is filled with a wonderful, hearty and colorful Midwestern Greek-American family.  Callie, the protagonist, is very likeable.  She is definitely someone the reader can relate to - a single mom trying to raise her child and run a business.  She doesn't expect that she is going to have to add amateur sleuth to that title but when the man she is dating is killed and she becomes a suspect, she has to solve the murder to save herself and her business.  The cast of supporting characters include her grandmother Viv, who is a vibrant 80 something, and Callie's gruff but caring father George.  With George's character I think the author drew on her own family experience and it comes shining through.  

The story itself is well written and the mystery starts with a bang right at the opening pages. I thought the book had a good pace and the story unfolded nicely until a very satisfying ending.  Now, if you have read my reviews you know I am not "Miss Marple" when it comes to solving the mysteries in these types of books.  However, in this story the author has woven plenty of clues throughout and I got overly confident.  I was sure that about 2/3rds of the way through the books I figured out the identity of the killer.  Now, it didn't take away my enjoyment of the story and I wanted to see how Callie went about figuring out the killer's identity.  Well, of course you all know how this ends, I couldn't have been more wrong.  Ms. Kales did a fantastic job of weaving in twist and turns to go along with the clues and enough misdirection that I fell for it.  I was surprised at the identity of the killer (I didn't suspect this person at all) and thought the book ended very well.

This is a strong debut cozy mystery for Ms. Kales that is well written, full of wonderful characters, a good pace, strong plot and a terrific mystery.  As an added bonus, there are some delicious sounding recipes included at the end of the story.  I will be back to see what Callie is up to in future installments as this was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

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, July 2, 2016

A High End Finish

Author:  Kate Carlisle
Series:  A Fixer Upper Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Obsidian (Berkley)
Published:  November 2014

Description:  Shannon’s home-renovation and repair business is booming, but her love life needs work. On a blind date with real estate agent Jerry Saxton, she has to whip out a pair of pliers to keep Jerry from getting too hands on. Shannon is happy to put her rotten date behind her, but when Jerry’s found dead in a run-down Victorian home that she’s been hired to restore, the town’s attractive new police chief suspects that her threats may have laid the foundation for murder.

Determined to clear her name, Shannon conducts her own investigation—with the help of her four best friends, her eccentric father, a nosy neighbor or two, and a handsome crime writer who’s just moved to town. But as they get closer to prying out the murderer’s identity, Shannon is viciously attacked. Now she’ll have to nail down the truth—or end up in permanent foreclosure.…

My Review

This is a book that has been on my to be read pile for a while now, and since I am trying to whittle that pile down (a hopeless feat I assure you) this seemed like a good choice.  What drew me to the book in the first place was the theme.  I enjoyed a series by another author where the protagonist was a female contractor/builder so I thought I might enjoy this one as well.  It is the first book that I have read by Kate Carlisle and I will definitely be back to read more books in the series. 

To begin, I really enjoyed the main character Shannon.  She is independent, smart, witty and loyal to her friends.  I like her profession and that she stands out in a male dominated field (and she isn't ashamed to own her pink handled tools).  She's an accidental sleuth and really doesn't do all that much sleuthing as she is trying to stay safe in light of the events taking place.  She has a great group of friends who are just as loyal to her as she is to them.  They all are unique and have great personalities.  As a secondary cast of  characters for a first book, I thought they were pretty strong.  There is a hint of romance to come for Shannon as there are two men who are interested in her.  I liked Eric, the Chief of Police.  As we got to know him the more the story progressed, he comes across as strong, smart and protective, but a little gun shy in the romance department due to his fail marriage.  I also liked Mac, the author who comes across as fun, warm and a little devil may care.  It will be interesting to see who Shannon picks.

This book is well written and has a wonderful pace that kept me engaged and turning pages.  The first murder occurred pretty early on in the book and the action just continued.  This was a well plotted mystery that had me hooked from the start.  There are plenty of viable suspects, with believable motives and some not so nice victims (that to be honest I was not sad to see them go).  I liked how the author set up the mystery and threw in plenty of twists, turns and red herrings so that Shannon appeared guilty.  I didn't really guess the identity of the suspect until it was revealed to Shannon.

This is a great start to a series and an author that are new to me.  It is well written, with likeable characters and a strong mystery.  I will be back for more adventures with Shannon.