Sorry….

..for the review dump today, I realized this morning that I’ve been way too lazy keeping this updated. Within the last week, I managed to bring myself to only 3 books behind schedule in my Goodreads 2021 reading challenge, and I’m happy about that (at one point I was 9 books behind. Yeesh.). And I’ve finally filled one row on my r/CozyMystery book bingo and overall I’m doing well on completing it on schedule.

This Gideon Oliver series definitely put a fire under me, they’re such great books and I realized it gives me an Alex Delaware kind of vibe and that series is one of my all time favorites. If you like anthropology/archeology, definitely give them a try.

Tall Tails Secret Book Club (Secret Library #1)

Tall Tails Secret Book Club
(Secret Library #1)
by CeeCee James

Rating: 4 out of 5.
55746513. sx318

I don’t know where I first heard about this book, but it had all the things that light my fire. An old crumbling mansion, secret passageways and a secret garden, and a cat. What more could you want? Plus it was 99 cents on Amazon, great book for a great price!

And overall I did enjoy it, but I have to say this one is more cozy than mystery. It wasn’t until halfway through the book that I realized that the murder I was expecting already happened earlier in the book but it was just casually mentioned, barely 3 or four sentences marked that it happened. So I spent most of the book wondering where this was all going and it wasn’t until 2/3 through that it all started to come together. Once the pieces started falling into place, the pace picked up and then it was a roller coaster ride to the ending.

I’ll give this one four stars, despite being a little flummoxed until it all started to come together., but the end made up for it. So I would say if you enjoy character driven stories, this might be for you.

Edit: I spent a little time thinking about the book last night after writing this review and came to the realization that I didn’t give enough credit to the author for how neatly and subtly the mystery evolved as the book went on. I realized I never did notice when the mystery part of the plot started to “grow” until that last third of the book when all the clues became clearer. So, kudos to the author who managed to keep a well crafted mystery galloping along, weaving it neatly into the MC’s narrative as she starts her job.

Published December 27th 2020

Tequila Mockingbird (Australian Amateur Sleuth #7)

Tequila Mockingbird
(Australian Amateur Sleuth #7)
by Morgana Best

Rating: 5 out of 5.
55031853. sy475

Another day, another murder at Cressida’s boardinghouse, only this time the poor victim was the 5th Earl of Mockingbird, Peregrine, who showed up with his entourage of female assistants and his driver. He’s an unlikable sort of guy and it’s not long before he’s done in with a methanol laced shot of tequila. Mr. Buttons, who is immediately under suspicion as he had an acrimonious relationship with Peregrine, is nonplussed and mortified to be taken in several times for questioning. Cressida pulls Sibyl in to help investigate, complete with humorous capers and sleuth out the killer before the suspects can flee back to England.

I always love when I get to travel back to Little Tatterford and that dreary boardinghouse with death scene paintings on the walls. This is such a great series that really should get more attention than it does. It has everything; great plots, laugh out loud moments, characters who are delightfully offbeat and a cursing cockatoo, always entertaining and I look forward to each new book. This one had a couple of good red herrings, ones that I was leaning towards being completely unrelated to the plot but couldn’t figure out why they were there unless they were related? I love when a book makes me question my thought processes while peppering me with things that make me laugh; Cressida’s newest painting, Lord Farringdon’s tantrum, it’s hard not to giggle when reading these books. I also love the ideas Cressida comes up to snoop around. Drop bears, anyone? But the plot itself was quite good; with no information to go on other than the earl’s catty entourage, I had fewer ideas on the suspects than Sibyl, Cressida and Mr. Buttons did.

Published: September 21st 2020 by Best Cosy Books

Make No Bones (Gideon Oliver #7)

Make No Bones
(Gideon Oliver #7)
by Aaron Elkins

22062467

I finished around 3/4 of this book this afternoon, once it got going I couldn’t put it down.

I’ve been steadily reading my way through this series and although a bit formulaic, each plot is always a fresh idea and so full of twists that I’ve long since given up trying to solve before Gideon does. And although I had a few ideas who was behind the crimes, so I did love the long windup to the payoff. But what I liked best was that Gideon was matching wits with a killer just as knowledgeable about bones as he was.

And as I already said, I seem to forget that these books were written back in the late 80s/early 90s (well, the early books of the series I’m reading now, anyway) when cell phones, DNA testing and the internet was in its infancy, used by very few if used at all. Being a Gen X’er, I remember that period of time when “going online” wasn’t even close to what it was today (Anyone remember Compuserve? We had that and a 300 baud modem, go look that up, you’ll see what I mean) and that makes me really respect the challenges that anthropologists, pathologists, law enforcement and forensic technicians had back then and yet still solve murders and although this is a work of fiction, the author has obviously done his research thoroughly on all aspects of the subject.

I enjoyed this one thoroughly and although some of the books in the series have been hit or miss, this one was definitely a hit.

Published December 1st 1991 by Mysterious Press

The Armstrong Assignment(Janet Markham Bennett Cozy Thriller #1)

The Armstrong Assignment
(Janet Markham Bennett Cozy Thriller #1)
by Diana Xarissa

Rating: 4 out of 5.
56364188. sy475

I was a big fan of the Markham Sisters series (and bummed when it was over) and I was looking forward to this new series with Janet Markham and new husband Edward Bennett. I miss the quick, easy non-murder reads of the Markham Sisters series, but I did like how the author evolved it into this new series. It’s more cozy than thriller, but definitely more action than in the original series and I enjoyed seeing Janet get involved with the job Edward was on (and his reluctant participation didn’t make a lot of sense, but then again, how else would the plot be set up? Not going to quibble about it) and how she “got the job done” was exciting and a lot of fun. I’m definitely looking forward to more of Janet and Edward’s adventures!

Published March 19, 2021

Icy Clutches (Gideon Oliver #6)

Icy Clutches
(Gideon Oliver #6)
by Aaron Elkins

Rating: 4 out of 5.
22062468

You know what keeps this series from getting too repetitive? It’s the plots and their surprising twists and turns that thwart you from guessing what happens next.

Although this one got off to a slow start, thanks to the annoying tv host/author and his group of whiners, but picked up once the murder happened. As always, I love the anthropological parts of the story and I always like seeing John Lau show up. And I did like the plot, both the avalanche investigation and the murder investigation. The only thing I don’t care for is how Gideon always gets himself into a situation where he’s attacked (why are there so many people attacking anthropologists?) which gets old and really, doesn’t add much to the story for me. I guess I’m in it for the solution and the action is just superfluous in my mind. But overall, I did enjoy (most of) the story and as always, the conclusion was a surprise that left me reeling.

Published September 28th 1990 by Mysterious Press

Curses! (Gideon Oliver #5)

Curses!
(Gideon Oliver #5)
by Aaron Elkins

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
22174273

Gideon, struggling with writing a boring manuscript and with the cold, gray, rainy Washington weather, gets an offer he can’t refuse: a return to a disastrous Mayan dig that was scrapped years before after a scandal left an important priceless artifact missing. Invited by old friend and mentor Abe to investigate a skeleton found at the now re-opened dig, Gideon and Julie pack up and head for the Yucatán. Upon arrival, Gideon finds many of the same people from the first dig, as well as a host of new problems; an unauthorized excavation occurring surreptitiously at night where the artifact had gone missing years before, a recently translated curse that a New Age couple are convinced will come true, strange happenings, attacks and then a murder. Can Gideon unravel all the secrets before the curse comes true?

I enjoyed this one, what’s not to love about Mayan ruins, archaeology, the lush rain forest, and an ancient curse? Made for an exciting read, with lots of twists and turns that kept me guessing. I would’ve loved to have seen the the sound and light show at Chichen Itza (as a gen X’er, I remember the Choose Your Own Adventure book I read 30 years ago and it brought back sooooo many memories) and you know, now that I think about it, the amazing descriptions of the locale is what helps bring these stories alive. As for the plot – dizzying. The pace never lagged, with something new popping up with every page and it really kept me guessing. In the end, the impossible to guess ending made for a satisfying read. I think this series is really hitting its stride and I look forward to the next Gideon adventure.

Published 1989 by Mysterious Press

Murder in the Queen’s Armes (Gideon Oliver #3)

Murder in the Queen’s Armes
(Gideon Oliver #3)
by Aaron Elkins

Rating: 4 out of 5.
22209505

I’m not really sure how to rate this one. On one hand it was compelling, exciting, picturesque, and not your ordinary mystery. On the other hand it was a bit convoluted, long winded and…well, a bit weird.

Gideon and new wife Julie are in England on their honeymoon (why they went to England in the winter, I can’t guess. Well, apparently to tour Thomas Hardy’s old stomping ground but…?) Anyway, While they’re in Dorchester, Gideon goes to a museum to see a anthropologically exciting skull fragment, only to find it’s been stolen. Next, Gideon and Julie head to Dorset to check into their hotel. Gideon plans to check in on an old friend’s archaeological dig and finds the dig in a shambles and old friend Nate on the verge of being discredited by the archaeological groups in charge of the site. Much shenanigans ensue, Gideon is drawn in and in the end two people are dead and Gideon sleuths out the killer.

At the heart of the book, I really enjoyed the mystery and the picturesque scenery. I was able to figure out a lot of it as it happened (sorry, Gid!) but not the who, and it seems to me the story could’ve been wrapped up a lot faster without a lot of the extraneous information woven in, like the newspaper editor (none of that was relevant to the story really, and if it was a red herring, not a very good one.) but overall it was an interesting read. I liked it, but I didn’t love it, so 3 1/2 stars.

Published 1985 by Walker and Company New York

The Dark Place (Gideon Oliver #2)

The Dark Place
(Gideon Oliver #2)
by Aaron Elkins

Rating: 5 out of 5.
76567

After the disappointment that was the first book in the series, it sure did come roaring back. This is the Gideon Oliver I love.

While on an anthropology dig in Washington State, Gideon gets called away to another scene of an ancient Native American burial ground containing several bodies buried in native baskets – and several far more recent bones. Gideon is called in to match them to several hikers that went missing in the same area in recent years. After matching the remains to the missing hikers, another hiker, a young woman goes missing and is later found dead and Gideon comes to an impossibly improbable solution that spans centuries.

I love anthropology/archaeology and this series gives me my fill. There’s no way anyone could possibly have solved this unless they’re psychic, so like everyone else I was along for the ride. And what a ride it was! I was glad to see the Bigfoot angle get so little page time, although it did add a touch of humor. And I loved getting to see how Gideon and Julie met and fell in love. Along with the beautiful Pacific Northwest scenery, John Lau’s child-like giggle, and Gideon’s fallible hero complex, it really gave me more dimension into who he is as a character and to have it all wrapped in a stunning story made for a great read. Onto the next!

Published: January 1st 1983 by Walker & Company

Fellowship of Fear(Gideon Oliver #1)

Fellowship of Fear
(Gideon Oliver #1)
by Aaron Elkins

Rating: 1 out of 5.
21948697

DNF’ed this at 52%. I’m just not interested enough to finish it.

This one read more like a Da Vinci Code sort of espionage thriller, rather than a mystery. And while it wasn’t a bad book, it’s just not the sort of thing I enjoy reading. The book kicks off with Gideon “The Skeleton Detective” Oliver heading to Heidelberg, Germany to teach seminars at US/NATO bases in Europe. The first chapter was a nice “introduction” so to speak where Gideon meets his co-workers and learns that 2 previous people who held his Fellowship died or mysteriously disappeared. After that, the rest of the book (that I read) turned into a random spy thriller and Gideon gets attacked every couple of pages. There’s no information or asides to tell you why this is happening and in the end, I didn’t really care.

I did like “meeting” John Lau, as he was in the later book I read, Old Bones, and I like the guy, childish giggles notwithstanding and I enjoy the dynamic between Gideon and John Lau. “You don’t have to call me Doc, my name is Gideon” “Ok, Gid!” “Ugh, why not just stick with Doc”. Made me laugh, it seemed like such an organic exchange between 2 acquaintances.

I’ve read later books in the series and enjoyed them, and I’ve already started the second book in the series that’s more of a mystery, so I’m just going to ignore that this book ever happened. So, if you like Da Vinci Code type thrillers, spy thrillers or action movies, you might get more out of this than I did.

Published January 1st 1982 by Walker & Company

Murder by the Bookend (Antique Bookshop #2)

Murder by the Bookend
(Antique Bookshop Mystery #2)
by Laura Gail Black

Rating: 4 out of 5.
56690288. sy475

I received this from the Crooked Lane Books on Netgalley awhile ago but it got buried on my Kindle thanks to all the Book Bingo books I added a few months ago. I’m sorry I waited so long to finish it, it was a great book!

The second book in the Antique Bookshop series has Jenna presiding over the grand re-opening of the antique/used bookstore she inherited from her uncle. All seems to go well until one guest – Linus Talbot, an antique book expert – has several run-ins with other guests. As the evening draws to a close, Jenna finds Linus dead in his car in the parking lot, murdered with his antique bookends and the only witness is his dog, Eddy. With several suspects and almost no clues, can Jenna find the murderer?

I enjoyed the first book in this series and came to really like Jenna, Mason and Rita and Keith and the juicy plot in this one (gasp THE DRAMA! clutches pearls) as it wound its way among the suspects and unraveled all the clues – which were right there all along but in the end the culprit was still surprising. Just as in the first book, I suspected and then discarded a suspect or two, only to be surprised at the end. sigh Fooled me again!

Another great entry into what’s shaping up to be a really great series and I’m looking forward to the next book.


Expected publication: September 7th 2021 by Crooked Lane Books

A Midlife CatAstrophe MenoPaws Mysteries #1

A Midlife CatAstrophe
(MenoPaws Mysteries #1)
by Morgana Best

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.
55845014. sy475

I am a big fan of the author’s Australian Amateur Sleuth series so I was excited to pick up this book. As I am just starting menopause, I figured I’d be able to relate to the main character.

Recently divorced Nell, inspired by a fortuneteller’s reading, buys a bookstore a state away from where she lives in Australia. After driving to her new bookstore and parking in the parking lot, she is accosted by a man who was later found dead in her book store. And as if being under suspicion for the murder isn’t bad enough, menopausal Nell thinks she’s going crazy when the bookstore’s cat starts talking to her. Magical hijinks ensue but tracking down the killer comes down to Nell’s sleuthing skills. But can she catch a killer as easily as beating a hot flash?

This wasn’t a very complex plot and I figured it out pretty quickly, but I loved “meeting” the colorful townsfolk and Nell is the kind of friend I would love to have. This is definitely shaping up into a series I will enjoy, and if you like a little paranormal mystery, definitely give this one a try.

Published March 23rd 2021 by Best Cosy Books

Any Given Sundae (Australian Amateur Sleuth #5)

Any Given Sundae
(Australian Amateur Sleuth #5)
by Morgana Best

Rating: 4 out of 5.
53343202

When quantum physics professor Roland is found dead in Sibyl’s house next to a half-eaten sundae, the detectives pin Sibyl as the prime suspect when evidence is found that implicates her! Along with Mr. Buttons, starts , Sibyl starts investigating to solve the murder and to find out who tried to frame her..

I love this series, always a light read and full of lively characters (Mr Buttons is in fine form in this one!) and great plots. As always, there’s some real laugh-out-loud moments, and as always, it’s usually Mr. Buttons, by far my most favorite character in this series (the false eyelashes had me rolling, as did the dinner Cressida and Sibyl “cooked”.) The ending was soooo satisfying and Mr. Buttons finally got his greatest wish! (heh heh)

Another great read in this series and another spot filled on my r/CozyMystery Book Bingo card.

Questions and Quarrels (Isle of Man Ghostly Cozy #17)

Questions and Quarrels
(Isle of Man Ghostly Cozy #17)
by Diana Xarissa

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
55936578. sy475

I liked this one but for some reason, it didn’t hold my attention as much as the other ones did. Whether that’s due to my crumbling attention span (always a strong possiblity) or this book, I couldn’t tell you.

It had a great plot; a building Fenella inherited from Mona (who received it as a gift from Max) has been empty and seemingly forgotten ever since the candle company that used it closed down. While taking a look inside with her advocate Doncan, Fenella finds a mummified body in one of the offices. Is that why Max told Mona never to sell or rent it? Daniel is called in to help investigate while Fenella helps out behind the scenes.

I usually barrel through these books in an evening but this one just felt unfocused and I had a hard time keeping myself reading it. Maybe it needed some small side mystery to fill in the plot? Perhaps but I’m not an author, so I would’t know. But it felt like this just rambled along until the whole thing could be solved. Additionally, I have several unanswered questions about the plot in this one and maybe that’s why it took me longer than usual to finish it. I can’t really get into my questions without putting in spoilers, but I have to say the actions of a couple of the suspects were peculiar and I can’t figure out why they were doing (or trying to do) the things they did. And I’m also wondering, do cats usually get 3 meals a day? I haven’t had a cat in years but when I did, I just put fresh kibble in their dishes before I went to work.

Anyway, I did enjoy the book, and I did love the plot (and I always like hearing more about Mona and Max) but not as much as previous books. Still, can’t wait for the next one when they go to Buffalo!

Published February 19th 2021 by Amazon Digital Services

May Day (Murder-by-Month Mystery #1)

May Day
(Murder-by-Month Mystery #1)
by Jess Lourey

Rating: 5 out of 5.
508919

I read this several years ago but apparently didn’t write a review. In fact, it’s been so long since I read it that it felt like I was reading it again for the first time but with full knowledge of the characters and their stories. Made for an interesting read! I suggested this for the r/CozyMystery May book club read after I decided to re-read the series before I get into the final book (I’ve been putting it off because I’m not ready to say goodbye to Battle Lake and Mira. *sob*)

I love Mira. I would want her to be my BFF if we lived in the same universe. She’s equal parts awkward, hilariously dark humored and a bit of an overthinker. Basically, she’s me as a fictional character. And I think that’s why I love this series so much, it’s not often I find someone who comes up with worse jokes in bad situations than I do. And now that I think about it, it’s all of the characters in this and all the books in the series that kept me coming back with each book. I know how the characters evolve as the series goes on, so it was a real treat to go back to where it started.

As for the plot, who killed archaeologist (and one time football star) Jeff and why? I loved the plot with all its twists and turns and Mira’s fumbling attempts to investigate made it all the more realistic. I loved all of the funny moments along the way, from that party (had me laughing out loud!) to breaking into places to trying to spy on someone’s conversation through a window, it was both comical and also…I mean, who wouldn’t think along the lines that Mira did? Who wouldn’t dress in black from head to toe to break into a house or sneak into a party? I probably would’ve done all of the things Mira did, which made it feel more authentic to me. And that creeptacular ending! Have to say, if you saw that coming, my hat is off to you. This was my second time reading it and I didn’t even remember that ending.

Overall, this was a deftly plotted and well written debut in this series and one I definitely recommend.

Published March 8th 2006 by Midnight Ink

Inspector Chopra and the Million-Dollar Motor Car

Inspector Chopra and the Million-Dollar Motor Car
(Baby Ganesh Agency Investigation #3.5)
by Vaseem Khan

Rating: 4 out of 5.

36497696. sy475 I needed an Indian author for one of the r/CozyMystery Book Bingo squares and someone suggested this one. It’s novella length, so I was able to read it in an hour or so, but for such a short book, it packed an entertaining plot. Set in Mumbai, India, Chopra is a police inspector who had to retire due to a heart issue but is unwilling to give up the job he loved, he opened a detective agency that runs out of the restaurant he owns. One morning he is visited by a car dealership employee asking Chopra to investigate the theft of a $4 million dollar Mercedes that the dealership procured and customized as a birthday present for the son of a local gangster . If the car isn’t found in time to be presented to the gangster’s son, there will be trouble.

Despite being just over a hundred pages, this was well plotted and entertaining and it was easy to fall into the book. Chopra is a pragmatic sort of investigator and I loved that he has a baby elephant as a sidekick (that car wash had me giggling!) As other reviewers have said, it wasn’t difficult to figure out how the car was stolen, but the culprit turned out to be a surprise. While it was a bare-bones investigation, it was interesting to see how Chopra tracked down every clue and I loved “seeing” the sights and sounds of Mumbai.

Published February 1st 2018 by Mulholland Books

Derailed Plot: A Travel Tragedy Mystery #1

Derailed Plot: A Travel Tragedy Mystery
by Summer Campbell

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
57230223. sy475

I picked this one up for the r/CozyMystery Discord book club read for April. And, as a chronic procrastinator, I waited until the last days of April to read and review it. That’s how I roll.

In a nutshell, Astrid runs off from the home she shares with her doctor husband after catching him in bed with one of her colleagues. She joins up with her friend Sam, a photographer who is working on a coffee table book of hidden tourist gems in Europe and the last chapter involves taking a week long Orient Express style train trip along the coast of Spain. The morning after boarding, Astrid and her friends discover a murdered man, become suspects and must work fast to find a murderer.

While there were a few things I had issues with (which I’ll get to next) overall I thought this was a cute and charming book. I liked Astrid and Sam, I thought they were likable and if the series goes further, I’d be interested in seeing them progress and have more dimension to them. I loved the location porn, from the small Spanish town of San Sebastian to the views from the train as it wound its way across Spain and Portugal. Enviable, where can I sign up?

But there were issues that I chalk up to a writer with a lot of good ideas, but without a lot of writing experience. And that’s fine, everyone has to start somewhere. The main issues I had is that the MC, Astrid, didn’t sound like a woman who has experience as a jet setting career woman, she sounded much younger, like early 20s younger. Astrid is also from England and yet the tone of the book sounded very American. And that’s fine, because I’d be more annoyed if the tone stayed the same and the author just sprinkled a few Britishisms like “Quite right!” or “I’ll just have a spot of tea” as if mentioning tea is enough to make a book sound more British. I’m not sure about where the author is from (not that it matters) but if she is English, I’d expect it to sound more English-y (Yes, I said English-y, you know what I mean) The plot was also simple and formulaic, and I think if some things were researched a bit further and the book edited to tighten up the plot, this would be a 5 star book. An example, after they found the body of the victim, the train’s security chief told Astrid and her friends to “go back to one suite until they could be questioned” and although I’m not in law enforcement or the legal profession, my thought is that if they were, in fact, legitimate suspects, they wouldn’t be left unaccompanied to wander back to their suite and hang around cooking up a story and hiding evidence. Then again, perhaps that was a clue? Hmmmm. Now I’m rethinking that assessment.

Overall, I’ll give this one 3 1/2 stars because I did enjoy it, at around 150 page, it was perfect for an evening read and despite the issues, I will probably pick up other books in the series, particularly if the writing and the characters progress.

Published February 28th 2021

The Cyanide Ghost

The Cyanide Ghost (Mina Scarletti #6)
by Linda Stratmann

Rating: 5 out of 5.
56591126. sy475

I absolutely love this series. In fact, I love it so much that it’s an automatic 4 stars, but this one I’ll give 5. I’ve been reading this series right along and this one ranks up there as the most satisfyingly and compelling of them all thus far.

So much to love about this one; Mr. Beckler is still around and this time he’s attempting to produce spirit photographs and is successful when he captures one during a portrait session for a young woman from a wealthy family. Mina’s suspicions are aroused further when it’s revealed that Mr. Beckler has been taking photos of the gravesites of prominent people in the community, showing the ghostly occupant clearly standing next to their grave. Despite her reluctance to encounter the creepy Mr. Beckler and the brash Arthur Wallace Hope (who we’ve met in previous books and has vowed to silence her skepticism) Mina mounts a covert investigation to learn the truth.

I’ve always been fascinated by the subject of ghosts and Spiritualism and the obviously well researched story line kept me glued to the book, watching Mina wade through the mire until she finds the truth. I loved all of the twists and turns in this one, and really enjoyed watching Mina (with brother Richard’s help) re-enact some situations that occurred and how she uncovered the truth. The comeuppance received by one character very worthy of a comeuppance was so gratifying that I nearly clapped, made for such a gratifying ending that left me wanting more.

Another fantastic entry in the Mina Scarletti series and one I definitely recommend for people who enjoy solidly written historical fiction and ghost stories.

Thank you very much to Netgalley and Sapere Books for the advance copy to read and review.

Published February 23rd 2021 by Sapere Books

Into the Sweet Hereafter

Into the Sweet Hereafter
(Vintage Sweets Mysteries #3)
by Kaye George

Rating: 4 out of 5.
54140278. sy475

It wasn’t until I started reading this that I realized this was book 3 and I haven’t read the other 2 books. So I would say it would’ve helped a bit to read the earlier books, but only to help understand and “know” the characters, but it didn’t hinder being able to follow along with the events in this book.

But all that aside, this was an enjoyable and light cozy mystery. I enjoyed the plot; smuggling and burglary isn’t one I usually see in a cozy, so it was a nice change and added lots of intrigue. The change in viewpoints wasn’t confusing at all, I didn’t find it difficult to switch between Tally and Yo, as it was very well delinated and the “tone” did change well enough that you could tell them apart.

What I liked best is you knew the who but not the how, so it was great fun following Yolanda and Tilly as they followed the clues and the ending made for a satisfying read.

I’ll go back and read the first two books at some point, and I’m looking forward to spending more time in Fredricksburg, TX with the gang.

Thank you to Netgalley, Lyrical Press and Kensington Books for an advance copy to read and review.

Published March 9th 2021 by Lyrical Press

Carbs & Cadavers

Carbs & Cadavers (A Supper Club Mystery #1)
by Ellery Adams

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I completely forgot I didn’t finish this. I put it away one night before bed just before the end (didn’t want to miss the good stuff) and then forgot to finish it. Never fear, it’s done!

I loved this book! I loved that the main character is a man, and not only that, a very human and realistic man. I don’t see that often in cozy mysteries, so I liked the change of pace. It’s not hard to like and empathize with James, trying to grieve for his mother and help his elderly father while starting a new job at the library. I also loved how he was drawn in to the Flab Five supper club and the other four members are likeable and easy to relate to. I liked (and related to) Lucy the most because I also have a weakness for frosting. In fact, I have a can of frosting in my kitchen right now for the spice cake I’m making for Easter dinner tomorrow and it’s taking all of my willpower not to crack it open and feast. Should’ve bought 2, I guess. Enough with my Roomba of Thought (as an ADHD’er I don’t get the luxury of a train of thought, I’ve only got a chaotic and wandering Roomba of Thought) anyway, back to the review:

As for the plot, it was a cracker. On the day of the biggest high school football game, Brinkley causes a scene at the diner and is found dead the next day at the bakery. Lucy, who has been trying to work her way into being a police officer, has been shut out from the Old Boys Network working the case. Together with the rest of the Flab Five, they start investigating over diet friendly supper club meals. With no shortage of suspects who would be happy to see Brinkley dead, the story winds its way through the clues and leads before finally leading them to the culprit. I admit, it came as a surprise, and it was only at the end that the motive became clear. And that’s why I think I enjoyed the book as much as I did, this wasn’t one of my usual cozy mysteries where I pick out who did it pretty early on. I admit, I had no inkling.

Overall, an excellent mystery and I look forward to diving into the other books as soon as I clear my Currently Reading list.

Published February 19th 2018 by Beyond the Page

Murder at Wedgefield Manor (Jane Wunderly #2)

Murder at Wedgefield Manor (A Jane Wunderly Mystery #2)
by Erica Ruth Neubauer

Rating: 5 out of 5.
55074090. sy475

I requested this book from Kensington on Netgalley because it sounded like it was right up my historical cozy mystery loving alley. I love books set in the 1920s and this one sounded like it was right out of a Christie novel. After a couple of chapters, I realized this was the second book in the series, so I went back and read the first book before I read this one. And I’d have to say, it probably wasn’t necessary, there were very few mentions from the first book and none of them impacted this story but it was well worth the read. This series is definitely now very high up on my must-read list! The books are so easy to sink into, with great characters, a dash of romance and amazing twists to keep the plot moving quickly.

I enjoyed this one a lot, I’ve come to love the characters and look on them as friends. Jane is easy to relate to; equal parts strong, sassy and vulnerable, you just want to be her friend. The dashing and mysterious Redvers adds some spice and watching (well, reading) their chemistry and tenacious investigating makes it easy to “fall” into the story quickly. I also liked that it picked up from where the last book left off, with many of the same characters and giving us more of a look into who they are.

While I figured out “whodunit” pretty quickly (there weren’t many suspects, which made it pretty easy,) I enjoyed watching the story unfold and all the twists and turns. I could’ve done with a bit less of the rehashing that happened throughout the book, but I didn’t feel that it slowed the plot down any; the pace moved along steadily and it really didn’t take much to draw me in and keep me there. But the ending! Absolutely smashed it, loved the thrilling North by Northwest chase at the end and the last chapter left on an open note makes me salivate for book 3.

If you enjoy Agatha Christie, great characters, lovely scenery and riveting plots, this series has it all.

Published March 30th 2021 Kensington Books

Ink and Shadows (Secret, Book, & Scone Society #4)

Ink and Shadows (Secret, Book, & Scone Society #4)
by Ellery Adams

Rating: 5 out of 5.
53573868. sx318

This series has the power to stick with me for a long time after I finish the latest in the series and this book is definitely no exception. Equal parts heart wrenching, terrifying, heartwarming, and compelling, Ink and Shadows is the perfect read for Women’s History month. But you know what really wows me about this series? How gosh darn realistic and authentic is feels, none of the usual tropes or lazy writing. Just amazing characters, very well developed plots and the pure emotion that I feel reading through this makes each book so anticipated.

There was a lot going on in this one, which kept the pace moving quickly without sacrificing details. Celeste and her daughter are new in town and have just opened a gift shop, Soothe, near Nora’s bookstore, Miracle Books. But life is anything but soothing for the newcomers, who become the target of an overzealous church group, who brands Soothe, Miracle Books and other businesses as being “unchristian”. If that’s not enough, Bren is found dead near Nora’s house and not long after, Celeste herself becomes a murder victim. With two murders to investigate, lots of secrets and lies muddying the case, an unexpected friend of Nora’s past challenging her status quo and the agony of the impossibility of being in two places at once, this made for a taut thriller that kept me turning pages.

Published January 26th 2021 by Kensington Books

Murder in an Irish Village

Murder in an Irish Village
(Irish Village Mystery #1)
by Carlene O’Connor

Rating: 3 out of 5.
25810243

I read this one for the r/CozyMystery Discord book club read, and I thought it was just….okay. A lot of the book was laying out the backstory for the characters, which is appreciated but rather than being woven into the story, it was more or less all dumped in the first 10 chapters or so before getting into the mystery part of the plot. The downside is that the mystery part of the plot was overshadowed by the plethora of intimate details of the family, making this feel less like a mystery and more like just plain fiction. Other reviewers commented that they felt the pace was too slow in the book and I agree completely. I skipped several chapters here and there when the story wasn’t advancing and didn’t miss much.

Overall, not a bad read but not good enough to want to continue in the series.

Details in the Document(The Inn at Holiday Bay #14)

Details in the Document
(The Inn at Holiday Bay #14)
by Kathi Daley

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
55923204. sy475

I enjoyed this one, but it felt like a “springboard” basically just existing to introduce new plot points for future books. And as such, I feel a bit unfulfilled and as a whole, the story felt like it never really came together. The main plot about the inn’s guest who was acting strangely and later found shot on the beach after the storm and dying soon after was a good plot but I felt like it was shoved into the background, and other smaller/less important things were given more space instead, like the bones recovered from the plot of land Abby didn’t even know she owned – which also led to a lot of pages on expanding the inn. That stuff should be in the background, not eclipsing the main plot. I did like that Abby finally got resolution about the death of her husband and son.

I also questioned the hurricane as a plot device. The book is set in late spring (I’m guessing late April or early May) and there was a hurricane. Hurricane season is June 1st through November 1st, but really doesn’t get cranking until late summer/September. So how was there a hurricane racing up the coast before hurricane season even started? Hmm…looked it up, in the entire history of tracking storms, only 2 were before June 1st, one in 1887 and one in 1951, so I guess it’s possible but unlikely.

Did I love the book? Sure, I look forward to each one and devour it in one evening but I’d say it’s not one of my favorites and I’d probably skip it on a re-read.

Published March 9th 2021 by Kathi Daley Books

The Book of Candlelight (Secret, Book, & Scone Society, #3)

The Book of Candlelight (Secret, Book, & Scone Society, #3)
by Ellery Adams

Rating: 5 out of 5.
45454097. sy475

This is a series that continues to grow as it goes on. I don’t mean character or plot development (there’s plenty of that) what I mean is each book is more intricate and surprising than the last. I was just commenting on the r/CozyMystery reddit that I thought cozy mysteries were evolving to focus more on the “feeling” of a cozy and leaving out the “mystery” part of a cozy. That is, it seems like a lot of cozy mysteries are just chick lit with a predictable murder plot thrown in as an afterthought and to me, that’s not a true cozy mystery. While Chick Lit has its place, and I’m not knocking it, I read cozy mysteries for the mystery not so much the cozy

This is probably the only series to blow that assumption out of the water. True, there’s a lot of “chick lit-y” type stuff in these – women’s issues, the tight bond of close girl friends and the power and strength of women. But what this series gets right is the powerful plots that dominate the story, keeping the reader in the dark until the last page. While this doesn’t sound like something extraordinary, let me tell you, as someone who primarily reads cozy mysteries; it is extraordinary.

Take this book; Nora is at the flea market picking up new knickknacks to use in her book shop when she buys a bowl from a local Cherokee artisan potter named Danny. Nora is struck by the obvious love Danny and his wife share, as well as the beautiful work he creates. When Danny is found dead in an overflowing creek, Nora puts the Secret, Book and Scone Society on the case. So while putting her heart and soul into finding out who killed Danny, Nora also puts her energies into helping Danny’s grieving widow, who is pregnant with their child. Along the way, Nora puts her heart to work to help a man suffering from a long-term ailment who has come to Miracle Springs in the hopes of finding healing, plus consoling and empowering her friends who are dealing with their own crises.

While it sounds like there’s a lot going on, this book (and this series for that matter) does a great job of blending the lives and personalities of the women with a taut, intricate mystery and the beautiful pacing slowly winds you into the world of Miracle Springs until you find yourself unable to put it down. The end result is a wickedly complex and tangled web of a story that traps you in its pages.

Spoiler: Highlight the space below

The only knock I have against this book (well, it’s not much of one) is the plot of June’s son was never really resolved as to why exactly he targeted the others. I could understand why he targeted June because he was angry with her, but why target the others? How did he even know about them? Why would he think they needed to be targeted? Didn’t make any sense to me, I’d have appreciated more depth to that. Perhaps it’ll come up in future books, I don’t know. But I thought it was weird

Also, I’m 3 books into this series and it wasn’t until this one that I realized my “mental image” of Nora was wrong. I had her visualized as a small, skinny waif like woman with short dark hair, so I was shook when she “put her blond hair into French braids” like WHOA, seriously? So wrong.

Also, this series is available on Prime Reading so if you have Amazon Prime and a Kindle or a Kindle App, GO GET IT!

Published January 28th 2020 by Kensington Books

Intuitive Fasting

Intuitive Fasting: The Flexible Four-Week Intermittent Fasting Plan to
Recharge You Metabolism and Renew Your Health
by Will Cole,

56036319

I’m no stranger to fasting; I lost 50 lbs with fasting/keto but then 2020 happened and I fell off the wagon. Ugh. When I saw this on Netgalley, I requested it, as my goal for the new year is to get back on the weight loss train and I was interested in seeing if there was anything new I could add to my routine.

I’m not sure where the idea that fasting is bad for you came about, but it’s not true. When I started fasting, I had a lot of people spouting off untruths – everything from how fasting will “slow your metabolism” to “it’s not healthy” to the head scratching “you’ll become malnourished”. Seriously? None of those things are true.
And adding low-carb eating along with fasting cuts down on cravings, which means once you get past the first week or 2, you’ll find it easier and easier to do.

As far as all of the information in the book goes, I did learn a few new things that I intend to incorporate into my new program. Things like staying away from diet sodas (I’m not going to pretend I’ll give up my beloved Pepsi Free entirely, but I will reduce the amount I drink substantially) and also from dairy (As a cheese addict, this one will be tough. Goodbye Pepper Jack, I’ll miss you) so I’ve got some challenges in the weeks ahead as I adjust my eating plan.

If you are new to fasting (or are interested in learning more about it) then this is a great place to learn more. All the information is easy to understand and would be a great resource for people who want to begin fasting but don’t know where to start. Included in the program are recipes and sample plans for what the author calls “Ketotarian” – in other words a high fat/moderate protein/low carb diet that includes lean meats and vegetables, combined with a 4 week get started plan. The program is simple enough to do (although the first week may not be easy) and I recommend it for people to at least try.

Publication date: February 23rd 2021 

Murder at the Mena House (A Jane Wunderly Mystery #1)

Murder at the Mena House (A Jane Wunderly Mystery #1)
by Erica Ruth Neubauer

52053713. sy475

Set during the roaring ’20s, Mena House is a posh hotel overlooking the great pyramids in Egypt. Jane Wunderly and her sharp-tongued aunt, Millie, arrive for a vacation with plans to tour the pyramids, see all the tomb artifacts in the Cairo museum and just relax and enjoy the beautiful hotel. But when a young woman is found murdered and Jane finds herself under suspicion, she teams up with another guest, the mysterious (and sexy) Mr. Redvers to clear her name and find a killer.

I got a few chapters into the second book in this series before realizing there was a first book and decided it would be a good idea to start the series at the beginning. I really enjoyed this one, the author did a great job painting a vivid picture of Egypt during the heyday of Egyptology, and with loads of quirky, likeable characters, an intricate plot and even a bit of action, I couldn’t put it down – and all the descriptions of the hot, sunny weather kept my feet warm during this frigid February week! A great start to a series and now I can finally dive into the second book.

Published April 1st 2020 by Kensington Books 

The Night Hawks (Ruth Galloway #13)

The Night Hawks (Ruth Galloway #13) by Elly Griffiths
Rating: 5 Stars

51830272

I was lucky enough to get this on Netgalley (Thank you, Quercus!) and just finished it last night. This was a superbly written, edge of your seat suspenseful thriller, and the one thing I find most difficult about this series is closing the book when it’s done, knowing I’ll have to wait until next year to get the next book!

In The Night Hawks, Ruth and daughter Kate have returned to Norfolk from Cambridge. Now the head of the archaeology program after Phil retired, Ruth is settling in to her new position when Nelson calls her in to help on a new case; metal detectorists, looking for buried treasure, find a man’s body washed up on the beach. Soon after, a scientist and his wife are found dead in their home, a probable murder-suicide. As the case unfolds, secrets, lies and murder are slowly uncovered, throwing everyone involved into danger.

13 books into this series and it shows no sign of slowing down. As with all the other books, I expected sinister folklore, druids, auras, Nelson’s bad temper, a dizzyingly twisty plot and an explosive ending – and that’s exactly what I got! The legend of the Black Shuck (I think a version of it can be found on every continent, if not every country) made for a creepy element to the site of the murder-suicide and upped the eerie factor for sure. I also loved Cathbad and his unwavering dedication to the myths and legends and how he honors them (actually, I’m a huge Cathbad fan, so that probably goes without saying.)

As for the plot, the young man’s body washed up on the beach and the murder-suicide, that’s where the dizzyingly twisty comes in. Thinking back over the book and “watching” the whole story being pieced together scrap by scrap – wow! Lots of surprises, leading to many suspects and in the end, the whole mess wasn’t anything near what I sleuthed out. It all led up to an explosive, exciting ending and if you’ve been reading this series from the start like I have – get ready for a cliffhanger.

UK Publish Date: February 4th 2021 by Quercus
US Publish date: June 29th 2021 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Old Bones (Gideon Oliver #4)

Old Bones (Gideon Oliver #4) by Aaron Elkins

22009423

I picked this book for the Takes place in a non-English speaking country square in r/CozyMystery book bingo on Reddit and it was available at my library. When I read the blurb, it had all the things I like – history, World War II tales, forensic anthropology (I’m a sucker for old bones!) and after reading several good reviews and the “Look Inside” on Amazon (always my first stop when selecting a book) started off the book off with a bang. I was looking forward to diving into this and boy, am I glad I found it! This introduced me to a new series (well, they were written in the 80s, so new to me) to devour.

“Skeleton Doctor of America” Gideon Oliver is in France to teach classes at a law enforcement seminar. After a class, Joly, a French police detective, requests his help on his new case after some bones were discovered buried the cellar of a manoir. Like a dog, Gideon salivates at the mention of old bones and with his friend, FBI Agent John Lau, head off to take a look. At the manoir are assembled the family of the manoir’s owner, Guillaume du Rocher, who called them to a family meeting to discuss something important. Before the meeting could take place, Guillaume drowns, touching off an investigation that spans back to World War II.

This was a real mystery with so many questions: who was buried the basement? Who put it there? Was Guillaume murdered? If so, why? The buried bones touch off a mystery that begs to be solved, and Gideon and John find themselves in the middle of the investigation.

This reminds me of the old mysteries I’ve read – “old” meaning classic mysteries I’ve read that were written in the 20s, 30s, and 40s. In fact, it reminded me of books I’ve read by John Bude and Joann Cannan, always a plus in my book. The author did a great job so bringing the characters to life, fleshing out their personalities without bogging down the story with unnessesary detail, which helped the book maintain its quick pace. Main characters Gideon and John are a charming, likeable team, I liked them from the start. And the plot! So many twists and turns that I didn’t see coming, leading up to an explosive ending. I would love to go into detail about the details that fascinated me the most, but I don’t want to spoil anything so let me just say…whooo boy, this was one of the most intricate and unexpected plots I’ve ever read and I’m hooked!

Slow start to 2021

So, we’re over a week into the new year and I have yet to open a book. Why? Discovery+, that’s why.

I signed up for the 7 day free trial just to see what they’d have to offer and was blown away! All of the shows I started later in the series run and was never able o watch all the way through were there – Building Alaska, The Dead Files, Renovation Realities, the list goes on and on. So for $7 a month, I can binge my heart out. I’m so terrible but man it’s so worth it to see all of the shows I want to watch completely ad free.

But! I did make up the full list for my r/CozyMystery Book Bingo. It was tough to choose which book for some of the categories, but I think I managed to put together a great list!

Takes place in a non-English speaking country – Old Bones (Gideon Oliver, #4) By Aaron Elkins (France)

Setting Featuring Lakes, Rivers, or Streams – Berried Secrets (Cranberry Cove #1) by Peg Cochran (HARD MODE: The entire book takes place in this setting.)

Historical – Murder at Wedgefield Manor By Erica Ruth Neubauer, (HARD MODE: Not Regency)

Paranormal/supernatural/alternate reality – A Ghoul’s Guide to Love and Murder by Victoria Laurie (HARD MODE: No vampires or witches.)

No romantic subplot  – The Book of Candlelight (Secret, Book & Scone Society #3) by Ellery Adams (HARD MODE: Features Asexual and/or Aromantic character(s). It should be explicitly stated (either by the character themselves, another character, or the author) that a character isn’t interested in romance or sex.)

Agatha Christie – The Pale Horse (Ariadne Oliver #5) by Agatha Christie ( HARD MODE: Not Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, or Then There Were None.)

Book/series has been turned into movie or TV series or vice versa: – Garage Sale Stalker (Garage Sale Mysteries #1) By Suzi Weinert (HARD MODE: Not Agatha Christie or Murder She Wrote.)

Gay – Time Bomb (Alex Delaware #5) By Jonathan Kellerman (HARD MODE: Not a sassy gay friend.) (using my re-read card)

Plant in the title – Nightshade for Warning (Enchanted Garden #2) By Bailey Cattrell (Is Nightshade a flower? Does a flowering plant count as a flower or not? I have no idea)

Read with a book club, read along or buddy read: – Left Fur Dead by J.M. Griffin

Self Published – Malice in Miami (Jamie Quinn Mystery #6) by Barbara Venkataraman

Set in your home state/province/district/department/other principal administrative entity – The Body in the Beauty Parlor (A Jazzi Zanders Mystery #6) By Judi Lynn (HARD MODE: Same city where you currently reside or grew up in that is not a capital of the country or administrative unit.)

Published 2021 – Details in the Document (The Inn at Holiday Bay #14) by Kathi Daley

TBR >3 months Any Given Sundae by Morgana Best (HARD MODE: On your TBR for over a year.)

Book about Books – Ink and Shadows (Secret, Book and Scone Society #4) by Ellery Adams (HARD MODE: Does not feature a library (public, school, or private).)

Set in an abbey, monastery, or other religious house  – Novena for Murder: A Sister Mary Helen Mystery (Sister Mary Helen #1) by Carol Anne O’Marie HARD MODE: Not Cadfael.

Occupation of the protagonist is a career you would have liked to be a part of it – The Breaking Point (Body Farm #9) by Bill Bass (HARD MODE: Not one you can be a hobbyist in.)

Referral from a book blog, instabook, or booktube: Haven’t decided yet. Keep the reviews coming, I’m looking for a book to fill this one! 🙂 ( HARD MODE: Review referring review or submit annotated resource.)

Social Issues – Dog Eat Dog (Andy Carpenter #23) by David Rosenfelt (HARD MODE: Social issue is central to the plot.)

Indian Author – Any suggestions?

Features an Animal– Tequila Mockingbird (Australian Amateur Sleuth) by Morgana Best (HARD MODE: Not a cat or dog.) (Parrot)

Published before 2000 – Aunt Dimity’s Death by Nancy Atherton

Transportation in the title – Any recommendations?

Audio Book – I don’t usually listen to audio books. If I happen to listen to one, I’ll fill it in.

Features Politics  Any suggestions!

None of these are set in stone, just organizing ideas. If you have any suggestions, drop me a comment. And if you’d like to participate, click the link above and join us!