Saturday, June 30, 2018

Till Death Do Us Tart

Author:  Ellie Alexander
Series:  A Bakeshop Mystery #8
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  St. Martin's Press
Publication Date:  June 26, 2018

Description:  Jules Capshaw has too much on her plate—and she’s feeling the pinch: the whole town of Ashland, Oregon, is in on the surprise Elizabethan-themed wedding she’s planning for her mom and soon-to-be stepdad. But is her secret scheme half-baked? She’s hiding racks overflowing with sweet treats while Torte is topsy-turvy with a major remodel and the return of Jules’s estranged husband, Carlos. And until now, Jules had no clue about the bitter family feud that has her friend Lance frazzled and suspicious. But when a party crasher takes someone out with a serving of poisoned wine and Jules discovers the deadly cup was intended for her, it’s time to turn the tables on a killer.

My Review

This is such a delightful series and I love catching up with Juliet Capshaw, the crew at Torte and the rest of the residents of Ashland Oregon.  Ms. Alexander has done a terrific job creating a cast of characters that are so genuine and real that the jump off the pages of each story.  One of the aspects of this series that I have always enjoyed is the mother daughter relationship between Juliet and her mom.  In this installment we get to see that on display as Juliet throws her mom and the Professor a surprise Midsummer's Night Themed wedding.  Ms. Alexander has also done a really good job at writing these characters in a way that allows them to continue to grow.  This is especially trust with Juliet and her relationship with her husband Carlos.  While the author does leave us with a bit of wait to see what Juliet decides, I think we as readers and Juliet as a character are close to seeing a resolution.

I have always said that this is really a character driven cozy mystery series.  With some of the books the mystery tends to take a backseat to the relationship issue of the characters.  That's okay, because these are such great characters that, I, as a reader don't mind.  There are two inter-related mysteries in this particular installment that are well done and woven through most of the books.  There are some unexpected twists in terms of how the two mysteries intersect and I found the resolution to be satisfactory. 

All in all, this is a fun series, with a charming setting and delightful characters that draw the reader in and keep them returning  for each new book.

I voluntarily read an advanced reader copy provided to me by the publisher, St. Martin's, through Netgalley.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Claws of Death

Author:  Linda Reilly
Series:  A Cat Lady Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Lyrical Underground
Publication Date:  June 26, 2018

Description:  Whisker Jog, New Hampshire, is a long way from Hollywood, but it’s the place legendary actress Deanna Daltry wants to call home. Taking up residence in a stone mansion off Cemetery Hill, the retired, yet still glamorous, septuagenarian has adopted two kittens from Lara Caphart’s High Cliff Shelter for Cats. With help from her Aunt Fran, Lara makes sure the kitties settle in safely with their new celebrity mom. 
But not everyone in town is a fan of the fading star. Deanna was in Whisker Jog when she was younger, earning a reputation for pussyfooting around, and someone is using that knowledge against her. After being frightened by some nasty pranks, Deanna finds herself the prime murder suspect when the body of a local teacher is found on her property. Now, it’s up to Lara, Aunt Fran, and the blue-eyed Ragdoll mystery cat Lara recently encountered to collar a killer before another victim is pounced upon.

My Review

It's time to return to Whisker Jog, New Hampshire to visit with Lara Caphart, Aunt Fran and he cats of the High Cliff Shelter.  I enjoyed the first book in this series so I was looking forward to seeing what the author had in store next for these characters.  I was not disappointed.

I find Lara to be one of those protagonists that come across the page as warm and genuine.  I like the way the relationship with her Aunt Fran is written.  Both women have a wonderful affection for each other and as a reader is it evident in the writing.  Lara's best friend Sherry and her mother also add to the dynamic as part of the secondary cast of characters.  There is even a budding romance for Lara but it feels like it is progressing at a natural pace and doesn't detract from the story.  The story of how the cats are adopted from the shelter is a nice addition and I even found myself getting a bit chocked up when one found his/her forever home.

The mystery involves a murder in the present with the motive buried in the past.  Deana Daltry is the hometown girl turned Hollywood celebrity.  When she returns home not everyone is happy to see her and it drudges up the past.  This allows the author to provide a number of clues for Lara to search out and verify.  It also allows for a number of viable suspects to choose from.  The author does a nice job of having the mystery unfold throughout the course of the book and there are a nice bit of clues designed to mislead tossed in as well.  Needless to say I fell for the clues that were there to mislead.  I didn't not suspect the identity of the culprit until the reveal and thought it was done with a nice bit of suspense.

I enjoyed this story and was entertained by the characters and the setting.  I will definitely return to Whisker Jog to follow this series.

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

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Murder Made to Order

Author:  Lena Gregory
Series:  All-Day Breakfast Cafe Mystery #2
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Lyrical Underground
Expected Publication Date:  June 19, 2018

Description:  New York native Gia Morelli is just getting used to life in Florida when she gets word that the town government wants to shut down her pride and joy: the charming little diner known as the All-Day Breakfast Café. A forgotten zoning regulation means that the café was opened illegally, and hardboiled council president Marcia Steers refuses to budge. Gia is considering hanging up her apron and going back to New York, but before she gives up on her dream, she discovers something shocking in the local swamp: Marcia Steers, dead in the water. There’s a secret buried in the books at town hall, and someone killed to keep it hidden. To save her café and bring a killer to justice, Gia and her friends will have to figure out a killer’s recipe for murder.

My Review

I really enjoyed the first book in this series so I was happy when I was offered the opportunity to read and review this second book in the series.  I thought Ms. Gregory did such a good job of creating a realistic, relatable character in Gia Morelli and they surrounding her with a terrific supporting cast that I was eager to dive into this book to see what was happening in Boggy Creek Florida.

Gia is still trying to get used to living in Florida while dealing with a bit of homesickness for New York and doubts about whether she made the right decision in moving.  Those doubts are magnified when she discovers that she may lose her cafe because it is not zoned properly.  On top of that, she once again finds a dead body and is in the middle of another murder investigations.

I enjoy Gia's character.  In the second book, I think the author does a good job of balancing additional growth in her character with a bit of unresolved doubt about whether she made the right choice.  Her best friend Savannah is a good complement to Gia in terms of personality and temperament.  The relationship feels genuine and I like how Savannah will tell Gia to pull up her big girl panties while making the decision whether or not to stay in Florida.  It is the type of conversation one can only have with their best friend.  Hunt and Leo also make return appearances and there is progress in their relationships with Gia and Savannah respectively.

The mystery combines a murder from the past and how it plays a role in the body that Gia finds on the hiking trail. The reader also gets more of the backstory on the murder of Savannah's mom.  At the heart of both mysteries is the zoning of the building that houses the All Day Cafe.  There are plenty of twists, turns and clues woven throughout the story along with other natural disasters as well.  I really had no idea who was behind the present day murder let alone the death of Savannah's mom.

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

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Death of a Dead Man

Author:  Karin Kaufman
Series:  A Juniper Grove Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publication Date:  June 17, 2017
Source:  Amazon Kindle Unlimited

Description:  In the small town of Juniper Grove, newcomer Rachel Stowe has finally found the good friends and quiet life she always craved. So when a stranger arrives in town and stirs painful memories of a baffling episode in the town’s past, Rachel vows to put an end to his mischief.

But events take a nasty turn when Rachel discovers a body in her own backyard and suspicion for the murder falls on her widowed neighbor. Despite being warned off the case by the town’s handsome but aloof police chief, Rachel makes it her mission to clear her neighbor’s name and find the real killer. Can she crack the case before another body turns up?

My Review

This book has shown up as recommendations from friends as well as in my recommendations from Amazon several times in the past couple of months so after taking a break from some ARC reviews I decided to give this book a try.
This is a light, quick cozy mystery read.  It is shorter in length (at 197 pages) than most of the cozy mysteries that I read. That is always a concern for me when I look at the page length of a book.  Unless it's a novella that is part of an established series, many times I find that the author doesn't have enough time to properly develop the story, characters and mystery.  That was not the case here.  I didn't find that the shortened page length impacted the author's ability to develop the characters and lay out a well crafted mystery.
I thought Rachel was a personable character and I could relate to her both on an age level and where she was in her personal/professional life.  She is not a reckless or thoughtless sleuth and only becomes involved once the dead body of her neighbors recently declared dead husband is found in her backyard.  Rachel is coupled with a cast of diverse secondary characters including her two friends that round out the cast nicely.

I though the mystery was well done and carried throughout the entire story line.  The plot has a good pace that kept me turning pages.  There were also plenty of clues with some twists and turns thrown in the mix to keep the reader guessing.  I had some suspicions about who I thought might be the culprit but did not guess the motive or the correct person.  

This is was fun, quick read with a personable protagonist, a well rounded cast of secondary characters and a mystery that kept me guessing.  I will be adding this series to my to be read list and will be returning to Jupiter Grove to read the other books in the series.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Peppermint Mocha Murder

Author:  Pam Moll
Series:  A Molly Brewster Mystery #1
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publication Date:  April 14, 2018
Source:  Amazon Kindle Unlimited

Description:  Molly Brewster’s new café bookshop is the go-to spot for strong coffee, flaky pastries, and juicy gossip. But everything changes when the tide washes a dead body up on shore… practically on the shop’s doorstep. As a newcomer to the tight knit South Florida village, the local sheriff pegs Molly as the prime suspect.

Determined to track down the real killer to clear her name, Molly enlists the help of her loyal chocolate lab, her cantankerous Granny Dee, and the handsome Officer Lucky. With Holly Fest just days away, she must rely on her wits and her fiery spirit to crack the case. Molly’s holiday season is about to go from hectic to downright dangerous…
Peppermint Mocha Murder is the lighthearted first book in the Holidays Are Murder series, a set of cozy mysteries. If you like mouthwatering recipes, charming island villages, and twists you won’t see coming, then you’ll love Pam Moll’s delectable whodunnit.

My Review

Lately I have been reading a lot of advanced reader copies of new releases.  Don't get me wrong, I love being an ARC reader and helping authors promote their books and series.  However, it started to feel like the books were running my reading schedule and not me.  So, I decided to take a break and read a cozy mystery that was just for me.  
I had seen a couple of reviews for this book on Goodreads and when I read the blurb and saw that it was part of my Kindle Unlimited subscription I decided to take a chance on this new to me author and the book.
This is the first book in Ms. Moll's new series featuring Molly Brewster, the owner of Addicted to the Bean, a new cafe bookshop in southern Florida.  Molly has recently started her business with an inheritance left to her by her grandfather.  Right from the start of the book I found her to be a likable character who was warm and genuine.  She is surrounded by a cast of diverse secondary characters comprised of her employees, her grandmother - Granny Dee, and Officer Lucky with whom she has a budding romance.  Molly unwittingly becomes a suspect in a murder investigation after finding the body of one of the townspeople on the beach.  As a result, Mo feels she must clear her name before the police arrest her for a murder she didn't commit.  I thought Molly was a good amateur sleuth but a bit impetuous which got her into some trouble she didn't necessarily need to find herself in.  

The mystery was good and woven throughout the story.  The victim was not well liked in the town so the author provide the reader with plenty of suspects all of whom had a good motive to commit murder.  There were enough clues peppered throughout the story to keep the reader guessing as to the identity of the culprit.  I will say that I was surprised by the culprit but it made sense and fit within the overall story and plot.

I enjoyed this author and the story and will check back in for the next book in the series.