Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Death Among the Doilies

Author:  Mollie Cox Bryan
Series:  A Cora Crafts Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  August 30, 2016

Description:  For thirty-something blogger Cora Chevalier, small-town Indigo Gap, North Carolina, seems like the perfect place to reinvent her life. Shedding a stressful past as a counselor for a women’s shelter, Cora is pouring all her talents—and most of her savings—into a craft retreat business, with help from close pal and resident potter Jane Starr. Between transforming her Victorian estate into a crafter’s paradise and babysitting Jane’s daughter, the new entrepreneur has no time for distractions. Especially rumors about the murder of a local school librarian . . .

But when Jane’s fingerprints match those found at the grisly crime scene, Cora not only worries about her friend, but her own reputation. With angry townsfolk eager for justice and both Jane’s innocence and the retreat at risk, she must rely on her creative chops to unlace the truth behind the beloved librarian’s disturbing demise. Because if the killer’s patterns aren’t pinned, Cora’s handiwork could end up in stitches.

My Review

This is the first book that I have read by this author and I thought it was terrific.  It was well written with a plot and mystery that just flowed right along with the story, keeping me engaged and wanting to keep turning pages.  I also liked the craft theme in this cozy.  I think it gives the author plenty of places to go with future installments.  Plus, I haven't read too many craft themed cozy mysteries so this helps me expand my exposure to different themes.  There are instructions included for some of the crafts that are made throughout the crafting retreat in the book.

I thought the characters in this book were well done.  For a first in  a new series the authored crafted three dimensional characters that had history and vulnerabilities.  I really liked both Cora and Jane.  The both have their own histories, which the author wove throughout the story nicely without bogging the reader down with each of the back stories.  What really resonated with me as a reader was their strong friendship.  While each is vulnerable they have a strong friendship and really look out for one another.  The secondary cast of characters rounded out the story nicely.  Ruby is a great secondary character and I am looking forward to more of her humor.  There is a hint at a possible romance for Cora, but I just hope the author doesn't do a love triangle where she can't pick between suitors.

I thought the mystery was well crafted.  There were plenty of suspects and clues woven throughout the story to keep the reader (or at least this reader) guessing as to the true identity of the killer.  Cora is less of an accidental sleuth and more out to try and prove her friend innocent.  I did like that she didn't go behind the backs of the police but kept them informed as to what she discovered.

All together, I thought this was a terrific first book fora new series and I will definitely return to Indigo Gap for future installments.  I will also put this author's other series on my to be read list.

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

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Story to Kill

Author:  Lynn Cahoon
Series:  A Cat Latimer Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  August 30, 2016

Description:  Former English professor Cat Latimer is back in Colorado, hosting writers’ retreats in the big blue Victorian she’s inherited, much to her surprise, from none other than her carousing ex-husband! Now it’s an authors’ getaway—but Cat won’t let anyone get away with murder…
The bed-and-breakfast is open for business, and bestselling author Tom Cook is among its first guests. Cat doesn’t know why he came all the way from New York, but she’s glad to have him among the quirkier—and far less famous—attendees.

Cat’s high school sweetheart Seth, who’s fixing up the weathered home, brings on mixed emotions for Cat…some of them a little overpowering. But it’s her uncle, the local police chief, whom she’ll call for help when there’s a surprise ending for Tom Cook in his cozy guest room. Will a killer have the last word on the new life Cat has barely begun?

My Review

I know many of you are fans of Ms. Cahoon from her Tourist Trap Mystery series.  For me however, this was my first introduction to the author and I am definitely a fan.  This was a book that I read over the course of one day.  It is well written and grabbed my attention right from the start.  The author has a descriptive writing style that draws the reader into the story and keeps him/her turning pages until the end.  I cannot wait for the second installment in this series which is scheduled for release in 2017.  In the meantime, I will have to go back and bump this author's Tourist Trap Mystery series up toward the top of the TBR pile.

This book has wonderful characters.  I felt that the characters were well written and very dimensional.  They jumped out from the page and I instantly liked the main character.  Cat Latimer is a strong, independent woman.  Although she is returning to the home she shared with her now deceased ex-husband, she is determined to make a go of her new writers retreat venture with her best friend Shauna.  I liked Shauna as well.  She is a terrific friend in all the ways that count to Cat.  The writers attending the retreat and Cat's Uncle Pete round out the cast and prove to be very interesting in their own right.

I thought the mystery was well done.  The author provided the reader with many good suspects, a lot of clues, twists and turns and a couple of minor mysteries, one of which is connected to the murder of the famous writer attending the retreat.  I thought the author did a fantastic job of weaving all of the clues throughout the story along with some red herrings to throw the reader off the trail.  While the culprit is not a surprise, I thought Ms. Cahoon did a great job of tying up the loose ends as to motive for this suspect.  There was one minor mystery that was not tied up at the end of this book, but I wouldn't call it a cliffhanger.  I can see this mystery unfolding over the course of the next few books as it weavers it way into Cat's next adventures.

There is a bit of romance thrown in as well, as Cat reconnects with her high school boyfriend and the sparks are still there.  I don't think the romance in any way overpowered the mystery and was well written into the plot.  

I found this to be a highly enjoyable first book in a new series.  It was a well paced page turner filled with wonderful characters and a solid mystery.  I will definitely be making a return trip to Aspen Hills.

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

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Irish Stewed

Author:  Kylie Logan
Series:  A Ethnic Eats Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley Prime Crime
Publication Date:  May 3, 2016

Description:  After flopping as a personal chef to a Hollywood movie star, jobless Laurel Inwood finds herself humbled in Hubbard, Ohio, helping her aunt Sophie run her restaurant. Much to Laurel’s dismay, Sophie’s Terminal at the Tracks is not the cozy bistro her aunt would have had her believe—it’s a run-down greasy spoon in an old railroad station. To save the dingy diner, Laurel cooks up a plan to feature alternating ethnic cuisine as specials.

But first there’s the problem of the body in the booth. Slumped over a table with a receipt spike in his back is Jack Lancer—”the Lance of Justice”—an investigative reporter for local TV news. Assisted by the drop-dead gorgeous owner of the neighboring Irish store—who may or may not be a suspect—Laurel sets out to track down a killer who had no reservations about impaling a newshound. But as she turns up the heat, will she end up in the soup herself?

My Review

I was a fan of the Button Box Mystery series written by this author.  I haven't had a chance to read her other series yet, but when I saw this first in another new series, I thought, since it had been awhile since I read anything by Kylie Logan, I would give this one a try.  

It took me a bit of time to get into the story.  I think it had to do with Laurel, the main character.  I had a hard time connecting with her.  Personally, I thought that she came across as detached and bit judgmental.  I liked her "aunt" Sophie and Declan the store owner.  I thought they were likable characters.  Declan was charming and there was some romantic tension between him and Laurel throughout the story.  About a third of the way through the book, I thought Laurel began to loosen up and I was able to become more engaged in the story.  It took awhile for the Ethnic Eats piece of the title to come into play but I think that it will be a good theme to play out over future installments and will make the restaurant her aunt Sophie owns a little livelier.

I thought the mystery was well crafted.  Ms. Logan threw in plenty of twists, turns and clues which resulted in there being plenty of suspects to choose from.  The author did a great job of directing the readers attention to on theory of the murder which turned out not to be the case at all.  I was surprised by the identity of the killer and the reason behind the crime.  I 

I'll be on the look out for the next book in the series, French Fried.  I enjoyed the mystery, and most of the characters.  It was hard for me to connect with Laurel but I am hoping that will change in future installments and I would like to give them a try.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Spellcasting in Silk

Author:  Juliet Blackwell
Series:  Witchcraft Mystery #7
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:   Obsidian (Berkley)
Publication Date:  July 7, 2015

Description:  Lily would like nothing better than to relax, enjoy her friends, and take care of business at her store, which is booming thanks to San Francisco's upcoming Summer of Love Festival.  But as the unofficial witchy consultant to the SFPD, she is pulled into yet another case.

A woman has jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, and her apparent suicide may be connected to a suspicious botanica in the Mission District. When the police investigate the shop, they ask Lily to look into its mysterious owner, whose granddaughter also appears to be missing. As Lily searches for the truth, she finds herself confronted with a confounding mystery and some very powerful magic.

My Review

With book eight having been released in July of this year, I thought it was time to catch up on this series, which as you can see I'm a bit behind in reading.  As I opened the book and read through the first chapter, I realized how much I missed reading about Lily and the rest of the group and sad that I had let myself get behind.  This has been one of my favorite series and I was glad to be back for a visit.

I very much enjoyed Spellcasting in Silk and most of that has to due with the characters.  In this book, we get to see Lily embracing her powers  and really trying to learn how to use and develop them.  She has a lot of power and she wants to be responsible and learn how to control it.   Lily and the rest of the cast are pretty well developed, three dimensional characters at this point and feel like comfortable friends.  I particularly like how Lily is written.  Yes she is still vulnerable and has flaws, but she continues to grow in her magic, her professional life and her personal life as she tries to manage a relationship with Sailor. Oscar is Oscar and is a a completely lovable familiar.  He provides the humor in this series.  For me, both Sailor's and Aiden's characters are still a bit of a mystery as we haven't learned much more about their history.  I am hoping that will unfold some more in the next installments.

I thought the mystery was once again very solid.  There were plenty of suspects to choose from both in the magical and mortal worlds.  Juliet Blackwell does a great job of weaving clues, twists and turns into the story so that the reader really needs to be on his/her toes in order to discover the identity of the killer.  In this case, the killer was someone I did not expect and wasn't even on my radar.  One of the things I like about the series is that usually when Lily gets involved in a mystery it is because the police ask for her assistance.  She does not just go out and try to solve a mystery to try and show up the police.  I enjoy that aspect of the mystery.

As I mentioned in the beginning, this is one of my favorite series.  I actually think it might be the second or third cozy series that I started to read when I first got hooked on the genre.  It has wonderful characters, solid mysteries, a dose of paranormal and a terrific backdrop as it is set in San Francisco.  I can't wait to delve into book five and finally be caught up on the series.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Crepes of Wrath: A Pancake House Mystery

Author:  Sarah Fox
Series:  A Pancake House Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Alibi
Publication Date:  August 16, 2016
Format:  eBook

Description:  When Marley McKinney’s aging cousin, Jimmy, is hospitalized with pneumonia, she agrees to help run his pancake house while he recovers. With its rustic interior and syrupy scent, the Flip Side Pancake House is just as she pictured it—and the surly chef is a wizard with crĂȘpes. Marley expects to spend a leisurely week or two in Wildwood Cove, the quaint, coastal community where she used to spend her summers, but then Cousin Jimmy is found murdered, sprawled on the rocks beneath a nearby cliff.

After she stumbles across evidence of stolen goods in Jimmy’s workshop, Marley is determined to find out what’s really going on in the not-so-quiet town of Wildwood Cove. With help from her childhood crush and her adopted cat, Flapjack, Marley sinks her teeth into the investigation. But if she’s not careful, she’s going to get burned by a killer who’s only interested in serving up trouble.

My Review

The Crepes of Wrath is the first in author Sarah Fox's new Pancake House Mysteries.  I thought this book was well done and very much enjoyed it.  It will not be my last visit to Wildwood Cove.

For the first book in a series, I think this author has penned some strong characters. I very much liked the main character Marley.  She has a great personality and is a pretty independent person, even when perhaps she could use some help.  I also enjoyed that she stumbled into sleuthing as opposed to being an armature sleuth.  When her uncle is killed and one of his employees is a suspect, Marley decides to help the employee whom she strongly feels is innocent by discovering who really murdered her uncle.  At that point, it is more a matter of events leading to questions that uncover clues that a conscious effort to go investigating.  I also liked that she kept the local sheriff informed of everything she discovered.  She was sensible and was out to prove she could solve the murder before the police.  The townspeople add a nice addition to round out the cast.  There is also a blooming romance for Marley but this was handled nicely and didn't overpower the story.

The story itself was well written and had a good pace that let the mystery unfold over the course of the book leading up to a very exciting ending.  The author did a nice job of providing a number of suspects, all of whom could have realistic motives for committing the crime.  Then she threw in some twists and turns that keeps the reader guessing until the end where the identity of the killer is revealed.  Ms. Fox included some nice misdirection for this reader.  At one point I figured out who the identity of the killer only to be thrown off by some false clues that led me in another direction.  I guess that will teach me to second guess myself.

All in all, I thought this was a nicely done story for a first in a new series.  The author has penned a well written book with a good pace, enjoyable characters that will engage readers and a good solid mystery.  I'll will definitely be back to check out future installments in this series.

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

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A Fright to the Death

Author:  Dawn Eastman
Series:  A Family Fortune Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Published:  April 2015

Description:  After their flight to Mexico is cancelled, Clyde and her detective boyfriend, Mac, end up snowed in with their families at a supposedly haunted hotel. Clyde’s tarot card reading mother, Rose, is making dire predictions for the weekend, and self-proclaimed pet psychic Aunt Vi is enchanted by the legend of the hotel’s ghost—until the power goes out and a body turns up.

With a hotel full of stranded suspects, Clyde will have to draw on all her skills—both the police ones she’d rather forget and the psychic ones she’d rather ignore—to solve the bone-chilling mystery before someone else gets iced…

My Review

I have to say that I am really enjoying digging into my to be read pile.  Not that the new series that I have been reading aren't good, but I have neglected some of the series and authors that I have really enjoyed in the past.  This is one of those series that I feel like I have neglected.  I originally started this series because it is set in my home state and has a paranormal theme (the family has psychic abilities) which I enjoy.  I really enjoyed this book and I'm glad I was able to begin catching up on the adventures of the Fortune Family.

To start, this series is full of fun, wonderful, quirky characters that are well developed and just all around enjoyable.  The Fortune family is unique and it is always enjoyable to see what type of mischief they can get themselves into.  The family provides plenty of moments of humor throughout the story.  Clyde's aunt Vi can be a little overbearing at times but it just fits with the story.  I like how Mac and Clyde's relationship is progressing.  He is not as resistant to her gift as he has been in the past.  Ms. Eastman has continued to develop and grow these characters especially Clyde's nephew Seth.  It is nice to see that he is coming into his own in the family.  Clyde's mom, aunt Vi and Mac's mom were all at the inn for a weekend of knitting classes.  The secondary cast of knitters and hotel staff round out the characters while providing plenty of suspects.

The mystery is a throwback to the classic "closed room" mysteries.  All of the suspects are stranded in the inn during a snowstorm so we know one of them is the killer, it is just up to Mac and Clyde (with a little help from the family) to find the killer.  Ms. Eastman has done a terrific job with the mystery in this story as she weaves in a murder along with thefts that tie in nicely together at the end.  While we know the culprit is one of the characters stranded at the inn, Ms. Eastman does a nice job of weaving in clues along with some twists and turns.  Just when you think you might know whodunit, Ms. Eastman directs your focus to another characters and creates uncertainty.

I think this is a terrific series full of fun, unique and quirky characters.  I have enjoyed the mysteries in each of the installments.  The paranormal element was a little lighter in this story than the other two installments but was still highly enjoyable.  If you haven't tried this series but are considering it, I would suggest you start with the first book so that you can see the characters grow and perhaps won't be as lost with the family dynamics.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Murder in the Secret Garden

Author:  Ellery Adams
Series:  A Book Retreat Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  August 2, 2016

Description:  There is a hidden garden bordering the grounds of Jane Steward’s book-themed resort—a garden filled with beautiful but deadly plants such as mandrake and nightshade. Tucked away behind ivy-covered walls and accessible only through a single locked door, as described in the pages of Frances Hodges Burnett's classic novel, the garden is of special interest to Jane’s current group of guests, The Medieval Herbalists. But when one of them turns up dead, Jane must discover whether a member of the group has come to Storyton Hall to celebrate their passion for plant lore or to implement a particularly cruel means for murder.

With thousands of books at her disposal, Jane believes she has the proper materials to solve this deadly problem. If she’s wrong, however, she may lose something far more precious than the contents of Storyton’s secret library.

My Review

I am a huge fan of this author and all of her series so whenever there is a new release it is an automatic buy for me.  Each book she writes is pure enjoyment and never disappoints. Murder in the Secret Garden, which is the third book in the Book Retreat Mystery series is no exception.  In my opinion, I think this is the best book to date in the series and I have loved them all.

The story is well written with a nice steady pace.  What I love about this author is her talent to create stories that have idyllic settings and wonderful characters that transport readers into that world and allows them to become immersed in the story.  Storyton Hall is the perfect setting for the Book Retreats and Jane Steward is the perfect Guardian for its secrets.  I mean who wouldn't want to attend a book retreat in an old English manner transported to Virginia with all of its secrets and mysteries.  And that's just the setting.  The characters in this story a rich and dimensional.  They are real and tangible in such a way that the reader connects with them.  Jane is a wonderful heroine for this story; she is loyal, caring, spirited and while daunted by the task of restoring Storyton Hall she perseveres despite whatever happens.  In this third book we get a better understanding of Edwin Alcott and his background, which provides for a nice twist.  I like how the relationship between him and Jane is progressing and it will be interesting to see where the author takes this part of the story.

The mystery is clever and has plenty of moving parts.  There are two different murders and it is up to Jane and the Fins to figure out if and how they are related.  As a result, there are plenty of suspects with differing motives and the author does a terrific job of weaving clues throughout the book.  I didn't figure out the identity of either killer until each was revealed to Jane.  Both mysteries are wrapped up nicely and provided a nice twist in how the two were connected.

This was a great read and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a story that will transport you to another place and provide you with hours of entertainment.  I would suggest the books be read in order as it helps with the understanding the mythology in the book.  If you haven't tried this series yet, you won't be disappointed.  I can't wait for the next installment.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Knitting is Murder

Author:  Kathy Cranston
Series:  A Bee's Bakehouse Cozy Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publication Date:  May 2016
Length:  101 pages

Description:  Jessie Henderson swore she wouldn’t meddle in another police investigation—she’d much rather enjoy life in quiet but quirky Springdale. 

But then a long-time Springdale resident is found murdered and Jessie becomes the prime suspect. 

Now, Jessie has no choice but to get involved. Luckily her snarky Aunt Bee is on hand to provide support and much-needed sugar hits. 

Knitting is Murder is the second book in the Bee’s Bakehouse Cozy Mystery series. Each book is a standalone mystery.

My Review

This is the second installment in the Bee's Bakehouse Cozy Mystery series.  This is a short story, at only 101 pages so things happen quicker than they would in a longer story and perhaps are not as developed as in those stories as well.  That being said, I find this to be an enjoyable series.  While each can be read as a stand alone, I enjoy reading them in order because you get to see the characters grow and sometime the author references things that happened in previous books.

The characters in this series are enjoyable. I like the relationship between Jessie and her Aunt Bee.  In this story, I thought Jessie was a bit more impetuous than in the previous story but while investigating a new murder, of which she is the chief suspect, but she does keep the Chief involved and doesn't go it totally alone.  There is romance developing between Aunt Bee and Chief Daly which is progressing nicely.  There is a hint on romance for Jessie as well.

I did guess the identity of the murder and the reason behind it before Jessie but it did not take away from my enjoyment in reading how Jessie and the Chief discovered the culprit and wrapped up the case.

This series makes for an enjoyable read and a perfect way to pass time during lunch time breaks.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A Sticky Situation

Author:  Jessie Crockett
Series:  A Sugar Grove Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  April 2015

Description:  Aunt Hazel isn’t exactly sweet, but she’s not the only one putting syrup maker Dani in a sour mood. Her family is trying to help renovate the town’s Opera House, but their contractor Russ Collins seems to specialize in finely crafted excuses. And his latest one is killer.
In the Opera House basement, Russ uncovers the remains of Spooner Duffy, a charming drifter thought to have skipped town decades ago with a hefty sum of the town’s money. Tapping into some unpleasant memories, Spooner’s bones also threaten to reveal a murderer’s secret, and now it’s up to Dani to catch a killer before the town is stuck with a deadly reputation. 

My Review

Lately, I have been reading a lot of first in a series by authors who are new to me or ARCs from Netgalley so I decided it was time to go to my massive to be read pile and start catching up on some of the past series I have enjoyed.  A Sticky Situation is the third book in the Sugar Grove Mystery series and I found it to be just as enjoyable as the other two.

What I enjoy about this series that is really is about family.  With each book we get a glimpse in to the lives of the entire Greene family.  They are a strong group of people with and equally strong sense of family that is hightened by the fact that they are committed to each other and their community.  I especially liked how this book opened, with Dani and Celedon escaping to town upon learning the news that their great aunt and her daughter were coming to town for the annual festival.  Who can't relate to that?  We all have at least one relative that we spend the family gatherings trying to avoid on occasion.    I really like Dani as a protagonist.  In addition to her strong sense of family and community, she is intelligent, spunky and has a good sense of humor.  We get to see more growth both in her personal life, in her romance with Graham and her sleuthing skills.

Once again, Dani is called upon to solve a mystery.   The mystery involves the discovery of the body of a drifter who caused issues in the town over twenty years ago when allegedly skipped town with money raised for the library.  What I enjoyed about this mystery is that is connected to the past of Tansy and her son Knowlton.  Tansy insists that Dani must solve the mystery or she won't assist with the upcomming festival.  So, after informing Lowell (her godfather and the town police chief) Dani sets out to try to uncover the mystery of the missing money.  I think the author did a wonderful job weaving the mystery in throughout the story stategically planting clues throughout along with a couple of red herrings.  Because of the drifter's past, there are plenty of suspects to choose from and they all have very realistic motives for committing the crime.  I did not figure out the culprit until the end it was revealed.

I have enjoyed all three of the books in this series.  They are all well written with a nice pace that keeps the story flowing.  The characters are endearing and I enjoy the committment to family in these books.  The msyteries are well thought out and keep the reader (or at least this reader) guessing until the end.