Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Assaulted Caramel

Author:  Amanda Flower
Series:  Amish Candy Shop Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  August 29, 2017

Description:  Bailey King is living the sweet life as assistant chocolatier at world-famous JP Chocolates in New York City. But just when Bailey’s up for a life-changing promotion, her grandmother calls with news that her grandfather’s heart condition has worsened. Bailey rushes to Harvest, Ohio, where her grandparents still run Swissmen Sweets, the Amish candy shop where she was first introduced to delicious fudge, truffles, and other assorted delights.

She finds her grandfather is doing better than she feared. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for a local Englisch developer, whom Bailey finds dead in the candy shop kitchen—with Jebediah King’s chocolate knife buried in his chest. Now the police are sweet on her grandfather as the prime suspect. Despite the sincere efforts of a yummy deputy with chocolate-brown eyes, Bailey takes it on herself to clear Jebediah. But as a cunning killer tries to fudge the truth, Bailey may be headed straight into a whole batch of trouble.

My Review

I am a huge fan of this author so anything new either in an existing series or the start of a new one I will automatically read.    This was a one day read for me as I couldn't put the book down.  I was so engaged I just kept turning pages to learn who killed Tyson and why.  Ms. Flower has an incredible writing style that transports her readers to whatever the story take them.  She fills her stories with charming locations and amazing characters.  This was an fantastic start to a new series.

I loved the characters in this book.  It is a great mix of English and Amish that is really reflective of the community in Holmes County.  I think readers are going to enjoy Bailey King.  She has all the elements I look for in a cozy mystery protagonist.  She is smart, caring, loyal, genuine and a bit flawed.  Ms. Flower has written a three dimensional characters who is well rounded and authentic.  The secondary characters are terrific as well.  I loved Bailey's grandparents and her best friend Cass.  There is even a potential love interest that should play out in future books.  I will advise you to keep some tissues close toward the end of the book because if you are like me, you're going to need them.

The mystery was what we have come to expect from this author.  It is a well crafted, layered mystery that unfolds throughout the story.  The victim, was not well like because of his business dealings with the Amish so this provides us with plenty of suspects to choose from.  Throw in the clues, twists and turns that this author weaves through the story and the reader will be engaged and turning pages until a very climatic resolution.  

As I said at the beginning, I am a big fan of this author's work.  I know that when I pick up on of her books I will be entertained by an engaging mystery, quaint locations and characters that are authentic and genuine.  I am eagerly looking forward for more to come in this series.

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

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Macrame Murder

Author:  Mollie Cox Bryan
Series:  A Cora Crafts Mystery #3
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Kensington
Publication Date:  August 29, 2017

Description:  As the head of a bustling crafting retreat, Cora Chevalier could use a break of her own. So she and her creative cohorts temporarily swap small-town Indigo Gap for the Sea Glass Island Craft Retreat, where they teach classes and create beachy crafts like shell mosaics and sea glass chimes. Cora and her boyfriend Adrian are enchanted by their surroundings—especially the stunning wedding and blissful newlyweds they encounter on the beach. But awe becomes shock when the bride turns up dead the next day.
The woman’s death appears to be the result of a severe jellyfish sting. But when it’s revealed that she was murdered and Adria
n becomes a suspect, Cora must hitch the real culprit to the crime—and fast. Because it just might take everything she has to crack a case more twisted than her most complex macramĂ© knot!

My Review

The third installment of the Cora Crafts Mystery series is another quick, fun and entertaining read.  I have been a fan of the series since the first book and personally think it just keeps getting better.

Cora and Jane just can't seem to keep themselves out of trouble.  I really enjoyed the change of scenery in this story. This time around, Cora, Jane and Ruby travel to Florida where they are all teaching a class at the Sea Glass Island Craft Retreat.  Adrian and Cashel accompany the ladies and it seems that even thought they left Indigo Gap they still find themselves in the midst of murder.  

I like the characters of Cora and Jane.  The author has written them both as full well rounded and developed characters.  Their friendship feels genuine and I like the way their personalities complement each other nicely, providing a good balance.  I also like how Adrian and Cora's romance is progressing.  In this story, Cora and Jane try to prove that Adrian did not commit a murder.  As they try to prove his innocence, Cora learns more about Adrian and helps her solidify her feelings for him.  There is a great cast of secondary characters made of up crafters attending the retreat and the owner of the retreat.  All in all, I think this author has done a wonderful job of writing these characters allowing the reader to watch them grow and develop.

I thought the mystery was well written.  Because the murder happens on a small island where the crafting retreat is being held, there are plenty of suspects to choose from.  I really liked the twists and turns that author wove throughout the story.  I was surprised by a few of them and really didn't see them coming.  I thought the mystery itself was wrapped up nicely with a very satisfying ending.

I think this is a terrific series full of fun, quirky characters and well crafted mysteries.  The charming setting, whether it is Indigo Gap or Sea Shell Island, add another layer of dimension to the stories that keep me, as a reader, engaged and returning to the series to see what author has in store for us in the future.

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

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Bookman Dead Style

Author:  Paige Shelton
Series:  A Dangerous Type Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley
Publication Date:  February 7, 2017

Description:  It’s January, and the Star City Film Festival has taken the Utah ski resort town by storm. Movie stars are everywhere, carving fresh powder on the slopes and crossing the thresholds of Bygone Alley’s charming boutique shops—including The Rescued Word, where Clare Henry and her grandfather restore old typewriters and beloved books. When cinema’s hottest superhero, Matt Bane, enters their store to buy some personalized notecards, it’s hard not to be starstruck.
But when Clare sees the police leading Matt out of The Fountain hotel in handcuffs only a few hours later, she can’t believe her eyes. The affable actor is accused of killing his sister, but Clare’s convinced he’s wrong for that role. Now it’s open call for suspects as Clare tries to reel in the killer before another victim fades to black.

My Review

This is the second installment in the Dangerous Type Mystery series.  I have to say, I love the titles even though I don't always understand the reference.  This series is set in the quaint, picturesque town of Star City Utah where things aren't always as they seen.  In fact, Clare is caught up in the middle of another murder investigation.

One of the things that draws me to a Paige Shelton series are the characters.  This series is no exception.  Clare is a terrific character.  She is a well developed, three dimensional layered character.  There is a great secondary cast of characters, which is led by Clare's grandfather Chester and her best friend Jodie, who are also well developed and defined characters.  I enjoy the dynamic of the friendship between Clare and Jodie.  There is always bit of a tension resulting from Clare's sleuthing and the fact that Jodie is a police officer.  There are times Jodie wants Clare to leave things to the police, but people are drawn to Clare and as a result she is able to discover things the police can't or haven't.  I think Clare's relationship with Seth is progressing nicely and moving along at a realistic pace.  I enjoy how Seth helps Clare out on occasion but knows when to steer her toward Jodie.

I thought the mystery was well plotted and unfolded nicely throughout the story.  There is the main mystery involving the murder of a movie star's sister, but there are a few smaller mysteries woven into the story as well.  There are plenty of plot twists that will keep the reader turning pages and guessing until the end.  At least it did for this reader.  I was not able to determine the culprit or the motive, and both were a surprise to me when revealed.

This series is quickly becoming one of my new favorite cozy mystery series.  Not only is it set in a picturesque town, it is filled with interesting characters who feel authentic to the reader.  Add in Clare and Chester's store The Rescued Word which provides an intriguing background bridging modern technology with the history of the written word through books, typewriters and typeset.  If you haven't given this series a try, I would recommend it.  

Saturday, August 12, 2017

All Signs Point to Murder

Author:  Connie di Marco (a/w/a Connie Archer)
Series:  A Zodiac Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Midnight Ink
Publication Date:  August 5, 2017

Description:  Julia Bonatti is alarmed by the astrological signs looming over Geneva Leary’s wedding day, but nobody asked Julia’s opinion and being a bridesmaid means supporting the bride no matter what. Even with the foreboding Moon-Mars-Pluto lineup in the heavens, no one’s prepared for the catastrophes that strike: a no-show sister, a passed-out wedding planner, and a lethal shooting in the dead of night.

With anger and grief threatening to tear the Leary family part, Julia is determined to understand how such a terrible tragedy could occur. As she digs deeper into the family’s secrets, her astrological insights will lead her to the truth about a criminal enterprise that stretches far beyond the California coast.

My Review
I requested an advance copy of this book from Netgalley with a bit of trepidation.  I am a fan of this author's writing as Connie Archer, but I found the first book in this series too overwhelming with its focus on astrology.  Because I liked the uniqueness of the main characters profession and I very much enjoy this author's other work, I decided to give the second book a try.

I have to say, I enjoyed the second book much more than the first.  I thought this time around the author did a better job balancing the inclusion of astrology with the overall mystery and story line.  I like that Julia's profession is unique to the cozy mystery genre and it is interesting to me how she can use astrology charts to really discover things about people. Julia herself is a character that has a lot of potential.  I would love to see more development in the next few books.  The author has made a good start but I think that there room for growth both personally and professionally.  The secondary cast of characters are interesting.  I like Gloria, Julia's grandmother.  I am hoping we get to see more of her in future books.

I thought the mystery in this installment was much stronger than the first book.  The murder victim was the sister of one of Julia's good friends and so armed with some astrological information, she attempts to help her friend discover why her sister was killed.  Given how and when the murder occurred, there are not a lot of suspects.  However, the author does a good job of making a plausible case for each of them as the killer.  I had my suspicions of who committed the crime and it turned out I was correct for a change.  However, I did not guess the full motive for the crime.    The story had a good, steady pace and the mystery unfolded over the course of the entire story.  It have a very climatic reveal and what I thought was a bit of a cryptic ending.

I think this series has good promise as long as the author continues to balance the mysteries and characters with the astrology.  If you are not familiar with astrology, it can be a bit overwhelming when the author focuses on Julia reading someones chart.   I think there is plenty of room for the characters to grow and develop and I think the author could take Julia's amateur sleuthing capabilities in a couple of different directions.

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

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Cat About Town

Author:  Cate Conte (a/w/a Liz Mugavero)
Series:  A Cat Cafe Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Minotaur Books
Published:  August 1, 2017

Description:  Maddie James has arrived in Daybreak Island, just off the coast of Massachusetts, eager to settle down and start her own business—and maybe even fall in love. When a stray orange tabby pounces into her life, she’s inspired to open a cat cafĂ©. But little does Maddie know that she’s in for something a lot more catastrophic when her new furry companion finds the dead body of the town bully. Now all eyes are on Maddie: Who is this crazy cat-whisperer lady who’s come to town? If pet-hair-maintenance and crime-fighting weren’t keeping her busy enough, Maddie now has not one but two eligible bachelors who think she’s the cat’s pajamas . . . and will do anything to win her heart. But how can she even think about happily-ever-after while a killer remains on the loose—and on her path?

My Review

I had been seeing some early reviews for this book and so I decided to give it a try.  I'm glad I took a chance on both a new author and a new series.  I am new to this author, not having read anything under her other pen name Liz Mugavero.  I was delightfully entertained by this book.

For me, this did not read like a first in a new series.  Right from the start I felt like the characters were well-rounded, dimensional and nicely developed.  I instantly liked and connected with Maddie James.  There was none of that awkward getting to know you, first date feeling.  I found Maddie to me warm, fun, loyal and loving.  She is someone we would all like to know.  I also really liked her Grandpa.  Although he lost his wife and is grieving, his life continues and he is not going to just stop living.  The rest of the secondary characters contribute to the story nicely giving us a good picture of the diverse community that lives in this New England town.

I also thought the mystery was really well done.  The victim turns out to be not so well liked by the community because of his personality and the way he is trying to go about changing the community.  As a result, this allows the author to provide the reader with plenty of suspects to choose from with plausible and believable motives.  The mystery is woven nicely throughout the story and I thought there were enough twists and turns that unfolded to keep me guessing as to the killer's identity until the climatic reveal at the end.

Overall, I thought this was a well-plotted cozy mystery with a charming setting and inviting characters.  It did not read as a first in a series as the writing and pace kept me engaged and turning pages until the very end.  I think the author also did a terrific job of using this book to set up the Cat Cafe theme for future books.  I was delightfully entertained by Maddie, her Grandpa and JJ, and will be back to see what this author has in story for this series.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced reader copy provided to me by Minotaur Books, the publisher, through Netgalley.