Mrs. Morris and the Ghost of Christmas Past (A Salem B&B Mystery, #3)

Mrs. Morris and the Ghost of Christmas Past (A Salem B&B Mystery, #3)
by Traci Wilton

50264263. sy475

I love this time of year, the best time to curl up with a warm quilt, a good book with a Christmas theme to get you in the holiday spirit, and a roaring fire (well, I don’t have a fireplace, but there are videos on Amazon Prime, so that’ll have to do.)

This was the first book from the Salem B&B Mystery series that I’ve read, and I’ll definitely be picking up the first two. In this one, Charlene attends a charity auction at a restaurant owned by a recent lottery winner, David Baldwin. Tensions are high at the auction and when David suddenly bolts outside and is fatally struck by a car, there’s no shortage of suspects.

This was my introduction to all the characters and I liked them all, from the analytical and down-to-earth Charlene to hunky ghost Jack to Charlene’s dad (her mom, however, can go freeze out in the backyard. Tone it down, sweetie) and everyone at the B&B. It made for a very cozy read, and the plot, complete with juicy secrets, intrigue and even a bit of humor here and there made for an exciting and enjoyable read.

Published September 29th 2020

On Borrowed Crime (Jane Doe Book Club Mystery #1)

On Borrowed Crime (Jane Doe Book Club Mystery #1) by Kate Young

Lyla is a good ‘ol southern gal living in Sweet Mountain, GA, a small town as only the south can do. With its laid back lifestyle and good people you’ve known all your life, it should be idyllic. For Lyla, a receptionist in her uncle’s private investigation office, solving mysteries runs in her blood. Together with a circle of like minded friends organized into a true crime book club, Lyla enjoys the crime investigating life. But when one of the club members turns up dead in a suitcase delivered to Lyla’s front door, crime investigating turns serious – and deadly. Unable to set aside the danger, Lyla puts her skills to the test to track down a killer in her home town.

A first book in a new series always calls to me. What is this new world? Can I settle right in? Will these characters become friends? A first book in a new series is always an open invitation I can never pass up, and this book opened the door to a place I’d love to spend more time in. The characters were equally as charming, I loved Lyla’s granny (would love to see her more as Lyla’s partner in crime…well, crime fighting) and I’m looking forward to seeing where Lyla goes from here.

As for the plot, it was packed with intrigue and tension, from the discovery of Carol’s body to the threats and red herring to the thrilling ending, it made for a can’t-put-it-down roller coaster ride. I admit, this was one of those books where I would decide on the likely culprit but the red herrings always pulled me off the scent. I love books that do that!

Overall, an excellent introduction to the folks in Sweet Mountain, GA and I’m looking forward to reading more!

Release Date: October 6, 2020

For Whom the Book Tolls: An Antique Bookshop Mystery

For Whom the Book Tolls: An Antique Bookshop Mystery #1 by Laura Gail Black 

After some nasty business back home in Charlotte, Jenna receives an invitation from her Uncle Paul to come live with him and work at his bookstore.  When she finds Paul dead, crumpled at the bottom of a staircase, Jenna finds out she has inherited everything, putting her under suspicion.  Determined to clear her name and to start over again, Jenna starts investigating to find a killer.

Excellent start to a new series, with lots of twists and turns to throw you off the trail. I really liked Jenna and love the small town of Hokes Folly (I’d love to go stay at that inn!). There was plenty going on in this book, between Jenna’s troubles in Charlotte to finding her uncle dead and inheriting the bookstore to a man trying to usurp her inheritance and then winding up dead himself and it kept the pace moving quickly. The plot was very well done, I went back and forth between suspects throughout the book, so the ending was a bit of a surprise, but satisfying.

My only minus to this story is Sutter. I feel like the whole “bad cop” trope in cozy mysteries has been done to death; as a device to add tension to a story, all it manages to do is annoy me so much, I start flipping pages. And really Jenna, if you’ve already been falsely accused and arrested for a serious crime once, wouldn’t you realize that talking to a hostile detective without a lawyer present isn’t a good idea? And it takes her what, 3 times to do it? *sigh* Get it together, Jenna!

Overall, an excellent start to a new series and I look forward to reading more from Jenna and Hokes Folly.

Release Date: September 8, 2020

Little Bookshop of Murder

 Little Bookshop of Murder: A Beach Reads Mystery #1  by Maggie Blackburn

50253341. sy475 Summer is not having a good summer. After a minor scandal has her scurrying off to England to spend some time researching Shakespeare for an academic paper, she has to rush back home to North Carolina when her mother dies suddenly of a heart attack. Arriving back home in the small town she thought she’d left behind forever, Summer begins to suspect that her mother’s death wasn’t natural and after failing to convince the town’s police chief to investigate, takes on the challenge herself with her aunt and cousins. Can Summer uncover the truth before she ends up a victim in her own tragedy?

I saw this on Netgalley and couldn’t resist snagging it.  I really enjoyed this, equal parts engaging, heartbreaking, exciting, and heartwarming. Summer and her family are likeable and the story was rich in detail, making the setting and the characters seem so realistic it was like being there. But that came at the expense of the pacing, which lagged a bit in the middle and there was a fair amount of rehashing. I liked how organically and realistically Summer set out to investigate, especially when she followed in the footsteps of her mother’s last day. Took her a bit longer to see whodunit than it did me (and I thought the motive was a bit shaky) but that twisty, action-packed reveal and the surprise twist at the very end wrapped everything up nicely and left me wanting more.

Publication Date: September 8, 2020

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

Release Date: August 11, 2020

His Father’s Ghost (Mina Scarletti #5)

His Father’s Ghost (Mina Scarletti #5) by Linda Stratmann

53983251. sy475 First off, I can say that my automatic rating for this series is five stars, it’s that good. The Victorian period is painstakingly portrayed so realistically, I expect to see men in top hats driving by my window in horse carriages.

Mina is an intelligent and spirited young woman battling Scoliosis, which she manages with grace and strength. But when a slight cold becomes serious, she is tucked away into bed, protected from the outside world by her hired nurse and her family. But that doesn’t stop Mina from cracking another Spiritualist case. Using her dedicated friends, she delves into the mystery of Franklin, a young lad haunted by the ghost of his father, Jasper, who vanished seven years before after falling off a yacht into the sea. Shortly after his disappearance, the truth was revealed; Jasper was on the verge of bankruptcy and was unable to hide his money troubles any longer. But without a body, it took several years to have him declared legally dead. Shortly after, his widow married a new husband and the rumors started flying once again.

Desperate to help her young son, the widow asks Mina to help. Mina, fascinated by the disappearance, calls in her network of friends tp find information about the case. Slowly, she works her way through the web of misinformation and finally uncovers the truth.

I started this after supper and couldn’t put it down until I finished it well after midnight. The plot, characters and locale are so vivid, so three dimensional that I felt like I was right there in the thick of things. When I picked up the book, I thought that Mina being stuck in bed for the majority of the book would make it dull, but that wasn’t the case at all. Between Mina’s brother Richard’s tales and the observations of the flamboyant actor Mr. Merridew, I felt like I was seeing it through their eyes.  I loved the ending, which neatly tied the threads together and even made me a bit misty.

Truly, this is a magnificent series and one I heartily recommend to historical mystery and cozy mystery fans alike.

Released July 20, 2020

The Body from the Past (A Jazzi Zanders Mystery #5)

The Body from the Past (A Jazzi Zanders Mystery #5)
by Judi Lynn

50003717Finally able to jump into this newest book in the Jazzi Zanders series after choosing to catch up on the first four after getting this one on Netgalley.

Jazzi, Jerod and Ansel have snagged a great deal on a fixer upper in Merlot. While beginning the process of emptying the house to prepare it for renovation, they find a locked bedroom, shut away since the former resident, a recently graduated high school girl, fell to her death during her graduation party when she was pushed off a second floor balcony, a murder that was never solved and in small town Merlot, rumors abounded ever since.

First off, it’s a known fact that a secret locked room is a quick way to suck me into a book. I loved how the journals introduced and narrated Jessica and her tragic life. Without it, she would’ve been just words on a page, instead it brought her back to life. There was no shortage of suspects, including a few who were right up there on the list because of how odious they were but in the end, the killer was unmasked and what a twisted tale it was.

Part of the draw of these books is watching (well, reading) the gang as they renovate houses; what design choices they make (both good and bad. Still not over the yellow brick house with the red metal roof and green door in the last book) and all the different houses they find. So, I enjoyed Ansel and Jazzi’s vision of turning their basement into a playroom/man cave/spare sleeping space for guests. Truly enviable! Their family gatherings sound like such a warm, lively parties, with good food and lots of fun. Enviable!

Overall, a solid addition to a series that continues to grow and satisfy. Can’t wait for the next!

Release Date: September 22, 2020

On Deadly Tides: Penny Brannigan #11

On Deadly Tides:  Penny Brannigan Mystery #11
by Elizabeth J Duncan

53631377. sy475 Penny and fellow painter friend Alwynne take a weekend course on painting in the nearby town of Beaumaris on the beautiful North Wales island of Anglesey. Sitting in a crowded bar on her first night, Penny first meets Colin, an attractive man, and a young news reporter named Jessica who just arrived from New Zealand to investigate a man who went missing several years before. The next morning, while out to paint a lighthouse, Penny finds Jessica dead on the beach, the victim of an apparent fall. Penny knows this was no accident and when the police have no evidence it was anything but an accident, she picks up the threads to unravel the circumstances that led to the young woman’s death.

Found this on Netgalley and snapped it up. I’ve read this series since the beginning and a few books back, I mentioned that I thought the character of Penny had stagnated, so I was really happy to see her character moving forward! I think this will breathe some new life into the series.

As for the plot, I had a pretty good idea whodunit but eagerly raced through the book to see it all unfold. Lots of twists and turns led to a satisfying conclusion that neatly wrapped up the two cases. It was also a pleasure to watch the romance blossom and to catch up with the usual cast of characters I’ve grown to love. The sweet ending left a smile on my face and I do hope this isn’t the end to the series (felt a little ambiguous to say for certain?) and if not, I look forward to more of Penny’s exploits.

Release Date: 10 November 2020

The Body in the Gravel (Jazzi Zanders #3)

The Body in the Gravel (A Jazzi Zanders Mystery #3)
by Judi Lynn

43426272. sy475 Jazzi, Jerod and Ansel are onto a new flip, a 3 story brick house in need of extensive renovation; just the sort of job the gang does best. The foundation is sinking, so the crew builds forms and calls their cement contractor Darby for a delivery. Darby is a prickly sort who doesn’t get along well with others and has a heated argument with Thane about Darby’s missing wife and son. When Darby’s dead body is delivered in a load of gravel, Jazzi teams up with Detective Gaff to find a killer.

Ok, first I have to get this off my chest. They put a red tin roof and a green door on a yellow brick house? Sounds like Caillou’s house. Yeeesh.

But enough about design choices, I really enjoyed the plot on this one and it feels like the series has hit its stride. I really enjoyed the plot, there were lots of suspects so likable, I was rooting for them to be innocent. When the killer was finally revealed, I was surprised. I mean, I knew one of them did it but the one that did wasn’t high on my suspect list.

Overall, an enjoyable read capped off with a sweet wedding and now onto book 4 so I can read the latest I got on Netgalley.

Murder’s No Votive Confidence (Nantucket Candle Maker #1)

Murder’s No Votive Confidence (Nantucket Candle Maker #1)
by Christin Brecher

42118422This is the first book in this series and only the second one I’ve read and I have to say, this author excels at keeping the reader in the dark about whodunit until the final pages. Obfuscation is the word of the day with this author! It’s rare that I find a book where I have no idea, not even a suspicion, whodunit. So this book ranks high just for that.

Stella is helping her heavily pregnant best friend Emily with the high society wedding and her role is to create a unity candle for the bride and groom. But when the bride’s uncle is found dead, bludgeoned with the unity candle, and the hotel’s bartender is arrested, Stella smells a rat and sets out to find the real killer.

There was so much to love about this book, from unrequited love to murder to candle scents to cats. Although the quick pace kept the plot moving, it was neither rushed nor confusing. I found myself reading late into the evening because I just had to keep going to find out more. So easy to get lost in this book! By the time I got through the exciting ending, I was at the edge of my seat and the subterfuge continued right up to the end with many surprise twists and turns.

I’m not sure why I didn’t hear about this series when it came out, but I’m glad I found it. This will definitely be a must read series for me and I look forward to many more.

15 Minutes of Flame (Nantucket Candle Maker #3)

15 Minutes of Flame (Nantucket Candle Maker Mystery #3)
by Christin Brecher 

49085292While setting up a Girl Scouts haunted house, Stella stumbles across an old skeleton entombed in the chimney of an old chandlery behind the house. Soon, police discover the bones are very old and call in an expert named Solder and his assistant Leigh to determine the age and origin of the remains. It comes to light that the victim is one Patience Cooper, who, as legend has it, was robbed of a collection of money raised to invest in merchant ships and then disappeared.

While researching the unfortunate victim in the chimney, another related case comes up of a friend of Patience who killed herself by jumping down a well, An expedition is formed to descend into the well, where another skeleton is found, clutching a map indicating the location of a treasure. When a tree suddenly falls over, trapping Leigh in its branches, Solder is found dead, strangled and bludgeoned. Can Stella untangle the threads of an old mystery while finding a modern day killer?

I found this on Netgalley and although this is the third book in the series, it’s my first entry and you can bet I’ll be reading the first two ASAP. I can safely say this can be read as a standalone or as an entry into the series, as it doesn’t seem like many details from previous books are present, or if they are, are adequately explained.

I absolutely loved the atmosphere of the book from the first page! Great, engaging characters, a romantic setting at seaside Nantucket and an intriguing mystery spanning generations. What more could anyone ask for? I totally admit I had no idea whatsoever whodunit, the culprit was neatly hidden very well until the dramatic reveal at the end.

I did feel that the historical mystery wasn’t tied up as well as the modern mystery, as what happened to the “treasure” and what was found at the location really wasn’t explained or even brought up again. That would be my one gripe. Where is my happily ever after for Patience’s treasure?

Overall, this was one excellent read and you can bet it’ll be on my list of ones to follow eagerly for each new installment.

Release Date: August 25, 2020

The Last Curtain Call (Haunted Home Renovation #8)

The Last Curtain Call  (Haunted Home Renovation Mystery #8)
by Juliet Blackwell

50848065. sx318 sy475 I saw this book on Netgalley and couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and it was every bit as good as the blurb made it out to be. This is my first entry into this series (this one is number 8!) so I can safely say that it can be read as a standalone.

I sat down one evening with some time to kill before LivePD started and ended up missing the show! This was just too good to put down. So much to like about it, from the great characters to the amazing plot to the wonderful setting in an old decrepit theater.

Mel is an expert in renovating houses (always a huge draw for me, I love old houses and I love when people restore them instead of ripping out the character and making it an open-plan-granite-countertop-marble-floor monstrosity. But that’s another topic.) So, when Mel lands the plum job of restoring an old run down theater that she once visited with her late mother, she goes to have a look.Purchased by a mysterious organization whose motives are unclear, Mel is wary, especially after another contractor was dismissed from the job seemingly without any reason. At the theater, Mel finds a lot of work that needs to be done, as well as a small group of squatters who have to relocated before work can begin.

While assessing what needs to be done, one of the squatters is found, strangled and set on top of the Wurlitzer organ, which rises slowly, revealing her dead body.

Meanwhile, Mel and boyfriend Landon have bought an old house and are renovating it when they discover the ghost of a flapper in the attic, surrounded by her dresses. One of the dresses has a long rip in it and Mel also tries to unravel why she is haunting the attic.

So, several things to solve in this book, and the pace swept along quickly, always a new clue popping up. I really enjoyed how it unfolded and the exciting conclusion capped off a really great book.

If I was to point out any shortcomings, it’s that the ending, while satisfying and thrilling, seemed to come about rather quickly. I do have to say that there was really no clue as to who the culprit was. Still, I enjoyed every bit of it and you can bet I’ll go out and catch up on the other 7 books!

Release Date: June 30th, 2020

The Body in the Attic (A Jazzi Zanders Mystery #1)

The Body in the Attic (A Jazzi Zanders Mystery #1) by Judi Lynn

39168404. sy475 I saw the latest book in this series on Netgalley and it sounded good, so I requested it. When I saw the latest is book 5, I got this book to “catch up” if I am approved for the Netgalley book.

I started it last night, since there wasn’t anything good on TV (which was a good thing, since I ended up not being able to put it down!) I liked Jazzi immediately and was sucked into the story within a few pages. Then I realized the book is set in the area I live, and having a personal connection to many of the places in the book really brought the story alive. I loved the dual plot, revolving around Jazzi’s long-missing aunt’s skeletal remains found in a cedar chest and another (more recent) body found in the back yard. I liked how the investigation unfolded, with all its tragic details (I really felt for poor Cal!) and the satisfying conclusion (although I still can’t figure out why a police detective would bring a civilian along when questioning suspects. A bit far-fetched but I was able to suspend disbelief.)

Frankly, I enjoyed the house flipping more than anything else in the story, I play House Flipper on Steam obsessively, watch a lot of DIY Network, and love everything about historic home conservation, so I loved “watching” Jazzie, Ansel and Jerod restore Cal’s house (I loved almost everything they did , except for the stainless steel countertops. Ugh.)

There was some romance involved in this book, more than you’d usually find in a cozy mystery but considerably less than what you’d find in a romance novel, so I’d say this is a romantic cozy mystery rather than a cozy mystery romance. Although the relationship between the characters seemed to move pretty quickly, I chalk that up to the characters having known (and worked with) each other for years before the book begins. Really, it’s such a small aspect to the book that I (as someone who doesn’t care for romance novels) wouldn’t be put off recommending it to others as a good cozy to enjoy.

Overall, this was a delightful read, homey, familiar and touching as well as a cracking good plot.

Proof in the Photo (The Inn at Holiday Bay #9)

Proof in the Photo (The Inn at Holiday Bay #9) by Kathi Daley

50253340. sy475 I can’t believe this is book 9 already. When a new one is published, I can’t wait to get my greedy hands on it. In this one, a bride-and-groom-to-be rent out the inn for an engagement party, bringing along a motley crew of old friends. When one of the group is found dead, and no one in the group seems to be particularly put out, Abby is on the case and finds betrayal, lies and painful secrets.

I love this series, from the wonderful characters to the beautiful setting to the rich descriptions of everything that make me feel like I’m right there. This was a great plot, too and I would never have guessed in a million years the motive or the killer. And the “cold case” omigod a hidden room? *swoon* Nothing sucks me in faster than a hidden room and I have to wait to see what’s in it? Hurry up with the next book, I gotta know!

A great entry in a great series that shows no signs of slowing down and I’m already refreshing Goodreads to see when the next book will be released.

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

44439625. sy475

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!

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!