Review: Flowers and Foul Play

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Flowers and Foul Play by Amanda Flower

Fiona’s going through a rough patch; her flower shop’s gone out of business, her fiancé cheated on her and then she gets word that her godfather has died and left her his cottage in Scotland. Arriving to reclaim her inheritance, she discovers the body of Alastair Croft, the lawyer handling her inheritance. Worried that the police suspect her godfather’s most trusted friend and employee may be implicated, Fiona asks a few questions around town and discovers that nearly everyone had a motive to kill Alastair.

What a lovely book! The beautiful Scottish countryside drew me in, the magical garden hooked me. With engaging characters, the beautiful setting and the excellent plot, it was a thoroughly charming and light cozy. I loved the writing style, the book came alive with each page, from “seeing” the garden come alive, to the mischievous Duncan the squirrel (and the rivalry between Duncan and Ivanhoe that cat!) to the dramatic landscape of the coast, it was almost like being a part of the action. So well done! The action packed ending had me biting my nails with each page and in the end, there were a few plot threads in the book that I look forward to seeing resolved in later books in the series. This was an excellent first in a new series and I look forward to seeing more of Fiona and friends!

Review: Murder on the Toy Town Express

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Murder on the Toy Town Express by Barbara Early

Book 2 of the Vintage Toy Shop series was every bit as good as the first! This is shaping up to be a go-to series, and not just because I love the setting so much (and I’m with Liz about Sahlen’s Hot Dogs, mmmm.) The twisty plot kept me guessing right up to the exciting ending, and there were a few “oh no way!” moments along the way. I love Liz’s relationship with her dad, they make a great team and the running puns are always funny.

“You have a mind like an elephant’s.”
“Yeah, wrinkled, gray and way too much junk in the trunk. But that’s totally irrelephant.”

I felt bad for Liz in this one. I mean, what’s wrong with a woman casually dating 2 guys? Apparently a lot, since Liz’s family felt like they needed to nag her about it every 2 minutes. Can’t a single girl have a little fun?

It was the plot that really stands out in this book, who killed Comic Book Craig and why? Craig wasn’t a likable guy by any means, and there were plenty of motives and suspects to keep me guessing, and the side plots added both a bit of fun and introduced new characters I hope to see more of in later books. The big plot twist at the end made for an exciting and satisfying conclusion and by the very last page, I was already dying (pun intended) to read the next book (October can’t come soon enough!)

Review: Jeopardy in July

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Jeopardy in July by Barbara Venkataraman

Ahhh Jamie, how can you be such an adept investigator but be so oblivious to what’s around you? *sigh*

This series is always a fun, laugh-out-loud, absorbing read. You can’t help but like Jamie, a sassy, independent, and strong woman, yet vulnerable and a little unsure (especially when it comes to Kip!) Her banter with Duke is always hilarious, and the gents at the old folks’ home (named ‘La Vida Boca’, a take off on the Ricky Martin song,  translated, it means ‘The Mouth Life’ which made me laugh a bit too, considering the sassy level of many of its residents!) In Jeopardy in July, Jamie is uncovers a case of art forgery that turns into murder and I enjoyed how the story weaved together several threads into one intricate plot. Jamie is also reconsidering the focus of her law practice and I can’t wait to see how that develops in coming books. The book capped off with an exciting conclusion that opened up so many possible future storylines (which I’m looking forward to!) My only criticism was that I thought the showdown at the end ended a little abruptly, but it was still satisfying. A few new characters were introduced that I hope to see return, especially Herb, Uncle Teddy and his friends. The heartwarming twist at the end was adorable and left me with a serious case of the feels, if you’ve been following the series from the beginning, it was a satisfying and endearing end to the book and left me eagerly awaiting the next book.

Review: The Fast and the Furriest

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The Fast and the Furriest by Sofie Ryan

Another fun mystery in the Second Chance Cat series, The Fast and the Furriest dug into the shadowy past of Mac, the enigmatic handyman at Second Chances. And what a story it was! It would’ve made for a great soap opera plot even Elvis the cat could get in to (as long as it wasn’t on during Jeopardy, of course.) When Erin Fellows shows up in town looking for Mac and is later found dead, Mac comes under suspicion after an eyewitness places him at the scene. Sarah’s sassy senior friends, an informal PI agency calling themselves “Charlotte’s Angels”, kick into gear to solve the murder to save their friend.

I always enjoy this series, it’s a relaxing, light read and the charming characters make it feel like I’m catching up with old friends. I have to say, Sarah is stubbornly clueless about Nick’s interest, maybe he needs to step up his game? I enjoyed their “field trips” they took in the course of their investigation (Stevie’s alibi made me laugh) and it all came together for an exciting ending, Mr. P. certainly is a man of many talents.

Overall, The Fast and the Furriest is a delightful addition to an already great series. This book can easily be be read as a standalone or an entry into the series, as any references to prior books are summed up nicely and it would be easy for readers new to the series to understand.

Review: Death of a Toy Soldier

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Death of a Toy Soldier by Barbara Early

Ok, first of all, I have an ulterior motive for picking up this book. You see, I know the setting very, very well. East Aurora, a small town outside of Buffalo, NY, is home to landmarks like Vidlers, The Roycroft, and of course, Fisher-Price and all of its toys. So when I saw that Death of a Toy Soldier was set in that tiny speck on the map that few people outside of Western NY know about, I had to read it. The book was full of recognizable places and captured the flavor of the town so well that it made me feel like I was transported back to the bricked lined Main Street with its wide sidewalks and cute little shops.

The plot surrounds a man who brings a box of old toys to be appraised at the vintage toy shop owned by Liz McCall and her retired police chief father Hank. When the man and is later found dead in the middle of the night, murdered with a lawn dart and Hank falls under suspicion, there’s no choice for Liz and her father to investigate, turning up family squabbles, a possible haunting and some mischievous fun.  Lots of red herrings and false clues made this an enjoyable and puzzling plot and I loved the charming characters that truly embodied the warm community atmosphere of the town. The surprise twist and exciting ending capped it all off and left me eager to read more.

An excellent debut mystery set in a place close to my heart and I definitely recommend it for cozy mystery fans looking for a fun and enjoyable read.

Review; Sitting Murder

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Sitting Murder by A.J. Wright

After Alice, a recent widow, develops the ability to speak with the dead after her husband dies in a mining accident, her aunt Doris takes advantage of it by bringing in people for spirit readings. After receiving a threatening letter, the police are contacted and Detective Sergeant Brennan and Constable Jaggery begin to investigate. Brennan initially dismisses the letter as a crank but the case heats up quickly when Doris is found suffocated, and there’s no shortage of suspects. But who was the target, Doris or Alice?

Whoo, what a ride! Loved, loved, LOVED this, I was swept up in this deftly written mystery combining the Victorian fascination with mediums and spirits with a classic whodunit.  I loved the simple yet complex plot that takes twist after turn and by the time the surprise ending was unfolding, I was just holding on for dear life! The tragic stories from the suspects made it hard to single one out, and although you think you know who did it, you’ll be wrong.

Sitting Murder was a fantastic mystery and one I will be thinking out for a long time. I’ve not read any of the earlier books in the series (you can bet I will now!) so this book can easily be read as a standalone or as an entry into the series.

Review: March of Crime

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March of Crime by Jess Lourey

“Gary,” she said on her way out, “I got my nails done. What do you think?” He looked. She held up both her middle fingers. His nostrils flared. I tugged Mrs. Berns outside before he did anything more

If I could give this book a standing ovation, I would. I had a serious book hangover after I finished this one; actually, I finished the last page and went “Auuugghhhaaahhhhh!!!!” Thrilling, hilarious and entertaining, it was a great comeback for Mira and the Battle Lake gang. I love Mira, she’s smart and tough on the outside but so vulnerable and insecure on the inside (and dang it, girl you make some rotten decisions!) Mrs. Berns is always laugh out loud funny and like Mira, I want to be her when I grow up. The plot was fantastically creepy (dolls are creepy enough, but when you stuff corpses in them? *shudder*) and I never saw the end coming. Add in Kennie’s hairbrained money making schemes (which had me rolling with laughter!) and Chief Wohnt (gaaahhhh!!) and you’ve got a blockbuster book.

An excellent read and  I definitely recommend this series for cozy mystery fans. I can’t wait for the next book (please Lord, let it be soon!)

Review: Biscuits and Slashed Browns

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Biscuits and Slashed Browns by Maddie Day

Biscuits and Slashed Browns is the 4th book in the Country Store Mysteries, and the small town of South Lick, IN is gearing up for a Maple Festival when a visiting college professor ruffles some feathers and winds up dead with a chef’s knife stuck in his chest. Puzzle fanatic Robbie can’t seem to let the matter go, especially when the prime suspects are her best friend Christina and the father of one of her employees! Robbie ruthlessly chases the truth, and finds herself in a couple of sticky situations before being confronted by the killer and barely escaping with her life! (And I loved how the title was a part of the plot!)

I love a visit to South Lick and catching up with Robbie, Buck and Adele and of course, Robbie’s food (I’m going to make those maple biscuits!) and this one didn’t disappoint. The author does such a great job of creating a world that welcomes you back like an old friend. The rich plot had a lot going on without feeling too cluttered, with a fast pace and a riveting plot that kept me glued to the pages. I mean, the floors can wait to be washed, but mysteries don’t solve themselves! Robbie’s bike rides had me, who is freezing in arctic Indiana right now, yearning for those spring days with the promise of warmer weather to come. I would’ve liked to have seen a little bit about the maple syrup process, too bad Robbie didn’t make it to see the Native American sugaring demonstration. And did she ever fix her taillight? Did she give Warren’s crown back to Noreen? These are the things I worry about, folks.

Overall, Biscuits and Slashed Browns serves up another finger lickin’ good cozy mystery and another enjoyable visit to South Lick.