Wednesday, May 31, 2017

REVIEW: A Hiss Before Dying

A Hiss Before Dying
Author: Rita Mae Brown

I have been a fan of the Mrs. Murphy series by Rita Mae Brown (with the assistance of Sneaky Pie Brown) since the very beginning when Mary Minor "Harry'' Harristeen was the postmaster of Crozet, Virginia and took her lovely pets to work with her at the post office. The series now has 26 books! Alas, I have not read all of got in the way and somewhere back just after Harry remarried her ex-husband Fair (the local vet) I lost track of the series. Now that I'm a bit older (just how old I refuse to admit  discuss lol) and no longer have little ones getting in to everything, I have more time to read. I've come back to one of my most favorite mystery series! When I saw this newest book as available for review, I jumped right on it! I wanted to know just what Harry, Fair, Mrs. Murphy, Tee Tucker, Pewter, Boom Boom and all the other lovely folks in Crozet have been up to in my absence.

A Hiss Before Dying is a mystery within a mystery. Two men are murdered in present day Crozet. One of the men had just purchased a bronze slave pass medallion dating from the post-revolution era in Virginia. That medallion ties in with events that occurred in the 1780s. The story switches back and forth between present and past. At first it was a bit difficult keeping the characters straight with all the switching back and forth, but luckily the author included a list of all the characters in the front of the book. When I got confused about who was who in the post-revolutionary story line, I just paged back to the list and got a reminder.

While I'm not normally a big fan of stories that jump back and forth in time, I enjoyed the double-mystery. I didn't know what a slave pass (or chit) was and I found the historical information the author provided to be very interesting. The story is well-written and paced. I enjoyed how the two mysteries intertwined. The antics of Harry's furry pals are still much the same as earlier in the series, adding a bit of humor and animal wisdom to the story. Harry is still her pragmatic, hard-working, spunky self, surrounded by a cast of friends and citizens of Crozet who make these stories so enjoyable. I definitely need to backtrack a bit and read the books in the series that I missed. All 11 of them! :)  I have a lot of reading to do!

It really isn't necessary to read the other books before this one. It's enough of a stand-alone story that a reader could jump in at book 26 and still enjoy the story. The series is great though, so I highly recommend reading the earlier books.

Rita Mae Brown is the author of many books including Rubyfruit Jungle and the Sister Jane series. For more information on the author and her books, check out her website:

**I voluntarily read an advance readers copy of this book from Random House Publishing via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

REVIEW: Bearly Departed

Bearly Departed
Author: Meg Macy

Sasha Silverman helps manage her family's factory, Silver Bear Shop and Factory, in Silver Hollow, Michigan. Her parents have semi-retired from the business leaving Sasha, her sister Maddie and Uncle Ross to run the business. The family prides themselves on the great quality of Silver Bears. Imagine Sasha's surprise when the company sales manager, Will Taylor, returns from a meeting with her father stating that the family patriarch has agreed to cut staff and move most of the factory operations overseas to cut costs. Unable to reach her parents to confirm Taylor's statements, Sasha refuses to believe Taylor's claims. It soon becomes a moot point when Taylor's dead body is discovered inside the factory. Heated words exchanged between Taylor and Sasha's Uncle Ross make her uncle a suspect in the man's murder. In order to save her uncle and the family business, Sasha knows she needs to investigate and find out who killed their sales manager.

The minute I saw the cover for this book, I knew I had to read it! I have been a teddy bear collector for years. The theme of this cozy mystery had me hooked before I even read one word. Luckily, the story lived up to my expectations. This is a well-paced, fun to read cozy mystery! I liked the story and the characters just as much as I like the teddy bear theme. The cover art is incredi-cute as well.

Sasha Silverman makes a great main character. She is an inventive business woman who works hard to market the family's teddy bear line. And when pulled into a murder investigation, she puts her wits to work to discover the culprit. The side characters aren't as developed, but add nice flavor to the plot. The background details about toy manufacture and how stuffed animals are assembled is interesting and adds nice flavor to this cozy.

Bearly Departed is the first book in the new Shamelessly Adorable Teddy Bear Mystery series. A second book, Bear Witness to Murder, will be published in 2018. I am definitely going to be reading more of this series! I can't resist teddy bears -- and the mystery kept my attention from beginning to end!

**I voluntarily read an advance readers copy of this book from Kensington via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own. **

Saturday, May 27, 2017

REVIEW: The Ship

The Ship
Author: Antonia Honeywell

Lalla's life began as the world started to end. Famine, floods, disease, governments failing, thousands of people dying on a daily basis......the complete destruction of civilization. She lives in what is left of London with her parents. Life is constant hardship. Threats of death if required identity papers are lost. Long food lines. Government news broadcasts showing mass killings of those without identity papers. It is a life of horrors. Lalla hears her parents talk about The Ship. A vessel that will take them to safety. Away from the killings. Away from the dangerous, starving masses in the streets. Lalla isn't sure the ship is real. Maybe it's just a story. But then the day comes when it's time to board the vessel and leave the last remnants of society behind. 500 people on a ship stocked with enough supplies to last 20 years or more. The last bit of humanity. But even if everyone else follows her father like some sort of cult hero, Lalla is confused. Is the ship their salvation? Or just another horror?

I have to honestly state that this book was hard for me to read. It's well written and a beautiful piece of fiction. But, I had a hard time finishing this book because it was just emotionally draining.


Lalla's realization that The Ship and her father's plan to save humanity was completely flawed was just rough. The story made me feel so many emotions, and more than once I wanted to stop reading. But I continued with the tale to the end. I can't really imagine how a 16-year old girl would feel to be basically living through the end of humanity. Rough topic.

The end was the worst part for me. No spoilers from me.....but the lack of any resolution just left me with a WTF-did-I-just-read feeling. It's hard to enjoy a story that is basically without hope. I kept waiting for some glimmer of something besides doom, but nothing ever materialized. Then the ending basically left everything unresolved.

Looking back, if I had fully realized what this story was....and how it would make me feel....I wouldn't have read it. Too bleak.

Well written.....just not my cup of tea.

REVIEW: A Midwinter's Tail

A Midwinter's Tail
Author: Sofie Kelly

The Magical Cats Mystery series is one of my all-time favorite cozy mystery series! I enjoy the feline antics of the mysteriously gifted Owen and Hercules and I really like the main character, Kathleen Paulson.

A Midwinter's Tail is the 6th book in the series. Although I'm a bit obsessive about reading a series in order, a reader could jump in with book 6 and still enjoy the series. But to get all the background on the characters, the cats, and happenings in Mayville Heights it would be best to start at the beginning. :)

The basics: Winter has come to Mayville Heights. Kathleen is busy planning a fundraiser for the library's Reading Buddies program. The fundraiser is ruined when the ex-wife of a prominent resident drops dead in front of everyone during the event. Everyone at the fundraiser was given a box of fancy, handmade chocolates. But someone tampered with Dayna Chapman's candies. Someone who knew she had a severe allergy to nuts. Suspicion immediately turns to Burtis Chapman, her ex-husband. Kathleen believes Burtis is innocent. So with the help of her friends and two wonderous cats, she once again is on the trail of a murderer!

I like this series because of the cats of course.....Kelly makes them special, but it's not over-the-top. Just fun! And I like the characters. Kathleen is independent, intelligent and creative. And her friends are sweet and quirky. It just all combines for a enjoyable cozy mystery!

On to book 7, Faux Paw!

To learn more about Sofie Kelly's books and the Magical Cats series, check out her website:

Friday, May 26, 2017

REVIEW: Hospitality and Homicide

Hospitality and Homicide
Author: Lynn Cahoon

Because I love Lynn Cahoon's Cat Latimer cozy series, when I saw Hospitality and Homicide available for review, I jumped right on it. The book is #8 in the Tourist Trap Mystery Series, but as with most cozy series a reader can usually jump in mid-stream and still enjoy the story. I'm so glad I read this book! I just started a very challenging new job, and I'm really feeling the pressure. Today was my day off....I curled up on the couch with some awesome coffee and devoured this book from cover to cover!


I am definitely going to read the rest of this series!

The basics: Jill Garner runs her own business, Coffee, Books and More, in South Cove, CA. She is dating local hunky cop, Greg, and has many friends and associates around town. Mystery writer, Nathan Pike, is in town to do some signing events, research at the local police department (much to Greg's chagrin) and write. Things heat up in South Cove when a local B&B owner is found murdered in a gruesome way that mirrors a scene from Nathan's new book. As in most cozy mysteries, Jill decides to put her amateur sleuthing skills to the test and ferret out the murderer. Again, much to Cop boyfriend Greg's chagrin.

The plotline is pretty much standard cozy mystery. Shocking murder. Main character starts investigating for clues, even after multiple cautionary statements from local police. Trouble ensues. Killer discovered. Kiss Kiss. The end. :)

It wasn't the plot that made me like this book so much. I love the characters! Jill is independent, intelligent, and feisty. Her aunt is controlling, yet endearing. The employees at the coffee house are a bit stereotypical, but very likable. And the cop boyfriend isn't controlling or condescending....he's patient, intelligent and good at his job. Cahoon did not paint local law enforcement as bumbling idiots who needed assistance from a local businesswoman to solve a crime....but rather as hard-working cops trying to solve a case. Jill was providing extra information that she gleaned through talking to people, listening to gossip and being a bit sneaky. All in all, the characters, the setting, and the smooth flowing plot made this an excellent book to lose myself in on my day off.

I'm going to backtrack and read the first 7 books in this series. That should tide me over until Lynn Cahoon finishes another book. :) Book 3 in the Cat Latimer Series, Of Murder and Men,  comes out this November. And book 9 in the Tourist Trap series, Killer Party, will be available this July!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

REVIEW: Uniformly Dead

Uniformly Dead
Author: Greta McKennan

Daria Dembrowski is a seamstress. Usually she keeps busy making wedding gowns, doing alterations and sewing church banners but with Civil War reenactors in town she picks up some extra work sewing period clothing. As Laurel Spings, Pennsylvania seems carried back to the 1860s with the mock Civil War battles waging just outside town and a movie crew in town filming a period piece, Daria works hard sewing an authentic looking Civil War Confederate coat for Confederate Colonel Windstrom. The reenactor is obsessively concerned with wearing only perfect reproductions, berating and bullying anyone that is a farb -- a reenactor who has cheap, modern knockoff copies of uniforms or gear. When Windstrom is murdered in his tent at the reenactor's event, Daria is shocked. Surely someone didn't kill a man for being surly, unsociable and overly obsessed. When a museum theft and another murder put her brother at the top of the suspects list, Daria starts snooping around to discover the killer's identity. Will she find out the truth before her brother is arrested for murder?

Uniformly Dead is a fun, quick read. The mystery is well-paced. There are plenty of suspects and some interesting twists and turns.  The subplot of Civil War reenactment and reproducing period uniforms did not over-power the mystery but added to it. I love Daria as a main character. She has flaws (like her fear of driving a car), but is strong, independent and intelligent. The supporting characters are not just hanging around in the background for comedy relief or subplot, they actually help with the case. When Daria is weak, her friend Allison and her brother Paul are strong. They make a great team! My favorite supporting character has got to be Allison, Daria's renter who sings lead vocals for metal band Twisted Armpits.

Uniformly Dead is Greta McKennan's first book. She is already at work on the second book in the A Stitch in Time Mystery series. Historically Dead will be released in December 2017. I will definitely be reading more of this series! I love the period clothing theme and the characters!

To find out more about the author and her books, check out her website:

**I voluntarily read an advance readers copy of this book from Kensington via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

REVIEW: The Woodpecker Always Pecks Twice

The Woodpecker Always Pecks Twice
Author: J.R. Ripley

Amy Simms loves running her shop for bird lovers, Birds & Bees. But lately she's a bit tired because a woodpecker has been waking her up early every morning tapping on a tree outside her bedroom window. Imagine her surprise when she picks up a pair of binoculars to get a good look at her feathered nemesis only to see a murder in progress across Ruby Lake at the old McKutcheon house. Even though the police find nothing -- no body, no crime scene -- to prove anyone was killed, Amy still thinks something strange is going on at the old house. Her suspicions are confirmed when a local woman is found dead in the woods near the house. What's going on at the old McKutcheon house? Will the legend of a dead McKutcheon ancestor rising from the lake on the anniversary of her death really happen? And did Amy really see a murder?

The Woodpecker Always Pecks Twice is the third book in the Bird Lovers Mystery series. I enjoy this series! Amy Simms is a fun, independent, spunky main character. The quirky group of supporting characters around her are great, especially her unwanted boarder, the curmudgeonly Esther Pelaster (AKA Esther Pester). This newest book in the series, in my opinion, is the best so far. The mystery was well-paced with plenty of twists and turns. There are lots of suspects and some great surprises. The theme of birds and bird watching doesn't overpower the mystery portion of the plot, but adds color and flavor to the story. I will definitely be reading more of this series! I recommend it to anyone who enjoys birds and cozy mysteries.

It isn't necessary to read the books in order. A reader could jump in with this book and still be able to follow the plot and characters relatively easily. As with most cozies, the books are light, enjoyable reads suitable for teens to adults. There is no bad language or detailed sexual situations.

The next book in this series, To Kill a Hummingbird, will be released in July 2017. I can't wait! :)

J.R. Ripley is a pseudonym of the author Glenn Meganck. For more information on the author and his books, check out his website at

**I voluntarily read an advance readers copy of this book from Kensington via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

REVIEW: Raising Royalty

Raising Royalty
Author: Carolyn Harris

Raising a prince or princess is much more than the Once-Upon-A-Time of fairy tales. Bringing up a royal child is parenting on a grand scale - preparing the next generation of rulers, setting political alliances, and maintaining the grandeur and expectations of a 24/7 public role. Raising Royalty presents the stories of 20 different royal families and their children over the past 1000 years. From grand palaces to lonely exile, arranged marriages and political intrigue, to armed rebellion, overindulgence and even abuse, the stories tell an ever evolving tale of what it means to be royal.

I loved this book! From Edgar the Peaceable to the modern Prince William and Catherine Middleton, it shows not only the progression of monarchy over time but the changes in the way royals parent their children. Some had only rare contact with their children. Others saw them as political rivals. And some were doting, loving parents. Harris writes in a style that makes the family history of 20 royal families interesting and accessible.

I've read many books on European history, but this is the first I've read that focuses on royal family life and parental relationships. So interesting! The book is organized by date and ruling couple. Harris gives information on the rulers' childhoods and how their youth formed their parental style (or lack thereof in some cases). Any reader with interest in the history of Europe and royals would enjoy this book!

Harris, who teaches history at the University of Toronto's School of Continuing Studies, has also written two other books on history - Magna Carta and Its Gifts to Canada, and Queenship and Revolution in Early Modern Europe. For more information on the author and her books, check out her website at: .

**I voluntarily read an advance readers copy of this book from Dundern via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.**

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

REVIEW: Magick & Mayhem

Magick & Mayhem
Author: Sharon Pape

Things in Kailyn Wilde's life seem to be going awry lately. When you own a centuries-old magick shop, daily life isn't quite normal anyway....but Kailyn senses that there is something more to her current problems than meets the eye. Any magick around her is going wrong. She tries to summon a familiar and ends up calling forth a famous wizard from antiquity. Potions and spells from her shop start having unexpected results, and even her Aunt Tilly's Magick seems to be fizzling lately. Then Kailyn discovers her attorney dead in his office. Things are going from bad to worse! Who killed Jim? What is behind the curse causing her magick to fizzle?  And what is she going to do about Merlin?

I can sum up this story in one word:  FUN!! I enjoyed the characters, the quirky story and the mystery! Sharon Pape interjects a lot of personality, humor and sass into her characters. Aunt Tilly was perfect as the slightly ditzy older aunt. And Kailyn is independent and strong, but a bit stressed by the pressures of being responsible for the magick shop handed down in her family for generations. Both Tilly and Kailyn are extremely vexed and confused when their magick powers start going a bit off. Merlin joins in the mix and even his powers start to get a bit crazy. The scenes where the ladies are trying to introduce Merlin to modern society were cute and fun to read. I can't imagine trying to explain cars, space travel, television and the internet to a person from Arthurian days! :) Add visits from deceased relatives into the mix and it makes for a fun, quirky paranormal mystery!

I also love the cover art for this book! It's perfect!

Magick & Mayhem is the first book in the new Abracadabra Mystery series. A second book, That Olde White Magick, will be coming out in November 2017. I am definitely going to read more of this series! Any reader who enjoys paranormal cozy mysteries, or those with humor and wit interjected throughout will love this book!

Sharon Pape is also the author of the Portrait of Crime and Crystal Shop mystery series. For more info on the author and her books, check out her website at