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.