Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover?

Cozy mystery writers, if you want me to read your book, just put a really cute cat on the cover.

Seriously, there are probably dozens of interesting books I’d like on NetGalley but as soon as I see a book with a cute kitty on the cover I’m like

giphy1

I guess I’m judging a book by its cover, huh?

 

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Review: The Ghost in Mr. Pepper’s Bed

29566102The Ghost in Mr. Pepper’s Bed by Sigrid Vansandt

Sonya Curuthers is a medium who specializes in ghost therapy (in other words, seances). Early one morning at the Whispering Pines RV Park, Mr. Pepper wakes to a ghostly woman snuggling up to him and the resulting kerfuffle between the ghost of his dead wife and the spooning specter  sends him running to the woman in charge of the RV park, who calls Sonya for help. When bones are discovered in a pit soon after, Sonya (along with her wee terrier and the ghost of a 19th century Scottish laird) has to use all of her expertise to find a murderer.

First in a new series,  I picked up The Ghost in Mr. Pepper’s Bed on a whim. The title was just irresistible to me, I had to know just who Mr. Pepper was,  why there was a ghost in Mr. Pepper’s bed, and, of course, why there was a Scottish ghost riding on the front of a scooter.  Was he the ghost in Mr. Pepper’s bed?  Now you see why I had to read it.  I dived in and discovered a great mystery, with quirky, likable characters, loads of southern charm, and a well-paced rich plot that will tug at your heartstrings.   I appreciated the small town Missouri setting,  the vivid descriptions of the homes and the locations reminded me of the small town where I grew up.  I loved the dog gossip network and how they relayed their information.  I didn’t understand the point of the story line with the kid on the skateboard, though.   The murder didn’t have a whole lot of suspects, but the satisfying conclusion made it worth finishing.

Overall, a fantastic book that sucked me in from the very first page and definitely one of my favorites I’ve read so far this year.  Very memorable and enjoyable and I hope to see more of Sonya very soon.

The Ghost in Mr. Pepper’s Bed is available on Kindle from Amazon

Review: Bobbi Brown Makeup Manual

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Bobbi Brown Makeup Manual: For Everyone from Beginner to Pro by Bobbi Brown

I’ve heard about this book from different sources, and as I’ve been paying more attention to my skin and makeup in the last few months (getting old is hell) I thought I’d see if I could pick up a few tips.

There’s a nice long section on skin care; covering the different skin types and how to determine what your skin type is, the types of cleansers and moisturizers to use and how to apply, and lots of tips and tricks. It helped me to straighten out my skin care regimen (it honestly never occurred to me that I was applying an oil serum and a water based moisturizer on top. Oil and water don’t mix. Duh me.) and my skin is looking better now.

All the information was presented in a straightforward, easy to understand manner. I also loved the tips on applying foundation flawlessly. That’s been my big problem (and the reason I got the book) because you know what? When you start getting those fine lines and wrinkles, your foundation doesn’t look flawless anymore.

The only reason I gave it 4 stars we because I felt it could use some editing; some of the sections went on far too long and I started getting bored.

Overall, a great resource for a makeup noob like me and very recommended for people of all skill levels.

Whether you’re an aspiring make up artist or just a beginner looking for instructions on how to do your makeup correctly, you can purchase a copy on Amazon or at book retailers.

Review: The Case of the Killer Divorce

20347542The Case of the Killer Divorce by Barbara Venkataraman

The Case of the Killer Divorce, the second book in the Jamie Quinn Mystery series, has Jamie returning to her family law practice. While representing a wife, Rebecca Soloman, in a hostile divorce, the husband turns up dead. Jamie investigates with PI Duke Broussard to uncover the truth and find a killer.

I enjoyed this, the plot was very intricate for such a short book, lots of twists and turns to keep you guessing. There was a little more character development, plus meeting an old high school boyfriend and rekindling a romance, and progress on the search for her father. Handled in her characteristic wit, the story was touching, funny and charming.

Overall, an enjoyable book, and at novella length, a great way to spend an afternoon. This book can be read as a standalone but I recommend reading the first in the series, because it’s just so darn good.

Purchase your copy of the Jamie Quinn Mystery series omnibus at Amazon

 

Bones & Roses just 99¢ on Kindle

Bones and Roses by Eileen Goudge just 99¢ at Amazon! Sale over but the book is still a great 5 star read, don’t miss it!

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After wrecking her real estate career in a booze-fueled blowout, Cypress Bay property manager and recovering alcoholic Tish Ballard thought she had put her past behind her. But when she opens an old trunk, a bequest from an anonymous benefactor, she finds it filled with bones and roses.

Suddenly Tish is plunged into a murder case that dates back to her childhood. Pitted against her high school crush, homicide detective Spence Breedlove, she finds herself in jeopardy—in more ways than one.

Can Tish unmask a killer before the man who broke her heart puts her behind bars or, worse, she becomes a corpse herself?

Review: Death by Didgeridoo

21899943Death by Didgeridoo by Barbara Venkataraman

Jamie Quinn, still reeling from the recent death of her mother, is a family court lawyer battling insomnia and grief.  One morning, her aunt leaves a frantic message; her young cousin Adam, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, has been arrested for murder after finding his music teacher, Spike, murdered with a didgeridoo.  Although not a criminal lawyer, Jamie’s family ties run deep and she dives in to save her fragile cousin from being jailed for a murder he didn’t commit.

Death by Didgeridoo is novella length; at only 111 pages, it’s difficult to sketch out a character completely, but I thought there was real depth to the characters.   I’m an insomniac, so it was easy to relate to Jamie’s frustration at not being able to sleep, and it was all too easy to empathize with the loss of her mother. I like that she is self-aware enough to be able to make jokes about her grief and lack of sleep, but she deals with it with humor without becoming negative.  The character of Adam, who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, was handled realistically and sensitively, and Duke, the kinda-shady overly-flirty PI made a good sidekick for Jamie.

The plot moved along quickly for such a short book, without sacrificing quality.  I really liked when the public defender recommended hiring a private investigator, I thought it was a natural way to get the main character involved in the investigation.

I’d have to say the only issue I had with the book is a pretty common gripe I have about mysteries; the victim is never in the book.  Although I understand that in a novella length book, it would be difficult to shoehorn in a few scenes showing what a miserable a-hole the victim was, but without having “met” him, I didn’t connect with his murder.  Actually, now that I think about it, both victims were only mentioned in the book, but were not really a part of it.  A minor issue, and as I said, very common but it would be nice to get a feel for the victims to give their murders more of an impact.

Overall a great start to a new series, and recommended for any cozy mystery lover.

The author provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  (She somehow knew I was a big fan of didgeridoos. It was fate)

The Jamie Quinn series is available in paperback, Kindle and on Audible.  Order your copy on Amazon!

 

Review: Crime and Poetry

26189433Crime and Poetry by Amanda Flower

Crime and Poetry . the first book in the new Magical Bookshop series, has  Violet Waverly rushing home after an urgent call that her grandmother is dying and needs her to return home to Cascade Springs, near Niagara Falls, NY.  When she arrives, she finds her grandmother, Daisy, is just fine and lured her back home to take over the family business, a bookshop called Charming Books.

Haunted by the death of a friend 12 years ago, Violet intends to return to Chicago to continue getting her degree, but when Daisy’s friend Benedict Raisin turns up dead in her driveway, and Daisy is under suspicion for his murder.  Violet feels she has to stay until the real murderer is caught.  Attracted to the town’s police chief, pursued by her childhood sweetheart, and stunned by a family secret, can Violet unravel a mystery and solve a murder with the help of books?

I really enjoyed this book.  Having grown up in WNY, just an hour away from the Falls, I was instantly comfortable with the setting.   The little town of Cascade Springs sounds just like many of the picturesque small towns that dot the landscape around Buffalo and Niagara Falls. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen a bookshop with a birch tree growing inside (bonus points for a talking crow!) but I’d love to visit one someday!

The plot was very well done, lots of suspects and motives and surprising plot twist at the end.  I liked that although there’s a paranormal element – it is a magical bookshop, after all – the murder was solved mostly by old-fashioned sleuthing.

The characters were charming and a little eccentric, from retro Sadie to Grandma Daisy to little furry cat sidekick Emerson, they added color and dimension to the little town of Cascade Springs.

I do have to say, that any backstory/traumatic past event in the main character’s past  would be best included in the first few chapters. In Violet’s case the death of her friend was alluded to several times, but wasn’t until nearly 3/4 of the way through the book that the whole story was revealed.  That was way too long; disclosing it sooner might have helped to build some empathy for Violet.

Also, the burgeoning love triangle kind of detracted from it.  The police chief makes her all tingly, why bother with the childhood sweetheart?  Unnecessary plot device.

Overall, a great first in a new series and I look forward to visiting the magical bookshop again.

Crime and Poetry is available at bookstores everywhere, or the Kindle edition is available at Amazon.com

 

Review: Death Pays The Rose Rent

26192746Death Pays the Rose Rent by Valerie S. Malmont

Tori Miracle was an aspiring crime reporter in New York City when, after being shunted to the unwanted role of fashion reporter, quits  her job to become a novelist.  After penning her first novel, The Mark Twain Horror House, she waits in her tiny, rundown apartment to hit it big.  After an invitation from her best friend, Alice-Ann, to visit her in rural Pennsylvania, Tori packs up her clothes, her cats and her typewriter and jumps on a bus.  Soon after arriving, she learns her friend is having marital issues with her husband, Richard.  Not long after, Richard is found dead and Alice-Ann is the prime suspect.

I really enjoyed this book, from the easy style of writing to the characters to the rich plot.  It was easy to sink into and I really liked the off-beat but likeable characters. The only issue I had with the story is that Tori makes several references to prior events, making it sound as though there was an earlier book in the series.   It’s too bad there isn’t, because it sounds like it would make an even better book than this one.  Just a touch of the supernatural in this story, and also caves.  I like caves.  I would love to be exploring all those paths under the town!

I have to say, I did figure out who the bad guy was because they were constantly ignored on the list of suspects.  Just a bit obvious, but like I said, the rich plot was so great that I couldn’t stop reading.

I deducted half a star because of all the Edison idolizing.  I’m not a fan of Edison,  he was less a brilliant inventor and more a fraud who took credit for the discoveries of many of his employees, like Nicola Tesla for example.  Ugh.  Stop the idolizing, please!

Overall, a really great start to a series and recommended for anyone looking for a light read and a great mystery.

 

This book was originally published nearly 20 years ago, so it may be hard to find in bookstores, but you can  pick up a copy on Amazon

Review The Gut Health Diet Plan

Th26192746e Gut Health Diet by Christine Bailey

A great resource, The Gut Health Diet Plan offers information, solutions and hope to people suffering from gut problems like IBS, celiac disease, gluten sensitivity and other digestive problems.

I was interested to read this because I have minor stomach problems from time to time and I was looking for ideas on how to improve my digestion.  The information is laid out in an easy to understand and precise way.  No scientific jargon to confuse you, just plain English.  I especially liked the information about probiotic supplements and leaky gut, I’ve done a little reading on both subjects and the information in the book backed up a lot of what I read and even gave new information that I didn’t know.

The book also has an easy to follow meal plan with plenty of recipes that are dairy-free, grain free and a lot of them are Paleo.  I don’t know that I’ll be able to do the whole program, but I intend to implement a lot of things in my diet (like fermented foods and Kefir) and see if that helps my overall digestive help.

I definitely recommend this book for anyone with tummy troubles, whether you take the plunge and follow the program or if you just want to learn more about how to heal your gut.

 

The Gut Health Diet Plan is available at book retailers  or online at  Amazon or Barnes & Noble

Review: Murder on the Village Green

30097573Murder on the Village Green by Penelope Sotheby

It’s a fact of life that if you enjoy reading cozy mysteries, you have to put aside some expectations of reality, or else you’re going to be continually disappointed.

And, for the most part, I can do that.  Amateur sleuth finding one dead body after another?  Ok, I’ll swallow that.  Amateur sleuth better at solving murders than the local cop?  Sure, it could happen.  Local copper divulges sensitive information important to the investigation just between them? Whatever.

But once in a while, I find a book pushes those limits just a little to far.

And then you have Murder on the Village Green.  As if the third person voice wasn’t bad enough (“Diane decided she would go to the store and then make brownies.”  “Diane felt she should do a fingertip search of the murder scene because the local constabulary couldn’t possibly handle that.” Paraphrasing, of course, but not far from it.) But no, it didn’t stop there. The main character, the widow of a Scotland Yard detective, imperiously believes that the local cops can’t possibly sort this out on their own, and then is scandalously outraged when the local copper brushes her off.  She promptly marches back to her cottage to have a good sulk while typing up a 4 page statement that describes how she came to find the corpse and all the busybody things she did to make herself feel important.

The main character, Diane,  is apparently an aspiring author and regularly has a friend come over to read what she has written, an event they have named Mead and Mystery, because they sip wine and eat brownies..  Ugh.  Between the ego stroking and the presumption that she is better at solving murders because she was married to a Scotland Yard detective, she comes off as a tiresome old shrew.  By the time she was kidnapped by the suspect, I was hoping she’d be dumped in a ditch somewhere.

All that aside, the plot is the only reason I gave this a star.  Had it been developed more (and the pomposity toned down) this would’ve been a great book.  The main theme, organ trafficking, hold a lot of fascination, if urban legends are anything to go by.

Overall, the biggest disappointment was how good this book could’ve been.

Murder on the Village Green is available only on Kindle at Amazon.

Review: Breakdown

25892497Breakdown by Jonathan Kellerman

#31 in the Alex Delaware series, Breakdown is a story of mental health issues, secrets, lies and murder.

Alex is called one day to treat a woman who was put on a mental health hold (5150).  He is told that she asked for him; Alex, however, never treated her, but did treat her son for a short period a few years prior.

Drawn into helping the woman, who later turns up dead from ingesting a poisonous plant, Alex, along with homicide detective Milo, works to solve her murder and find her missing son.

I couldn’t put the book down, it was so good.  Usually, Kellerman novels get bogged down in the middle, but not so with this one.  The plot was steady through the book, and the ending was just right, apprehending the suspects through police work, not a car chase shoot ’em up climax.

For me, the only detraction in this story is that a few of the themes have been used in earlier books in the series.  Which isn’t really much of a criticism; after all, the main character is a psychologist so I’m not terribly surprised that some topics may be recycled.   Still, the plot was riveting and complex and very enjoyable.

Lots of characters in this one, but it’s not difficult to keep them straight.  I loved the Chet Brett character (“You know the little mermaid statue? I made that.”) made me giggle, In fact, the characters are what draws me to this series; always well-drawn, they are easy to relate to and likeable.

This book can be read as a stand-alone; there are a few references to prior books but would not confuse a first time reader.  This is one of my favorite series, though, so I do recommend reading the whole series.

 Breakdown can be purchased at any book retailer, or you can get your copy at Amazon

Review: Miss Seeton Draws The Line

30114491Miss Seeton Draws The Line  by Heron Carvic

I’m not really sure what to think about this book.  I haven’t read any of the earlier books in the series, so this was my introduction to Miss Seeton.  The plot; solving the murders of several children and the possible link to post office robberies was enjoyable, as was the charming locale of a small village in England.

The dialogue is what kept me from enjoying the book.  In a few places, I had to re-read some passages several times just to understand what was being said.  And it wasn’t the British accent that confused me, it just seemed like it was double talk.  An example; when Miss Seeton went to the Yard after drawing the 12 year old murder victim, there were 3 other people in the room and it was a round robin of who could confuse the conversation the most.  I found it pulled me from the story and diminished my enjoyment.

Overall, a fine plot marred by confusing dialogue.  It may appeal to people who enjoy older mysteries (the original book was written in the late 1960s) but just did not resonate with me.

Miss Seeton Draws The Line is available at book retailers and on Amazon.  Pick up your copy today

Review: Aunt Bessie Invites

28717522Aunt Bessie Invites by Diana Xarissa

Aunt Bessie, who grew up in Ohio before moving home to England as a teenager, is having a good old-fashioned Thanksgiving dinner for 40 of her closest friends.  She visits a local farm to make arrangements for the turkey when one of the farmers finds the skeleton of a man hidden in one of the barns.  Aunt Bessie is thrown into a 60 year old mystery and works to unravel what happened and to bring a killer to justice.

I love this charming cozy mystery series.  Aunt Bessie is a Miss Marple-ish old woman who finds one dead body after another and can’t resist solving crimes with the decades of information she has cultivated during her life on the beautiful Isle of Man.

I thought the plot in this book was pretty basic; it wasn’t difficult at all to figure it out and a majority of the book was filler.  I’m trying to understand the point of the new police inspector that no one likes.

Also, I’m seeing more and more cozy mysteries taking great pains to point out how many bodies the MC has found, and this one is no exception.  The issue I have is that the very heart of cozy mysteries is having an MC that keeps finding bodies.  It’s something one has to accept if one reads a lot of cozy mysteries.  So stop pointing it out, it just pulls me right out of the story.

Overall, a good read a great series but needs to pare back the filler and beef up the plot if I’m going to continue on much longer.

You can find the whole Aunt Bessie series at Amazon and most book stores.  You can purchase the Kindle version here

 

Review: Death at a Fixer-Upper

e8e2ff3793cb624e01c6cc7906fa5451Death at a Fixer Upper by Sarah T. Hobart

Laugh-out-loud funny, with a riveting plot, gorgeous locale and charming characters, Death at a Fixer Upper will appeal to cozy mystery fans looking for a fun, light read.

Death at a Fixer Upper is the first in the Home Sweet Home mystery series.  Sam Turner is a fledgling real estate agent with three offers on a decrepit mansion. One by one, the prospective buyers turn up dead. Can she solve the mystery before she turns up dead?

Fantastic book! It grabbed hold of me from the very first page.  I made the mistake of starting this late one night, then spending all of the next day counting the minutes until I could get back to it.

I loved the  main character, Sam Turner, who I thought was a Kinsey Millhone lives-by-her-wits kind of woman. A single mom juggling a teen-aged son, closing on the house she just bought, a potential romance with the chief of police and her career, Sam is like most women; lots to do and no time to do it.  Who can’t relate to that?  I loved the home ec. story, it made me giggle, thinking of the teacher’s face.

The plot spanned the book quite well, with many twists and turns and an ending that I didn’t expect.  Lots of action filled out the story, from the kinetic sculpture race to the murders and the investigations.  At the beginning of the book, it was mentioned that the locals thought the house was haunted and various paranormal events occurred, but it disappeared from the story pretty early on in the book.  I would’ve like to have seen that explored some more.

The other concern I had is that the first murder had a lot of detail, but the second murder really didn’t.  I was left confused wondering which person killed Ray.  Didn’t detract from the story, but I felt it was detail that shouldn’t have been omitted.

Lastly, there were a few moments in the book where it seemed like it was recapping an earlier book in the series.  I was surprised when I found out this was book 1.  Again, it didn’t detract from the story or confuse me, but I thought those elements could’ve been integrated into the story in a way that didn’t lead the reader to believe there were other books in the series.

Death at a Fixer-Upper is available on Kindle  Order your copy on Amazon.

Review: Grilled For Murder

G3512dabfb5906e159b446db78635f426rilled For Murder by Maddie Day

Grilled For Murder is book 2 in the Country Store Mystery series and can be read as a stand-alone, the few mentions of the 1st book are explained and don’t detract from the current story.

I really enjoyed the book; the main plot kept me guessing right to the end  I thought the victim could’ve been introduced a little more before she was killed; all you know about her is that people didn’t like her.  A little more depth in the character would’ve made her death have more of an impact.  I liked the secondary plot, the mystery about the death of Jim’s brother.  I hope that will continue into the next book.

It still bothers me that Robbie’s store isn’t called Pots ‘N Pancakes, though.

Overall, an enjoyable book to a series that’s shaping up to be a favorite.

Grilled For Murder is available at book retailers  or order your copy on Amazon

Review: Earthbound Bones

84b7be2a411a562204779bd6f4121940Earthbound Bones by ReGina Welling

Being an angel ain’t easy in Earthbound Bones

In Earthbound Bones, the angel Galmadriel finds herself earthbound after a daring act caused her to fall from Heaven.  With no communication from her superiors, Galmadriel is forced to find her way in an unfamiliar world as she tries to solve the mystery of a little boy hit and killed by a car and the murder of the woman living next door.  Galmadriel must connect the dots and find a killer in the hopes that she will redeem herself and be allowed back into Heaven.

This book can be read as a stand-alone, but I recommend reading the 4 books in the Psychic Seasons series as it is frequently referenced in the book. I read (and loved) the Psychic Seasons series last year, so when this sequel came up on Netgalley, I snapped it up.  I loved the premise of the guardian angel Galmadriel  having to adapt to being a human.  Or, at least, an angel in a human body.

The whole fish-out-of-water theme has always appealed to me, and I enjoyed watching Galmadriel adjust to human life, particularly her struggles with the coffee maker and experiencing a BLT for the first time (That BLT sounded really good, too!).  I also enjoyed her reunion with the Psychic Seasons ladies.  It was rather like visiting old friends when they showed up in the story, with Amethyst plucking auras, Kat winning bets and Gustavia’s funky skirts.

The plot was well-paced and unfolded neatly.  I loved the scenes with Craig’s mind, it was fascinating, both haunting and enthralling. And as  the main plot of solving the murders progressed, the secondary plot of Julius going missing and the block on Galmadriel’s powers snuck in there and added another layer to the already rich plot. I love how the author expertly weaves several books together with one theme, and this one, ending neatly with a cliffhanger, always leaves me wanting more.

Overall, a fantastic read and a great sequel to the Psychic Seasons series.

This book is available only on Kindle or Kindle apps.  Order a copy of Earthbound Bones from Amazon
Recommended Reading:  The Psychic Seasons series

 

Review: Holy Island

24273148Holy Island by LJ Ross

In Holy Island, DCI Ryan is on temporary leave from his job as a homicide detective after a traumatic incident and holes up on an island off the north-east coast of England.  A few months into his leave, an islander turns up at Ryan’s cottage; she has found a young woman dead in the ruins of a priory.  Not long after, 2 more people are found dead and Ryan is thrown into a dark world of ritual sacrifice, small town lies and long buried secrets.

 Whew, after reading several cozy mysteries in a row, I was a little unprepared for the long slog getting through a real mystery.

Not that this book was boring in any way; the labyrinthine plot was well paced and bewildering.  This was one of those books where I kinda figured early on that I probably wouldn’t solve this one on my own and that I was just along for the ride.

I loved the island location, it’s almost a classic mystery theme and it worked well with this story.  Yeah, it made some aspects predictable, but it still fit well in the story.

This is one of those books where everyone has a tortuous back story and, if you’re anything like me, you get impatient waiting for the story to stop tiptoeing around everything and spit it out.  Most of the details of Ryan’s past didn’t come out until a good 3/4 of the way through the book.  No, if you’re going to set up such a detailed back story, you should really disclose it a lot sooner than it was.  Ugh.

Overall, Holy Island was a solid story, and one I recommend for any British mystery lover.

Holy Island is available at most book stores, or get the Kindle edition at Amazon