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.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Twelve Slays of Christmas

Author:  Jacqueline Frost
Series:  A Christmas Tree Farm Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date:  October 10, 2017

Description:  When Holly White’s fiancé cancels their Christmas Eve wedding with less than two weeks to go, Holly heads home with a broken heart. Lucky for her, home in historic Mistletoe, Maine is magical during Christmastime—exactly what the doctor prescribed. Except her plan to drown her troubles in peppermints and snickerdoodles is upended when local grouch and president of the Mistletoe Historical Society Margaret Fenwick is bludgeoned and left in the sleigh display at Reindeer Games, Holly’s family tree farm.

When the murder weapon is revealed as one of the wooden stakes used to identify trees on the farm, Sheriff Evan Grey turns to Holly’s father, Bud, and the Reindeer Games staff. And it doesn’t help that Bud and the reindeer keeper were each seen arguing with Margaret just before her death. But Holly knows her father, and is determined to exonerate him.The jingle bells are ringing, the clock is ticking, and if Holly doesn't watch out, she'll end up on Santa's naughty list in Twelve Slays of Christmas, Jacqueline Frost’s jolly series debut.

My Review

This is the debut book for the Christmas Tree Farm Mystery series.  I was drawn to this book by the beautiful cover , the Christmas theme, and let's be honest who wouldn't be curious about a holiday themed cozy written by Jacqueline Frost.  I'm glad that I was provided an ARC by the publisher because this was a delightful, whimsical debut of what promises to be a terrific series. 

The characters in this book are well written for a debut book. The author has crafted authentic, whimsical, fun, dimensional characters that will draw readers in and keep them coming back for more.  I really liked Holly White, the main character. She has returned home to recover from a broken heart but she is strong, independent and begins to rebuild her life.  She is loyal to her family and determined to find out who killed one of the townspeople on her parent's tree farm.  The Christmas theme really added to the whimsical, magical holiday feeling that this author created.  Add in a touch of romance for Holly and I think this author has created a cast of characters that reader will really enjoy to and want to read more about.

I thought the mystery was well done.  The victim had been getting into disagreements with many of the townspeople so there were plenty of suspects to choose from.  The author did a terrific job of weaving the clues throughout the story and throwing in plenty of twists and turns.  The author revealed the killer's identity in a very climatic fashion.  As you may have already guessed, I didn't figure out the identity of our culprit until the portion of the book where the author began the veal.  The light bulb went off and it just came to me (which probably won't happen again for another year.)

I think this was a very well done debut cozy mystery for Jacqueline Frost.  It has everything that I look for in a cozy mystery - terrific characters, quaint/charming setting, and a well crafted mystery that kept me guessing.  Throw in the Christmas theme and I couldn't have been more delighted or entertained as I read this book.  I am excited about this series as well as to see where this author takes the characters and the readers.

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