Cozy

Book Review: Twelve Slays of Christmas by Jacqueline Frost

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Twelve Slays of Christmas: A Christmas Tree Farm MysteryTwelve Slays of Christmas: A Christmas Tree Farm Mystery by Jacqueline Frost

My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

Until a few weeks ago, I’d never heard of this author or series. I entered a giveaway contest for a cozy mystery group and won the second book late last week. Since I usually try to read in order, and I had some time this week, I got a copy of this first book, Twelve Slays of Christmas, from the ‘A Christmas Tree Farm Mystery’ series by Jacqueline Frost and devoured it throughout the last 24 hours. I needed a little Christmas cheer this week and this book brought it!

Who wouldn’t love a series about Christmas on a tree farm in Maine? I dream of moving to Maine one day, so this was a good alignment for me as a reader. I have a few other Christmas series I enjoy, and now I’ll be adding this one to the list of regulars. Holly White was dumped by her fiance just weeks before her Christmas Eve wedding. She trudges home feeling sad but hopeful for a new life. She’s just in time to help her parents coordinate and run their annual holiday shenanigans. This year they’ve added fun new Reindeer Games for 12 days to help bring spirit to the town. At least until a prominent member of the town’s historical society threatens to shut them down for falling out of ancient building or land code. But then… the poor woman’s found bludgeoned to death by the very wooden tree signs she complained about to Holly’s father. Which citizen was so angry (s)he took matters into their own hands? Holly’s determined to find out all the while fighting her attraction to the sheriff who’s moved to town from Boston to get away from major crimes. I guess life never goes the way you plan, huh?

As a new series, it’s off to a great start. I really like Holly and Evan (the sheriff). It will turn romantic, which will be fine, but I’m hopeful that’s not the center of the stories. There is also a younger guy, a reporter she knew years ago, who might give the sheriff some competition. And Caroline is a charming potential best friend, not to mention the cute and lovable parents and employees at the tree farm. I like the premise and the setting. The writing is good and felt natural for most of the narrative and dialog, only a few forced areas which I believe will disappear as the series matures. There’s a mature subtle humor at times, but it definitely still falls within the cozy realm. I recommend it for all cozy fans and holiday story readers alike.

I’m giving 4.25 stars to this debut and feel really excited to dive into the second one later this month — ‘Twas the Knife Before Christmas. Sounds scary!

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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 stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where 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: Murder at Morningside by Sandra Bretting

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Murder at Morningside (Missy DuBois Mystery #1)Murder at Morningside by Sandra Bretting

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Murder at Morningside is the debut book in the Missy DuBois Mystery series written by Sandra Bretting. Missy is a wedding hat designer in Louisiana who is in love with her best friend Ambrose, a wedding dress designer, and who has a penchant for being a little too nosy and finding dead bodies. After I won the third and fourth books in a giveaway contest last year, I read them and thought they were good. I wanted to catch up on the beginning before the fifth one is released in the future, so here we go…

In this caper, Missy and Ambrose are staying at an inn where a couple is being married. They are onsite for final wedding ensemble fittings and preparation but taking advantage of the old southern home’s beautiful buildings and grounds. After overhearing a few odd conversations, they enter a hat contest to see if it will help grow Missy’s start-up business. During the opening ceremony, Missy comforts a distraught woman who can’t find her stepdaughter. She’s later found by a maid, but the girl is dead in a bathroom stall — it’s the bride Missy and Ambrose were working for but had never met! Missy gets to know the staff, family, and friends at the estate and finds herself suspecting a few people of affairs, gaslighting, and intent to harm. But which one really did the bride in? Missy discovers the truth with the help of her high school friend who’s now a detective in the parish.

As far as mysteries, it’s good. There are red herrings, strong clues, misunderstandings, and interesting discoveries. I enjoyed learning about the history of the area during the Civil War and how different kinds of hats are created. Missy is a vivid character with all the typical amateur sleuth personality traits and portrayed as a bold southern woman (maybe a little too much exaggeration, but I’m not from the South, so I can’t be 100% certain). That said, I felt some of the writing and ways in which Missy got her information were a bit forced or stilted. I remember thinking the same thing in the other books I read. It’s not bad, just borders on awkward in certain sections. I still want to read the full series as there’s a lot of dimension and detail in the settings, relationships, and characters which draw you in easily.

Bretting is strong in describing action and culture, and she has a good grasp of when and how to throw in southern slang or common vernacular. A few times it made me cock my head a bit in curiosity, but I’ve actually heard some of these sayings so it’s more just that it’s a difference place than I’m used to. That’s what makes it fun as I feel transported somewhere else while reading her books. The cover is snappy and cute. The series has a good hook. I gotta wonder what’s ultimately gonna happen between Ambrose and Missy, as in books three and four, they seem to be dating. In book one, she’s in love with him and he’s smitten. Maybe when I read book two, I’ll figure it all out. But he’s definitely got something he’s hiding…

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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: A High-End Finish by Kate Carlisle

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A High-End Finish (Fixer-Upper Mystery, #1)A High-End Finish by Kate Carlisle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Last month, I finished reading all the cozies I had on my bookshelf or Kindle. I had stopped buying them a while ago because it was getting out of control. Once I caught up, I decided I could start one new series a month… this month, it was Kate Carlisle’s Fixer-Upper Mysteries, and the first book is A High-End Finish. I’d previously heard good things about Carlisle through reviews or recommendations, and it has been a great suggestion. I enjoyed a lot about the book, saw a few things I hope settle in as the series continues, and look forward to the various plots that could come from a contractor being an amateur sleuth.

In this first book, Shannon goes on a bad date. He’s creepy, handsy, and basically crosses that border of anything considered acceptable. Luckily she gets a good kick to his shins to stop the jerk (in front of a crowd no less!), but unfortunately for her, he winds up dead a few days later. The new detective in town immediately thinks she’s guilty, but quickly decides he might’ve made a mistake. As she begins to ask questions around town, Shannon learns other women also experienced the same behavior from the awful man. Which one of them killed him? It doesn’t stop there, though, as another body turns up. And this one is a bigger connection to Shannon, someone she hated almost as much. Is there a killer trying to make her look guilty, or a Casanova from afar trying to make her happy in a psychotic sort of way? Shannon tries to stay out of the case, but she’s drawn back in each time something bad happens. In the end, she sees the killer trying to murder someone else and intervenes (what a good citizen) yet it puts her suddenly in the line of fire.

Carlisle’s writing style is great. It flows well, I like the balance of humor and seriousness, and there is witty dialog and wonderful narrative. Shannon’s relationships are developing nicely, and she has a lot of potential to be a great sleuth. I am thrilled to see a female contractor represented with both supportive and non-supportive men around her; it provides a good balance of different views. I love the decor and architecture being described, I felt like I was in southern California, San Francisco, or the 1920s seaside environments. Kudos to the author for all these wonderful things in a series I expect to love.

I was a little off-put by some of the interactions: some in a good way, some in a confused way. She has an instant connection with Mac (a famous writer), but he comes across too flirty and then too standoffish. I understand writers can be like that (no, not me!), but there wasn’t any explanation from him to her on why he acted so cold in one scene. Another instance was where the sheriff went from thinking she was awful to ‘let’s be friends’ without a smoother transition. In a single mystery with multiple characters and stages to be set, I understand this isn’t always the easiest, but I hope there’s a few less completely-180-degree turns happening. Some are fun to watch with forthcoming clarity, but it can’t become a common theme.

That said, it was minor, and I’m just being a tad picky since I’m on my 725th review at this point and now trying to share all the positives with one or two constructive ideas just in case readers want to know the potential areas of a book they might wonder about. But definitely a high recommendation read from me… I’ll be starting number two later this month.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where 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 Deadly Eclair by Daryl Wood Gerber

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A Deadly Éclair (A French Bistro Mystery, #1)A Deadly Éclair by Daryl Wood Gerber

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

A Deadly Eclair is the debut book in the ‘A French Bistro Mystery’ series written by Daryl Wood Gerber. I read the second book in this series earlier in the year after winning it in a giveaway contest. I enjoyed the characters and setting which led me to starting the series from the beginning. There’s something about the Napa Valley atmosphere full of wine, food, and culture that makes the books easy-to-read, immersive, and charming. I’ve been to many of the places being described or noted which helps ensure an even tighter connection to the story and the characters. It also helps that the books are well-written with the right balance of humor and knowledge (about wine, food, relationships, France).

Mimi’s husband died several years ago leaving her broke. After settling his debt and untying her emotional loss over all his lies, she moved back home to start anew. This book kicks off many months later once she’s decided to open a restaurant with the backing of a new partner, Bryan. He’s a pseudo-father figure for Mimi who lost her dad years ago. Bryan asks her to manager his niece’s wedding as part of her first few events. All goes smoothly until Bryan is found dead with one of Mimi’s famous desserts in his mouth… and, oh yeah, some jewels. Mimi’s surrounded by his family, his niece’s soon-to-be husband’s family, and some interesting friends. Which one of them had a past connection to Bryan that led to murder?

Throw in some wonderful side stories with how Mimi bonds with her new staff, opens her heart to going on a date for the first time, makes new friends, helps her mom overcome some new steps in her life, and tries to earn a living despite a few wondering if she killed Bryan to kick him out of her business. She’s tough, but caring. She’s a little nosy for my tastes, but it’s often typical of these types of series. Mimi has an investment in knowing who killed Bryan since it relates to her new inn, but at times, I felt like she grilled people a bit too much. Especially when they were her guests and she was trying to succeed with her new business. She’d annoy someone in one chapter, then they were friendly with her again in the next one. Maybe I just hold grudges a bit too long!

Now that I’ve devoured two, I can say I’m a series fan and look forward to the third which I assume will be published in mid-2019. I’ll be on the lookout for joining the blog tour or ARC team if possible.

View all my reviews

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: Deadly Dram by Melinda Mullet

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Deadly Dram  (Whisky Business Mystery #3)Deadly Dram by Melinda Mullet

My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

Deadly Dram is the third book in the Whisky Business cozy mystery series written by Melinda Mullet and was published in 2018. The series takes place in Scotland with a focus on Abi Logan who’s returned home from a photojournalism job to address the death of her uncle. In this third book, Abi’s been co-running the distillery and is on a business trip to attend an award ceremony that might earn her company and whisky a valued prize. Members of the judging committee are murdered one by one which leaves Abi worried for her best friend, Patrick, who’s now on the committee to make a final decision.

When I read the first book in the series, I was enamored with the culture, characters, charm, and setting of the books. I got pulled in many directions with other required reads and didn’t catch up until recently on the second and third books, but I’m glad I did. They’re just as wonderful (if not more) and really leave me thirsting for the fourth one which hopefully comes out in mid-2019. You’re immediately transported to Scotland between the language, the background, and the complexity in all the relationships. I would love to read this book while driving around a distillery one day in the future just to feel even more connected.

The mystery is very strong. There are multiple suspects with a variety of motives. Just when you start suspecting someone, they end up dead. The side stories are intricately woven into the main story and ultimately all collide together. The romance angles are downplayed in the book, but there’s a few sparks Abi shares with others. (When’s Patrick gonna get his flirt on?) Liam (the dog) has a huge role and is such a well-fleshed out character, I could feel him running around at the inn. He might have been my favorite. Kudos to Mullet for giving me a fantastic Monday afternoon read and bringing me out of a small reading slump.

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and 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 –and multiple Readathons. 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: The Hour of Death by Jane Willan

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The Hour of Death (Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn Mystery #2)The Hour of Death by Jane Willan

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I chose the Hour of Death by Jane Willan when it became available through a cozy mystery group I follow. I was selected as a reviewer and received a copy of the book earlier this month. It is the second in the Sister Agatha and Father Selwyn Mystery series written about crimes occurring in a small Welsh town’s church. I usually try to read a book series in order, but I didn’t have time to get a copy of the first book before this one; however, based on how much I enjoyed the second book, I’ll definitely read the first one early next year.

At first, I was apprehensive. Sister Agatha is very detailed, a bit repetitive, and leans toward the rambling side of life… but after about 20% into the story, it was these same qualities that began to entice me-her support of the American visiting Wales, the energy she puts into writing mysteries, the care she took of her fellow nuns… I found myself thinking of her as methodical, open-minded, and very curious. She had a few endearing moments where I realized I was suddenly in full support of her role and focus on solving what no one else believed to be an actual crime. When Tiffany, the president of an art society in the village, was found dead, everyone thought it was a heart attack. Sister Agatha convinced Father Selwyn that was only one of the possible outcomes, and she sought out potential suspects despite nothing seeming obvious. By one third into the book, she had five believable candidates to analyze.

Willan’s writing style is easy and flows well. Her characters are vivid and likable for the most part. A few were meant to be frustrating, and that’s a good thing to have in these types of books. As I got to know the various nuns, priests, townsfolk, and strangers, I wished I had read the books in order, as I would’ve had a different thought on a few of the characters. I might have felt more connected to them, too, but all-in-all, they were well-drawn, felt appropriately embedded in the plot, and showed lots of possible red herrings or truths to keep us guessing.

As I finished the story, I found myself very fond of the setting (and that cover, gorgeous!) and with a strong interest to keep reading more of the series. My only items of constructive feedback would be to spend a little less time repeating and wrapping up why someone could be a suspect and instead use that information to provide additional motives or character actions that show us why they could be the killer. A few times, I thought… ‘hmm, we’ve talked about this several times already’ — it was minor but kept me from giving it a full 5-stars. I ended up with 4.5 stars and I’ll split the ratings across all the platforms between 4’s and 5’s.

I really look forward to getting a copy of the first book and reading future ones. Thanks for a great new series!

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. There are two books: Academic Curveball and Broken Heart Attack. I read, write, and 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 –and multiple Readathons. 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: Harrowing Hats by Joyce and Jim Lavene

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Harrowing Hats (A Renaissance Faire Mystery, #4)Harrowing Hats by Joyce Lavene

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It’s the final week in our readathon and I’ve just finished reading the fourth book in the Renaissance Faire Mystery series by Joyce and Jim Lavene — Harrowing Hats. As I’ve come to realize, each book gets better, but on the whole, I’m not an ardent fan of the series. I like some of the characters, the overall setting, and the general writing style, but there are too many aspects I didn’t like to make this a series I’d recommend to others. Part of me wants to continue to see what happens with Jessie, but it’s a big commitment to read the remaining 4 books. Perhaps I’ll change my mind in the future, but for now there are too many other series I want to continue to explore.

In Harrowing Hats, Jessie takes a job at a hat shop to continue her experiences preparing for her PhD program in Renaissance studies. She finds one of the three brothers who run the chocolate shop dead, then a few other crimes happen which make it look like her boss at the hat shop is responsible. It seems whomever she goes to work for is either found dead or accused of murder. Stay very far away everyone, or you might just find yourself a victim, too. 🙂

Jessie’s shenanigans with Chase are of the same sort. Sometimes they’re cute together. Other times, I want to strangle Jessie for the way she treats him. Occasionally, I want to bop Chase over the head for intentionally confusing Jessie or letting her harass him over it. These two… oy, if I were friends with them in real life, I’d drop them so quickly not even The Flash could stop me. Hopefully I got that reference right, as I’m not a huge superhero guy. I’d rather deal with amateur sleuths who charm me. 🙂

I’m glad I read a few of these books as it is definitely showing me the vast range in the cozy mystery genre. These are great for someone who cares less about the mystery and more about the setting. Hopefully others loved it more than me!

View all my reviews

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and 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 –and multiple Readathons. 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.