Saturday, December 30, 2017

Escape Claws

Author:  Linda Reilly
Series:   A Cat Lady Mystery #1
Genre:   Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Lyrical Underground
Publication Date:  December 26, 2017

Description:  For the first time in sixteen years, Lara Caphart has returned to her hometown of Whisker Jog, New Hampshire. She wants to reconnect with her estranged Aunt Fran, who's having some difficulty looking after herself-and her eleven cats. Taking care of a clowder of kitties is easy, but keeping Fran from being harassed by local bully Theo Barnes is hard. The wealthy builder has his sights set on Fran's property, and is determined to make her an offer she doesn't dare refuse.
Then Lara spots a blue-eyed ragdoll cat that she swears is the reincarnation of her beloved Blue, her childhood pet. Pursuing the feline to the edge of Fran's yard, she stumbles upon the body of Theo Barnes, clearly a victim of foul play. To get her and Fran off the suspect list, Lara finds herself following the cat's clues in search of a killer. Is Blue's ghost really trying to help her solve a murder, or has Lara inhaled too much catnip?

My Review
Linda Reilly is a new author to me and I am happy that I took a chance on this first book in her new Cat Lady Mystery Series.  I thought this was a charming start to the new series. The author did a nice job of balancing the mystery with introducing her characters. Lara and her Aunt Fran are very likable characters and I enjoyed the story line that centered on them renewing their relationship after not really seeing each other for a good number of years. Lara is very personable, warm and comes across as genuine. There is a nice cast of secondary characters as well.   I also think there is a nice hint of something a bit paranormal or other worldly involved in the story as well.  
The mystery was woven into the story nicely. The victim was not well liked by people in the town so this allows the author to weave in clues that misdirect the reader about the killer's identity.  There were some twists and turns to try and throw the reader off the scent of the real culprit (which worked on me). I was surprised by the identity of the killer.  This person was never even on my radar.  
I found this first book to be an enjoyable read that kept me entertained. I voluntarily read an advanced copy provided to me by Lyrical Underground, the publisher, through Netgalley.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Crust No One

Author:  Winnie Archer
Series:  A Bread Shop Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  December 26, 2017

Description:  For once, Ivy Culpepper feels fulfilled. An apprenticeship at Yeast of Eden has opened her world to time-honored baking techniques under owner Olaya Solis’s guidance—as well as the freshest small-town gossip, courtesy of chatty regulars known as the Blackbird Ladies. Ivy even begins accepting that she and restaurateur Miguel Baptista may never again rekindle their romance—despite the undeniable tension between them . . .
But she’s tied to Miguel again when his trusted produce supplier goes missing. Old Hank Riviera’s financial troubles would make anyone consider running away forever. And with his relationship woes, there are plenty of people who might want to see Hank disappear. As Ivy, with the help of her octogenarian sidekick, turns to the loose-lipped Blackbird Ladies for leads, she soon finds herself caught in a web of lies stickier than a batch of Olaya’s popular pastries.

My Review

This is the second book in the Bread Shop Mystery series and it was just as enjoyable as the first book.  The story was well written and just seemed to flow with a steady pace that kept me turning pages.  I am hopeful that this is one series I can count on to have a long run.

The characters are well crafted.  For being just the second book in the series, I found the characters to have a comfortable feel to them.  I felt like I already knew these characters will allowed be to be invested in the story and the outcome.  I think Ivy Culpepper is a very likable character.  She has spunk and smarts but is also warm and character.  I like the way her relationships with Mrs. Bradford and Olaya are developing.  Each one gives her something solid that helps to ground her as she continues to adjust to life without her mother.  The secondary cast of characters are equally well written an likable.  I think readers are going to enjoy them.

The mystery in this story was a bit of a change of pace.  It starts off as a missing person mystery for most of the book, until the body is eventually found.  The author did a terrific job of weaving the mystery throughout the entire story and dropping clues like bread crumbs along the way.  There are some twist and turns, which quite frankly I did not see coming and I think some readers will be as equally surprised as I was when the identity of the culprit is revealed.

I think this is a terrific culinary cozy mystery series that has such promise to be a long running series.  It has a great setting, likable characters that will connect with readers and the author does a wonderful job of crafting mysteries that keep the readers attention.  I will definitely be back for more.

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy provided to me by the publisher, Kensington, through Netgalley.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Hark the Herald Angels Slay

Author: Vicki Delany
Series:  A Year Round Christmas Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  November 28, 2017

Description:  The town of Rudolph, New York, has the Christmas spirit all year long—but when homicide heats up a summer holiday, it’s up to shop owner Merry Wilkinson to wrap up the case.

In Rudolph, Christmas in July heralds Santa’s arrival by boat to begin his summer vacation at the lake, and Merry Wilkinson, owner of Mrs. Claus’s Treasures, is looking forward to a busy weekend. But she’s caught off guard when her ex-fiancé, Max Folger, unexpectedly arrives with a team from a lifestyle magazine wanting to do a feature on the July festivities.

It’s clear that Max’s visit has less to do with business and more to do with winning back Merry’s heart. Merry has too much on her plate to deal with an old flame, but when Max is found strangled to death in Mrs. Claus’s Treasures, she must find out who wanted him dead—and stop a killer from ruining the summer holiday cheer.

My Review

This latest installment in the Year Round Christmas Mystery is another hit for author Vicki Delany.  This is such a charming, fun series and I look forward to each new installment with anticipation.

Merry Wilkinson is a terrific character.  She is fun, feisty and a character I think readers can relate to.  The rest of the cast makes a return, including all my favorites.  I love Merry's parents.  Vicki Delany writes with such a descriptive style that you can picture Noel looking just like Santa Claus.  The charming setting of Rudolph New York always lends to the atmosphere of the story.  While this one takes place as a Christmas in July story, it will easily get readers into the holiday spirit.  We also see a bit of progress in the romance department with Merry and Alan. 

The mystery is well crafted and carried throughout the entire story.  Once again she finds herself at the center of a murder mystery, and this time it is someone from her past.  With so many new people in town, the author provides her readers with plenty of suspects and throws in plenty of clues along with some twists and turns to distract the reader.  The story unfolds with a steady plot that kept me turning pages to try in solve the mystery before Merry.  As usual, I was not quick enough but thought the culprit was well thought-out and a bit of surprise.

This is such a charming series and I look forward to each new book as it is released.  It has a wonderful setting that gets the reader into the holiday spirit and is paired with wonderful characters that are a joy to read and a mystery that kept my turning pages.  I can't wait for the next one in the series.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

And Death Goes To....

Author:  Laura Bradford
Series:  A Tobi Tobias Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Lyrical Underground
Publication Date:  December 5, 2017

Description:  It’s an honor just to be nominated. But, let's get real, Tobi wants to win. The St. Louis Advertising Awards are like the Oscars for her field, and Tobi is up for its most prestigious prize, Best Overall Ad Campaign. The competition is always fierce, but this year it’s killer . . .
Despite her high hopes, Tobi isn't exactly shocked when she doesn’t win. But she is shocked when the winner, Deidre Ryan, takes the stage only to plummet to her death as a platform suddenly gives way. After the police discover foul play, Tobi's Grandpa Stu wastes no time in nominating suspects. But was Deidre the intended victim—or was someone else meant to take the fatal fall? Now it’s a race to catch a killer in the spotlight, before another nominee gets the booby prize and Tobi gets trapped in a no-win situation.

My Review

This is the third installment in what is quickly becoming one of my favorite cozy mystery series.  I couldn't wait to get my hands on this one and read it over the course of two days.  This series hits all the buttons I look for in a cozy and is written by the talented Ms. Bradford.

There are so many reasons to love this series and this book but one of the major selling points for me is the characters.  Tobi Tobias is one of those characters that has me engaged from the opening page until I turn the last page and finish the book.  She is well crafted, multi-layered and dimensional.  She is written to feel very real and authentic with some snark and humor that I very much appreciated.  That said, she is not perfect as we see in this installment.  The story is rounded out with a diverse, rich cast of secondary characters that stand on their own.  I liked the emotional growth we saw from Tobi in how she deals with her grandfather dating her nemesis.

The mystery is well plotted and is woven throughout the story.  Ms. Bradford does a nice job of peppering clues throughout while intertwining them with plenty of twists and turns.  The victim was unexpected and her death is a bit shocking.  The killer's identity was a bit of a surprise but once all the clues are revealed it makes sense.

This is a fun series and when I finish one book it is always hard to wait for the next one.  It is a highly entertaining series with great characters and story lines/mysteries that are well plotted and keep the reader engaged and guessing.  If you haven't given this series a try I would encourage you to pick up the first book in the series.  I don't think you will be disappointed.

I voluntarily read an advance reader copy provided to me by Lyrical Underground, the publisher, through Netgalley.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Of Murder and Men

Author:  Lynn Cahoon
Series:  A Cat Latimer Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  November 28, 2017

Description:  Ever since her business partner, Shauna, fell for a wealthy landowner in town, Cat has been working double time to keep her writers’ retreat running. And with the January session almost underway, that spells trouble. As if scheduling mishaps aren’t disastrous enough, Shauna skips out on kitchen duties one morning, forcing Cat to serve unsuspecting guests store-bought muffins . . .

But best laid plans really go awry when Shauna discovers her beau missing from their bed. When his body later turns up in the horse barn, they quickly find out the victim’s scandalous lifestyle left many dying for revenge. While balancing an eccentric group of aspiring writers and a suspect list for the record books, Cat soon finds herself on the heels of a killer—and authoring her most deadly conclusion yet.

My Review

The third installment in the Cat Latimer Mystery series is an excellent read and if you are a fan I would highly recommend that you put this one on your to be read pile/list.

I found Ms. Cahoon fairly late, her Tourist Trap Mystery series well under way.  I was approved for an ARC of the first Cat Latimer book and the rest, as we say, is history.  I love the way Ms. Cahoon writes her stories in such a way that as soon as you open the book and read the first few pages, the reader is just drawn into the story.  The location is terrific.  I am a big reader and love any type of series centered around books or rights or any combination thereof.

One of the reasons I continue to be drawn to this genre is that most series are very character focused.  Ms. Cahoon provides us with an excellent cast of characters, let by Cat Latimer.  Cat is the type of person I think we would all like to have as a friend.  She is loyal, smart, independent and comes across the page as genuine.  The secondary cast of characters provide a lot of additional layers and support to the stories.  The author has created a secondary cast that is multi-layered, diverse and very likable.

When I open a Cat Latimer Mystery, one thing I know is that I am going to be entertained my the mystery.  Ms. Cahoon knows how to deliver a well crated mystery that has layers that unfold throughout the story.  As the mystery unfolds, she layers in her clues but surrounds them with twists and turns to distract and keep the reader guessing.  I thought this mystery had a terrific ending and was surprised by the identity of the killer.

All in all, this is a terrific series that continues to get better with each new installment.  It has quickly become a favorite and I look forward to each new book so that I can take a peek into Cat's world to see what new trouble is brewing as she starts a new writers retreat.

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy provided to me by the publisher, Kensington, through Netgalley.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Plot Is Murder

Author:  V.M. Burns
Series:  A Mystery Bookshop Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  November 28, 2017

Description:  Samantha Washington has dreamed of owning her own mystery bookstore for as long as she can remember. And as she prepares for the store’s grand opening, she’s also realizing another dream—penning a cozy mystery set in England between the wars. While Samantha hires employees and fills the shelves with the latest mysteries, quick-witted Lady Penelope Marsh, long-overshadowed by her beautiful sister Daphne, refuses to lose the besotted Victor Carlston to her sibling's charms. When one of Daphne's suitors is murdered in a maze, Penelope steps in to solve the labyrinthine puzzle and win Victor.
But as Samantha indulges her imagination, the unimaginable happens in real life. A shady realtor turns up dead in her backyard, and the police suspect her—after all, the owner of a mystery bookstore might know a thing or two about murder. Aided by her feisty grandmother and an enthusiastic ensemble of colorful retirees, Samantha is determined to close the case before she opens her store. But will she live to conclude her own story when the killer has a revised ending in mind for her?

My Review

V.M. Burns is a new voice in the cozy mystery genre and this is her debut novel.  Now, many of you who read my reviews know I enjoy reading books set in my home state or that have something to do with books/bookshops/libraries so when I read the synopsis for this book, I knew I had to give it a try.  I was not disappointed.

V.M. Burns, in my opinion, is a wonderful new voice in this genre.  This first book was so creatively crafted.  I loved the book within a book aspect of this story.  She had me hooked on both stories and I kept turning pages to see what happened in each of them.

Sam Washington is one of those cozy characters that I think readers are going to love and gravitate toward.  She is recently widowed and trying to live the dream she and her husband had always envisioned for themselves.  She is sympathetic, compassionate and just starting to find her way out of her grief.  I really liked her and although I had nothing in common with her character I felt connected.  The cast of secondary characters are really diverse and well written.  I loved Sam's Nana Jo and think everyone should have a grandmother just like her.  Nana Jo's friends from the retirement community are really fun, likable and vibrant.  I think they really added to the story with their diverse personalities.  The rest of Sam's family rounds out the story nicely.

The mystery was well crafted.  The victim, Charlie Parker, was not well like so that allowed the author provide the reader with plenty of suspects to choose from.  Because he was killed in her backyard, Sam, along with Nana Jo and the girls decide to uncover the killer's identity so that Sam is not considered a suspect.  I thought the mystery was layered well throughout the story and was pleasantly surprised by the identity of the killer and the way it was revealed.

This book was a genuine pleasure to read.  With the creative plot that involved a story within a story, to the terrific characters and the well crafted mystery, I think V.M. Burns is a wonderful new voice in the cozy mystery genre and I am looking forward to more to come.

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy provided to me by the publisher through Netgalley.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Cremains of the Day

Author: Misty Simon
Series:  A Tallie Graves Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  October 31, 2017

Description:  For Tallulah Graver, marrying wealthy Waldo Phillips seemed like the best way out of the family business, the Graver Funeral Home. But when her marriage falls apart and Tallie is left with next to nothing, she turns to cleaning houses to make ends meet. As humbling as it is to tidy the mansions of the snobby socialites she used to call friends, at least she doesn't have to be around dead bodies. Until . . .
She discovers one of her employers lying in a closet with a knife sticking out of her chest. This unpleasant shock seems to be part of a web of weird experiences: Tallie's friend Gina's shop is broken into, her ex is stun-gunned where it hurts the most, and now she's receiving flowers from the dead woman. Granted the deliveryman is handsome, but seriously, that's enough to cast a pall over anyone’s day. Now Tallie needs to dig deep to clean up this mess—before she finds herself in a grave situation.

My Review

This is the first book I have read by this author and I found it to be very enjoyable. Tallie Graver is a character whose personality just jumps off the page. She is a woman who had money and status but is now rebuilding her life after a divorce. She is doing it on her own terms, which I think readers will like. She is spunky, independent but not foolish. She decides to solve two murders because she is the top suspect and the chief of police holds a grudge because of her actions and attitude during the years she was married. There is a nice cast of secondary characters that include Tallie's best friend Gina, Tallie's parents and Max, who is a potential romantic interest for Tallie down the road.

I thought the mystery was well done. There was a lot of intrigue, gossip, jealousy, twists and turns. I thought the author did a very nice job in weaving the mystery throughout the entire story keeping me engaged and guessing until the very end. I was pleasantly surprised by the the identity of the killer.

Tallie's language in this book is colorful and there is some instances of swearing so if you are sensitive to that type of language you may want to keep that in mind. It wasn't a lot and didn't bother me but I know some readers don't care for it.

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy provided to me by the publisher, Kensington, through Netgalley.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Eaves of Destruction

Author:  Kate Carlisle
Series:  A Fixer Upper Mystery #5
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  November 7, 2017

Description:  At the annual Victorian Home and Garden Tour, Lighthouse Cove, California’s premier contractor, Shannon Hammer, realizes that the competition is about to turn deadly.... 
Shannon is in high demand among rival homeowners, who will do anything to win Best in Show. One-upmanship and even espionage break out among neighbors, construction crews, decorators, and landscapers. Thanks to several new hires, Shannon is sure she can handle the extra load—until murder throws a wrench in the works.
The small town’s corrupt building inspector is found dead on one of Shannon’s jobsites, and soon plenty of suspects are coming out of the woodwork. When another body is discovered, Shannon calls on her team of close friends and devilishly astute thriller writer Mac to help her nail down the details and build a case against the killer before the door shuts on someone else—for good.

My Review

This is the fifth book in this series and I look forward to each new release.  Kate Carlisle crafts such wonderful stories with quaint settings, wonderful characters and mysteries that keep her readers on their toes.  I look forward to each new trip back to Lighthouse Cove to catch up with Shannon and the rest of the characters to see what the author has in store form them.

One of the things I love most about this genre is that the stories are so character driven.  With each new entry in a series the reader gets to know the characters better and they begin to feel almost like friends.  That's the way I feel about this series.  From the very first book I just fell in love with Shannon Hammer.  I think part of it is because she is so different from me in terms of her profession and skills. Shannon is one of those characters I could see as a friend in real life.  She is a great friend, thoughtful, and warm-hearted. If she has a drawback it is her penchant for finding dead bodies.  Not a "gift" I would want for myself.  

All of the regulars are back and we are also introduced to some new characters as well.  I hope we get to see a bit more of Amanda, someone new Shannon hires for the company. I think she fits in perfectly with Shannon, her friends and her crew.  I think readers will be happy with Shannon and Mac's blossoming romance.  I like that the author is taking is slow and letting it develop with a natural feel.

The mystery was engaging.  Once again, Shannon finds another dead body, this time Joe Scully the building inspector that is not well liked at all.  He makes a great victim because there are so many plausible suspects who had reason not to like him and maybe even be driven to murder.  There are plenty of twists and turns which make for a great read and kept me turning the pages.  There are two murders and some mystery surrounding Amanda's history which the author tied together nicely.  

This book is just an all around fun and enjoyable read.  I never hesitate to pick up the next book in this series because I know that I will be entertained for hours.  If you like quaint settings, likable/personable characters, great mysteries and are a fan of DYI, you will probably enjoy this series.  If you have seen the movies on the Hallmark Movie and Mysteries Channel (I haven't) but haven't read the books yet, I say what are you waiting for?  We all know the books are always better.

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy provided to me by  the publisher, Berkley, through Netgalley. 

Saturday, November 4, 2017

A Deadly Eclair

Author:  Daryl Wood Gerber
Series:  A French Bistro Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Crooked Lane
Publication Date:  November 7, 2017

Description:  It’s always been Mimi Rousseau’s dream to open her own bistro, but it seems beyond her grasp since she’s been chased back home to Nouvelle Vie in Napa Valley by her late husband’s tremendous debt. Until her best friend Jorianne James introduces her to entrepreneur Bryan Baker who invests in promising prospects. Now, working the bistro and inn until she’s able to pay it off and call it her own, Mimi is throwing the inn’s first wedding ever.

The wedding will be the talk of the town, as famous talk show host Angelica Edmonton, daughter of Bryan’s half-brother, Edison, has chosen the inn as her perfect venue. Anxious, Mimi is sure things are going to turn south, especially when Edison gets drunk and rowdy at the out-of-towners’ dinner, but by the evening, things begin to look up again. That is until six AM rolls around, and Bryan is found dead at the bistro with an éclair stuffed in his mouth. And the fingers point at Mimi, whose entire loan is forgiven in Bryan’s will.

Now it’s up to Mimi to clear her name and get to the bottom of things before the killer turns up the heat again in A Deadly Éclair, the scrumptious series debut by Agatha Award-winning author Daryl Wood Gerber.

My Review

I am already a fan of this author's work so it wasn't too much of a leap for me to pick up this first book in her new series. Ms. Wood Gerber does the culinary cozy theme very well and this is an excellent edition to her credits.

Mimi Rousseau is a wonderful character.  She is a terrific chef but due to some events in her past, she lacks the confidence she needs to go out on her own.  When Bryan Baker invests in her both financially and as a mentor, Mimi's dream begins to take flight.  I loved watching her blossom as the story unfolded.  We as the reader are treated to a front row seat as Mimi has to deal with the loss of her friend and mentor as well as try to clear her own name.  The author surround's Mimi with a rich secondary cast of characters that are well rounded, dimensional and entertaining.  

I thought this book was well written with the author's usual descriptive style that just flows.  The setting is charming and enhances the characters and the story line.  I thought the mystery was well plotted.  It unfolded nicely at a steady pace throughout the entire story.  The author provides us with plenty of plausible suspects throwing in clues, twists and turns along the way.  There are plenty of red herrings thrown in making it challenging to identify the killer.  The mystery came to a climatic conclusion and I learned the killer's identity as it was revealed.

The food plays a wonderful part in this story as well.  The descriptions of the menu items will leave plenty of readers wishing they were chefs or wanting to visit this bistro.  The food also played a unique role in the murder itself which was a nice twist.  There are plenty of delicious sounding recipes at the end of the book that will tempt those readers who can cook. 

I think the author has given us a well written first book in what promises to be another terrific culinary cozy series.  I am looking forward to reading more about Mimi and the rest of the characters.

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy provided to me by Crooked Lane, the publisher, through Netgalley.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Secret, Book & Scone Society

Author:  Ellery Adams
Series: Miracle Springs, North Carolina #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery/Women's Fiction
Publisher:  Kensington
Published:  October 31,2017

Description:  Miracle Springs, North Carolina, is a place of healing. Strangers flock here hoping the natural hot springs, five-star cuisine, and renowned spa can cure their ills. If none of that works, they often find their way to Miracle Books, where, over a fresh-baked “comfort” scone from the Gingerbread House bakery, they exchange their stories with owner Nora Pennington in return for a carefully chosen book. That’s Nora’s special talent—prescribing the perfect novel to ease a person’s deepest pain and lighten their heaviest burden.
When a visiting businessman reaches out to Nora for guidance, she knows exactly which novels will help. But before he can keep their appointment at Miracle Books, he’s found dead on the train tracks. 
Stunned, Nora forms the Secret, Book, and Scone Society, a group of damaged souls yearning to gain trust and earn redemption by helping others. To join the society, members must divulge their darkest secret—the terrible truth that brought each of them to Miracle Springs in the first place. 
Determined to uncover the truth behind the businessman’s demise, the women meet in Nora’s cramped and cozy bookstore to share stories and trade support. And as they untangle a web of corruption, they also discover their own courage, purpose, and a sisterhood that will carry them through every challenge—proving it’s never too late to turn the page and start over . . .

My Review

I am a fan of this author and her work so I was excited to see that we were getting a new series from Ellery Adams. For me, this was a fabulous first book in what promises to be another hit cozy mystery series for Ms. Adams. Her writing style lends itself to the type of story telling that pulls readers in and keeps them turning pages until they find themselves at the end of the story and are immediately left wanting more.

The characters she delivers in this new series will resonate with her readers each in their own way. These are four women who all have a secret in their past that has brought them to Miracle Springs and this point in their lives. These women have all been damaged or hurt in some way but they are not broken.  It is this commonality that draws them together, for some reluctantly.  For me, part of the joy of this book was watching these four women, who are all so different from each other, form a terrific friendship and bond that starts to heal them and begins to allow them to release the hold of their pasts. Reader will find themselves moved by each of these women's stories and you will be rooting for their friendship and bond to thrive and grow. There is a terrific cast of secondary characters that complement the women and play a part in helping them grow. 

The mystery is just as strong and the characters and the story of their growing friendship and bond. It is woven through the story nicely and is the impetuous that drives these women to solve two murders and get one of them out of jail for these crimes. The women prove to be tenacious and determined which results in a very climatic conclusion where the full magnitude of the crime is revealed. There are plenty of suspects to choose from, all with believable motives for committing the crimes. I think the readers will find this to be an engaging mystery.

I am excited to see what Ms. Adams has in store for her readers with this new series and where she takes us on the journey of friendship that these four women have begun to form in this first book.

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy provided to me by the publisher, Kensington, through Netgalley.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Blackberry Burial

Author:  Sharon Farrow
Series:  A Berry Basket Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  October 31, 2017

Description:  As owner of The Berry Basket, Marlee Jacob has learned a thing or two about surviving the summer tourist season in Oriole Point. So she gladly agrees to help run the annual road rally in honor of the local Blackberry Art School’s centenary celebration. While alumni arrive from around the country, Marlee hopes the expansive Sanderling farm will make an appropriate starting point for the race—despite rumors that the land is cursed . . .
But when Marlee surveys the property, she stumbles upon a long-dead body hidden in the bramble. It’s a horrifying mystery to everyone except her baker, who’s convinced the skeletal remains belong to a former student who had gone missing twenty years earlier. As the Fourth of July activities heat up, Marlee must rush to catch an elusive murderer—before the next ‘blackberry victim’ is ripe for the picking!

My Review

I thought this second book in the Berry Basket Mystery series was a terrific read.  It was fun, fast paced, and an easy read. It kept me entertained and engaged the entire book.  One of the reasons I've enjoyed both books in this series is the location.  The series is set in the fictional town of Oriole Point in my home state.  I always find it fun to read books set in my home state as I can easily picture the setting while reading. This book was no exception.  As Ms. Farrow describe summer on Lake Michigan with the berry farms and the Fourth of July in full swing, it was easy to picture the entire scene which always keeps me engaged in a book.

Once again, Marlee is involved in a murder.  This time, along with Piper's dog Charlemagne, she is the unfortunate one to discover the skeleton of a former art student in town.  I really enjoy Marlee's character.  She is fun, outgoing, caring, independent, and smart.  I like that she tries to keep the police involved with anything she discovers along the way.  I also enjoyed the secondary cast of characters.  The Cabot brothers are fun and provide some humor along the way.  I like how Marlee's relationship with Theo, her baker, progresses in this book.  Tess makes an appearance along with Piper, Ryan and some newcomers.  I think one of the newcomers may play a part in whether Marlee eventually marries Ryan like they have planned.

I thought the mystery was really well done.  Because this is a cold case there is not a lot of evidence to rely upon.  In fact, before the body was discovered, everyone thought this art student had drowned the summer she attended the Blackberry Arts School.  The author did a wonderful job at providing the readers with plenty of suspects.  Personally, I didn't care for any of the core group of suspects which made it harder for me to determine who I thought was the killer. The author strings her readers along with suspicion, lies, betrayal and plenty of clues scatter along the way.  Marlee does eventually put together how the student was killed which results in a very climatic ending.

I thought this was a wonderfully entertaining read that is set in a charming lakeshore resort town with likable characters and a well plotted mystery.  This book is sure to keep you turning pages to find out how the mystery is solved.  There are also some wonderful sounding recipes included at the end of the book.

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy provided to me by the publisher, Kensington, through Netgalley.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Murder over Mochas

Author:  Caroline Fardig
Series:  A Java Jive Mystery #5
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Alibi
Publication Date:  October 24, 2017

Description:  As a newly minted private eye, Juliet Langley has sworn to leave homicide to the authorities, limiting the scope of her investigations to cheating spouses and dirty business partners . . . like her ex-fiancé, Scott O’Malley. When Scott shows up unannounced at her coffeehouse, Java Jive, Juliet’s first instinct is to punch him in the nose. Her second is to turn down his desperate plea for help with a case that’s way too dangerous for her liking. But when Scott drops dead before her eyes, Juliet isn’t going to wait around for someone else to clear her name.

It’s only a matter of time before her tumultuous past with her ex-fiancé comes out, so Juliet teams up with her ex-boyfriend, detective Ryder Hamilton, to figure out who poisoned Scott. They soon confirm that Scott was involved in an illegal scheme that’s definitely grounds for concern.

Just as romance is finally beginning to percolate for Juliet and her best friend, Pete Bennett, she has no choice but to head back to her hometown to seek out the truth. And she’ll need help from the locals to find the real killer—otherwise her happily ever after could easily end up including an actual ball and chain.

My Review

This is the fifth book and final book in the Java Jive Mystery series. I have been a fan of the series since the first book and have enjoyed them all, but I think that this is the best one yet. Juliet is such a wonderful main character. She is smart, funny, sarcastic, and feisty. The cast of regular secondary characters make their return appearances as well.  Juliet just can't keep herself out of trouble and murder finds her once again.  This time, because the victim is her former fiancee, she has to clear both her name and Pete's.  

As someone who has read this series from the beginning, I love the growth we see in all the characters.  Pete is more accepting of Juliet's sleuthing and will even participate where he can.  I also think that the author did a great job with the friendship that has grown between Juliet and Ryder.  Even though they dated and it didn't work out, the author has written their relationship as a fun friendship.  Not having read this author prior to this series, it was nice to get a glimpse of the characters from her Lizzie Hart Mystery series, who make an appearance providing Juliet, Ryder and Pete with assistance.  Perhaps my favorite part of the book is that we finally have a resolution to Juliet's romantic life, which I think will make readers happy.

The mystery in this book was fast paced and kept me guessing until the very end. There was so much going on and so many suspects that the twists and turns kept me on my toes. Just when I thought I knew who was behind everything, Juliet, Ryder and Pete would uncover new information and I was right back to being stumped. The mystery was wrapped up nicely with Jules and Pete managing to save themselves.

This series has well crafted mysteries filled with wonderful, quirky and interesting characters. If you haven't had the chance to give this series a try, I recommend it. I don't think you will be disappointed.

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy provided to me by the publisher, Alibi, through Netgalley.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Secrets and Pies

Author:  Jenny Kales
Series:  A Callie's Kitchen Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publication Date:  October 9, 2017

Description:  Summertime in Crystal Bay means tourist season for Calliope “Callie” Costas, owner of Callie’s Kitchen, a Greek-meets-Midwest from-scratch eatery. Business is booming but so is the stress. Callie can barely keep up with the demand for her famous summer fruit pies and savory Greek delicacies, plus she’s agreed to bake dozens of “pitas” for the annual Greek Fest.

When Callie is asked to deliver cast party treats for a Murder Mystery Night at the historic Harris House, it seems like a welcome break from her hot stove. That is, until she finds herself an unwilling player in yet another suspicious death. Worse yet, the victim is a family friend and graduate student working on a project involving Crystal Bay’s colorful past.

Before long, a motley crew of suspects makes things as juicy as the succulent berries strewn around Callie’s Kitchen. And that’s not all Callie’s got on her plate. Add family obligations, a deepening romance with a local detective and unexpected personnel problems to the mix. 

One thing’s for sure: Callie’s got the recipe for a long, hot summer!

My Review

This is the third book in a very entertaining cozy mystery series.  Set in the Midwest, this series centers around Callie Costas, the owner of Callie's Kitchen in Crystal Bay Wisconsin.  I love the combination of the focus on family and food.  Like the Greeks, family and food is a common thread for Italians so there is a sense of familiarity when I read these stories.

Callie is one of those main characters that readers can't help but like and be drawn to.  She has a wonderful Midwest sensibility which is part of what draws me in and keeps me coming back.  She is fun, loyal and loving but has a penchant for finding dead bodies.  The secondary cast is terrific as well.  Callie's father George is larger than life and s a wonderfully supportive father.  Callie's daughter, grandmother, staff and boyfriend/detective round out the cast nicely.  I like the pace of the relationship between Callie and Sands.  It makes it feel authentic and not rushed.  

The mystery in this third book was terrific.  There was a bit of history involving the old homes in Crystal Bay that plays a large part.  There were plenty of suspects for the reader to choose from and quite frankly I was completely surprised by the identity of the killer.  The author did a wonderful job of providing twists and turns to distract the reader (which generally works on me) so that when the killer was revealed in a dramatic fashion I didn't see it coming.

This is a terrific series that is filled with wonderful characters and has a great sense of family and food.  The setting is charming and adds to the atmosphere of story.  The mystery is well plotted with plenty of distractions, clues, twist and turns to keep the reader engaged and guessing.  I will definitely be back to Crystal Bay for Callie's next adventure.

I was provided an advanced reader copy of this book by the author.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Murder on the Toy Town Express

Author:  Barbara Early
Series:  A Vintage Toyshop Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date:  October 10, 2017

Description:  Liz McCall has come to love running her father’s vintage toyshop back home in East Aurora, NY, so when the Train and Toy Show comes to town, she’s all aboard for a fun toy-filled weekend. The only hitch is that her childhood bully Craig McFadden, now local business rival, has set up a booth next to hers. But the fun and games are over when Craig falls from the ceiling in a publicity stunt gone wrong.

What was initially thought to be a fatal accident proves much more sinister. Pulled into the case by her feelings for both Ken, the police chief, and Jack, her high school sweetheart whose brother is one the prime suspects, Liz dives headfirst into the investigation. But as she digs deeper, she’s shocked to learn her father may have been the intended target.

The trouble train is barreling down and Liz may have just bought herself a first class ticket in Murder on the Toy Town Express, Barbara Early’s delightful second installment in her Vintage Toyshop mysteries.

My Review

This is the second installment in this series, but the first book I have read.  I was a fan of this author's previous series written under the name Beverly Allen, so I when I was offered the opportunity to read and review an ARC of this book I didn't hesitate.

I very much enjoyed this book.  The setting of a vintage toy shop was unique and I found myself smiling with the nostalgia of the old toys and games mentioned in the book. Liz and her dad are fun characters and I liked that this was sort of a father/daughter crime solving duo.  Liz comes across the page as very real and authentic.  Her dad and his puns made me smile as well.  He was also a very well written character and the father/daughter bond felt very genuine.

The mystery, in my opinion, was well-plotted.   The author did a great job of presenting the reader with plenty of suspects, all with plausible motives, as well as throwing in great twists and turns.  There were some red herrings, which I have to say fooled me, and so I was concentrating on other characters who I thought might be the killer.  As a result, when the identity of the killer was revealed I was really surprised.  I would not have guess this one at all.  I love when an author is able to surprise me with someone who flew under the radar.  I will say, without giving anything away, that I think readers will probably be surprised at how this one ends.

All in all, I thought this was a charming story, filled with great characters, a well crafted mystery and plenty of nostalgia that had me revisiting some childhood memories.

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy provided to me by the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, through Netgalley.