Review: Peach Cobbler Murder

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Peach Cobbler Murder
Peach Cobbler Murder by Joanne Fluke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fluke steps up the series with Peach Cobbler Murder by focusing on core characters, tying up some loose ends from previous books, showing the power of strong and close relationships and setting what is hopefully the final competition between Mike and Norman for Hannah’s heart.

The recipes sound delicious (but may be getting to be too strong of a theme in each book) and are integrating into the story more closely. Between these books and The Great British Baking Show, I am constantly surrounded by desserts lately!

Definitely a standout in the series so far!

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Review: Cover Her Face

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Cover Her Face
Cover Her Face by P.D. James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Back to basics! I switched from modern cozies and crime fiction to a supposed blast from the past. I remembered a few PD James novels I read in college as part of my mystery fiction independent studies and decided to start the series.

As expected, very reminiscent of Agatha Christie but with a little more modern appeal. I enjoyed the characters and premise for a traditional whodunit!

I also like the wrap up of all the main characters in the end, as well as that at least one of them is seen again in future novels (no spoilers here!).

If you’re a traditional mystery buff, or have an avid whodunit interest, you may be able to figure the culprit on your own, but rest assured, it’s not as simple as X did it the candlestick in the library!

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Review: Cherry Cheesecake Murder

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Cherry Cheesecake Murder
Cherry Cheesecake Murder by Joanne Fluke

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With the eighth installment of the Hannah Swensen series, Cherry Cheesecake Murder delivers strong. I was very excited by the story, characters and forward motion in this book.

The introduction of Ross as a new suitor for Hannah could have gone the wrong direction, but Ross combines the great attributes of Mike and Norman into a single man. I’m rooting for Ross to win Hannah’s love; and let’s get real, she needs to make a choice soon.

I’m only saying so because the story dictates her to choose or abandon the current options. I love both Mike and Norman, but to keep dragging them along is painful and also holds Hannah back. I’d be fine if she was perfectly single the entire series, or stopped/started several relationships, but she can’t linger and hold multiple all at the same time for the entire length of the series. I believe it would be too repetitive.

The characters really continue to grow as evidenced by the whole town starting to support Hannah’s investigations — especially her younger sister Michelle getting more involved.

I am excited to read the next installment!

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Review: A Skeleton in the Family

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A Skeleton in the Family
A Skeleton in the Family by Leigh Perry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3 1/2 stars to A Skeleton in the Family! In my scale, a 3 means it was good and I liked the book but not thirsting to read the author’s next release whereas a 4 notes that it was a really good book and I’m definitely ordering the next one. This one gets a 3 1/2 as given the premise (a talking skeleton!), I was quite surprised by my ability to suspend any disbelief at how this occurred and just go with the story; however basic the plot was, I’m curious if we’ll ever find out why the skeleton could talk so I gave it between a 3 and a 4! By the way, I rarely give out a 5 unless I can’t even put the book series down — you know — passing up dinners with friends, skipping movies, not sleeping much until I finish the current book, etc. Doesn’t happen all that often but when it does, I am hooked!

If you are able to just go with the fact that the main character has a best friend who is a skeleton, and that no one else (well mostly no one else) knows he can talk, then you have a stronger chance of wanting to stick with it. The plot was basic but keeps you interested. The main character isn’t trying to figure out a murder for just any reason — she wants to help Sid rather than out of boredom or curiosity on keeping up the sleuthing like in so many other cozies.

I’m interested in what happens next but probably won’t get back to it until next year after I finish my 2016 Reading Challenge.

Good start – thanks Leigh Perry!

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Review: Witch Way to Murder

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Witch Way to Murder
Witch Way to Murder by Shirley Damsgaard

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Given my interest in witches and the impending autumn season, I thought this would be a good kick off to embracing what’s to come next. It was a fun quick read and left me curious for more.

At first, Ophelia annoyed me as she treated people very poorly; however, you could tell it wouldn’t last. After about 25% of the story, she calms down just enough to be likable and you get to see her relationship with her grandmother Abby, her employee and friend Darci, and her new potential love interest Rick. Each relationship shows promise of growth and depth while the secret among the 4 of them of Abby’s and Ophelia’s witch ways ingites a little fervor.

For a first in series, it’s a good start. We don’t learn a whole lot about the other characters, and I don’t feel like I can easily picture the midwestern / Appalachian town, but I feel like that may come with time. There are a lot of rotten apples in one small town, but doesn’t that happen in all cozies?

I look forward to seeing what sorts of witchery and magick come our way with this series!

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Review: The Exodus Quest

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The Exodus Quest
The Exodus Quest by Will Adams

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Three (3) stars to Will Adams‘s The Exodus Quest. There were some good parts, but there were also some parts that were a bit hard to get through. In the end, I am glad I continued reading this series, but I’m a bit skeptical to read the next one.


Story

Daniel Knox, famed Egyptology archaelogist expert, stumbles upon a piece of pottery that he believes has been stolen from a current dig and could reveal a connection between the birth of the Jewish exodus from Egypt thousands of years ago. At the same time, his sort of love interest Gaille, has been recruited to help a news reporting team who is trying to prove a similar theory. Daniel and Gaille don’t actually get to meet in this book until the very end when he plays the hero again, but as the story bubbles so does their relationship. Interspersed is a good plot with religious overtones of a rogue “priest” and his questionable followers, questions of the value of media and shade frequently thrown at Egyptian law enforcement ethics.


Strengths

1. Will Adams’ story-telling style is top notch. His books tend to be a bit long but the chapters are short switching from character to character and plot to sub-plot throughout the pages. He does a fantastic job at creating both subtle intrigue and intense cliff-hangers in each chapter, and then switches to a different character or plot; you’re really drawn in and find it hard to put down once you hit a groove in your reading cycle. (Not fun when you claim you only want to read for 30 minutes before bed!)

2. The story is very intricate, challenging readers to rely on what they already know about the Jewish and Christian faiths versus how the various Egyptian pharoahs and rulers interacted with neighboring religions. Sure, you could read through the pages quickly just to get a basic understanding of the story and the connections between history and religion, but if you are reading for more than just a quick plot, this is definitely a novel you can sink your teeth into. I found myself jumping over to Wikipedia a few times trying to figure out who some of the rulers were, which folks were real and which were more of the author’s creative liberty taking flight.


Weaknesses

1. The first seventy-five (75) pages are a bit hard to get through compared to the rest of the book. Adams needs to setup the story but I felt like the characters weren’t coming together in a strong way. I wasn’t able to keep track of who was who, which ones were good or bad, etc. I re-read a few chapters just to stay connected (and it helped) but in the end, I felt like it could have been tighter and more direct. (Maybe I was tired when I read those pages and it’s entirely my own fault!)

2. The characters are a bit wooden compared to the first book, The Alexander Cipher, where we get to know enough about them to care for their plights. In The Exodus Quest, there is too little effective backstory, no exploration into how they got to this place, what they want to move towards in the future, etc. I think Adams needs to loop in a little more focus on character development to keep some of his fans thirsting for more of his books, that is, beyond the expertly weaved story-telling.


Final Thoughts

Fans of the treasure hunt thriller, the archaeological discovery and serial fiction storytelling should continue into book 2 of this series, but they may also want to explore a few other authors in this genre to see which one rings more bells for them. As for me, I bought book 3 and 4 at the same time as book 2, so I’ll be reading both… and writing reviews on them too!

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Review: Killer Cupcakes

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Killer Cupcakes
Killer Cupcakes by Leighann Dobbs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Two-Point-Five (2.5) stars to Leighann Dobbs‘s Killer Cupcakes. I was browsing free books on iBooks on my iPad looking for an electronic cozy this afternoon when I stumbled upon a name that kept popping up… Killer Cupcakes. Well, given that I like Diane Mott Davidson and Joanne Fluke, I gave it a try. 58 minutes later, the book was finished. I’m still unsure of what just happened in the last hour.


Story

Lexy took an opportunity to change her life, leave her cheating boyfriend and open her dream bakery showcasing cupcake tops (don’t ask where the bottoms go!). She meets a hunky new detective who lives next door to the house she takes over from Nans, her grandmother, when she moves into a retirement home. They flirt. Suddenly Lexy’s ex-boyfriend Kevin is found poisoned after eating her cupcakes! The detective has to whisk (oops, I mean frisk!) her to see if she’s gone rogue. Along with Sprinkles (her dog) and a few friends (Cassie — her assistant and best friend), and the grandmother’s roommates, they quickly solve the murder on their own. Then Lexy can date the detective.


Strengths

1. Cute premise
2. Quick read


Weaknesses

1. Was so very simple, basic and eventless
2. Writing comes across like it’s for new or young adult readers


Final Thoughts

I read up on Ms. Dobbs… she was a former software engineer who quit her job to write. And now she has about 15 books published. So… I must either be missing something or she gets a lot better after her first book. While the mystery wasn’t very exciting or ground-breaking, it meets all the traditional cozy requirements… thus I’m left suspecting the books and the author found their groove as the series continues.

It was just too quick… Of the 169 pages, 30 were recipes and a preview of the next book. In the remaining 139, the pages were only filled up 50% of the time. Essentially, the page count is barely 100… and so the first 30 pages introduce the background, the middle 40 pages theorize on suspects and the final 30 pages detail the confrontation, capture and summary.

Let’s call it a short story intro to a new series and I can get behind reading another one! But that will be when I need a break from something intense and I have an hour of free-time.

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