Book Review: Cozy Mysteries

Book Review: Burglars & Blintzes by Morgan C. Talbot

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After the debut book in the Moorehaven Mysteries series last year, I was very excited to read the next one, Burglars & Blintzes from author Morgan C. Talbot. I may have messaged her a few times asking (demanding?) when the next would be released, but I won’t say how many times. A few weeks ago, I learned it was ready for publication and I got an early release. I was super excited and it definitely delivered on all counts!

Pippa runs a bed & breakfast that she inherited from her uncle. It was previously home for a famous author she adored and whom her family became close with over the years. It’s used exclusively for writers who need a retreat to discover their muse or find some silence to pen their latest mystery. Unfortunately, most writers learn there is often more mystery and action at Moorehaven than they include in their novels. In this caper, a dead body washes ashore during the impact of a typhoon off Oregon’s Pacific Coast. Gold coins missing for several centuries suddenly turn up, inciting a surge of looters looking for a quick win. And a youthful rivalry from years ago comes full force when it turns out the deceased is someone who’d been missing for a long time and who knew Pippa’s uncle quite well. As Pippa caters to her writers and tries to build her relationship with Lake, the handsome boat pilot, various side stories begin to intersect when more accidents happen and long-buried secrets come to light. Will Pippa survive or does the killer make an attempt on her life, too? I suppose you’ll have to read in order to know what happens…

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Talbot’s scenery, descriptions and setting are top-notch for readers. Among references to famous authors, books and literary concepts, we find a charming yet spooky mansion filled with history and secrets. All sorts of author types pop up throughout the book sharing stories about their own characters and/or how they build a mystery. One of them almost always is involved with the actual crime happening, but it’s our job as readers to figure it out. A mystery within a mystery of sorts… sounds fun, right?

Pippa is also a fantastic leading character and sleuth. While she tries to stay away from the investigation, she’s pulled in when the people around her are suspected of being the culprit. Talbot builds a tug-of-war for us to constantly shift our thoughts on how involved Pippa should get, but it’s in the normal daily running of the inn where we fall even harder for her. She’s just a wonderful main sleuth and her on-going battle with the new Chief of Police makes it all the more interesting. The town is full of supporting characters who have fun or curious side stories to keep us immersed in a fantastic world.

Like many other cozies, food plays a big role in this series. While not a central focus, and more just a common theme throughout, I craved blintzes, of course. There’s a delectable recipe in the back, perhaps I’ll test it out one day. I’m excited with this sophomore release in the series and can’t wait to see where Talbot takes us in the third one hopefully sooner rather than later. It’s quickly becoming one of my more favorite series even with only two in it so far. Kudos to the author and the publishing team behind this one…

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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Book Review: A Souffle of Suspicion by Daryl Wood Gerber

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Author Daryl Wood Gerber has been on my TBR list for ages, but I hadn’t gotten to reading from her collection in the past. When the second book, A Soufflé of Suspicion, in the French Bistro cozy mystery series was listed in a giveaway contest, I jumped on the opportunity. I was selected as a reader (yay!) and lined up the book for my late June reading list. I normally read series mystery books in order but I’m all out of time lately, so I just dove in to this cooking and killing edition. I’m now a fan and look forward to reading more from the author, especially given she has a few other series under different pseudonyms.

In this book, Mimi has just recovered from solving a crime in the last few weeks, and then another one happens. Renee, the sister of Mimi’s current chef, Camille, is found clobbered with a mixer in the kitchen. As details about Renee’s life unfold, there’s a possibility she was blackmailing someone, having an affair, or stealing information. Was she a good or bad person? We just don’t know… and at times, it seems like Camille had a few reasons to off her own sister, too. As a backdrop setting, it’s set in the delectable Napa Valley and it’s dessert week… so I was in love with the ambiance and the food/drink in this book.

I like the characters and see some long-term potential as they begin to settle into their roles as friends, enemies and in-between. Mimi as a lead is interesting, but its her connections to the rest of the town that provide all the great opportunities to be a sleuth. People just talk to her, yet she’s also constantly doing new things in the restaurant or meeting people to help re-build the town or her mom’s winery, so she has lots of relationships that can offer clues and secrets.

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For me, this falls into the right spot for a cozy mystery. I like that the recipes are all listed at the end and not interspersed throughout the story, as I don’t enjoy having to flip tons of pages to find the next chapter. I really enjoyed learning about the restaurant business. Many of the names of places and some chefs are authentic, as I’ve been to the places when I visited Napa Valley in the past. I kinda wanna go back now and see exactly where some of these conversations and stores are in comparison to streets I’ve visited before. Kudos to the author for making it real. She’s undoubtedly been there, and I wonder if we’ve been to the same winery at the same time. Ha!

As for the mystery plot, it was in the middle in terms of obvious versus complex. There was more to it than I expected, but I pegged the killer from the beginning. There were a few strong red herrings and misleading side stories, but ultimately, it’s a classic story that works well in this background. I will definitely read more from the author and look forward to catching up on the first book in the series.

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Y is for Yesterday by Sue Grafton

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It is bittersweet to draft this final review for the 25th book in the Kinsey Millhone / Alphabet series written by Sue Grafton, who passed away in December 2017 shortly after publishing this book, Y is for Yesterday. Unfortunately, there will be no final 26th book, as the author told her family before her death that she didn’t want anyone to ghost write the final one if she passed on… which I respect. After ~30 years of entertaining readers, this dynamic and wonderful woman deserves tons of praise for a beautiful career delivering countless thrilling reading moments for many of us.

In this latest edition, Kinsey closes the loop on a serial killer who had gotten away previously, but now he turned his sites on her as payback for helping one of his almost-victims escape with cherished mementos of previous kills. But that’s just one of the side stories, as the main focus is on a ten-year-old case where 4 teenagers participated in the killing of a friend who was blackmailing them. It all went too far, or did it? Kinsey is asked to help track a new blackmailer once one of the four kids is released from prison on his 25th birthday. But it seems more than 1 murder may have been committed ten years ago, and it’s far from over. Who’s behind it all?

If this were a standalone book, I’d really be thrilled with it. It had lots of great moments where I went back and forth on who the killer could really be. We know who killed the girl years ago, or at least we think we do from the statements all the teens gave, but something was definitely off. Grafton keeps us guessing and delivers a fun and dirty solution in the end. However, the book was told through the eyes of the teens for at least 50% of the pages. Normally Kinsey is the primary focus, and she discovers all the secrets, but in this one, it was essential to see / hear from the different kids’ points of views. While I liked the approach, it was disheartening given I knew this was the last Kinsey Millhone book in the series. I can’t fault the author with a harsh rating, as it was a good book — just not what I wanted or expected.

It’s sad that I won’t read any more, and I’m not up for re-reading a 25 books series when I have so many others on my TBR, but if you’ve never sampled a Grafton, you really must. If you can’t commit to all 25, pick one in the early middle and you’ll have quite a ride. Goodbye, Miss Grafton and Miss Millhone. You will be missed.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Airships, Crypts & Chocolate Chips by Erin Johnson

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The Spells & Caramels Cozy With Mystery series written by Erin Johnson just keeps getting better and better with the launch of the 6th book, Airships, Crypts & Chocolate Chips: A Cozy Witch Mystery, published today. I had to get the book as soon as it was available and tore through it in a few hours. What an amazing series with fantastic characters, surprises and major possibilities for the future. You know a series is on the brink of becoming something quite big when you feel that investment brewing deep inside and can’t sit still while reading a book!

In this one, Imogen learns the truth about what happened all those years ago with the Monsters invading her world, turning her into a swallow and leading to her adoption into the non-magic world. And it’s a doozy of a reveal tying in parts of Hank’s past, the royal family and the supposedly inescapable prison we’ve heard about before. From brilliant imagery to shocking partnerships, this story has it all. Johnson has delivered the best in the series with Airships, Crypts & Chocolate Chips. I’m anxiously awaiting the next book now that I’m all caught up… and if you’ve not experienced them before, you must start from the beginning. It will be very rewarding to see the growth in both the characters and the fantastic world Johnson has built with all these magic kingdoms.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Murder on Tyneside by Eileen Thornton

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If you’re a fan of British crime thrillers, cozy mysteries, Agatha Christie-esque puzzles, or charming women who are inadvertently thrown in the middle of a murder, Murder on Tyneside is a book you will enjoy. Author Eileen Thorntondelivers quite a caper with a wonderful side slice of charisma and old-fashioned wit with the launch of her Tyneside mystery series. The book was published in late 2016 amidst a sea of her other fun-sounding stories, but this had the most appeal when I decided to sample a Thornton novel. At the time, I hadn’t realized it was a series nor did I know what Tyneside was, but its premise drew me in. Now I’ve been happily clued into both!

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Recent widow in her mid-50s, Agnes Lockwood, travels back home to try to figure out what’s next in her life. From the very first chapter, you can tell she misses her husband, but she’s also practical enough to want to enjoy the rest of her life despite the recent loss. I fancy her as a cross between Nancy Drew and Miss Marple… not quite young enough to be a funny, flirtatious girl about town, but not old enough to seem like a nosy aging neighbor. She’s witty and smart, but cautious and curious all the same. Someone I’d love to have a few drinks with and study the people sitting in the room around us. And that’s basically how she solves the crimes. What starts off as a series of jewelry heists in the hotel where she’s temporarily residing turns into a couple of murders. A mysterious man has been following her, and sometimes he seems innocent, yet at others we clearly know he’s got ulterior motives. When Agnes meets a former high school friend AKA potential new love interest, she finds herself privy to all the information on the case given he’s the lead detective doing the investigating. It’s always good to have that kind of access to the clues, right?

Thornton has an easy, breezy writing style that makes you feel invested yet not over-stimulated. It’s not quite a cozy or a thriller, but a fine balance of good old-fashioned detection and intuition combined with a few fun chase scenes, double crossing curious dialog and a tad of necessary romance. At times, it felt like I was sitting there with Agnes re-telling me the story days after it happened. It was driving me a bit nuts trying to guess how the thief was breaking into the hotel rooms given all the facts we learned about access cards, keys and background checks. Thornton cleverly leads us on a path to miss the obvious. I’m usually good at guessing the how, but this time I was stumped. I was certain who the criminal was, and I am glad I at least got that part right!

I’m curious where the author plans to go with the series, as I know there is at least one other book already published, but what about the future! Some clues were left behind in this series debut, and I’m sure there’s a secret about Agnes’ husband’s death at some point, not to mention what’s really going on with her sons’ sudden move to Australia. She tells us why she chose not to go with them, but not much more… a good way to invest readers in the characters without knowing too much about their lives. Throw in a few areas of conflict with the other members of the police, a peculiar hotel setting, and a lovely woman who needs a new purpose in life, you’ve got all the makings of a strong following.

I’m glad I bought this book when it was on-sale last month, and I believe it will be again sometime later this year. Mark it on Amazon or other book sites so you can catch the sale and enjoy a new series. Now I need to figure out what book might be next for me from this author… another Tyneside or should I chance a completely different stand-alone book from Thornton’s body of works.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Devil’s Food Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke

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I am just over half way through the Hannah Swensen cozy mystery series with #14, Devil’s Food Cake Murder, written in 2011 by Joanne Fluke. When I flipped through the Acknowledgments section in the paperback, it noted that Hannah was voted as the most liked non-detective crime solver that year… how interesting! I love the series and think she’s quite fun, but each book seems to get a little lighter on plot and heavier on recipes. I preferred the balance in the earlier novels, yet they are still always a great read… even if I’m now down to about an hour to push through them despite being over 300 pages. When I flip 10 pages to skip the recipe, it breezes by quickly.

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In this caper, Hannah finds the dead body of Reverend Bob’s temporary sit-in while he’s on his honeymoon with Claire. Hannah’s mom is watching Claire’s fashion shop all the while trying not to insult the customers when they pick the wrong outfits for their body type. But the biggest change in this Lake Eden puzzle is Hannah’s dating life. She’s waffled between Mike and Norman for 13 books, beginning to see them both wane at her indecision and start seeing other people… well, now there’s a massive decision that will change the events in future books. In one way, I’m glad, as she was stringing them on for far too long. I agree with taking time to play the field, and maybe it’s only been 2 to 3 years in story time, but it feels like a decade!

As for the mystery, nothing extraordinary, and it didn’t really involve many characters we’ve met before except one adorable octogenarian, so it was not my favorite. I still enjoyed all the side interactions in the town, the developing relationships between Hannah and her family, and the set-up for the next book in terms of Hannah’s love life. I’m sticking with it, but I hope there’s more mystery coming soon! 3.5 stars…

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: A Poisonous Journey by Malia Zaidi

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Given two of my favorite genres include historical fiction and cozy mysteries, I expected to enjoy A Poisonous Journey, the first book in the Lady Evelyn series, written by Malia Zaidi in 2015. I was definitely thrilled with this book and pleasantly surprised to learn there were already 3 published in the series. What a great find for this enthusiast of history, detective stories, and charming characters set in foreign lands.

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Lady Evelyn, a mid-20s former orphan (her parents died young and she was raised by a strict aunt) who escapes to Greece to visit her best friend and cousin, Briony, is the star of this caper. She’s intelligent, funny, kind, and open-minded, and those are just the surface traits worth mentioning… there’s so much more. Longing to find a purpose for her life, she settles in with her cousin and begins meeting many of the Greek neighbors and townspeople in 1920s Crete. When one of the group is found dead, the suspect list is at first empty, but as more comes to light on the deceased, it begins to grow larger and larger. Although she isn’t investigating the mystery, events unfold where she asks questions and thinks out loud to a few people, thus opening and closing doors as to who the possible culprit could be. When a few side stories (antiquities theft, romance, clandestine affairs, and secret pregnancies) begin to collide, Evelyn finds herself in the middle of it all with a dashing suitor willing to help find the answers.

Zaidi has created a very strong protagonist who jumps off the pages despite the century time difference between when the story was written and when it takes place. Among the language, setting and relationships, readers find charming connections and introspective thoughts about the beauty of life nearly 100 years ago. With no Internet, DNA or quick-n-easy access to get answers, she has to use deduction and behavior to understand what’s happening around her.

What appealed to me the most in this story is how although the mystery is front and center, the book is really a story about ‘a few weeks in the life of a character we can all identify with on some or multiple level(s).’ Whether she’s having a conversation with the maid, relaxing at a picnic with friends, or corresponding with her aunt to explain the rushed exit, I want more Lady Evelyn. Zaidi matches the style and tone of her word choice with the time period, the relaxed and casual setting with the quiet island life, and the descriptions with the lyrical flow of a single woman from a well-to-do family learning about real life outside her immediate circle of experience.

Many of the supporting characters are well-developed, too. They feel real and shine as either sounding boards or a pivotal and unwitting distributor of clues to Lady Evelyn. I felt a steady stream of low-key suspense (that’s exactly how this type of story was meant to be shared) that kept me turning the pages with keen interest in how it would all unfold. When a key ‘chase scene’ puts Evelyn in the line of dangerous fire, we worry despite knowing she’ll be okay in the end. Although the different sub-plots help direct the main one, they also stand on their own as key stories within the book to help build the world in which Evelyn resides. It’s part of the way Zaidi generates interest in each chapter, all leading to a very appropriate conclusion for what would likely have happened during this time period.

Kudos to the author for making quite a splash for me with this book. I look forward to reading the next book later this year!

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.