Sunday, September 30, 2018

REVIEW: Zora and Me: The Cursed Ground

Zora and Me: The Cursed Ground
Author: T.R. Simon

The Cursed Ground is the second book in the Zora and Me series, a fictionalized account of the childhood of African American author Zola Neale Hurston (1891-1960). Hurston was a writer and anthropologist, writing on racial issues in the American South and Haitian voodoo. T.R. Simon creates a world of her childhood in the early 1900s, where Zora and her best friend, Carrie Brown, live in Eatonville, Fla. Eatonville was one of the first all-black incorporated towns in the United States.

I have not read the first book in this series, but The Cursed Ground is a wonderful, bittersweet and captivating story about racial issues and the aftermath of slavery. The book alternates between Zora's time and 50 years before, telling the story of a young slave named Lucia. The tale begins when Zora and Carrie discover a secret about Mr. Polk, the town mute. Turns out that the mystery of how the mute man can actually speak is part of a bigger that might threaten the future of Eatonville.

I loved this book! The storytelling is vibrant and emotional. The characters are beautifully developed and striking. I had never heard of Zola Neale Hurston before I read this book. But I'm definitely going to read about her life and learn more. I'm on the waiting list at the library for one of her books, Their Eyes Were Watching God.

Lovely book! I will definitely read more of this series!

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Candlewick Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Saturday, September 29, 2018

REVIEW: In Want of a Knife

In Want of a Knife
Author: Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli

In Want of a Knife is the third book in the Little Library Mysteries series. While delivering newspapers, Harold Roach finds the body of a woman on the side of the road outside Bear Falls, MI. Janice Root, a 17 year old local, was apparently killed by a hit and run driver. But soon, another local girl, Camille Otis, disappears. Are the two incidents related? Where is Camille? Local Librarian Jenny Weston and author Zoe Zola team up to investigate.

This is the first book in this series that I've read. I had a bit of trouble connecting with the characters. I found the three main female characters to be a bit bitter, whiney and annoying...   But that could be because I jumped into this series on book 3. I have the first two books on my TBR shelf and I'm going to read them....then return to this book and re-read it. I might change my opinions a bit once I have the full background and knowledge of the prior two books. As it stands, this cozy was an ok read, but nothing outstanding. It seemed a bit trope-y to me with its Pride and Prejudice references (two characters named Charles Bingman and Fitzwilliam Dillon, for example...and one character writing a book about the crappy treatment of women in Austen's time.) and predictable plot. It might be a case of this series just not being my cup of tea. Not every book will engage every reader. I love the Little Library concept...great background theme for a cozy series. I just didn't like the characters or the P&P references. Fell flat for me.

I will go back and read from book 1 and see if that improves my opinion. I will edit this review if it does.

Just an ok read for me. Entertaining enough as cozies are light reads....but not enjoyable enough for me to continue with this series.

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Crooked Lane via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Friday, September 28, 2018

REVIEW: Read and Gone

Read and Gone
Author: Allison Brook

Read and Gone is the second cozy mystery in the Haunted Library Mystery series. Carrie Singleton is the head of programs and events at the Clover Ridge, CT library. She loves her job, even though the library comes with a special guest...the ghost of a former librarian, Evelyn. In this second mystery, Carrie is gearing up for the holiday season at the library, when her long-lost father shows up, begging her to help him. Jim Singleton is a crook and Carrie hasn't seen him in years. He tells a tale of a jewelry heist gone wrong and the local jeweler who refuses to give him his share of the take. Soon after, the jeweler is found murdered. Is her father a crook and a murderer? a dangerous criminal hanging around hoping to get the jewels they stole?

Read and Gone is an entertaining continuation of this new cozy series. I like the background theme of a haunted library. Evelyn is a hoot and a very helpful ghost when it comes to sleuthing. Smokey Joe is awesome as the designated library cat, of course. I like the characters in this series. Carrie is intelligent, creative and feisty when necessary. She is also kind -- she agreed to help her horrid father, even though he pretty much abandoned her in childhood. The mystery and sleuthing moved along at a nice pace, with plenty of investigation, suspects and twists. With Fall coming on, I really enjoyed reading a cozy with a ghostly element to it. :)

I will definitely be reading more of this series. It always provides a cozy, entertaining reading experience. Allison Brook is a pen-name of Author Marilyn Levinson. Levinson has published several books including A Murderer Among Us and Giving up the Ghost. I will be reading some of her other books while waiting for book 3 in this series! :)

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Crooked Lane Books via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Thursday, September 27, 2018

REVIEW: In Cold Chocolate

In Cold Chocolate
Author: Dorothy St. James

It's been seven months since Charity Penn inherited her grandmother's chocolate shop, The Chocolate Box, in Camellia Beach, SC. With rumblings and problems from her grandmother's family continuing, Penn isn't too surprised when Jody Dalton threatens to reveal information she knows that will run Penn's reputation and take away her shop. When local real estate agent and playboy, Cassidy Jones, is shot dead on the beach and Jody is accused of the killing, Penn promises to try to clear her name despite her threats. How can she say no to a little boy who wants his mama home in time to take him to his first day of school?

This book had a little bit of everything I love in a cozy series....chocolate, murder, sea turtles, lots of sleuthing, and secrets. And, a cute but impish dog, too. The mystery portion of the plot moved along at a nice speed, with plenty of suspects and twists. The plot isn't overly complex, but held my attention. I like the characters and the chocolate background theme.

In Cold Chocolate is the third book in the Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery series. But it isn't vitally necessary to read the books in order. There is enough of the backstory woven in with the new plot to make it easy for new readers to just jump in and enjoy this book. But, for the full story about Penn, her inheritance, the subsequent family squabbles and attempts to contest the will, and the story of Camellia Beach, try reading from Book one, Asking For Truffle.

There are several yummy recipes containing chocolate at the back of this book! Cookies, pancakes and cocoa pork tenderloin! Yummy!

I will definitely keep reading this series. Looking forward to the next book!

**I voluntarily read an advance readers copy of this book from Crooked Lane Books via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

REVIEW: The Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller

The Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller
Author: Cleo Coyle

I am not a patient book lover. I don't usually wait long periods of time for a new book in a series. But....there are a few favorites that I don't mind waiting on. The Haunted Bookshop Mystery series is one of those favorites. The husband and wife writing team wrote five books in this series from 2004-2009, and a sixth book was announced. I even knew the title. book.  Assuming publisher/agent/contractual issues at work behind the scenes, I waited patiently. For almost 10 years. February this year I saw the book once again had a release date. I have never pre-ordered a book so fast in my life! :) I love this cozy mystery series! The first five books have been waiting patiently on my keeper shelf for their new buddy to show up. And, today, my lovely brand new paperback copy showed up on my porch. Release day delivery is the bomb!  I've had a digital review copy of this book on my computer for months....and I read the first half....but I wanted a real physical copy in my hand to finish the story.

This afternoon as soon as all my adulting was done, I shut myself in my room and finished the mystery book I waited 10 years to read.

Loved it!

Bookshop owner Pen McClure is haunted by the ghost of a 1940s detective, Jack Shephard. Jack can be a pain at times, but he also helps her when problems arise. Like murders, dead bodies, criminal of the mill events around her store, Buy the Book. In this long-anticipated sixth book in the series, Pen is excited about brisk sales for a new racy bestseller, Shades of Leather, until a customer takes one look at the cover and runs out of the shop without paying for the book. That's just the first weird event. People associated with the book start dropping dead. Sex sells.....but sometimes it also kills. Pen & Jack are on the case again, hoping to track down what's so killer about the spicy new release.

It was so awesome to finally get to read another mystery with Pen and Jack! So worth the wait!

The first five books were published under the pseudonym Alice Kimberly. Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini published this new book under Cleo Coyle, the penname they use for their Coffeehouse Mystery series (another cozy series I love!).

Can't wait for the next book! :)

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Berkley Publishing via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: Changes

Review: Changes
Author: Jim Butcher

I knew this book was going to hold some big developments in this series just because of the title. Changes. And I wasn't wrong. This 12th book in The Dresden Files series is my favorite so far. Action packed and full of surprises, Changes kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end. 

Susan Rodrieguez, Dresden's former girlfriend and now half vampire, comes back into his life, asking for help with a dire situation. Dresden is caught off guard by some of her secrets, now revealed, but rallies his allies to help in the quest. Things rapidly spiral out of control (This is Dresden we're talking about....that can't be too surprising) and he finds himself making choices he never thought he would make. 

This was a fabulous addition to this series! Lots of magic, constant action, and some really important character development. I knew what happened in the last portion of the story (thanks to my husband's accidental revelation of extreme spoilers) but the final hour of this book still left me shocked and speechless for awhile. I'm glad I have book #13, Ghost Story, waiting in the wings! I'm starting on it right away! 

I listened to the audio book version of Changes. Narrated by James Marsters, the audio is a bit shy of 15.5 hours long. Marsters performance was fabulous as usual. He lends some great acting skills to his reading, voicing the characters and different personalities perfectly, even Mouse the Foo Dog. :) He reads at a nice even pace and even with my hearing loss I was easily able to hear and understand. 

Moving on to the next book....I must know what happens! I'm so glad that I read action series husband speeds through and then has to stew on cliffhangers for months. :) 

I do have one question though.....    Dresden is always adamant that he will NOT wear hats. So why does the publisher insist on picturing Dresden on every book cover wearing a hat???? 

On to the next! 

Sunday, September 23, 2018


Mary B
Author: Katherine J. Chen

I have to admit that I never really wondered what happened to Mary Bennett after the closing lines of Pride & Prejudice. And I smiled and laughed at the subtle humor Jane Austen used in portraying Mary's opinions, her unattractiveness, and sullen behavior in social situations in comparison with her other four sisters. I glossed over Mary as just a plot point, an unimportant side character. I never really gave her much thought. Until now.

Mary B is a re-telling and continuation of the Pride and Prejudice story from Mary Bennett's point of view.  Mary starts out by saying that she realized at a very young age that she was totally plain and that this one fact would effect her entire life. She wouldn't be considered a prize for marriage or ever be a contender for her parent's love, affection, or pride because she would be over-shadowed in entirety by all of her other sisters. Then she tells the familiar classic story from her vantage point. Is she morose, jealous, insecure, whiny and at times vindictive? Yep. But, she is the middle child in the center of a classic novel people have been reading for more than 200 years. In all those 200 years nobody ever thought to ask what happened to poor Mary Bennett when her pretty sisters left. Jane Austen didn't even care enough about the character to give a hint at the end of P&P. Mary just disappeared. *Poof* Not important.

Many will balk at the idea of the P&P canon being challenged when characters put forth as kind and intelligent show themselves to also be a bit vain, mean, and even careless. But, it must be kept in mind that this re-telling is from the perspective of a middle child who sees her sisters in a different light than anyone else. She lives with them, eats with them, watches their behavior.....and colors everything with the backlash of her emotions as the plain one, the one nobody wants or cares about.

I found this book to be well-written....a creative and brave debut novel! Taking classic, beloved characters and giving them a bit of a public dressing down opens a story up to backlash from loyal readers of the original. Judging from some of the reviews I read, some just couldn't "connect" with this book. They love Lizzy and Jane.....and didn't care about some side character's jealousies and feelings. Understandable.  But, I put my feelings about Jane, Lizzy and all of Austen's intentions for her characters aside for awhile, and just let Chen tell Mary's story. The story gives insight not only into Mary and the Bennetts, but also into the characters of Mr. Darcy, Mr. Collins, and Col. Fitzwilliam outside of the confines of the original novel (which is also a brave move on the part of the author). Did I agree with all of it? No. I felt that Mary's side of things was perhaps a bit too harsh, pessimistic and dark.  But......Mary feels slighted by her family and everyone around her. Of course her view of everything would be pessimistic and dark.

All in all, I enjoyed this book. I like the original better and always will. It's a classic...and perfect the way it is. It is Mary's fate to be a side character included in the story only to further the tale of Lizzy and Darcy, Jane and Bingley. Just like Kitty and Lydia who pretty much got dumped unceremoniously at the end....Mary flings off into nothingness at the close of P&P. She was never a fully developed character, but a caricature of the less attractive sister who is an embarrassment and impediment for her elder sisters.

Mary B is Katherine Chen's debut novel. I would definitely read more by this author. I like her writing style. The story concept is interesting and very creative. The tale kept my attention from beginning to end, even if I did disagree with some of the characterizations and events.

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Random House via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Saturday, September 22, 2018

REVIEW: The Disappearing

The Disappearing
Author: Lori Roy

Lane Wallace -- well, Lane Fielding again since her divorce is final -- has moved back home to Waddell, FL with her two daughters. She swore she would never come back, but her divorce forced her to return. She's living with her parents at the Fielding Mansion, the house she grew up in. Reporters still arrive, blocking the driveway, bothering Lane at work, bothering her teenage daughter....they will do anything to dredge up more facts about her father, and the rumors of violent abuse of boys at the reform school he ran until 3 years ago. It's not just about abuse....some of the boys disappeared. People in town have taken sides. Some say Neil Fielding couldn't have done the things he's accused of. And others believe he's a monster. Waddell residents are still riled up about the reform school rumors when a Florida university student disappears after volunteering at the mansion. Then Lane's oldest daughter Annalee disappears. Maybe returning to Florida was a really, really bad idea. Lane will have to confront a web of lies and family secrets to discover what happened to Susannah, her own daughter, and the boys who disappeared from her father's reform school.

Wow -- once I started reading this story I couldn't put the book down! Each chapter is written from the point of view of a different character. Usually I don't really care for that sort of jumping around, but in this case, it worked. The shifting from one character to another heightened the suspense and really kept me guessing about what was going on until the very end. The story developed at a nice pace, and there were plenty of twists and surprises. I really enjoyed this story! The ending was perfect. Very well done!

Lori Roy has written several other books. I'm definitely going to read more.

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Penguin via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Friday, September 21, 2018

REVIEW: Peppermint Mocha Murder

The Peppermint Mocha Murder
Author: Colette London

When I saw the title of this cozy mystery, I just had to read it! Peppermint Mocha. My all time favorite flavored coffee drink. I wait every year for the holiday season just so I can get it at Starbucks! Coffee of the Gods!

I love foodie this series is right up my alley. The main character, Hayden Munday Moore, is a chocolate expert. She lends her expertise to companies wanting to develop the best chocolate dishes. Restaurants, bakeries, candy makers, special events.....her services are in high demand all over the world.  This time Hayden is travelling to Sproutes, MA to help with a premiere party at the request of her financial advisor, Travis Turner. Unfortunately, as usual, Hayden finds a dead body. She doesn't even get to spend one relaxing evening in her lovely, decorated for Christmas, B&B room. Wandering downstairs, unable to sleep, she discovers a dead woman on the floor, covered in spilled Wassail. So much for a relaxing trip to Massachusetts!

I like this series! The background theme of chocolate and baking doesn't overpower the mystery plots. In this newest addition to the series (book 5), the murder mystery moves along at a nice pace, accented by a Christmas theme this time. There are plenty of suspects and some nice twists. About the only thing I didn't like is a developing love triangle sort of situation. This is such an overused trope in cozy mysteries. Ugh. Not another relationship confusion/love triangle trope! Bleck!

All in all, a nice Christmas and chocolate themed cozy! Made for enjoyable reading! I will definitely continue reading this series. The cover art is colorful and festive. Cozies have the most wonderful covers!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Kensington via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. Warning: May cause chocolate and peppermint cravings! :) **

Thursday, September 20, 2018

REVIEW: Christmas Cake Murder

Christmas Cake Murder
Author: Joanne Fluke

I have been a fan of the Hannah Swensen series for years. Although there are a lot of culinary cozy series now, this series was one of the first. After 23 books, this series is still one of my favorites, despite the last couple of books (not going to say what so I don't spoil things for newer readers but those who have read the entire series know I'm talking about R.) This book is a prequel taking readers back to before Hannah opened her bakery, The Cookie Jar, it circumvents the R debacle. I was so excited when I saw this available for review. A Hannah prequel! Yep -- I'm up for it!

I'm going to delve into what I love about this book first, then get to several problems I see. Always the good first! :)

I love the fact that the plot of this book is a bit different....a bit of a story inside a story. Hannah comes home after college, not sure what to do with the rest of her life. She settles back into life in Lake Eden, helping her mother and sisters after the recent death of her father. An elderly much-loved resident of the little MN town has fallen on hard times and is in the hospital recovering from a fall. Hannah and her mother discover that the woman has been living in squalor in the old theater building in town. They come up with a plan to recreate the annual Christmas Ball, an event that Essie remembers fondly. And, they go to the old building Essie has been living in to pack up some of her belongings to bring to the hospital. While looking for items Essie has requested, they find some old notebooks. Essie was writing a story. Hannah, her sisters and mother all get totally sucked into Essie's story, which turns out might be a real mystery about the past. So...a story within a story. Nice creative touch for a Hannah Swensen Christmas tale!

I liked the fact that this story was completely pre-love triangle. For those new to the series, through most of the series, Hannah was torn between two men in Lake Eden. Things just dragged on too long, and when it finally did resolve, it was disappointing. But, in this prequel tale, Hannah is busy deciding to open her bakery and coffee shop. No love triangle. No male competition. Not even Moishe, Hannah's kitty cat.

Lots of recipes! From pork roast to breakfast burritoes and peach pie to mint cookies, there is a recipe to tempt almost everybody!

There is some nice character development in this prequel. Dolores has just lost her husband and is having difficulty dealing with the loss. Hannah has just finished college and wants to change her life plan of teaching college to something she will actually enjoy -- baking. The story gives some nice insight into Hannah, her sisters and her mother. I'm invested in these characters after years of reading this series. It was nice to read about what things were like for them before Hannah opened The Cookie Jar.

Much as I love, love, love getting a Hannah-fix, I do have to give an honest review....  Some problems evident in the past several books in this series are still a problem with this one.

 Clunky, clumsy dialogue. Overuse of characters' names. Over explanation of situations, or characters unnecessarily repeating conversations or situations to other characters.  It's just different (and more amateurish) writing than what I'm used to from this series. I went to my library's digital site and downloaded an early book in the series to see if I'm imagining things.....and no, I stand by my analysis. The writing style is completely different, and much less polished than the rest of the series. The last 3 books have been problematic. Ghost writer? Different editor? Something has changed. I'm invested in this series after 23 books and years of reading, but I'm disappointed by the changes in quality of writing and in the characters' behavior.

But.....all in all....I love this series and the characters. This was a nice Christmas story with some new elements that I enjoyed. But I have to be honest and say that the story should have gone through another round of editing to tighten things up, bringing it up to the standard of the first 20 books or so of this series.

I can't wait for my next visit to Lake Eden! Luckily I don't have long to wait! Book 24, Chocolate Creme Pie Murder, will be out in February 2019! And all of us die-hard fans will finally find out the end of the R debacle! I hope Hannah punches him in the mouth multiple times and kicks him in the .....well somewhere rude. We shall see!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Kensington via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. No cookies were baked during the reading of this book, although I was sorely tempted to completely sabotage my diet.**

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

REVIEW: Maze Master

Maze Master
Author: Kathleen O'Neal Gear

I enjoy reading dystopian or apocalyptic thrillers. The suspense, action, and fight-for-survival plots when well-written always make for exciting reading. Add in some supernatural and ancient artifact/legend type accents and that just heightens my enjoyment. I guess that's why I'm also a sucker for disaster and end of the world movies, too. Something about the human spirit fighting to survive against insurmountable odds just makes a good story.

Maze Master opens with the human race facing the spread of a virus that could potentially wipe out all of humanity. France is quarantined to attempt to contain it, but really it's only a matter of time. A geneticist who also believes that God hid messages to humanity in the map of the human genome believes that a healing ointment mentioned in the Bible can save humanity from extinction. He leaves clues to where this legendary ointment is hidden in Egypt for a group of scientists to go find it, but other nefarious factions are also looking for the cure to use for their own means. If it isn't found....or falls into the wrong hands....the fate of human kind is sealed. Death. For everyone.

For the most part, I enjoyed this story. It had some great suspense and the concept is interesting. But I had the same problem with this book that I had with The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. The plot is heavy with religious myths and symbolism. A deity hiding the saving cure for an apocalyptic virus inside the map of the human genome using complicated palindromes, formulas and puzzles just seems very far-fetched. Scientists and scholars driven mad by the knowledge, lurking in monasteries drawing the genome out in their own blood while suffering from the just got a bit too Catholic horror story for me. (I can say that because I was raised hackles down.) Some of the plot was also a bit trope-y for me.....the villains are Russian (of course) and they want control of the cure so that they can manipulate the entire planet for their own means. Very overdone cliche -- darn those Russians! And, there were some very thinly veiled anti-Trump comments.....the president of the United States is building a wall between the US and Canada to prevent spread of the virus and a character exclaims that the president must be afraid of immigrants. Now, I totally understand being concerned about our current political climate....totally understand....but must every author find a way to get in a dig or two about their current political views within their writing? It seems almost every new book I read lately has to pull me out of the enjoyment of the story with current political digs or has farcical plot points added just to enable political commentary.  It's getting old. Stop it. It must be the Russian's fault -- darn those Russians! *eyeroll*

Now, I am not saying this book isn't well-written, interesting and exciting. It's well done....the suspense is great! Anyone who enjoys Dan Brown's books will love this story. I'm just saying I didn't buy into the myth. Just a bit too overblown and religious for me. And a bit heavy handed on the tropes. At least there weren't any Nazis! Just villainous Russians. Sigh.

All in all, well-written book. Just didn't really work for me. The author has written more than 40 books and I enjoyed this story enough to read more of her work....she has a series about the Anasazi that sounds incredible!

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from St. Martins Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

REVIEW: Deadly Dram

Deadly Dram
Author: Melinda Mullet

Deadly Dram is the 3rd book in the Whisky Business Mystery series. Abi Logan is still trying to make a name for herself in the whisky business after she inherited her uncle's distillery, Abbey Glen, 9 months ago. The good old boys network in the business (she calls them the Barley Bunch) just don't think a woman should be a distillery owner. She runs Abbey Glen with Grant MacEwen, her business partner, who is a magician with whisky. This year, everyone is pleased that Abbey Glen is up for 3 awards at the Golden Quaich Competition at a nearby 5-star resort. The distilleries aren't just in Scotland. There are whiskys competing from Ireland, India, Japan and other countries as well. Some of the Scottish distilleries are grumbling about foreigners being allowed to compete. Things get even more dicey when one of the event judges, Sir Richard Simpson, is found dead in his room. Local Detective Inspector Ian Michaelson suspects foul play. Was Simpson killed because he clearly was in favor of foreign distilleries competing in the Gold Quaich Awards? Did someone just intend to make him ill to throw off the competition, but accidentally go too far? Or is something more complex afoot?

I like this series. My favorite character is, of course, Liam...abi's wheaten terrier. And his friend Oscar the Sheep is a close second. ha ha :) I'm a sucker for cozies with cute animal antics in them. Liam is quite the cute little guy. Abi is an intelligent and resourceful main character. She has a great working relationship with Grant MacEwan, although their personal relationship is a bit confused. There is a bit of the relationship triangle plot device starting to come through in this series. That is one trope that I wish cozy writers would stop using. Surely there is another way to create a bit of romantic tension or slow relationship building between main characters without resorting to the Triangle Trope. Ugh. That's my only complaint about this latest book. Besides my eyeroll at the triangle starting to pop out on the horizon, I loved this entire book. The characters are interesting and nicely developed. The whisky background theme doesn't overpower the mystery, but adds to it. The romance hints are kept in the background, with the mystery being in the forefront. The plot moved at a nice pace, with plenty of interesting suspects and some twists I didn't see coming at all. Loved it! I will definitely keep reading this series. I love the setting, the information on whisky and distilling, and the characters. :)

The next book in the series, Died in the Wool, will be out in May 2019.

**I voluntarily read an advanced readers copy of this book from Random House Publishing/Alibi via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

REVIEW: The Trouble With Truth

The Trouble With Truth
Author: Kathy Krevat

The Gourmet Cat Mystery series continues with book two -- The Trouble With Truth. Colbie Summers continues to work hard to build her organic cat food company. She lives in Sunnyside, CA with her son Elliott and her kitty cat, Trouble. In the first book, she moved home to help her father, Hank, who is ill. In this second mystery, problems arise when one of her employees becomes a suspect in the death of her former foster father, Dennis Franklin. Colbie knows Mira didn't kill the man, despite the abuse she endured at his hands. Suddenly she's not only juggling her sick father and a quickly growing business, but also a murder investigation.

I enjoyed this book. The background theme is interesting....and I like the characters. The mystery was relatively simple, but engaging. It made for an afternoon of relaxed, enjoyable reading. I like Colbie as a main character. She is intelligent and driven to help those around her. She really went to bad for her 18-year old employee, believing in her when very few others did. The mystery progressed at a nice pace with plenty of suspects. The background theme didn't overpower the mystery, but just added some flavor to it.

This is an enjoyable cozy series. I will definitely continue reading!

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

Monday, September 17, 2018

Review: Purrder She Wrote

Purrder She Wrote
Author: Cate Conte

Purrder She Wrote is the second book in the Cat Cafe Mystery series. Maddie James left California to return home to Daybreak Island, MA to live with her aging grandfather. Grandpa Leo is the former island police chief. Maddie is opening JJ's House of Purrs, a trendy Cat Cafe, with help from her business partner Ethan. Grand Opening Day for the cafe has finally arrived, but it quickly goes downhill when an employee gets into an argument with a customer over a cat. Adele Barrows is adamant that Holly Hawthorne should not be allowed to adopt any of the cats they have on site for the local shelter, given her past track record with pets. It turns into an ugly scene. The problem escalates when Holly is later found murdered, laying face down on the beach by her wealthy parents' house. She was choked using a cat toy. Can Maddie prove that her employee didn't kill the spoiled, rich girl?

The Cat Cafe theme of this series is cute and enjoyable. The mystery moved along at a nice pace with some twists and plenty of suspects. I like the characters in this series. Maddie is intelligent and feisty when she has to be. There is a bit of a love triangle vibe in this series.....that's more than a bit old hat in cozies. I hope it doesn't develop into a main theme for this series. Really really really tired of that trope.

All in all, this book was a fun weekend read. Enjoyable theme, plot and characters! I will definitely continue to read this series.

The next book, The Tell Tail Heart, will be out in June 2019.

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from St. Martins Press via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**

Sunday, September 16, 2018

REVIEW: Murder on Memory Lake

Murder on Memory Lake
Author: J.D. Griffo

When Alberta Scaglione's spinster aunt dies, she leaves her niece her lake house and money in Tranquility, NJ. Alberta is a widow now and her children are grown, so she's happy to start a new phase of her life. Her peaceful prospects are interrupted, however, when the dead body of her childhood nemesis, Lucy Agostino, is found floating in the lake. Alberta teams up with her granddaughter, Gina -- known as Jinx -- to investigate who killed Lucy.

I enjoyed this cozy mystery with its Italian flavor. Alberta and Jinx bicker with each other as well as other characters, as Italian families and friends will do while loving each other unconditionally. Alberta is intelligent and feisty. And Jinx is a capable reporter and amateur sleuth. The mystery was interesting with plenty of suspects and some twists. There are some yummy recipes (two kinds of cookies and meatballs & gravy!) at the end of the book too! That is always a plus!

This is a nice start to a new cozy series, the Ferrara Family Mysteries. A second book in the series, Murder in Tranquility Park will come out in March 2019. I will definitely keep reading this series. It has a nice mix of humor and mystery!

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

Saturday, September 15, 2018

REVIEW: By Book or By Crook

By Book or By Crook
Author: Eva Gates

Lucy leaves her Harvard Library job, her family, and her ex-fiance behind in Boston and moves to the coast of NC to take a librarian position in a small town library. She loves the Outer Banks, the library and her apartment in a refurbished lighthouse. She arrives as a set of Jane Austen first editions arrives for display at the Bodie Lighthouse Library. Just as the events showcasing the priceless books begin, the president of the library board is murdered in the lighthouse and the loaned Austen books start disappearing one by one.  Lucy finds herself a suspect in the thefts and her boss the primary suspect in the killing. She knows she needs to investigate to clear her name and protect her boss and the library from harm.

By  Book or By Crook is the first book in the Lighthouse Library Mystery series. There are four books in total so far.

While I truly love the idea of a library in a lighthouse (especially a lighthouse in NC where I live...I love the OBX area!), I have a slight problem with this series, even before I started reading). Bodie Lighthouse is an actual lighthouse located near Nag's Head on the Outer Banks of NC. I've been there -- love it! It is black and white, as depicted in the book. BUT.....Bodie Lighthouse is only big enough for the spiraling stairs that wind their way to the top observation platform. There is not room for an apartment....a library....not even a broom closet. While the author does explain that she took liberties with the site for her story, I think it would have been better to create a fictional lighthouse in the same region, rather than use an actual site and change it so fundamentally. There is the former caretaker's house nearby that is a giftshop/museum that might have been used as the library location if Bodie Lighthouse had to be the specific site. I just couldn't get all the way into the story because the location was so fundamentally off from it's real design. Very cool idea.....I just wasn't too happy they took one of my favorite places and changed it that much.

The general story and mystery were ok....I enjoyed the characters and the storyline. The ending was a bit lackluster for me, but not annoyingly so. There was some melodramatic dialogue that had me rolling my eyes a bit a few times....but cozies with touches of romance here and there tend to get a bit Lifetime Channel-esque at times.

I listened to the audio book version of this story. Elise Arsenault narrated. I was a bit disappointed with her performance for several reasons.  Her attempt at North Carolina or southern accents for the characters was terrible.....completely wrong. And at one point she attempted a Scottish accent for some side characters visiting the library. Also terrible. Her reading pace and voice in general was good, but her NC characters came off sounding like a mix of Louisiana and Texas. lol. Someone who doesn't live in NC wouldn't know, but it pulled me completely out of the story. First Bodie Lighthouse is 10 times it's real size.....and then atrocious southern accents. lol.   I just had a rough time with this book. I am going to finish the series....I like reading books set here in NC. And Eva Gates is a pen-name used by Vicki Delaney. I have enjoyed other books by her, so I'm going to give this series time to grow on me.

Just reading about OBX makes me want to drive to Nag's Head! The pier, the dolphins, the lighthouse! :) Love it!

Friday, September 14, 2018

REVIEW: Lethal Letters

Lethal Letters
Author: Ellery Adams

Lethal Letters is the 6th book in the 8-book Books By The Bay Mysteries series by Ellery Adams. This is by far my favorite book in the series so far! The plot was suspenseful, interesting and complex. While finding old letters and a time capsule that lead to a mystery is not a new plot device, I liked the creative way it was done in this book. It was a little bit of a different twist on an old standby with lots of suspects, twists and turns.

In my reviews of previous books I have commented that this series annoys me a little bit because it's just a bit too much like women's fiction and I felt that got in the way of the mystery portion of the plot. And I felt previous stories concentrated too much time on the relationship between the main character and her boyfriend, and their sex life. There are only so many times I want to hear about her cop lover's nipples....  This cozy series has adult situations and sex in it a lot -- not graphic....just a bit more gettin' busy than is usually in a cozy mystery series. The series is definitely a blend of women's fiction and mystery. I prefer less women's fiction/romance and more mystery....    I was happy reading this book because it really stuck to task -- finding the killer and solving the mystery about a time capsule and letters -- and the romance portion was background character development. No descriptions of men's nipples! Hooray! (Now before any men get defensive and ask me if I have a problem with mipples.....I don't. I just want more mystery....less naked time. It gets a bit melodramatic when male characters are saying flowery love stuff that no male ever says outside a bad romance novel....       This time, the blend was a bit more even. I don't think I did any eyerolls at bad dialogue the entire time. Definitely my favorite book in the series so far!

I'd definitely say this series calls for some parental guidance if a child wants to read it. PG13 probably at least. Adult situations. Sex. Some cussing. Nothing over the top. Just a bit more adult stuff than is usually in a cozy series. But....this series makes up for it with complex plots and interesting characters.

Moving on to book #7.....Writing All Wrongs.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

REVIEW: Turn Coat

Turn Coat
Author: Jim Butcher

My husband loves The Dresden Files series. He's read every book and every short story. I'm trying to catch up with him so that we can enjoy the next book together. There is no publication date yet for Peace Talks -- book #16 -- so I have a bit of time to catch up while Jim Butcher finishes writing it. I'm trying to hurry though. My husband has a habit of blurting out major plot points ..... so I'm trying to get through the last book without him accidentally giving me any spoilers.

After enjoying the audio book for book #10 in the series, Small Favor, so much....I went with the audio version on this book, too. James Marsters narrates. He was great as Spike in Buffy.....and he's wonderful as Harry Dresden, too! He reads at a nice even pace and does all the character voices perfectly. Loved it!

In Turn Coat, White Council Warden Morgan is wanted for murder.....he was found standing over the dead body of another council member, the murder weapon still in his hand. But he shows up on Dresden's doorstep saying that he didn't do it and asking for help. In the past, Morgan has tried to have Harry executed...and they just don't get along. But helping an innocent man is always the right Harry agrees. And once again he's almost instantly up to his eyeballs in danger. Another great action-packed urban fantasy story! This series never lets me down!

Turn Coat is the 11th book in The Dresden Files. The series currently has 15 books, with the 16th book, Peace Talks, currently in progress. I'm moving on to book #12, Changes!

I definitely recommend this series to anyone who enjoys urban fantasy. For me, the Dresden series is second only to Simon Green's Nightside books.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

REVIEW: Small Favor

Small Favor
Author: Jim Butcher

Small Favor is the 10th book in The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. Harry Dresden is a wizard living in Chicago. Occasionally he helps out the local police with supernatural incidents and he hires on to help clients with hard-hitting magical problems. This time, he's in trouble.....a heavy hitter from the Winter Court calls in a favor. Whenever Mab wants something, it's always horrific and incredibly dangerous. What appears to be a kidnapping case ends up involving fallen angels, grotesque supernatural goats and more. Another great urban fantasy action-packed book in this series!

My husband has read all the books, including Brief Cases that just released this summer, and I want to catch up before the new book comes out. There is no publication date for Peace Talks yet, so I have time....but I want to have plenty of discussion time with hubby before the new book. Plus, I want to finish the series so far before he accidentally blurts out some important plot point accidentally. The struggle against spoilers is real, folks. :)

I listened to the audio book version of this story. Loved it! James Marsters narrates. As I listened I knew I recognized the voice but couldn't quite place I googled him. Marsters played Spike on Buffy! That fact made me enjoy his performance even more. :) I have hearing loss, but was easily able to hear and understand the entire book. Marsters reads at a nice even pace, and does all the different voices perfectly, IMHO. Great performance!

I definitely recommend this series for anyone who enjoys urban fantasy. Jim Butcher weaves in a lot of action, humor and grit. Ignore the television series from a few years ago -- it was Crap (with a capital C). The books are SO much better!!

On to book #11 -- Turn Coat! The series has 15 books so far....with #16 Peace Talks coming soon.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

REVIEW: Grandghost

Author: Nancy Springer

Beverly Vernon's life is changing. She's a widow now. Her daughters are grownup. She lives in Florida. And her newest illustrated children's book got rejected by her agent. Then she uncovers the long-buried bones of a child in her backyard and begins painting a portrait of the dead child. What starts out as something akin to art therapy and creation of a make-believe grandchild ends up becoming supernatural...and dangerous.

I really enjoyed this book. The supernatural and mystery aspects of this story melded together perfectly. I like Beverly as a main character. She's having a bit of a rough time adjusting to being older, but shows courage and intelligence when faced with a situation totally out of her comfort zone. While her two daughters annoyed me somewhat in the beginning, I had to get a grip on my emotions and realize that they really have Beverly's best interests in mind. An elderly woman talking about ghosts, haunted portraits and the like.....I'd probably think she had a few screws loose as well. In the end, they all banded together and investigated as a family.

I'm gearing up for Halloween season, and this was a great story to start out with. The mystery is suspenseful and interesting. The supernatural aspects are not overdone or melodramatic. The story progresses at a nice pace and I liked the characters (well all except one meddling, mean-spirited side character).

Great read! Nancy Springer has published more than 50 books. I will definitely be reading more from her! I enjoyed her story-telling and writing skills.

**I voluntarily read a review copy of this book from Severn House via NetGalley. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. No ghosts were exorcised during the reading of this book.**

Saturday, September 1, 2018

REVIEW: The Cats Came Back

The Cats Came Back
Author: Sofie Kelly

I love this series! It's one of my cozy mystery favorites! The Cats Came Back is the 10th book in the Magical Cats Mystery series. I'm always excited when a new book comes out. I've loved every one of them.....and this newest one too!  I'm not sure if it's the human characters....the theme....or Owen and Hercules, the magical kitties that keep bringing me back or a combination of all of it.

This time around Mayville Heights, MN librarian Kathleen Paulson is excited about the town's upcoming music festival. It will liven up the small town and bring in tourists. Just as the town is gearing up for the festival, Kathleen and the kitties find a dead body floating in the river. At first she thinks the body is one of the performers in town for the festival, but it's another who looks similar to the musician. Did the killer off the wrong person? Kathleen and her feline buddies are on the case again! Can they nab the killer and save the festival?

I enjoy Kathleen as a main character. She's intelligent and just a bit feisty. The kitties are awesome! :) I like the fact that the kitties have mysterious abilities, but it's kept low key. That makes it a bit more believable and doesn't over power the small town background theme and mystery part of the plot. The side characters (both human and cat) add to the all happy feels I get from this series. The only downer I got from this newest book is the fact that I've finished reading it....and now I have to wait until the next book comes out! :)

I definitely recommend this series for anyone who loves cozies with cats. It's entertaining and fun to read!

Sofie Kelly is a pen-name for author Darlene Ryan. She also writes as Sofie Ryan.

**I voluntarily read an advance readers copy of this book from Penguin via First To Read. All opinions expressed are entirely my own.**