As always, the links take you to my full review if you'd like to read more.
All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).
Dying for a Taste by Leslie Karst (Sally Solari #1) - 4
Sally is shocked to learn that her aunt Letta has been murdered in the restaurant that Letta owns in Santa Cruz. The evidence seems to point to Javier, Letta’s sous chef. Yet Sally doesn’t think he’d murder Letta, so she starts digging into Letta’s life. She uncovered some surprising secrets, but which of them might have gotten Letta murdered?
I really enjoyed this debut. It got off to a bit of a slow start as Sally dealt with the aftermath of having a relative die, but this section does help develop her character and sets up suspects. Once she fully commits to the investigation things pick up. We are introduced to several viable suspects. The story touches on some other issues as well, presenting them in a well-rounded manner and never forgetting that this is a murder mystery, both of which I greatly appreciated. The climax was creative and fun. I’m definitely looking forward to finding out what happens to Sally next.
Adam Raccoon and the Circus Master by Glen Keane – 5
Adam Raccoon works every day in the forest with King Aren, but when the circus comes to town one day, Adam is enchanted and decides to run away to join the circus. Will that be a good idea? What will happen if Adam changes his mind?
This picture book is an obvious retelling of Jesus’s parable of the prodigal son, but that isn’t really an issue because the fresh settings gives it fresh life and drive home the point of God’s love and forgiveness anew. The colorful pictures will help hold kid’s attention in this fun book.
The Ghosts of Misty Hollow by Sue Ann Jaffarian (Ghost of Granny Apples #6) – 4
Emma and Phil are in Massachusetts at the invitation of mystery writer Gino Costello. He plans to include ghosts in his next book, and plans to use Emma’s expertise to get that part right. However, tension between Gino and Vanessa and the presence of many ghosts looking for Emma’s help will keep this trip for being restful.
While I don’t read many paranormal cozies, I enjoy this series because the characters are so much fun. We only really see Emma, Phil, and Granny here, but they are fantastic, and the new characters more than make up for any characters you might miss. The pacing is a little uneven, but the plot is good and the further I got into the book, the harder it was to put down.
Note: I received a copy of this book.
Prose and Cons by Amanda Flower (Magical Bookshop Mysteries #2) – 4
It’s time for the annual Food and Wine festival in town, and this year Violet Waverly is adding a Poe-try reading at Charming Books to the week’s line up. However, when one of the readers is found dead at the bottom of the shop’s steep stairs during the event, things take a tragic turn. The police quickly decide it was murder and start looking at Violet’s friend Sadie. An Violet prove her friend is innocent?
I absolutely love the bookstore in this series, a shop where the perfect book finds you. That’s really the only bit of magic in the series, and Violet is left to use old fashion methods to sift through clues and motives to find the killer. I did feel some of the characters could be stronger, but the mystery is strong with plenty of red herrings before things fall into place at the end.
NOTE: I received a copy of this book.
Live Free or Die by Jessie Crockett – 4
A string of fires in the village of Winslow Falls, New Hampshire, turns deadly when the body of Beulah Price is found in the town’s museum after it had burned. Volunteer fire chief Gwen Fifield finds herself teaming up with Hugh Larsen, the state’s arson investigator to figure out what is going on. The locals are ready to point the finger at the immigrant family in town, but Gwen suspects someone else is behind the crimes. Can she find out what is going on?
Having read Jessie’s other books, I had to go back and read her debut. While it was good, it needed more polish. Some of the characters tended to blend together, and I was really bothered by how all the villagers but Gwen treated the immigrant family. One scene introduces a sub-plot that is left hanging as well. However, the mystery itself was good and kept me turning pages. My irritants were all minor, and overall I did enjoy this book.
We Wish You a Murderous Christmas by Vicki Delany (Year-Round Christmas Mysteries #2) – 4
The Yuletide Inn is a cornerstone of Rudolph, New York, offering a nice place to stay and nice restaurant for the many people who come to take part in the Christmas festivities that the town hosts all year long. When the owner has a heart attack just a couple weeks before Christmas, his son Gord comes to town to help run things, but he immediately starts making plans for big changes – changes that could hurt the town. Merry is concerned about what this will do to her own shop, her friends, and family. But when Gord is killed, she has a new concern – find the killer before someone she loves his arrested for the crime.
I was in the mood for a Christmas cozy, and this one delivered in spades. Being set in December certainly helped. The author does a good job of setting up suspects and motives before the murder happens, but I did feel the book stalled out a bit in the middle as events pushed actual investigating to the background. The characters are wonderful and charming once again.
NOTE: I received a copy of this book in hopes I would review it.
Christmas Caramel Murder by Joanne Fluke (Hannah Swensen #20) – 4
It’s Christmas time again in Lake Eden, but trouble is brewing for Lisa, Hannah’s partner at The Cookie Jar. Her husband, Herb, is working late every night, and his new assistant is Phyllis, his high school girlfriend. Then Phyllis is cast as Mrs. Claus opposite Herb in the community play. Naturally, when Phyllis shows up murdered, Lisa and Herb are both suspects, and Hannah must work hard to clear their names.
Those familiar with the series will enjoy a chance to check in with the gang in this Christmas novella. The book is short, just 200 pages, including a dozen recipes, and the result is that some characters are reduced to cameos or even just mentions. The story touches all the usual bases, but it is fun and works its way to a logical climax. A few scenes take their cue from A Christmas Carol, but being a fan of that book I enjoyed them although they are certainly different for the series. Most interesting to me, this was a flashback, ignoring the events of the last couple of books, and a major character from those books only appears in the wrap around prologue and epilogue.
No Cats Allowed by Miranda James (Cat in the Stacks Mysteries #7) – 5
The Athena College Library has a new director, and Oscar Reilly seems determined to drive all the staff away. The heads of the library’s departments hate him and Charlie’s friend Melba is ready to quit. In fact, Charlie’s issue, that Oscar is claiming allergies as a reason that Charlie can’t bring his cat Diesel to work anymore, seems minor. It’s not terribly surprising when Oscar turns up dead, but who actually killed him?
Those who like this series will love this installment. The characters are as delightful as ever, and we get some advancement on series plot threads. The murder is set up well with good suspects and motives that Charlie has to work his way through until we reach the logical solution. This is my favorite to date in the series.
NOTE: I received a copy of this book in hopes I would review it.
Shadow of Doubt by Nancy Cole Silverman (Carol Childs #1) – 4
Carol Childs is making a career change to reporter for a talk radio station in Los Angeles, and she jumps on any scoop she can get. Which is why she uses her relationship with her neighbor Samantha to get inside scoop on the death of Sam’s aunt Pepper Millhouse, one of Hollywood’s top agents. However, when what appeared to be an accident looks like murder, Carol begins to wonder if she is in over her head. Can she use her insider status to uncover the truth?
I really enjoyed this debut. It starts strong and never lags as we go from one twist to another until we reach the ending. Along the way, we get to know the cast of characters, all of whom come across as developed here. I did find one character, a psychic, more annoying than entertaining. Additionally, the book had several handfuls of typos scattered throughout the book, which annoyed me. Still, both of these were minor, and I will be reading about Carol’s further adventures soon.
The Poet by Michael Connelly (Jack McEvoy #1) – 4
Crime reporter Jack McEnvoy’s world is turned upside down when his twin brother Sean, a cop, commits suicide. But when Jack goes to write a story on it, he discovers a disturbing pattern that will take him cross country and ultimately to the FBI. But will he learn the truth about what happened to his brother?
This book is praised as one of Connelly’s best, and I can see why. This book introduces an entire cast of characters, and they are all strong. The plot is ingenious, and I was on board for all the twists. Unfortunately, it is 20 years old, and the parts of the book that attempt to profile the villain and the scenes that are written from the villains point of view felt clichéd to me. Maybe it is because it has been done so often since this book. Whatever the reason, I found this the only flaw in an otherwise outstanding book.
Iced Under by Barbara Ross (Maine Clambake Mysteries #5) – 5
It’s a cold, quiet February in Busman’s Harbor until Julia’s mom gets a mysterious package in the mail. Inside is a necklace, a family heirloom worth seven figures, that disappeared in the 1920’s. What happened to it all those years ago? And who sent it today?
This is definitely a different plot for a cozy, but I really loved it. Yes, there is a murder, but it comes in later and the mystery of tracking down family and the story behind the necklace takes center stage. Honestly, I like the break from the familiar formula. The characters are fun as always, especially the new ones. And I might have cried (in a good way) through the last couple of chapters. Fans of the series will appreciate this one best, but they will love it.
Note: I received an ARC of this book.
Custom Baked Murder by Liz Mugavero (Pawsitively Organic #5) – 5
Stan’s mother is engaged to Frog Ledge’s new mayor, and the pair are throwing a big engagement party. However, the groom to be isn’t there. Instead, Stan is running into several people she is less than happy to see again from her days in the corporate world, including her ex-boyfriend. The night gets worse when a body is found upstairs. The police quickly make an arrest, but something seems off. Are they trying to cover something up?
Since the last book took place out of town, it was wonderful to be back in Frog Ledge and spending time with our favorite characters. The author has really built a sense of community, and I love how she is growing Stan, the others characters, and their relationships. The downside of that is the murder moves slowly in the beginning as the sub-plots that help with the community building are front and center. But the mystery takes center stage in the second half, offering us several viable suspects and some great twists and surprises.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book.