Checked Out for Murder (The Haunted Library Mysteries #4)

Checked Out for Murder (The Haunted Library Mysteries #4)  by Allison Brook

49960767. sy475 I just found this series a month or two ago and loved the first book, so I saw this up on Netgalley Read Now and grabbed it. There’s so much for cozy mystery fans to love about this series; quaint small town setting, a lovely community of people and great plots that keep you guessing.

There was a lot packed into this book; a woman, Daphne, comes to town claiming to be a psychic and requests a slot to do a program about psychic readings at the library. Carrie is happy to sign her up and finds herself enjoying the woman’s company and starts a friendship. At the same time, Carrie’s mother is coming to town with her actor husband, who will be filming a movie in Clover Ridge. Carrie is dreading the drama her mother brings as well as the hustle and bustle that a Hollywood movie filming will bring. The last thing on her mind is a murder, but when Daphne is found murdered and then the movie’s leading lady is also found dead, Carrie begins to connect the dots, past and present, to find a killer.

Like I said, a lot going on this book, which kept the plot moving very quickly. This was one of those books that made you think you knew whodunit, only to change your mind with each new chapter. I like seeing how Carrie has ‘grown up’ so much, from an angsty girl at the start of the first book to an engaging, professional woman in such a short time. The other characters are just as endearing, from Aunt Harriet and Uncle Bosco to Police Chief Mathers to Dylan, Carrie’s art theft investigator boyfriend. The dramatic ending was icing on the cake, and left me both satisfied and wanting more.

Atomic Habits

Atomic Habits by James Clear

40121378. sy475 I didn’t read every page of this book, but browsed through it enough to glean a lot of good information. Very organized and practical writing; it lays out all the information needed to make change in your life, and it doesn’t happen overnight. The two things I found most pertinent: your habits (good and bad) come about because of what you made into your identity and the key is not to set goals but to set systems in place to reach goals.

Using myself as an example: weight loss. I’ve been trying to undo 40 years of bad habits that led me to the weight I am now. At the ripe old age I am, this seemed at the start to be formidable. Why? Because after decades of bad eating habits, I’ve formed my identity: I like to eat bad things. Often. And although I keep setting goals, there’s always something that comes up that knocks me off track (I’m looking at you, Thanksgiving & Christmas) What this book taught me is to change my identity. No, not by jumping into the nearest phone booth and turning into SUPER HEALTHY MAN (or woman, you get the idea) but by changing my way of thinking. And this leads me to the second point: don’t set goals, set systems. In other words, form the steps needed to get to the outcome I want. So, in order to ensure the best outcome (I want to be a healthier weight) I have to set in place new habits that will change me from my identity of RABID CARB CONSUMER to my desired new identity of HEALTHIER PERSON (but still consumer of carbs, but in a less rabid manner)

I’m just beginning to implement what I’ve learned (and also applying it in different ways. I’m starting to think of things as “Later Me”. Will Later Me appreciate that I washed and put away all the dishes tonight? Yes. Will Later Me be annoyed that I left my pajamas in an inside-out heap on the floor or will Later Me be happy when it’s bedtime that I took a second to fold them neatly? You get the idea. Stupidly small changes add up and change who you are.

Murder Is for Keeps (Penny Brannigan #8)

Murder Is for Keeps (Penny Brannigan #8) by Elizabeth J. Duncan 

29939069Between 3 and 4 stars.  Read through this one quick as this series is always a good read a
nd gets me motivated to read more books.  I missed this one when it came out, and after reading the latest book in the series, I backtracked to this one.
The main plot, the death of John Hardwick, felt like it stewed in  the background until the AHA moment came.  I also liked the side plot of the 90 year old cold case of the skeleton unearthed on the property. And I enjoyed it but it seemed a bit…off.  Maybe because Garth is newly retired, so Penny wasn’t exactly in the thick of things. Maybe because the characters seem to be growing and progressing. But it all took a backseat to Penny’s cold dark heart and her seeming indifference to Gareth finally giving up on her and taking off to be with a woman he’d just met. While it could be perceived as making Penny a bit unlikable, I think it uncovers how little Penny has been fleshed out as a character. She has stagnated, but the other characters haven’t. Hmm.
And am I the only one who thinks of Mrs Lloyd as Hyacinth from Keeping Up Appearances? And Florence as Hyacinth’s neighbor Cynthia? Can never shake that image.
Anyway, an enjoyable book but one that highlighted the shortcomings of the series.  And frankly Gareth, I think you’re better off.

Marsupials and Murder (An Isle of Man Ghostly Cozy #13)

Marsupials and Murder (An Isle of Man Ghostly Cozy Book 13) by Diana Xarissa

48505446. sy475 Poor Fenella is feeling the burden of the millions of dollars she inherited resting on her shoulders. A year after she moved to the Isle of Man after her aunt died, charities on the island have begun their incessant requests for money. One such charity, run by Darrell Higgins monitors the local Wallaby population. Thinking Fenella will donate rather than volunteer, Higgins is surprised when Fenella signs up to take an hour on the next hunt.

The day of the hunt dawns cold and rainy and Fenella, along with police inspector Daniel, huddle in a wet field for their hour long shift before heading back to their car, but not before discovering Darrell dead, yeeted under a bush.

This was one of those books that had a boatload of suspects but it was apparent (to me anyway) who the culprit was, but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment one bit. Darrell’s ex-wives were a hoot, I’d love to spend an hour at the Tale & Tail listening to them. As always, the usual gang was there, Shelly immersed in writing her romance novel,  Mona the ghost, Katie the kitten’s antics and even the dogs make a quick appearance. Always a good time to catch up with all of them. I thought for sure that Fenella was finally going to move forward with her romance with Daniel but it’s becoming less of a tease and more of a chore with those two.

Overall, another enjoyable time on the Isle of Man and looking forward to the next book!

Remembering The Dead (Penny Brannington #10)

Remembering The Dead (Penny Brannington #10 by Ellizabeth J Duncan

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I’ve read this series since the beginning and I love how the world of Llanelen and the characters have grown and expanded as the series progressed. In this one, Penny is tasked with preparing an elegant old fashioned dinner party at the local estate, featuring a historic artifact – The Black Chair, an honorary award given to celebrated bards; this one was given to a poet who died in WWI and was posthumously awarded the chair. After being refurbished, it is set to become the feature attraction at a local museum, but not before being unveiled at the dinner party. The dinner party mostly goes off without a hitch until a waiter goes missing and is later found dead -and the chair is missing! Penny sets off to find out who killed the young man and to find the missing historic piece.

Penny is quite involved with this one, even to go so far as to take the ferry to Ireland to track down a suspect. She also has to deal with a caravan of gypsies who set up camp in a field next to her house, the re-appearance of Gareth, who is in town to settle some affairs, and several other small problems that crop up. I enjoyed watching Penny slowly untangle all the threads to expose a killer and a thief, and I love catching up with the villagers in the tiny Welsh town.

Always a good read, this is another excellent addition to the Penny Brannigan series.

Wishlist

Like a lot of ardent readers, I have a wishlist for books I wish I had.  But my list isn’t new books, or even upcoming books.  No, my list is for books and series that aren’t being published any more.

T508903hat Wishlist includes The Cat Who books by Lillian Jackson Braun.  I miss Koko and Qwill and Yum Yum and the tiny speck on the map 400 miles north of everywhere.  Lillian Jackson Braun died in 2011, the last book in the series was published in 2007 (although I refuse to acknowledge its existence.  It was either written by a ghostwriter or, if it was written by Braun herself, she was apparently not fit to do so. It was a terrible end to the series and not at all fitting with the rest of the books.  Ugh)   Although it probably wouldn’t have gone for much longer had Braun lived a few more years, I wish there was a better ending to it than what was published.

 

3649472. sy475 I just started re-reading another cozy series I enjoyed a few years ago, the Do-It-Yourself Mystery series by Jennie Bentley. Set in a small town in Maine, the first book follows Avery, a textile designer in New York City, who receives a letter from a great aunt she never remembered meeting. She travels to Maine to find out what her great aunt Inga needs to tell her, only to find out that Inga passed away a few days prior and left her home and all her possessions to Avery!   Upon returning to New York City, Avery catches her boyfriend cheating on her, quits her job and moves to Maine to fix up the Victorian home she inherited.  She hires a local handyman, Derek Ellis, to help fix up the house so she can sell it.  As Avery and Derek bring the old Victorian to life, they uncover a mysterious disappearance of a local history professor, several unsolved burglaries and even a new romance with the hunky handyman.  A charming and light series that I enjoyed but was unfortunately discontinued after the 7th book.  *sigh* I’d love to see the series revived, it was quirky, fun and enjoyable.  Bring back Avery!

512385But top of the list is is the Bewitching Mystery series by Madelyn Alt.  I loved this series with all my heart.  The first book, The Trouble With Magic follows Maggie O’Neill who literally tumbles into a gift shop one morning during a rainstorm and and is hired by the shopkeeper, Felicity, to help out at the shop.  As she settles into her new job, she learns that her new boss is an honest to goodness spell casting wand waving witch.  When Felicity’s sister is murdered and Felicity is the prime suspect, Maggie can’t help but be drawn into the mystery and feels compelled to ferret out the truth and save her boss from being arrested for a crime she didn’t commit.  This magical series wove a spell around me, and I consumed all 7 books in the matter of a week, then waited with baited breath for book 8…which never came. *sigh* The author seemingly dropped off the face of the earth.  I’ve heard rumors of an illness or unfortunate life events, but unless she comes back, Maggie and her friends will forever be in limbo.  *bigger sigh* 

So those are a few of the untended series on my wishlist.  Do you have your own wishlist? I’d love to hear about it!

Mums and Mayhem (A Magic Garden Mystery #3)

Mums and Mayhem (A Magic Garden Mystery #3)  by Amanda Flower

49504556. sx318 sy475 When I saw this as a Read Now on Netgalley, I eagerly snatched it up! In Mums and Mayhem, Fi has her hands full. Not only is she helping out with a homecoming concert put on by a superstar musician to the small village of Bellewick, but her parents are also in town to visit (and to guilt the girls into returning to run the family farm) and to cap it all off, someone killed the magic garden she’s been tasked with keeping!

I really enjoyed the main mystery, who killed superstar fiddler Barley. Plenty of people were angry with Barley but who was angry enough to kill him? Fingers were pointed all in all directions and even Fiona’s father is a suspect! In the end, the true killer was a surprise and the exciting ending made for a real page turner.

But it was the magic garden was what sucked me into this series from the beginning; I’ve been under the spell of magic gardens ever since I read The Secret Garden at the age of 9. It was with a sense of dread when Fiona discovered the garden dying. How could this happen? Who would do such a thing? It wasn’t hard to figure out, but the why was was a head scratcher and I wondered why Fiona hadn’t noticed the tell tale clue. The reasons for the vandalism were unnecessary. Although there was no legal recourse, I would’ve asked a few of the old salty dogs at the shipyard to handle the situation for me.

It was good to see Fiona and her parents settle a few issues and come to an understanding. But I have to say, Isla is an annoying woman who acts like a bratty 8 year old and the more annoying she gets, the more Fiona (and her parents) seem to shrug it off. I don’t get it. Go home, Isla. Marry a farmer. Go be a problem somewhere else.

Overall, a solid mystery and a very enjoyable read

Blizzard In The Bay (The Inn at Holiday Bay #8)

Blizzard In The Bay (The Inn at Holiday Bay #8) by Kathi Daley

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Another strong entry in a great series! The Inn at Holiday Bay is hosting a writers’ retreat and there’s a merry cast of aspiring authors, led by Dax Sherman. Abby has a strong attraction to him and is reluctant to see him again but sucks it up. But the mystery -ahhh, a juicy mystery! – during a break in a poker game, a man is found stabbed to death and none of the other people at the game saw it happen – or what anyone else was doing during the break. Dax was at the game and is one of the top suspects after it’s revealed that not only did he know the victm, he also had a motive to see him dead. There was a lot for Sheriff Colt Wilder to untangle and Abby is there to wade through the alibis to find the killer. Colt and Abby make a good team, and while I think it’s unlikely that a sheriff would be so forthcoming about the facts of an investigation, I’m willing to look past that. Abby is great at coming up with some pretty far fetched theories and surprisingly, is frequently correct.

This one was focused solely on the mystery and less about the other characters and their issues and I liked that. The last couple of books had a lot of relationship angst, but it served to move the characters forward and this book had some progress made in a few areas. I also liked the writers at the retreat, and I’d LOVE to read the time traveling nun story!

Overall, a great, entertaining read in a series I’d expect nothing less.

In Cold Chamomile (A Tea and Read Mystery #3)

In Cold Chamomile (A Tea and Read Mystery #3) by Joy Avon

45728301Haywood Hall is throwing a Valentine’s Day event with plant sales, dog adoptions, a concert and a chance to have books appraised by a TV expert! What starts out as a grand day devolves into one problem after another and then the worst problem of all, the TV expert is found dead, stabbed to death with a pair of scissors and the main suspect is Sean Strong, a world renowned baritone and a link to Iphy’s past. Iphy and Callie take charge to solve the murder, uncovering clues and putting the pieces together.

Overall, I enjoyed this one, the plot was a real page turner, with lots of suspects and some very surprising twists and turns. Even the ending was a shock I didn’t see coming!

I’m not sure if this will be the last book in the series or not (I sure hope not!) but there were a lot of endings in this story. If it does come back (I hope!) I can’t wait to see where it goes next!

Deadly Dram (Whisky Business #3)

Deadly Dram  (Whisky Business Mystery #3) by Melinda Mullet

37861675. sy475 I can’t believe this is the third book in this series already, seems like only yesterday Abi showed up to take over her uncle’s whisky distillery. In this book, Abi and the distillery gang heads to a whisky competition and on the first night, a competition judge turns up dead, poisoned. As Abi races to discover how is behind the poisoning, another judge is found dead, also by poisoning. As she closes in on the killer, her partner Grant is poisoned after borrowing Abi’s toothpaste and is hospitalized. There was no shortage of suspects in this one, most of whom had their own interrelated paths that wove a tangled web into the investigation. Bit by bit, Abi untangled the knots but not before two men died and her business partner (and romantic interest) nearly died. I liked the police inspector, Michaelson, had more background added, making him more a part of the story than in the other books. The addition of Breanna, Grant’s ex-girlfriend also added another layer and looks like she will be in further books.

The explosive ending was by far the best part. I had an inkling who the murderer was around halfway or two thirds through the book, and I wanted to smack Abi and tell her she was on the wrong track. Still, it was an exciting ending and a great cap to a great book.

I have one small complaint: No, you cannot go to the store and buy a bottle of vape juice and poison someone with it. Also, vape juice is not nicotine with flavoring added, there also PG (propylene glycol) and VG (vegetable glycerin) added. Nicotine is also already diluted when you buy it, usually with PG, but sometimes with VG and in varying concentrations. With all the hoopla in the news lately about how “vaping is killing people” it isn’t and considering how many people have stopped smoking cigarettes with vaping (I’m one of them) I hate to see misinformation being spread. It’s bad enough in the media, but I’ve read a couple of books with this as a plot device and it’s unacceptable.

Fatal Roots (County Cork #8)

45487517Fatal Roots (County Cork #8) by Sheila Connolly

Somewhere between 3 and 4 stars, but I’m not sure where. I’ve been reading (and enjoying) this series since the beginning and although I liked this book, I felt like it was confused as to what it was supposed to be. There wasn’t much of a mystery, so I’m going to say this is fiction with a hint of mystery and it seemed mostly to tie together a bunch of loose threads from the series so far and to connect Maura’s mom and her new family to the series? I don’t know.

The mystery (in a loose sense of the word) involved three college students who came to Leap to study Fairy Forts, small circular constructions that dot the landscape in the Cork part of Ireland. When one of them disappears, Maura and Mick go out to take a look around and find a body buried in one of the fairy forts, one that has been buried too long to be the missing college student. There’s not a lot of investigating but the truth is soon uncovered.

The only part of the story that I didn’t like was there was too much filler. Every new facet was repeated and rehashed over and over – punctuated by Maura explaining, over and over, to everyone in her vicinity that she didn’t have a computer, didn’t know how to use one and did she mention that her mother abandoned her and just came back into her life? If not, let’s let everyone know yet again. So I think this would’ve been better as a short story minus all the filler.

Overall, I enjoy visiting Leap and the gang down at Sullivan’s Pub but would’ve benefited from a stronger mystery and less filler.  It can be read as an entry into the series as any references to prior events are explained pretty well, but I recommend reading this series in order to experience the growth of the characters as the series progresses.

A Ghost’s Tale (Willow Valley Cozy Mysteries Book 2)

A Ghost's Tale (Willow Valley Cozy Mysteries Book 2)I love this fun, quirky series and I’ve been wanting a follow-up since I read The Ghost in Mr. Pepper’s Bed a few years ago. This one lived up to (and maybe even surpassed) the first in the series, it was that good! Quirky, well drawn characters, a quaint small town and a riviting plot made this one fantastic read!

I love Sonya, from her cute little house to her toodling around on her Vespa with dog Willard in the back and ghostly friend Fritz on the handlebars to her knack for solving crimes alongside her Sheriff friend Zeb and his crew. I love how well the ghosts are woven into the story. They tell their tales, but the actual crime solving comes down to good ol’ fashioned detective work. I love that so many cozy mystery tropes are absent (no “stay home, don’t investigate, it’s dangerous”! kind of stuff that are so disingenuous and patronizing in a story. None of that here!). and although the other characters don’t necessarily *believe* Sonya, they don’t ridicule her or get snide about it. It’s just accepted. I also loved that the dogs have their own communication network and they even got into doing some of the detecting! This series is so stinkin’ adorable in every way.

But the plot! Total page turner, with lots of twists and turns to keep you on your toes. There were several suspects and this was one of those books where each chapter has you suspecting someone else. It was all wrapped up in a satisfying conclusion and I admit, I got a bit misty reading the last chapter. Bittersweet, to be sure!

Overall, a great follow-up to an equally great debut and this series is at the top of my Can’t-Wait list.

The Inn at Holiday Bay series

Hello, all.  I know it’s been awhile since I’ve reviewed, but I’m not reading nearly as much as I used to.  But I have to say, The Inn and Holiday Bay series is slowly changing that.

The series follows Abby Sullivan, who suffers a heartbreaking loss and buys an old mansion in Holiday Bay, Maine to renovate and turn into a bed and breakfast.   After moving from San Francisco and setting up home in a small cottage on the property, she quickly gains a new friend in a contractor she hires to do the work.  As she settles in, she adopts a big Maine Coon cat named Rufus and meets a woman and a woman named Georgia recovering from her own heartbreak. As Abby and Georgia form a friendship, the mansion slowly takes shape and many secrets are uncovered.

I picked up the first book, The Bodies in the Basement, at the library and was hooked in only a few pages.  A young woman is found murdered and Abby discovers boxes in the basement with items belonging to the dead woman and several others. Together with police chief Colt Wilder, she helps to put the pieces together to catch a killer.  I loved everything about it; the plot was compelling and engrossing, a definite page turner.  I also love the atmosphere of the books, the small town feel, the festive themes of the town, and the warm (and often offbeat!) townspeople create a welcoming and inviting setting.  I also love that a rich history of the mansion’s life is woven into the series (I love old houses. Ever watched Restored on DIY Channel?  If not, you should, it’s a wonderful show.  I love seeing old houses restored!)  and the books always has several mini-mysteries along with the central plot.  I love when a book has more than one mystery and is handled so well, it’s not hard to follow and adds to the intrigue and this series handles it so well.

Each book covers a mystery in each room of the mansion and the progression from a moldy shell into a beautiful and functioning bed and breakfast.  From Letters in the Library to Answers in the Attic (absolutely loved that one!) to a Haunting in the Hallway (currently halfway through this one) this series is a delight!  Entertaining, exciting and inviting, it’s the perfect read cozied up in a blanket this winter.

Find out more about The Inn at Holiday Bay series on GoodReads

Dim Sum of All Fears

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Dim Sum of All Fears  (Noodle Shop Mystery #2) by Vivien Chen

This is such a great series! I love the setting, the characters and the plots. Lana is starting to grow up and is adulting hard in this one when she’s put in charge of Ho-Lee Noodles while her parents travel to China to visit relatives. Granted, she was a bit petulant but in the end, she managed to do a great job at the restaurant while tracking down the person responsible for murdering her friend. A great follow up to the debut, this is definitely a series to watch and I recommend it to all cozy lovers.

The Cat Who series

I know, I know, I haven’t been here in forever.  Life caught up with me.  But over the winter I was able to do quite a bit of walking, and on those walks I usually listened to The Cat Who series on audiobook, a really great companion to my walks.  George Guidell really captured Qwill and I loved his “Yoooowwwww!” Koko quotes.

But as I listened to the whole series all the way through, I realized that Qwill was really an asshole, especially to kids.  There were a couple of books that had kids in it and he was frequently  (at the very least) brusque and usually very rude to them.  Who does that? By the end of the series, I liked him less and less.

It also struck me how twisted the stories were.  There were quite a few books that I got to the end of and thought “wow, seriously?”  I’ve read the series several times and I don’t know why (maybe it was listening to it instead of reading it?) made me realize that Ol’ Lilian had a twisted streak in her.

Add to that that the last few books strayed significantly from the characters in the earlier books, culminating in a finale that left me disappointed, disillusioned and disheartened.

With that being said, I’ll probably listen to it again next winter.  😀

 

So, if anyone out there is still reading this blog, how ya’ll doin?

Unsavory Truth

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Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat
by Marion Nestle

I requested Unsavory Truth by Marion Nestle from Netgalley because I was interested in learning more about just how the unsuspecting and trusting public is being manipulated by companies. I’ve known for years how news articles about health have been manipulated, ever since an article I read years ago about how doctors who ate nuts were healthier than those who didn’t. The last paragraph in the article mentioned that the study was sponsored by The Nut Growers Association. Hmmm.

I had to read this book in fits and starts because it was rage inducing! The book was fascinating, unsurprising (because I’m a cynical grump) and infuriating! As I got into the book, the author discusses how the strawberry industry was actively seeking studies linking their product to good health and realized I had just seen a headline about how strawberries are good for digestive health. Ugh.

This book tackles the myths with the hard truth behind all the hyperbole and psuedo-science thrown at us every day in the news. From scientists’ bias, whether conscious or sub-conscious to active marketing of these biased findings to the public. So maddening! At this point, they could try to sell me a study about how the sky is blue and I still wouldn’t believe it.

This was an excellent read, and one I’ve already recommended to several people and will continue to do so. It’s an important tool against this bad “science” they’re peddling and will only be of benefit in the long run.

In Peppermint Peril

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In Peppermint Peril (Book Tea Shop #1) by Joy Avon

Callie has just returned home from traveling the world to the small town in Maine where she grew up. Staying with her great aunt Iphy and helping out at Iphy’s tea shop, Callie hosts a special tea party at Haywood Hall, a local manor owned by the elderly Dorothy Finster. But the party goes awry and a man is found dead, stabbed to death in the conservatory. Together with the delicious Deputy Falk, Callie begins to unlock the clues that lead to a killer.

Fall is in full effect, all the stores have their Christmas decorations out, so now was the time to skate into this wintery cozy. In Peppermint Peril is the first in a new series, and I loved this cute lil’ cozy, perfect to get you into a Christmas mood. A very nice, quick read, I sat down on a chilly afternoon and finished it that evening. I enjoyed the plot, a couple of mini-mysteries within the main plot, lots of clues and suspects that kept me guessing, while the warm community of characters made for a cheery setting (murder aside, that is!) I loved Daisy, Callie’s Boston Terrier sidekick, and there were some heartwarming moments that really bumped up the warmth of the season.

And that tea shop! Aunt Iphy bustling around baking up book themed goodies and serving up hot beverages! Heaven.  As I sat here huddled in my blanket, I longed for a cup of Snowy Chocolate and A Daily Surprise!

An excellent cozy to get you into the Christmas spirit, In Peppermint Peril is a great way to kick off the Christmas season…any time of year!

Kill It By Skillet

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Kill It By Skillet (A Kitchen Shop Mystery #1) by Mary Birdie

Belle Meyer, the proprietor of The Wild Goose culinary shop in Walnut Creek Square, knows she sells some great cookware but never thought it was killer cookware until one of her customers is found dead – smacked with a frying pan from her shop. Belle can’t help but do a bit of poking into the matter, much to the consternation of Detective Hawkes.

What a fun, charming little book! It puts the “cozy” in cozy mystery with a cute small town, an adorable cat, fun characters (many of which had food related names, which made me smile. Nathan Eclair!) and lots of food related quips sprinkled liberally throughout. I enjoyed the plot, there were a lot of suspects, some who seemed more likely than others. There were lots of twists to keep me guessing and the reveal at the end was a little surprising and very satisfying.

A very enjoyable book and I look forward to reading the next one in the series. I would’ve loved to see a few recipes at the end of the book, some of the demos Belle made in the shop sounded divine and I love a good baking project. And the measuring spoon necklace given to Belle by her boyfriend Kenneth made me realize this was something I never knew I needed in my life!

The Lacemaker’s Secret

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The Lacemaker’s Secret (Chloe Ellefson #9) by Kathleen Ernst

Curator Chloe heads to Green Bay to consult on the restoration of an old Belgian-American farmhouse. When she arrives, she can’t help but check out a historic summer kitchen – and discovers a dead body in the bake oven! Alongside the the bake oven mystery is the tale of Seraphine, a Belgian immigrant skilled in art of making lace. The hardships she faced forging a new life in Wisconsin in the mid 1800s provided a background for the events in the modern day mystery.

I can think of 2 authors off the top of my head who wreck me with their books and #1 is Kathleen Ernst. I just know this review won’t do the book justice, it’s so hard for me to detail why this book was so remarkable without giving away what makes it so remarkable! The author’s ability to weave an emotionally haunting old-world story with a gripping modern day mystery is hypnotic! Just like Memory of Muskets, it will stay with me for a long, long time. Seraphine’s strength in the face of such adversity and heartbreak was inspiring and the very detailed descriptions brings it all to life. It’s one thing to read about life in earlier times, but the events are narrated so vividly, it’s like being there.

There was a lot packed into this book without feeling burdensome or overwhelming, from Roelke’s struggles to Seraphine’s heartbreak to Chloe’s tenacious investigating, and the lessons are all the same; strength, faith, and family will help you through any hardship. There’s no better message for anyone to take away from this and I think it’s what sets this series apart from so many others; that it effortlessly entertains, thrills and inspires.

Oh dear, now I’m waxing poetic but really, this was an excellent 5 star read that kept me glued to the pages. Can’t wait for the next one!

In For the Kill

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In For the Kill (DI Fenchurch #4) by Ed James

It’s always a pleasure to sit down with an Ed James book, because I know it will be a deftly plotted, action packed thrill ride and In For the Kill lived up to the hype. Fenchurch has a lot on his plate at the moment, with dealing with the aftermath of finding Chloe, his long ago abducted daughter, his wife nearing the birth of their second child, and a the terrifying case of a college co-ed found murdered in her bed at the same university Chloe attends.

This was a great read, I loved the thrilling fast paced chase through London solving this complex crime. There were one or two points where the pace slowed a bit, but not by much and there was a lot of action to keep my pulse racing and the tense atmosphere kept me turning pages, impatient to see the next bombshell. Although I missed a few books in the series since I read the first book, I was able to get right back into it. Thanks to the great character development and the consistency of the writing, I remembered many of the principal characters, making me feel like I was catching up with people I hadn’t seen in a while. Fenchurch is developing as the sort of hangdog character you can’t help but root for; intense, persistent, stubborn, and fallible, there’s a little Fenchurch in everyone I think. I enjoy watching him methodically pick at the threads of the crime until it all unravels alongside coping with the struggles in his personal life.

Overall, a great read with a fascinating case full of twists and turns to keep me guessing. Definitely recommend for fans of dark and gritty police procedurals.

Mr. Scarletti’s Ghost

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Mr. Scarletti’s Ghost (Mina Scarletti #1) by Linda Stratmann

This one has been on my To-Read list for awhile and I absolutely loved this well crafted slice of life in the Victorian times and the fashionable rise of Spiritualism. When a new phenomenon in the form of a spiritual medium named Miss Eustace takes Brighton by storm, Mina becomes worried that her mother and her financially well off friends will become the victims of fraud, Mina sets out to investigate the woman, her intentions and her mysterious past.

Afflicted with scoliosis, Mina Scarletti isn’t expected to marry and have children, so she is free of many of the constraints and pressures that other Victorian women would face. She’s already a successful author of horror stories, and her skepticism of the Spiritualist sensation sweeping Brighton has her free to do a little investigating without arousing displeasure from her family or the townspeople. Practical, clever, sensible and creative, she’s fascinating and so gosh-darn likable. Along with her brother, Richard, friends Dr. Hamid and his family (Oh! Eliza’s storyline was so sad!) it made for a warm and inviting read.

I love the level of realism in this series, it reads like non-fiction. Beautifully researched and rich in detail, from the descriptions of the Brighton seafront to Miss Eustace’s demonstrations, it was brought to life handily and it was so easy to lose myself in the story. I also enjoyed that this was a clean no-murder mystery, just good old fashioned intrigue and deception. This is a a definitely a very highly recommended series for anyone who enjoys historical mysteries and a perfect pool read. Don’t miss this one!

 

Review: Dark Angel

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Dark Angel (DI Greco #4) by Helen H. Durrant

I couldn’t put this one down, I’m sorry it took me so long to start it! I’ve long been a fan of Helen H. Durrant’s Calladine and Bayless books, but this is my first DI Greco. I can safely say this can be read as a standalone or an entry into the series, I wasn’t lost at all, any prior references are explained enough that they’re not a distraction.

First off, I have to say that Durrant is skilled in drawing in a reader completely into the world she creates, making the book so much more than a gripping mystery (as if that wasn’t enough!), but also the frequently messy lives of the very compelling and realistic (if not flawed) characters. You end up with not only a thrilling case that keeps you turning pages, but also the can’t-turn-away-train-wreck that is Greco’s personal life. I like Greco, he’s unemotional and methodical, traits that frequently cause problems with interpersonal relationships. Reading this, I was reminded Olympia Dukakis’s line from Moonstruck (“Can I give you some advice? Don’t s**t where you eat.”) and boy, is that relevant to this book. Still, I felt for Greco, it was clear he was being pushed into something he didn’t want and that never ends well.

But it’s the case that takes front and center in the book, it got off to a running start with a body found at a music festival by a young woman before turning to the murders of two young men who got more than they bargained for when they burgled a house. The quick pace and many twists and turns kept me greedily turning page after page and that surprise ending left me gasping. An excellent read from start to finish, something I always expect from this author and definitely recommended for fans of gritty crime fiction.

Review: Death of a Russian Doll

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Death of a Russian Doll (Vintage Toyshop #3) by Barbara Early

Poor Liz, her promising new romance with new police chief Ken Young was shattered when his estranged wife, Marya, blew into town looking to reconcile. Liz does her best to get over it, but when Marya is found strangled to death and Ken comes under suspicion, Liz steps in to help her dad solve the murder and uncovers the secrets Marya has been hiding for years. But who killed her?

Another great chapter in the Vintage Toy Shop series, I loved the twisty plot, this wasn’t your ordinary cozy! There were a lot of timely themes in this story that were handled with humanity and grace. When the whole truth came out, it wasn’t difficult to feel for Marya and her tragic history, and it made for a memorable read. I totally knew who did it by a third of the way through the book (and I was completely wrong, so the ending was a surprise!)

As always, the villagers are a hoot and the liberal sprinkling of puns made me chuckle. Add in Liz’s new romance and the nostalgic (at least for me!) setting and the book left me with the warm and fuzzies. A marvelous series that just keeps getting better and better! This book can be read as a standalone, as any references to the earlier books are adequately explained, but I definitely recommend reading them in order (actually I just recommend reading all of them!)

Review: Rip Your Heart Out

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Rip Your Heart Out (Ripple Effect #4) by Jeanne Glidewell

I’m a bit late to the Ripple Effect series, this is the fourth book but only the first I’ve read and I can safely say this can be read as a introduction to the series or as a standalone. Following the adventures of retired couple Rapella and her husband, Rip, as they travel around the US in their RV, they find themselves in the middle of a mystery wherever they go. Rapella, a charmingly naive chatterbox, made for an entertaining sleuth (and I enjoyed Itsy as the sidekick!) and I was drooling over the beautiful scenery on their cruise. Add in a mouthy cockatoo, a sweet St Bernard and a zippy, lively plot and there was a lot to like!

The plot, surrounding an anonymous tip that a local woman’s death was not due to natural causes and is later determined to be murder. Suspicion is thrown onto Sydney, one of Rip’s cardiac nurses and the niece of the recently deceased woman. There were many facets to the plot, from the seemingly “haunted” house to the squabbling siblings to the possible cache of missing gold and I was sucked in from the start. From the breathtaking scenery on the cruise that made me drool to the many lovable (and not so lovable) characters that jumped off the page and the hijinks that Rapella got into had me chuckling (especially the Uber part!) While I read a lot of cozy mysteries, there have been few that were as fun as this and and I’m definitely going to read the other books in the series.

Review: Scared Stiff

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Scared Stiff (Mattie Winston #2) by Anneliese Ryan

Heh. Poor Mattie doesn’t have an easy time of it, does she?

During a blind date with the OCD William-not-Bill, Mattie is called out on a dead body call. Shannon Tolliver was found dead in her front yard, amongst the Halloween decorations. When Shannon’s estranged husband Erik is arrested, Mattie knows he’s not the killer, so the real question is: who killed Shannon and why?

This was a great followup to the first book; thoroughly entertaining and completely engrossing, it was full of hilarious cringe moments (I laughed out loud through the whole scene when they were recovering the rich couple!) lots of intrigue and one creepy suspect (am I the only one who thought he was creepy at the get-go?) The main plot, Shannon’s murder, leads Mattie far and wide in her search for suspects, uncovering quite a few and introducing a few new characters I hope to see more of (the gay bar scene? Loved it!)

Just one thing, I’ve got a Dropped Thread Alert! (Possible spoiler ahead!)

What about the gun? Erik told Mattie that he gave his gun to Shannon, who stored it in the guest bedroom. When Mattie and Hurley went to Shannon’s house to see if it was there, Mattie got busy looking at her medicine cabinet, her hormones flared and she got horny with Hurley and she never checked to see if the gun was still there and it was never mentioned again. Arrgh!

Overall, an excellent second in this series and it made me excited to read more.

Review: The Luckiest Woman Ever

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The Luckiest Woman Ever (Molly Sutton #2) by Nell Goddin

At the local fine dining restaurant, Molly eavesdrops on a wealthy old woman’s not-very-happy birthday party. Known throughout the village for being contemptuous and unlikable, her assembled party goers look less than thrilled to be there. At the end of the evening, Molly finds the woman lying dead on the bathroom floor and it’s determined that the woman died from cyanide poisoning. Molly, having witnessed the whole evening, begins to investigate (which is a good thing, since the local police chief isn’t very good at solving murders.) What she uncovers is decades of secrets, lies and a rage that has simmered for decades.

This is quickly shaping up to be a favorite series, I’m really enjoying Molly’s adventures in France. This one introduced some new characters that I hope will be returning. And the victim! While a nasty character you love to hate is common in books, this one really takes the cake. She was gleefully hurtful, thoroughly vile, and mercilessly horrible and yet I still loved her antics (or maybe I was just waiting for the moment she paid for it, I don’t know. But what a delightfully rotten character!

Really, if I wasn’t so wholly caught up in the story, I probably would’ve figured out the clues, but no, it all just flew past me. Lots of red herrings threw me off track and the pace was perfect to keep me turning pages. The ending was a lot better than the first book; I was riveted, watching it all unfold. This was a thoroughly enjoyable cozy read, perfect to curl up with, especially if you have a croissant and a glass of fine wine.

Review: Working Stiff

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Working Stiff (Mattie Winston #1) by Anneliese Ryan

I don’t know why it took so long for me to hear about this series, but I’m happy I found it! Laugh out loud funny and suspenseful, it was impossible to put down. In fact, I started this on audiobook and it motivated me to get out for my daily walk, but switched to the Kindle copy because it was so good, I just couldn’t wait any longer to finish it!

Mattie is equal parts hapless and unflappable, with a positive attitude that I really enjoyed and appreciated. Despite the setbacks of her failed marriage, her cheating husband accused of murder and quitting her job, she took it all in stride and kept going, no dwelling on a pity party for our Mattie. The other great characters made the book even more enjoyable, from the hairdresser at the funeral home to Joey the superhero to Izzy and Dom, I loved every one of them (well, except the reporter. Why does there always have to be an annoying reporter? Ugh.) The smoldering on/off romance was amusing and a tad overdone, but I enjoyed it anyway. I really liked the forensics trivia tucked in there (I’m a sucker for that stuff) and the well-crafted plot had plenty of surprise twists and turned up suspect after suspect, ending with a bittersweet unexpected revelation at the end. I didn’t pick up on who the murderer was until just before the exciting (and slightly hilarious) ending. Altogether, this was an excellent start to a series and I’m already well into the second book. Outstanding!

Review: The Advice Column Murders

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The Advice Column Murders (Oakwood Mysteries #3) by Leslie Nagel

This is the third book in the Oakwood series, I loved the first two, so I was really excited to read #3. I adore how well written this series in, from the creative and twisty plots to the lovable characters, and this one was no exception! Very nicely plotted, with two murders that occur just steps from Charley’s front door. After a new family moves in next door, Judith’s adult daughter, Sarah, is found murdered. Later, Judith is found murdered in the street, the blame falls on a carpenter with ties to the family. Charley smells a setup and investigates into the family’s past and uncovers several secrets. With a few mini mysteries to solve along the way (I loved the revelation of who was behind the advice column and I don’t think they should stop!) to the person responsible for the vandalism delaying the expansion at Charley’s vintage shop, Old Hat (which was puzzling, not puzzling as in whodunit but puzzling as in *scratches head* whaat?) and there were many surprise twists that kept things interesting right up to the exciting ending. Wholly enjoyable and entertaining, The Advice Column Murders is another great addition to this excellent cozy series.

Review: Too Many Crooks Spoil the Plot

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Too Many Crooks Spoil the Plot (Ditie Brown #1) by Sarah Osbourne

I really enjoyed this one, it was relatable, realistic and inviting. The characters really made it for me; warm, true to life and charming, from the capable Ditie, stepping up to take in Ellie’s kids to the sassy Lurleen to the sweet romance between Ditie and Mason, I found myself roped in from the first page. Lurleen is really the one I want to know more about, her back story was hinted at several times in the book and I’m looking forward to learning more about her. The suspenseful plot kept me glued to the pages, the corporate espionage angle was interesting and intriguing (I want to try that product!) but I have to say, that ending….I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t that. It was a little convoluted. Not bad, just a bit confusing who was on what side. Also, the TSTL moment by one of the characters at the end just felt a bit unrealistic (I don’t want to spoil, but jeeeeez.) But it was a great mystery and an edge of your seat read and the recipes included at the end of the book sound delicious and there’s a couple I can’t wait to try. An excellent start to a new series and one I’ll look forward to reading more of in the future.

Review: The Butterfly Conspiracy

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The Butterfly Conspiracy (A Merriweather and Royston Mystery #1) by Vivian Conroy

A captivating historical cozy mystery, The Butterfly Conspiracy is an excellent debut to a new series! Suspenseful and thrilling, I was immediately sucked into the Victorian world superbly created, with intriguing characters and a puzzling plot that kept me turning pages.

I liked the dynamic between Royston and Merula. She’s wasn’t a passive Victorian flower, he wasn’t a man strong-arming her into being a passive Victorian flower. Although the possibility for a romance was hinted at, it wasn’t overt and took a backseat to the plot. I appreciated that, just like in food, the best flavors are in the background as an enhancement. It also leaves the door open to future story lines, and I look forward to seeing how their relationship develops.

The plot was intriguing; at a zoological meeting, Merula unveils the exotic butterfly she has cultivated. Because she is a woman, Merula’s Uncle Rupert agrees to take the credit, but when a woman dies after the butterfly lands on Lady Sophia’s arm and she falls over, dead, Uncle Rupert is accused of murder. Determined to clear his name, Merula teams up with Lord Royston, uncovering many motives and suspects while pursued by the police. I have no idea if the method of death is feasible or not, but it wasn’t something I’ve ever seen before and really enjoyed it, as well as the surprising and exciting ending.