Here you’ll find cozies and more. Enjoy!


BIRDER SHE WROTE by Donna Andrews

Fiction, Cozy Mystery, #33 in series


Blurb: Meg is relaxing in the hammock, taste-testing Michael’s latest batch of Arnold Palmers and watching the hummingbirds at their feeders when her hopes for a relaxing early summer morning are dashed. First her father recruits her to help him install a new batch of bees in the hive in her backyard. Then Mayor Shiffley recruits her to placate the NIMBYs (Not in my backyard), as she calls them – a group of newcomers to Caerphilly who have built McMansions next door to working farms and then do their best to make life miserable for the farmers. And finally Meg’s grandmother, shows up, trailed by a nosy reporter who is writing a feature on her for a genteel Southern ladies’ magazine. Cordelia drafts Meg to accompany her and Deacon Washington of the New Life Baptist Church – and the reporter, alas – in their search for a long-lost African-American cemetery. Unfortunately what they discover is not an ancient cemetery but a fresh corpse. Can Meg protect her grandmother – and Caerphilly – from the reporter who seems to see the worst in everything . . . and help crack the case before the killer finds another victim?

Thoughts: I haven’t read any of the other books in this series, but I am definitely going to. Even though this was the 33rd book in the series, I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. Yes, it took a bit before I figured out who was who (there are a ton of secondary characters), but the author uses a deft hand letting you in on the relationships.

I had to laugh so much at this book. I love her use of “NIMBYs” (Not In My BackYard) people who move into farming communities and then complain about the smell (hey, you move next door to a farm, you’re gonna get “aromas”), the animals, the lack of “high class” eateries, etc. I live in that type of small town and in the spring, that “fresh country scent” is powerful. I especially loved the bit about the dog’s name being “Whatever” (thanks to the answer to a question put to her teenage daughter). And how every time the daughter said that, the dog came running, looking for a treat and now the daughter doesn’t use the phrase as often. I laughed so hard at that—and could see someone doing that just for that reason.

There were actually three mysteries going on here—the murder, blackmail, and who killed off the bee hives. What I found interesting is that the author must have really done her homework on bees and beekeeping as well as hummingbirds and what they need. Very well done.

Recommendation: I definitely recommend this author and at least this cozy as it’s the only one I’ve read. But I will be reading more. She is worth the time.

Disclaimer:  I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”



Fiction, Cozy Mystery, (324 pages)


Blurb: At Daisy’s Tea Garden in Pennsylvania’s Amish country, the tea of the month is Earl Grey to warm those late February days–but cold-blooded murder casts a deadly chill . . . Even though spring in Lancaster County is still a bit far off, Daisy Swanson has much to look forward to: setting a date with her fiancé Jonas, a whimsical Alice in Wonderland tea event, and an anniversary celebration for her parents at a farm-to-table restaurant in Willow Creek. But a grim discovery turns her thoughts to the troubled present. Meeting up for a hike with her friend, Daisy and her fiancé’s dog Felix find the woman dead on a trail, a victim of an apparent hit and run. The tire tracks clearly indicate this was no accident, and now Daisy must follow a twisted trail of clues to uncover what drove someone to murder . . .

Thoughts: I love this series. But that being said, you really need to read them from the beginning in order to understand the relationships with the characters, especially Daisy and all her friends and family. Set in Pennsylvania Dutch country, there is a lot of Amish influence. And the author proves that she knows her background in both the country, the practices, the lives of the Amish and the “English” who live around them.

In this one, Daisy is planning a big anniversary dinner for her parents to be held at her friend Lydia’s restaurant, the Farm Barn. Lydia was born Amish, but left the order to marry her non-Amish husband Neil. Lydia’s parents shun her, but not her twin sister Leah who still talks with her. One day, Daisy sees the two sisters arguing, and later that day, Neil shows up at Daisy’s to hand her a revised bill for the anniversary dinner – a much higher one. She can’t cancel at this late date so she agrees. During the dinner, she sees Lydia and Neil arguing. The next day, Daisy is supposed to meet Lydia for their regular morning walk. What she finds, though is Lydia’s dead body.

And thus begins the mystery of who killed Lydia, Daisy’s friend. There are a lot of suspects and a lot of clues, some of them obscure, but they’re there. And there are several good recipes at the end of the story such as Apple Cider Pork Loin, Cider Sauce, Cabbage Walnut Salad, and Corn Cake.

Recommended (but read the other books in the series first!)

Disclaimer: Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”




Fiction, Romantic Suspense, Contemporary (200 pages)


Blurb: When Jane Stuart returns to the Smoky Mountains and the house she inherited from her grandmother with the hope to heal from a brutal mugging, she finds herself obsessed with a local legend involving a witch and a mysterious cabin. Upon reconnecting with an old boyfriend now turned handsome environmentalist, she finds herself rekindling her attraction to Brendan McGarren and is drawn into his battle to keep Laurel Cove from becoming a rich man’s playground. As she begins to uncover family secrets pertaining to the witch and the cabin, Jane questions her own sanity. Then the threats begin. Can she trust Brendan? Will the search for the truth cost Jane her life?

Thoughts: I thought this was a good book. I had a little trouble getting into it in the beginning. It just wasn’t drawing me in, but I kept reading, and am glad I did because I was captured by the story of Cissy the witch and Jane’s fascination with her. The characters are realistic—especially Jane’s PTSD reactions. And the setting beautifully done (though I did have a couple issues with some minor things). Still, we could see the curtains blowing, the mists covering the mountains, the smell of lilacs and laurel. The author put you right there in the mountains.

The conflict was also very real between the environmentalist and the developers. And the mystery of Cissy was fascinating. I didn’t understand why Jane did some things the way she did, but that might just be me. Overall, I enjoyed the story, though I did know who the villain was halfway through.

Recommendation: a decent paranormal romance mystery. And relatively short.

Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”



GONE FOR GOUDA (Cheese Shop Mystery #2) by Korina Moss

Fiction, Cozy Mystery, 256 pages


Blurb: Things are going from gouda to bad to ugly for cheesemonger Willa Bauer in Gone for Gouda. Yarrow Glen’s newest cheese shop, Curds & Whey, has a lot on its plate, but cheesemonger Willa Bauer relishes a challenge. There’s a float to build for the fall festival, plus the French-inspired cheese shop is playing host to celebrity vegan chef Phoebe Winston. But when photos surface that prove this vegan influencer is, in fact, a carnivore, things crumble faster than any cheese on the market: Phoebe is murdered. Willa’s employee, the affable Archie, was the last one to see Phoebe alive and the first person the police suspect. To clear his name Willa must uncover who’s been up to no gouda

Thoughts: This is the second in a series, but I don’t feel like I’ve missed anything by not having read the first one. The author throws in enough clues for me to figure out who the people are, how they fit in together.

Willa owns a small cheese shop called “Curds and Whey” in the Northern California town of Yarrow Glen. I learned a lot about cheese in this book, especially Gouda cheese—enough that I was able to beat an expert to answer a trivia question the other day. I loved that! And the author finishes up the story with cheese-filled recipes at the end.

Willa is hosting celebrity chef Phoebe Winston in a “Cook and Book” demonstration in her cheese shop. Willa’s excited about the event until she actually meets Phoebe—a self-absorbed diva who expects everyone to do what she wants without question and without a thought as to how it might affect the other person.

Then pictures of vegan-proclaimed Phoebe scarfing down ribs appear in the papers and she is a no-show at the event. Then Willa finds out Phoebe has been murdered and everything goes downhill. One of Willa’s employees is suspected of the act and she goes into sleuth mode.

There is a touch of romance between Willa and Roman, the man who owns a meadery across the street, but also sparks between Willa and the lead detective Heath. A triangle that is so common to cozies.

The ending is well-done and satisfying and there are a couple threads left dangling that you know are going to show up in the next books in the series.

Recommendation: Definitely recommended. Have a plate of your favorite cheese selections — and maybe a glass of mead — while you read. Or maybe try a new one that you read about here.

Disclaimer: Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing this ARC. I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”


SIX FEET DEEP DISH by Mindy Quigley

Fiction, Cozy Mystery, Culinary, 320 pages


Blurb: Fresh mozzarella, tangy tomato sauce, and murder: the perfect recipe for a delicious first entry in Mindy Quigley’s Six Feet Deep Dish, a delectable new series… Delilah O’Leary can’t wait to open her new gourmet deep-dish pizzeria in Geneva Bay, Wisconsin—a charming resort town with a long history as a mobsters’ hideaway, millionaires’ playground, and vacation mecca. Engaged to a hunk with a hefty trust fund, Delilah is poised to begin a life that’s just about as delicious as one of her cheesy creations. Just before opening night, though, Delilah’s plans for pizza perfection hit the skids when her fiancé dumps her and leaves her with a very large memento from their relationship—Butterball, their spoiled, plus-sized tabby cat. Delilah’s trouble deepens when she discovers a dead body and finds her elderly aunt holding the murder weapon. Handsome local police detective Calvin Capone, great grandson of the legendary gangster, opens an investigation, threatening to sink Delilah’s pie-in-the-sky ambitions before they can even get off the ground. To save her aunt and get her pizza place generating some dough, Delilah must deliver the real killer.

Thoughts: Cozy mysteries all have a couple things in common: amateur sleuth, small-town vibe (even when not in a small town), and a theme (cats, bookstores, restaurants, etc.) around which they are built. This one ticks off all the boxes.

Delilah is opening a new pizzeria in the town of Geneva Bay, WI. To do so, she relies solely on her rich fiancé to provide the money not just for her restaurant, the building, and the new house they’re building. But things aren’t so good for her when they break up and she has to figure out how to do things on her own—like save her elderly aunt from being accused of murder. Not easy when the murder weapon is held in her aunt’s hand. And pay her staff and get the restaurant off the ground when she has no money of her own.

I was pretty sure I knew who the perp was from the start, but not the why. That was nicely done. There were a lot of twists and turns in this story, all of which got straightened out in the end.

If I had to give any negative thoughts, it would be that Delilah relied too heavily on her ex to provide all her needs. She should have been a little more aware of her costs and coming up with solutions to her problems (though when it really counted, she did). In the end, this worked out as well with her learning a valuable lesson in finances.

Recommendation: Recommended for any cozy readers. And the recipes at the end are delicious additions as well.

Disclaimer: Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for this ARC. I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”


A TREACHEROUS TALE by Elizabeth Penney

Fiction, Cozy Mystery, British, 288 pages

5+ Sparklers

Blurb: Lately, Molly has been feeling that she might have fallen into a fairy tale: she’s reinvigorated the family bookshop Thomas Marlowe—Manuscripts and Folios, made friends in her new home of Cambridge, England, and is even developing a bit of a romance with the handsome Kieran—a bike shop owner with a somewhat intimidating family pedigree. Having recently discovered The Strawberry Girls, a classic children’s tale, Molly is thrilled to learn the author, Iona York, lives nearby. But while visiting the famous author at her lovely cottage in nearby Hazelhurst, an old acquaintance of Iona’s tumbles off her roof to his death. Then, when one of Iona’s daughters—an inspiration for the original Strawberry Girls—goes missing, Molly begins to worry this story might be more Brothers Grimm than happily-ever-after. Especially after Molly learns about the mysterious long-ago death of Iona’s husband and co-author of The Strawberry Girls…could past and present crimes be linked? Molly must put the clues together before someone turns this sweet tale sour

Thoughts: I loved this story. Actually, both stories because this is an unusual one in that it is a story within a story. You have the main tale—a cozy mystery about murder, theft, kidnapping, and illegal goods. Then you have a secondary tale—a children’s book called “The Strawberry Sisters” whose characters turn out to be the people in the main tale. Don’t worry, it’s not as confusing as it sounds. In fact, if you read closely, you can figure out what’s going on in both tales at the same time. The characters are well-done and the imagery is wonderful with old English bookshops, villages, manors, and more.

This is not the first book in a series, but you do not have to have read the others in order to know exactly who is who and what’s going on. The author has a very light—and talented—way of drawing in the back story so you aren’t lost.

Recommendation: Highly recommended. For an entertaining read that’s both a cozy mystery and a fairy tale all in one, definitely pick this up. You won’t be disappointed.

Disclaimer: Thanks to Netgalley and Simon&Schuster for providing this ARC. I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”


DEVIL’S DELIGHT (Agatha Raisin #33) by M.C. Beaton

Fiction, Cozy Mystery, British, 256 pages


Blurb: Beloved New York Times bestseller M.C. Beaton’s cranky, crafty Agatha Raisin—the star of her own hit T.V. series—is back on the case again in Devil’s Delight. Toni and Agatha are in the car on their way to Officer Bill Wong’s long-awaited wedding when, much to their shock, a naked young man bursts through a hedge on the side of the road and comes running toward them. Terrified, he explains that he has just seen a dead body in the woods. Toni lends him an old t-shirt to cover himself, Agatha calls the police, and the young man takes them to the spot where he saw the body, across from a meadow where the Mircester Naturist Club is due to have its annual summer barbecue. The young man, Edward, explains that he is the club’s social convenor and had arrived early to set things up. He says he found the body at the edge of the woods, near an ancient stone known as The Lone Warrior and said to have once been used as a sacrificial altar. When they reach the spot, however, there is nothing on the large, flat rock except a small wet patch. Even that has dried up by the time the police arrive, and Chief Inspector Wilkes accuses Agatha of wasting police time on a prank. But Agatha and Toni grow suspicious after meeting some of the club’s members, whose diverse interests range from artisanal ice cream to ancient curses. And when another disappearance occurs, it’s up to them to put together the pieces…or end up on the altar themselves.

Thoughts: This is an unusual cozy in that the sleuth is actually a detective—a 72-year-old woman who runs her own agency with a staff and offices, and everything. Most cozies utilize amateurs but Agatha Raisin is no amateur.

I usually love M.C. Beaton, but this one just didn’t grab me. There were some humorous points (“Maybe you should have looked at his face, Toni. Then you’d recognize him with his clothes on.”), but there were also some twinges (description of an overweight woman as using her dress for a field tarp). I wasn’t in love with Agatha either. She seemed overly concerned with her looks and which man she would be with next—and there were a lot to choose from.

The mystery itself was pretty straightforward as I guessed the “perp” pretty much from the beginning. But all the things going on did keep me reading to a satisfying ending.

Recommendation: If you’re invested in the Agatha Raisin series, then yes, pick this one up. But I don’t recommend starting with this one. There’s just too much background on Agatha and friends that you’ll be missing—and maybe that’s why I didn’t care much for her. This was the first one I read so I didn’t know where she was coming from. Still, a decent read with a satisfying ending.

Disclaimer: Thanks to Netgalley and Simon&Schuster for providing this ARC. I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”


Margaritas, Mayhem & Murder ( Andi Anna Jones, Book 1) by Mary Cunningham

Fiction, Cozy Mystery


Blurb: Andi’s stepmom, Ruby, is a piece of work, but is she a murderer? Andi Anna Jones, so-so travel agent/amateur sleuth, puts aside her resentment of her father’s widow and books a 60th birthday cruise to Cancun for Ruby and three friends. Never does Andi imagine the cruise will include the murder of a has-been lounge singer—or that Ruby might be the main suspect. Flirting with more than danger after arriving in Mexico, Andi connects with charming local sheriff, Manual Gonzales. An embarrassing night involving the sheriff, too many margaritas, and a Mariachi band, can’t quell her determination to clear the name of her ex-stepmother. While gathering clues and interviewing witnesses, however, she suspects dear old stepmom isn’t the only one in jeopardy.

Thoughts: From the cover alone, you know this story is going to take place either on a cruise ship or an exotic location—or both. Which it does as we go from Miami, Florida to Cancun, Mexico, to Las Vegas, and on the ship.

Andi Anna is woken extremely early one morning by a frantic call from her ex-stepmother, Ruby, screaming in her ears that she’d been arrested in Mexico for murder. Unfortunately, Andi Anna promised her dead father that she would look after Ruby. That was her first mistake. Ruby is an over-the-top character who Is more than a little bit flighty and selfish. But Andi is nothing but an obedient daughter and drops everything to fly to Mexico to see what she can do to help Ruby. Then she meets local sheriff, Manuel (Manny) Gonzales and suddenly her trip there isn’t so bad.

After hearing Ruby’s side of things, Andi—In true amateur sleuth manner—decides to see what she can do to solve the murder of the lounge singer Ruby is accused of killing. We move around from Mexico to the ship to Las Vegas following the clues. And Manny is there with her—especially during one heavy margarita night. Andi has definite issues—especially her claustrophobia and other problems, but she’s a good character.

Recommendation: This is a quirky cozy with interesting characters and an ending that satisfies. It’s also the first in a series so you know there will be more adventures for Andi and Manny to come. Recommended.

Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”


A TRIP WITH TROUBLE (Mountain Lodge Mystery #2) by Diane Kelly

Fiction, Cozy Mystery


320 pages

Blurb: The second in a charming and engrossing cozy series from Diane Kelly, A Trip with Trouble proves that in the Blue Ridge Mountains, life in the fast lane could end in a crash. When the ladies of the Dangerous Curves Motorcycle Club take over the Mountaintop Lodge for their annual autumn ride along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Misty Murphy couldn’t be more thrilled. Every room is full and the adventurous women even invite Misty and her assistant Brynn to join them on a ride to admire the colorful fall foliage. Hotel handyman Rocky Crowder is happy to keep an eye on the lodge for the day, and the ladies set out for a fun ride on the scenic road. The skies are clear, the air is crisp, and the leaves are gorgeous. But what starts as a perfect ride turns worrisome when the tail gunner – the last rider in their group – fails to show up at the Craggy Gardens overlook. Cell phone service is spotty in the remote, mountainous area, and the group is unable to connect with their friend. Might the missing woman have simply run out of gas? Or is something far more sinister afoot? The ladies are determined to locate their ride or die, and Misty is equally determined to help them. But will they be able to solve the mystery when the scenic route seems intent on hiding its secrets?

Thoughts: This was a cute cozy mystery with actually two mysteries involved—the murder and another one that may or may not be connected. There are plenty of suspects to go around and just enough clues to keep you guessing (though, I’m sorry, I had the perp pegged almost from the beginning). The addition of the scenery on the NC/TN area is a highlight of the story. Although I’ve been through the area, I did have to look up the “Tail of the Dragon” route – not a road I’d ever try driving!

In this story, Misty Murphy’s mountain lodge is hosting a women’s motorcycle club for a week. They’re there to see the sights, hike, and generally enjoy themselves. But when the leader is murdered, things go south in a hurry. Plus there are other things going on, like a white van that keeps showing up and sinister figures attempting to gain entrance to the lodge. Misty and her friends Rocky, Brynn, and Patty band together along with local cops to figure out what’s going on.

One thing I did *not* like were the chapters from the cat’s point of view. They made no sense and added nothing to the plot at all. You could completely remove them from the book and nothing would be lost.

Recommendation: This is a decent cozy with a satisfying ending. I do recommend you skip the chapters from the cat’s POV. Trust me, you won’t miss anything.

Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”


SPECTRUM OF SECRETS by Judy Whitehill Witt

Fiction, Cozy Mystery with Romantic Elements


Blurb: Samara McNeer struggles with the thankless duty of easing her mom, Clair Hobson, over life’s potholes, both small and big. Those include a home that went up in smoke and a scam that wiped out her mother’s savings. Now a murder investigation threatens to trap them both. When Clair is questioned, the detective assumes her quirky behaviors are sure signs of guilt. In 2008, no one thinks to look for autism in a 56-year-old woman getting by passably. Unfortunately, Samara’s rescue attempts sink Clair deeper into suspicion. And the cops aren’t alone watching mother and daughter… There’s a killer eyeing them from the shadows. Clair’s a keen observer, but shuts down when stressed. Sam has a dogged drive to find the truth, yet sometimes overlooks telling details. Can they combine their strengths to unmask the murderer before it’s too late?

Thoughts: This story is told from two points of view: the main character of Sam (Samara) and her mother Clair. It deals with Sam’s struggles with her mother, who is high-functioning autistic (Asperger’s), and the murder mystery. It took me a minute to realize that when the POV switched. But it works. We get the perspective of both Sam and her frustrations with her mom and the events, and Clair and her frustrations and reactions to the events. It’s interesting to see from both sides. And the author pointing out the problems autism creates for both the person and those surrounding them. She also goes into problems others (like the cops) have in understanding the reactions of those with autism.

The mystery was a little disjointed for me at times, though it all worked out in the end. But there were also threads left dangling that bothered me (in Sam and Clair’s past). I’d have liked to have seen that thread settled as well – maybe in a future book? And the “bad cop” needed taken care of as well. Again, maybe a future book? Those two threads left the book unfinished for me.

The romance portion of the book was also a tad fractured. Okay, I get that Sam and Ryan had a past (not a good one) but Sam’s over-the-top guilt concerning his accident and their constant bickering was just a little too much for me. And then to suddenly be in each other’s arms? It just didn’t quite work for me. I’m glad they ended up together, but I’d like to see more there than just arguing with each other.

I absolutely loved the “ISC Convention”! The “Introverts Social Club” where one is a quorum and two is a convention! This was perfect!

Okay, all that being said… this actually wasn’t a bad book. I did enjoy reading it for the most part. It was sweet, intense at times, and interesting to see things from Clair’s point of view. In fact, that addition was what made the book for me. If nothing else, read it for that intriguing difference.

Recommendation: If you’d like to read a cozy with romantic elements that includes a different perspective on things, pick this one up. It’s interesting even if it does have a few (minor) issues.

Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”


KILLER SPRING FLING by Mollie Cox Bryan (81 pages)

Fiction, Cozy Mystery, Contemporary, Novella


Blurb: Welcome to Victoria Town, Va., the town that time almost forgot—until it became a huge tourist attraction for lovers of all things Victorian. Spring is a busy time in the quaint Victoria Town, with the town getting ready for the popular Spring Fling. Viv Barton is busy helping her aunt prepare the Sweet Victoria B & B for the festivities. At 28, Viv is settling in bucolic town, eager for a new life, though she’s unsure what that is. As a newcomer, Viv’s still finding her place. One of her favorite pastimes is walking through the expansive old cemetery early mornings. Until one morning…when her favorite haunt becomes a dead zone. Stumbling over a dead body was not in the plan. Viv can’t shed the memory of the woman’s face or the strange trinkets placed around her body. When it seems the local police don’t have much to offer the investigation, Viv uses her gaming skills to piece together a curious puzzle leading her down a dark, twisty, and dangerous path.

Thoughts: This is a quick read novella that reads both as a contemporary and mildly historical due to the setting. The story is set in Victoria Town, VA – a place where the past meets the present. The town caters to tourists who are looking for a bit of time in the Victorian era. The shops all cater to Victorian styles and fashions and during the Spring Fling, the residents dress in Victorian clothing and play everything up to the hilt. What doesn’t fit in is the dead body the main character, Viv, finds. A young teen who has been taking part in the physical part of a video game.

The setting is well done, and the characters are interesting—some a bit on the strange side—but they work. My biggest complaint with the story was the editing. It definitely needed better work, including making sure the main character had the same name throughout (she didn’t).

Recommendation: With a better editor, I’d definitely look for more from this author. But as it stands, I can’t recommend it without better work.


CLOUDS IN MY COFFEE by by Julie Mulhern (256 pages)

Fiction, Cozy Mystery


Blurb: When Ellison Russell is nearly killed at a benefactors’ party, she brushes the incident aside as an unhappy accident. But when her house is fire-bombed, she’s shot at, and the person sitting next to her at a gala is poisoned, she must face facts. Someone wants her dead. But why? And can Ellison find the killer before he strikes again? Add in an estranged sister, a visiting aunt with a shocking secret, and a handsome detective staying in her guesthouse, and Ellison might need more than cream in her coffee…

Thoughts: This is a slightly different cozy in that the main character, Ellison, is rich. Very rich. She’s also firmly under her societal mother’s thumb, making sure that everything at her mother’s galas goes smoothly. But this time, things go very wrong. Not only does her aunt, Sis, show up unexpectedly and is shunted off to stay with Ellison, but so does Ellison’s sister. Then someone tries to kill Ellison. Multiple times. Which leads to cute cop Anarchy to move into Ellison’s carriage house to watch over her. Add to that, a dark family secret that could cause even more problems.

The characters are very-well written. I loved Ellison and how she handles everything. And the settings are nicely done. Plus the ending is satisfying – and a bit of a surprise. Never a bad thing with a mystery.

Recommendation: Though this is the third in a series, you don’t need to have read the first two to know what’s going on. And this is a stand-alone so it does actually come to a satisfactory conclusion. Recommended.

Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”


ICE CREAM AND GUILTY Pleasure (Sandy Bay #9)by Amber Crewes

Fiction, Cozy Mystery, Novella (76 pages)


Blurb: Meghan Truman is honored to be invited to serve her signature tarts at the Governor’s ball. A night of glitz and glamour, in the company of handsome Detective Jack Irvin, is ruined for her when she experiences firsthand, the ungracious attitude of a prominent figure that she once looked up to. Things take a turn for the worse when this insolent guest is found dead after eating a dish of ice cream. Meghan is sure she had nothing to do with it as her desserts were rejected by the deceased. Will Megan and Jack be able to navigate this unfamiliar world of wealth and privilege to discover the truth in time to save her business? Not all sweet things are pleasurable. The guilty can sometimes be sweet. Discover how Meghan helps to solve the latest murder mystery in Sandy Bay. Book 9 in the Bestselling Sandy Bay Cozy Mystery series, which can be read in one to two hours! Perfect for a lunchtime read or on a commute to/from work. If you want to enjoy a quick light-hearted read, with an amateur female sleuth, mouth-watering culinary desserts and a gripping murder mystery with a touch of romance, then you’ll love Meghan Truman and all the quirky characters in Sandy Bay. No cliffhanger, swearing or graphic scenes!

Thoughts: This is a very quick, cute read, but there are a couple issues. Like overusing “truly sweet” until it became sickeningly sweet. And having one character named Jack and another Jacqueline. And what was especially confusing to me – the chef whose desserts are the highlight of the evening (Meghan’s tarts) isn’t even making them. She’s out among the elite enjoying herself instead of making sure everything is perfect. Yes, I know she’s relying on her help to do the work, but I’d think she’d be at least overseeing it.

Still, that being said, it is a cute, quick read with a satisfying ending.

Recommendation: If you’re just looking for a quick lunch-time read, go ahead and pick this one up.

Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”


COZY CAT CAPER by Includes Three Small-Town Cat Cozy Mysteries: Murder, Framed, and Poisoned in Cherry Hills (Cozy Cat Caper Mystery #1-3) by Paige Sleuth

Fiction, Cozy Mysteries, 3-1 books, novellas (187 pages total)


Welcome to Cherry Hills, where small-town life can be deadly. This box set includes the first three books in the Cozy Cat Caper Mystery series. If you enjoy light, fun, cozy mystery novellas without excessive violence, bad language, or graphic scenes, then grab this three-book collection today and join Kat Harper and her two crime-fighting felines in their quest for justice!

Murder in Cherry Hills (Book 1): Kat Harper has only just returned to her small hometown of Cherry Hills, Washington when she discovers the dead body of her neighbor, Mrs. Tinsdale. Matilda, Mrs. Tinsdale’s orphaned rescue cat, just might be the only eyewitness to the murder. But how do you convince a cat to reveal “whodunit”?

Framed in Cherry Hills (Book 2): Kat Harper doesn’t expect her first meeting with the Furry Friends Foster Families nonprofit organization to kick off with the mysterious absence of another member. But it soon becomes clear why Willow Wu is a no-show; she’s been arrested for a crime that nobody can believe. Now, with a little help from her cat Matty, Kat has to figure out who is framing Willow and why.

Poisoned in Cherry Hills (Book 3): Kat Harper has been looking forward to the Furry Friends Foster Families benefit dinner for weeks, never guessing it would come to a screeching halt when one of the guests ends up poisoned. Now the question she must answer is who would have wanted to murder Heidi Smith? Kat has a few suspects in mind, but before long her cats Matty and Tom are making her question everything about the case.

Thoughts: These are three short, quick reads connected through the main character, Kat. I think the think I loved most about these stories is that they take place near Wenatchee, WA, a place I’ve visited in the past. In each story, there is a mystery to be solved – who killed Mrs. Tinsdale (#1), who framed Willow Wu (#2), and who killed Heidi Smith (#3). The characters all are connected and the stories build from the first to the last. You need to read them in order so you can understand what’s going on and what the connections are. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of depth to these stories (yes, I know, short) and there are, for me, a lot more questions left unanswered, especially about Kat. But each mystery does get solved in the end.

Recommendation: If you’re looking for a quick lunchtime read, these would be a good distraction. If you’re looking for depth and a meaty story – not here. But they are cute.

Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”


WITCHER UPPER (Magical Renovation Mysteries #1) by Amy Boyles

Fiction, Paranormal Cozy Mystery


Blurb: Southern gal Clementine Cooke is busy. The house renovation business she runs with her best friend in the small town of Peachwood, Alabama, is thriving. That is until Clementine discovers her partner dead, face-down in poured concrete. It looks like murder. Clementine starts to investigate, quickly realizing that not only had her so-called best friend spent years lying to her, but plenty of folks wanted her dead–from the unionized wizard mafia to the old lady quilting club. But even with haters coming out of the woodwork, Clementine finds herself fighting off suspicion. She must locate the killer before the local police chief tosses her in jail and throws away the key. With no one to turn to, she enlists the help of a wizard suffering from amnesia. But there’s a hitch–he might not remember who he is, but Clementine does, and for her own reasons, she’s not talking. Can Clementine clear her name and save her business? Or will this be one magical renovation that winds up in demolition?

Thoughts: This is the first in a new series. As such, I know I’ll be reading more! I loved the “quilting ladies” and there’s definitely nothing wrong with having chocolate silk pie for breakfast. Yum. Clem does know how to start her day off right! She’s a renovator who’s doing a job for a man who is a pain in her… yeah. The characters are fun and quirky – and the “police chief” is ridiculous. Why in the world don’t the citizens get rid of him? The world building is wonderful with things like a witch’s mafia and loan sharks and more. There’s even the trope of amnesia in here for a man (wizard) Clem hates. And the fact that Clem has no idea what’s going on around her.

Clem needs to figure out who killed her best friend—who wasn’t really a friend—why Rufus and she are the only ones who can see the spells and more. There are a lot of secrets in this book – not all of them answered. But there is a satisfying ending with at least one mystery solved.

Recommendation: If you love a bit of the paranormal in your cozies, definitely pick this one up. Though it is part of a series, you won’t be disappointed because there is a satisfying ending.

Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”


Restoration Murder: The Salamander Hoard by Lucy Branch

Fiction, Murder Mystery


Blurb: Art, Craft, Danger, Murder, Money …This is Restoration Murder

You know when you just need a bit of luck? That’s what I was desperate for the day I found the exquisite pocket watch. But I should have known that nothing that came my way would do so without trouble. Its secrets began to be revealed as soon as restoration began. History can add value to an object, but an unsolved murder of a Jewish man and the disappearance of a Mastercraftsman, is not the kind of history you want. While Rebecca’s fine restoration skills unpicked clues, the pursuit of truth and treasure was too much for me and I had to know more about its past. What part had the watch played in these lost lives? Might the fate of the former owners become our own? Or, could restoration mean redemption for more than just the watch?

Thoughts: Though I thought this book was a bit long at times, I did enjoy reading it. The characters are interesting and I especially loved Rebecca. And the way Ben honors her at the end. While the hero, Ben, is not my favorite character, he does come through in the end which helped redeem him for me.

Basically, Ben goes to Brighton for a walk along the beach and goes into a pawn shop where he sees a corroded old pocket watch. He buys it and takes it home, hoping to somehow get it restored. When he isn’t satisfied with any of the jewelers he goes to, he goes to Rebecca, a co-worker at the restoration factory where he is a packer. They work on the watch and discover a mystery with murder, mobsters, theft, and more.

The story is very British so if you pick it up, be aware of that—terminology, grammar, punctuation, etc. is different than American. But it’s a good story so if you get into it, you might just forget about all that stuff and just enjoy the mystery.

Recommendation: Though a little slow at times and very British, this is a good story with a satisfying ending. Recommended you enjoy it with a good cup of tea.

Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”


GRAVE NEW WORLD (Down & Dirty Supernatural Cleaning Services #1) by Demitria Lunetta, Marley LynnKate Karyus Quinn

Fiction, Paranormal Cozy Mystery

2 ½ **

Blurb: I’m Paige Harper and I clean up supernatural messes. But my personal life is something I can’t seem to straighten out. I accidentally married a fae, and even though we’ve been divorced for years, Jax still manages to land me in hot water. Like, putting my house on the table at a high stakes poker game type of hot. Now, he’s been arrested for murder and the cops want to pin a series of vampire killings on him. I don’t know if he did it or not. But I do know he needs to be at that poker game or else my house is gone. In order to get Jax out, I turn to Nico, a one-eyed werewolf private detective, for help. Nico is a handsome, dangerous, ladies man and I have no intention of falling prey to his charms. Although, that’s easier said than done as the two of us begin crawling through the dirty underbelly of the supernatural world… It’s a good thing I brought my broom.

Thoughts: I really wanted to like this book. It sounded so interesting and I love paranormal stories. Plus, this one was different – a main character who’s stuck with the cleanup after all the paranormal stuff happens. Nice.

Unfortunately, wanting to like something and actually liking it are often two very different things. I started off kind of liking Paige, but it went downhill from there for me. Her lust-filled brain just did not click with me. Her ex, Jax, is awful but she still lusts after him and lets him take advantage of her all the time. This story was more about her sex-life than anything else.

Yes, there are cute, funny moments. And the world building is done well, but the characters just didn’t work for me. And they didn’t really grow or change throughout the book. The mystery part is okay and there’s a satisfying ending, but I’m not sure I could recommend this book to any of my friends.

Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”


GIVE UP THE GHOST (Ghost Detective #2) by Jane Hinchey

Fiction, Paranormal Cozy Mystery


Blurb: Never in my almost thirty years did I think my new normal would be talking to ghosts, yet here we are. After inheriting a PI business, I find my clients are more incorporeal than not and are relying on me to solve their untimely deaths. Unfortunately, being a magnet for ghosts has its downside. Hello? Lack of privacy, for starters. Not to mention looking like a looney tune for holding animated conversations with myself. But the biggest problem? Their killers don’t want me on the case. Now I have a new mystery to solve. Local psychic Myra Hansen woke up dead and she’s none too happy about it. Seems she didn’t see that one coming! Together with my ghostly best friend, a talking cat, and Captain Cowboy Hot Pants—or, as he likes to be called, Detective Kade Galloway—I’m in yet another race against time. Catch a killer before the killer catches me.

Thoughts: This was a fun story—especially the ghost Ben! I loved him! And Thor (the cat she can talk to). Audrey is a PI in training (under the supervision of hot Det. Kade). She inherited the business (house, car, cat, etc.) from Ben when he died. And Audrey can see and talk to him along with the cat, Thor. But it looks rather odd to others when she does since they can’t see or talk to ghosts.

In this story, Audrey is looking into the death of local psychic Myra. But first, she’s looking into three thugs who robbed the bank she had gone into. Which leads to her getting shot at and wrecking Ben’s beautiful car. And screaming Myra who isn’t what she seems (besides being a ghost). The characters were fun and the story itself a hoot. But I would suggest reading the first one in the series first so you have more of a background. It’s not absolutely necessary as I didn’t but I understood everything that was going on.

Recommendation: Definitely recommended.

Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”


DIE IN THE WOOL: A Knitty Kitty Cozy Mystery by Katherine Hayton

Fiction, Cozy Mystery


Blurb: A sudden death has Tash Mallory all stitched up! Tash Mallory’s future is in the balance when her employer “Auntie Fran” (no relation) fires her from the knitting shop job she’s held for twenty years. Even worse, when Tash returns to confront her, she finds Fran’s dead body in the back room. Luckily, the doctor soon concludes the death is from natural causes. A decision cast into doubt when Tash finds out she’s inherited Fran’s store and home. With an aggrieved nephew determined to fight the will in court and Fran’s despondent fiancé pointing the finger of blame, Tash battles to clear her name. The police mightn’t believe the death was murder, but the good folks of Patiti are quicker to rush to judgement. If Tash can’t manoeuvre through the undercurrent of small town politics, winning the inheritance will be a Pyrrhic victory. Worse, the doctor’s assessment might be wrong, leaving a killer on the loose.

Thoughts: This story takes place in New Zealand an the spelling and terminology reflects that. The murder plot was intriguing and the characters (there were a lot of them) interesting. My favorite character was the kitten. But… a kitten? In a yarn shop? Talk about bad planning. At first, I thought Tash was young, but she’d been working in the shop for 20 years – so not young. But she comes off that way. She finds her boss dead in the shop, then finds out the grumpy old woman left Tash the shop and a house – just as she’s about to be evicted from her rental. Then at the funeral, an old man accuses Tash of killing her boss. It’s up to her to figure out who did the deed.

There were an awful lot of side characters in the story, some of them more interesting than Tash. And the emotions… they hate her, they love her, they… back and forth. But the story has a satisfying ending.

Recommendation: This is a decent story with a good ending. It does take place in New Zealand in a small town. It has fun characters, but is a bit slow at times.

Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”


THE POSTMAN ALWAYS DIES TWICE (Movie Club Mysteries #2) by Zara Keane

Fiction, Cozy Mystery


Blurb: When former San Francisco cop Maggie Doyle extends her stay in Ireland, dealing with more murder and mayhem isn’t on her to-do list. Too bad because the instant Maggie and her UFO-enthusiast friend Lenny discover the dead body of Whisper Island’s postman, Maggie’s plans to chill for the next two months are put on ice. Then Police Sergeant Reynolds, Maggie’s handsome neighbor, arrests Lenny’s brother for the murder, and her friend begs her to find the real killer. Meanwhile, Maggie is hired to investigate ghostly goings on at the Whisper Island Hotel. Can she solve two crimes before St. Patrick’s Day? Or will the island’s annual celebrations end in a glittery flame of green, white, and orange?

Thoughts: I loved this story! It was funny and interesting and with great characters. I loved the two Gerrys – they were hilarious. Maggie Doyle is a San Francisco cop who’s staying on Whisper Island (Ireland) while she figures out what to do next with her life. In the meantime, she comes across a dead body and agrees to help handsome police sergeant Reynolds with the case. Until she’s hired by the local hotel to find out who’s scaring off staff and guests as a wailing banshee. There’s action, hilarity (two old men who get into some “brownies” that have more ingredients than they should) and so much more.

Recommendation: definitely recommended.

Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”



POLLY’S LIST by Kim Janine Ligon

Fiction, Contemporary Romance


Blurb: CJ Reynolds couldn’t wait to escape his hometown. He’s loving his bachelor life as a software developer in California. So much so that he hasn’t been back in years to see the grandmother who raised him. Mikal Benson believes her small town is perfect for raising her son, Will, alone. When Mikal finds her neighbor, Polly Rogers, sprawled on the floor in a pool of blood, barely clinging to life, she calls Polly’s grandson – CJ Reynolds – and insists he must come home. Now! From her coma, Polly whispers three words that change everything. Did she fall or was she pushed? CJ, Mikal, and Will form an unlikely team coming together to discover the truth as danger engulfs them and love transforms them into a family.

Thoughts: This was a cute story that is both a mystery and a romance. CJ (Caleb) Reynolds is enjoying his life in California as a coder. His grandmother lives in a small midwestern town and he has no intention of going back there. But when his grandmother is hurt in a fall, he is guilted into going back by a “nosy, interfering” neighbor. The neighbor, Mikal, his grandmother has been telling him about for several years turns out to be a beautiful widow with a young son, Will. CJ thought Mikal was a Michael and didn’t realize his grandmother had been talking about her. Though initially they don’t like each other, spending a lot of time together changes their minds. Plus the danger they are in—especially Will—makes a difference too.

Five-year-old Will is the key to solving not only who pushed Polly down the stairs, but who is killing off several other people in the town. The police insist they are the ones to keep him, and his mother Mikal, safe, but it is really CJ who comes to the rescue. Though their attraction is fast, dangerous situations do make for strong emotions.

Recommendation: For a good read that mixes mystery with romance, pick this one up. It’s got a lot of intrigue and a satisfying ending. Definitely recommended.

Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”




Fiction, Cozy Mystery


Blurb: Old Town’s midsummer festivities are getting a tasty addition this year. To coincide with a public performance of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Bobbie Sue Bodoin, the Queen of Cheesecake, has hired Sophie to organize a dinner with a dessert buffet on the waterfront. Bobbie Sue’s homegrown company is thriving, and since her baking dish overfloweth, she wants to reward her employees. Bobbie Sue has only one menu demand: no cheesecake! But her specialty isn’t the only thing missing from the evening—Tate, Bobbie Sue’s husband, is too much to her annoyance. Next morning, however, Tate’s dead body is discovered. Bobbie Sue insists she didn’t kick her spouse to the curb, and begs for Sophie’s help finding the real killer. Digging in, Sophie discovers an assortment of Old Town locals who all had reason to want a piece of Tate. Can she gather together the crumbs the killer left behind in time to prevent a second helping of murder? Includes delectable recipes and fabulous DIY decorating tips!

Thoughts: This is the fifteenth book in the Domestic Diva series. While I haven’t read all of them, this one does stand up to the ones I have read. In this one, Sophie Winston is investigating the death of Tate, owner of Blackwell’s Tavern. There are a lot of suspects, including Sophie’s good friend Bernie. There are also mysterious people (tall, dark woman with big eyes) who Sophie doesn’t trust. But she gets a little too close to things as she gets threatened, attacked, and trapped. And yet, she keeps investigating. There are also a few glitches (like introducing Wolf several times) but those were minor.

All in all, this was a fun book, a decent mystery with a satisfying ending. There were a lot of cheesecake references so be prepared to have cravings and I loved the “notes” at the beginning of each chapter. Great tips!

Recommendation: If you’ve been reading the Diva series, continue with this one. You won’t be disappointed and will get some great recipes and tips in the process.

Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”:



Fiction, Paranormal Cozy Mystery, Novella


Blurb: Chelsea Moon has had better days. Weeks. Months. Years. When real life gets too hard Chelsea decides to fly back to Pendle Island, a place she has not been since she was born. She’s looking forward to a vacation, but when she arrives, she’s quickly thrown into mayhem. Her Great Aunt Griselda has died, and Chelsea is needed at the funeral. She’s barely halfway through a stack of breakfast pancakes when her cousin Lizzy drops another bombshell. Chelsea is a witch, and her Great Aunt didn’t just die. She was murdered. Things go from bad to worse when Chelsea and her cousin start to follow the breadcrumbs. Her Great Aunt had been an infamous miser and hated by just about everyone on Pendle Island. Witches don’t get much more wicked than Griselda. After an ancient legal loophole leaves Chelsea as the sole heir of Griselda’s estate, she suddenly finds herself in charge of a haunted house on a hill, home to a mad pirate ghost, a talking cat, and a burly lumberjack with a curious secret. If that wasn’t enough, she’s got a dreamy sheriff to contend with, and a silver-tongued lawyer who is as charming as he is cunning. It’s a lot to process, especially when Chelsea learns about a family curse dangling over her head. The last thing she wants is to end up like her man-eater mother, but it seems she can’t help attracting attention… With a curse to run from, a murder to solve, and a needy cat to please, Chelsea finds her plate fills up very quickly. There’s also the small matter of avoiding death and learning magic, but that’s easy enough. Right? As Witch Would Have It is the first book in the Wicked Witches of Pendle Island mystery series. It’s fast, funny, and may contain a sassy animal or two.

Thoughts: I really liked this story. It was short, cute, with weird characters and a mystery that really wasn’t one (knew who did the deed almost immediately), but it was still good. Chelsea is a witch who doesn’t know she’s one until she visits her cousin—and then she inherits her aunt’s run-down estate, but problems crop up almost immediately. I see interesting times coming for Chelsea. So why 3 stars? There were so many editorial issues that it became distracting for me (there is a difference between hangar/hanger and wandering/wondering, and more). It really is a cute story, just definitely needs better editing.

Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”



ASHES OF DEATH by G.L. Didaleusky

Fiction, Mystery


Blurb: A retired sheriff detective, Mark McKinney and his wife, Sherry, a retired emergency room physician, seek out an answer behind the spontaneous human combustion deaths of an elderly couple in their retirement community. The two sleuths find Edna and Carl Parkers in their bed as a silhouette of ashes. The two sleuths recruit Ron Baker, a computer forensic specialist for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office Forensic Crime Scene Evidence Division. His computer wizardry assists in investigating the SHC deaths from his state-of-the-art home computers and forensic lab. The determined trio are taken into dangerous, unpredictable scenarios trying to solve this medical phenomenon. Unsuspecting evilness tries to prevent our sleuths from completing their investigation. Can the medical sleuths solve the mystery before ashes of death takes them?

Thoughts: In this story, Mark McKinney and his wife, Sherry, are looking forward to a nice quiet life as retirees. Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen as they discover multiple cases of spontaneous human combustion. As they start to look into the deaths, things start happening…things like their tires being shot out. And other nefarious incidents. They put together a team to help them solve the mysterious deaths. There’s a twist at the end that you don’t see coming, but it all works out.

This is a good story though it gets a little too detailed at times. There was a lot of extraneous information that had nothing to do with what was happening. We really didn’t need to know every tiny little detail of clothing/food/etc. There were also instances of omniscient foreshadowing that took me out of the story.

Recommendation: Overall, it was a good story. I wasn’t so hopeful at the beginning, but by the end, I was really into the story. It just took me a while to get there. When you do pick up a copy, keep with it. You won’t be disappointed.

Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”





Fiction, Mystery, Romance


Blurb: Barnaby and Philo’s story begins with very bad chili and a dead body. Barnaby is in St. Augustine, Florida, to teach a college seminar, and plans to use The Secret—a treasure hunt book—as a framework for his class. He enlists Philo Brice, owner of an antique map store, to aid him in seeking clues in the historic sites of the ancient city. Together they face murderers, thieves, thugs, and fanatics, heightening their already strong attraction to each other. Can they solve the puzzle and unearth the treasure before the villains do? Philo and Barnaby pursue several twisting paths and false leads before arriving at a startling conclusion.

Thoughts: I loved this book. Barnaby is positively one of the most unique, funny, interesting characters I’ve ever read. I laughed so hard at him – and kudos to Philo for putting up with him! Be aware, you may need a dictionary to read some of this. Barnaby (and others) has a penchant for using high-class words that you’d use only in a crossword puzzle—which figure into the story as well as other things.

The story centers around a real mystery – the Preiss gems. Before he died, Robert Preiss buried twelve caskets in twelve cites around the country. In each is a key to a specific gem held by the Preiss Trust. As of 2019, only three of them have been found. In this story, everyone is looking for the St. Augustine casque which will give them a sapphire. But there are other challenges for our hunters – like who is trying to kill them and/or their neighbors. Who killed the hunters? And more. There are mysteries within mysteries here. But I still have some questions that were not answered. Like…why is the shop only open two days a week? Seems rather odd. There are others, but I won’t go into them here because they would give things away. I will note, it’s a very long book – over 400 pages – but totally worth it. It’s so much fun. And has a good ending that satisfies.

Recommendation: Definitely recommended!

Disclaimer: Thanks to The Wild Rose Press and Netgalley for providing this book. I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”





Fiction, Cozy Mystery


Blurb: Take in the wild beauty of Santa Catalina Island with tour guide and eclectic gift shop owner Whitney Dagner. On the itinerary: dramatic Pacific coastlines, diverse marine life, and murder! Since returning home from mainland California and finding her groove with the family tourism business, Whitney Dagner’s daily routine has become a wonderfully chaotic adventure. She and her nimble kitty, Whiskers, often find themselves at the center of the action on Catalina, from staged treasure hunts to gossipy birdwatchers. But before Whit can get too comfortable in the place where she grew up, a gift shop order leads to a stunning discovery—someone’s dead body . . . One of Whit’s best boat tour client’s, Leo Franklin was young and newly engaged when he unceremoniously took his own life. Only it doesn’t seem like that’s what really happened—not after the suspicious activity displayed by his family’s old rivals at the scene of his death. As a bitter, generations-long feud between Leo’s kin and the local Ahern clan comes to a head, Whit and her police diver not-so-ex-boyfriend must lead a dangerous investigation into years of scandal and bad blood to figure out who’s innocent . . .  and who’s covering a killer’s tracks.

Thoughts: Whit is at it again. This time, she’s caught in the middle of a long-standing family feud. And everyone is looking at her to solve the murder. The characters are fun – especially Whit’s grandmother, Goldy. She is definitely not your typical granny. The setting is amazing. It makes you want to go to Santa Catalina island just to see the places talked about (note: not all of them are real, but enough are to make it interesting). I want to ride a golf cart around and walk the streets of this town.

This is the second book in the new series, but you don’t have to read the first one to know who’s who and what’s going on – though I do recommend you do just for the fun of it. The author has a deft hand with humor and mystery and keeps you guessing until the end.

Recommendation: Highly recommended for cozy enthusiasts.

Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”




Jak Barley-Private Inquisitor and the Temple of Dorga, Fish Headed God of Death by Dan Ehl

Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, Medieval


Blurb: Private Inquisitor Jack Barley gets no respect as dubious investigations drag him into contact with dreadful phantasms, irate harpies, malicious mages and royal plots. As a private inquisitor, Jak Barley’s job is fairly mundane-finding errant debtors and missing property, or proving the unfaithfulness of roving spouses. It’s not a vocation that makes many friends. Though a frequent patron of dark, wretched bars seldom visited by the more fastidious citizens of Duburoake, he still can be squeamish about some things – such as ghosts and rabid magicians. Barley’s latest cases are just that more upsetting, dragging him into contact with sinister specters, malicious mages, irate harpies, creepy death deities and royal plots.

Thoughts: This is definitely a twist on your typical private eye story. It kind of reads like the old “Mike Hammer” stories – except it is medieval and there’s magic involved. I honestly wasn’t quite sure whether to put it under “Fantasy” or here–so I did both. I laughed so hard at some of it. Okay, some of it is cringe-worthy, but it’s still a fun story. The author is brilliant at building the world. I loved that everyone was related to Jak. And having a young harpy bond with him is fantastic. Especially what happens with her in the end. Jak is referred to by most characters as a ferret – which he constantly corrects. “I am a private eye!” The only thing I had with the book was the occasional disgusting description of some things. Nauseating. But fun. This is a decent PI book with magic, a medieval setting, lots of action, and a good ending. Recommended.

Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”





Fiction, Cozy Mystery, Contemporary


Blurb: When the owner of a local stationary shop known for its whimsical style is found dead behind Four Paws Animal Shelter, it’s up to tea shop owner and amateur sleuth Daisy Swanson to find the stone cold killer in the latest installment of Karen Rose Smith’s popular Daisy’s Tea Garden Mystery series. When Daisy Swanson arrives at Rumple’s Statuary shopping for a birthday present for her beau Jonas, Wilhelm Rumple’s cottage looks like something out of a fairy tale, reminding her of the Storybook Tea family event she’s planning. Even the man himself—short and stumpy in overalls with bare feet—seems like a storybook character. But as a businessman, Rumple is rumored to be as cold and hard as the statues he sells. Maybe that’s why, following a break-in at his cottage, Rumple is found dead in a dog run behind Four Paws Animal Shelter, bashed in the head. Now it’s up to Daisy to get the residents of Willow Creek to spill the tea on a little man who may have had some big secrets, so she can find a stone-cold killer…

Thoughts: This is the eighth installment in the Daisy’s Tea Garden cozy mystery series and it still entertains. You don’t have to have read the others in the series to get what’s going on, but it definitely helps in understanding the relationships of the people involved. The story takes place in Amish country, Pennsylvania and is true to the area with horses and buggies mingling with bikes and cars. The author does an excellent job of showing the differences between the Englishers (non-Amish) and the Amish even when mingling in the same community.

In this one, Daisy is struggling with the upcoming empty-next syndrome as her daughter Violet prepares to leave for college and her older daughter and family look into moving away from the apartment above Daisy’s garage. And then there’s Daisy’s relationship with her boyfriend Jonas and where that’s going. And Aunt Iris and her beaus. There is a lot going on in town beyond the murder. And as always, Daisy is right in the middle of it.

Daisy is looking for a statue of a Labrador dog for Jonas for his birthday—one that matches his own dog. The man she goes to, Rumple, is a strange little man, but she finds what she wants at his statuary. While she’s looking, he shows her expensive small statues in a safe so when he ends up dead a few days later, she wonders if it has anything to do with what he deals in.

Which it does…in a way. But not in the way she thinks. Suspects start adding up, but there’s no motive until she discovers it and breaks the case wide open—unfortunately for her as it puts her in the murderer’s crosshairs.

Recommendations: If you’ve read the other Tea Garden book, definitely pick this one up – especially for the surprise at the end! And if nothing else, the great recipes included in the books. If you haven’t read any of them, you’re missing a great series!

Disclaimer: Thanks to Kensington and Netgalley for providing this ARC. Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”




THE MERMAID OF SEATTLE by Heather Blackwood

Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal


Blurb: Seattle is known for coffee. But while a certain worldwide coffee chain may have a mermaid on its round, green logo, only one coffee shop in the city is run by an actual mermaid. Mine. But when a regular customer entrusts me with a stolen magical object, I am unwillingly pulled into a life and death conflict between powerful lamia houses. My powers allow me to sing magic into the coffee I make, but a man lays dying and I’ll need more than my voice to save him.

Thoughts: This was a short, quick read with a decent mystery and an interesting solution. It is told in first person from the POV of the mermaid. She runs a coffee shop and can infuse her brews with different spells depending on what she believes is needed—like extra pep, happiness, calmness, etc. When a friend comes in and asks her to hide something for him, she is curious – especially when two “thugs” come in immediately after and take him away. Unfortunately, the small box she is to keep safe is stolen while she’s watching him being taken away. And thus begins her adventure.

I loved the main character and the way she goes about solving the problem. Very innovative and creative! The only issue I had with it was that it felt rushed. I would have liked to have seen more development, but… it’s a free book obtained by joining the author’s newsletter, so… it’s fine.

Recommendation: This is a quick, short read with a satisfying ending that is creative.

Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”




Fiction, Cozy Mystery


Blurb: In this scrumptious new read in the blockbuster series packed with delightful recipes from a beloved New York Timesbestselling author, baker Hannah Swensen is tempted by a high-profile tournament in Lake Eden that quickly turns deadly…

Embracing a sweet escape from her usual routine at The Cookie Jar, Hannah gets asked for her help in baking pastries at the local inn for a flashy fishing competition with big prizes and even bigger names. But the fun stops when she spots a runway boat on the water and, on board, the lifeless body of the event’s renowned celebrity spokesperson…Famed TV show host Sonny Bowman wasn’t humble about his ability to reel in winning catches, and no one knew that better than his tragically overworked sidekick, Joey. Did Joey finally take bloody revenge on his pompous boss—or was Sonny killed by a jealous contestant? With goodies to bake and a mess of fresh challenges mixed into her personal life, it’s either sink or swim as Hannah joins forces with her sister, Andrea, to catch a clever culprit before another unsuspecting victim goes belly up… Features Over a Dozen Cookie and Dessert Recipes from The Cookie Jar!

Thoughts: This is #31 in the Hannah Swensen mystery series (I think I counted right) and, like the others in the series, comes with the required murder that Hannah has to solve and delicious recipes like the caramel pecan roll and lots of cookies. I think I gain weight just reading these books. I usually really love these books, but this one was a little slow for me. It’s almost as if the author is getting tired of the series and wants to stop. And maybe she should – but before she does, Hannah needs let Mike and Norman get lives without her. She keeps stringing Norman along, even after she married Ross (and then got dumped). Hannah’s character has changed, but not for the better. Even Andrea seems to be more of a sleuth in this one than Hannah.

Then there are the recipes. Normally, I love them. They are scrumptious. But… I’m noticing that Hannah—a professional baker and pastry chef—uses a lot of “store bought” ingredients, like the canned  Pillsbury rolls to make the caramel rolls. She can’t make her own? And she gives out dozens of cookies to friends and relatives. How does she stay in business? Plus, I’m sorry, but throw out mushroom stems? That’s rather wasteful.

Hannah and her sister Andrea are helping Sally out at the inn as pastry chefs during a big fishing contest. And it seems like everyone else is staying there too (Rosa, Craig, Doc, Norman (why?), etc.) when the inn was full-up with people there for the contest. So where did Sally get all the extra rooms? And if Hannah and Andrea are the pastry chefs, who made the croissants that get delivered to their room in the morning? Dick, Sally’s husband and the bartender, comes up with a tiny martini with olives made to look like fish eyes and olive juice to make it murky green like the lake. Yeah, that sounds really appetizing.

The backbone of the story is supposed to be about a fishing contest run by Wally (owner of the fishing show and multiple outdoor shops). And yet, we never see him. If this contest is so important, why isn’t here there?

And why shouldn’t Andrea tell her husband, the sheriff, about the murder? I would think it would come up in conversation even if Mike does tell him. And Andrea is working as a server, then says it’s not tiring? Has the author never worked as a waitress? It’s exhausting!

There were a few other glitches too that had me wondering if the author is tired of the series. It feels that way. It might be time for Hannah to close down her sleuthing and learn to bake from scratch.

Recommendation: If you love the Hannah Swensen mysteries, pick this one up. The twist in the last sentence makes the reading worth it—as well as some of the recipes. Just be aware that there are quite a few questionable moments in this one. But some of Hannah’s onion soup sounds good right now.

Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”



A HALF-BAKED ALIBI by Devon Delaney

Fiction, Cozy Mystery


Blurb: When the prize package for a cook-off comes with a dead body, it’s up to Sherry Oliveri to figure out who cooked the victim’s goose . . . Sidelined by an injury, longtime cook-off contestant Sherry Oliveri has agreed to offer her wisdom and moral support to a friend who’s entering the Kitchen Royalty Cook-Off. She knows the key is to plan ahead for anything that could go wrong, but nothing prepared Sherry for discovering the event sponsor’s dead body hidden behind one of the appliances—or having her friend singled out as the most likely suspect. Determined to get her friend out of hot water, Sherry sets her sights on the victim’s disgruntled wife and a vindictive rival sponsor. But her friend’s shaky alibi and the revelation that she may have been nursing an old grudge against the victim leave Sherry in a stew. Desperate to figure out who framed her friend, Sherry will have to sift through the clues and grill the suspects to bring a killer to justice . . .  Includes recipes from Sherry’s kitchen!

Thoughts: This is the sixth book in the series with Sherry Oliveri. Though I haven’t read the other ones, I had no trouble figuring out the characters and their relationships to each other. The story centers around a cooking competition. I never realized there was so much involved in one. Which was a bit of the problem for me. There was such a buildup about the competition, but when it actually arrived, it was over in less than a page. I was actually kind of disappointed about that. I’d have loved to have more on the actual competition. Yeah, it didn’t have anything to do with the murder other than who the victim was, but…I just wish there had been a little more.

Sherry and her boyfriend Don don’t have a whole lot to do with each other beyond the two trips across the sound. There’s not a lot of interaction between them. There is a lot between Sherry and her supposed best friend Amber have a lot more interaction—none of it good. For best friends, they sure aren’t very friendly. It almost became too much. Yes, Amber is a prime suspect and Sherry’s trying to get her free, but wow. The nastiness between those two comes across as a bit much for me.

There were plenty of suspects (though to be honest, I knew pretty much from the start who it was) and lots of possibilities. So that was good. And the ending was satisfying.

What I liked: the characters – they were realistic and well-done. And the recipes are yummy!

What I didn’t like: see above. The animosity between Sherry and Amber just didn’t sit well with me. Acquaintances, maybe. BFFs? No. It also needed another pass by an eagle-eyed editor.

Recommendation: If you’ve read the other ones in the series, definitely pick this one up. It was actually a decent story with an ending that satisfied. Just caveat emptor the notes above.

Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”




Fiction, Cozy Mystery


Blurb: Dead men tell no tales, but in the riveting new Nick and Nora Mystery, they sure leave a lot of clues . . .  When a local PI’s untimely death is ruled a suicide by the police, budding sleuth Nora Charles has no intention of letting sleeping dogs lie—or sleeping cats, for that matter. Certain it was a case of foul play, Nora rouses her trusty sidekick Nick and launches an investigation of her own. Then a second PI is murdered, and Nora knows the two men were on to something—and that she’s on to something too. Following the enigmatic clues left by her late predecessors, Nora soon uncovers a plot that involves a local politician, missing campaign funds, and what could be a bogus real estate deal. But when hints of treason surface, what started as small-time thievery soon balloons into a matter of national security. With the uncanny Nick sniffing out—and spelling out—leads, Nora follows a trail that will take her to the heart of a shadowy conspiracy, and into a trap set by a conniving culprit that will have her wishing she had Nick’s nine lives . . .

Thoughts: This is the fifth book in the series that gives a nod to the characters created by Dashiell Hammett for his book “The Thin Man” that was later made into movies, radio, and TV series. In this case, Nora is the owner of a coffee shop/bakery and she also helps solve murders in her spare time. Nick is an overweight tuxedo cat who uses Scrabble tiles to spell out clues for Nora. Together they make a great team, even though the local cops don’t appreciate her nosing in—at least, not until she solves the problem.

In this one, Nora is taking a PI course and the teacher (a temporary substitute) enlists her help in solving a murder of another PI that the police think was a suicide. When her teacher also ends up dead, she knows it was no accident. But nobody is willing to listen to her except Ollie, another PI and a friend. With the help of Nick and Ollie, Nora is not only able to prove that the first death was not a suicide, but that the perp is committing high treason. She, unfortunately, gets caught, but, thanks to Nick, manages to escape (barely) and everything turns out right. (Come on, it’s a cozy mystery, so of course she gets saved in the end.)

Recommendation: I love these stories. If you enjoy cozy mysteries with just a touch of the paranormal (you cannot tell me that Nick is a normal cat), and more, pick this series up. Though you don’t have to have read them all in order to know what’s going on, it does help with the background. So get them all!

Disclaimer: Thanks to Netgalley for providing this ARC. Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”


BUT KNOT FOR ME by Betty Hechtman

Fiction, Cozy Mystery


Blurb: When a charismatic life coach and his devoted followers descend on Vista Del Mar, Casey Feldstein and the yarn retreat group she’s hosting literally get pushed aside, out of sight and out of mind of the struggling participants seeking enlightenment. But Casey can’t help overhearing the rancorous argument between two members of the guru’s staff, and when one of them turns up dead after ingesting poisonous mushrooms, Casey finds herself tangled up in a murder investigation while the self-help group looks on helplessly. With rumors swirling that the victim was having an affair with the group’s leader and a host of potential suspects among her own eccentric yarn retreat group, Casey can only knit her brow at the complexity of the case. And when another staff member turns up dead and Casey narrowly escapes an early demise of her own, she knows she’ll have to unravel the clues quickly to catch a killer who may be feeling more empowered than even the guru intended . . .
Includes a fun and easy crochet project and a mouthwatering muffin recipe!

This is the eighth book in a series. As I have not read the others (but probably will!), I felt as though I was missing some things, but it wasn’t a serious problem. The main character, Casey, runs needlework (knitting, crochet, etc) retreats at the resort across the road from her home. She also bakes amazing desserts for local restaurants.

Casey has a cop boyfriend, Dane, are ramping up their relationship to a new level which makes her nervous. Add to that, the resort where she’s holding her workshop has been taken over by a self-help egotistical guru who demands she keep her workshop people out of sight. Casey does her best, but it’s a challenge keeping her people away from the other group. The other group’s participants are literally drooling over Casey’s cookies and other food as they are relegated to what they can forage, bland oatmeal, beans and rice (with no spice). When one of the participants dies from poisonous mushrooms, the death is blamed on bad foraging. But Casey isn’t so sure. When a second body turns up, Casey is certain the deaths are linked, but convincing others takes some doing.

There are clever twists and turns through the story. And neither of the bodies were the one I was certain was going to be the dead person. Unfortunately. But the case does get solved (by Casey) and the perp caught.

I thought the whole “guru” bit was an interesting statement on these kinds of charismatic leaders and their self-help workshops. The characters in the workshops were also interesting like a woman who was addicted to her phone and went through withdraw when she discovered there was no signal at the resort. The other characters were just as much fun…but a little flat. Not a lot to them. Though, they are secondary characters so that’s not awful. As for Casey, her relationship with Dane was a problem for me. She needs to stop wavering and just do something.

Recommendations: This was a cute cozy with decent characters and really nice scenic descriptions. I enjoyed it for that alone. The ending is a bit of a surprise, which is always good in a mystery. If you’re into the series, definitely add this one.

Disclaimer: Thanks to Netgalley for providing this book. Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”


GONE BEFORE by Terry Korth Fischer

Fiction, Mystery


Blurb: Small-town detective, Rory Naysmith, thought he’d seen it all, but a young woman’s brutal murder is especially hard to stomach. Doubly so, when he recognizes the murder’s MO is identical to that of Tobias Snearl—the killer he put behind bars a decade before. His frustration grows after a series of senseless accidents plague those dearest to him, and a second woman dies—this one too close to home. Searching for answers, Rory races against time, plunging deep into the murder investigations, drawing ever closer to becoming a casualty of the dark, angry deeds himself, until he finds no one is who they pretend to be—and none are beyond evil’s reach.

Thoughts: Although you think this might be a cozy mystery, it’s not. It’s a detective mystery and Rory Naysmith, the detective, is no amateur. He’s 50-ish, balding, with a bit of a paunch, recovering from a heart attack that took him out of his big city and dumped him the small town of Winterset, Nebraska, in the summer. He has a sort-of girlfriend in Ester Mullins, a rookie cop/friend in Thatcher, and other characters you’ll enjoy. They are very believable for a small town. Oh, and Rory has a cat called Commando who is a character unto himself. I absolutely loved the description of Cousin Henry as “a cross between Col. Sanders and Snidely Whiplash.” I could picture the character perfectly!

Rory literally stumbles on the body of a woman who was brutally murdered (while getting his leg wedged in rocks and breaking an ankle). The murder is hauntingly reminiscent of a previous one he solved, but that perp is in jail. So who did it? And who attacked Rory? And what is going on in Winterset?

Fischer does a great job of sprinkling clues throughout to keep you turning the pages. The characters and settings are believable and the conclusion satisfying.

Recommendation: Yes, pick this one up for a hard-core mystery with a little romance, and great characters.

Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”



Fiction, Cozy Mystery


Blurb: The next installment in Amy Patricia Meade’s Vermont series takes classic mystery high-tech! When US Forest Ranger, Nick Buckley, is invited to the Creator’s Cavalcade to present his employer’s environmental initiatives, his wife, Stella, sees the science and technology driven event – which takes place on the grounds of a luxurious nineteenth century estate – as a holiday from the drudgeries of new homeownership and small-town life. However, when the Cavalcade’s Founder and Director, Philip Morehouse, is found dead in his bed of an apparent heart attack and the inventor of geodesic yurt housing is discovered bludgeoned to death, it quickly becomes apparent that this will be a working weekend for both Buckleys. With a cast of characters that includes a Steampunk designer, a robotics engineer, an Italian fiber optic artist, a recycled materials percussionist, a glass-blowing anatomist, and a French chef who is a master of molecular gastronomy, it’s clear that everyone at the Cavalcade possessed both the brains and technological know-how to make Morehouse’s death seem accidental. But did they? Was Morehouse’s death due to an ongoing heart issue or something far more sinister? And how could his death be linked to the brutal bludgeoning of a man who sought to use his creation to shelter the homeless? Only by embracing her inner “geek” can Stella solve the mystery behind both men’s unfortunate demises. But can she do so before the killer strikes again? And, more importantly, can she do so before the Cavalcade’s all-vegan menu drives burger-loving Nick to drastic measures?

Thoughts: This is a nicely done cozy mystery, though it does seem rather slow at times. And there were some issues I had with some of the things that happened. If you read the blurb, you know what’s going on. There’s a “cavalcade” going on that is showcasing both technology and ecology. And there’s not one, but two murders. Okay, the first one looks like a natural death, but come on, this is a cozy mystery so you know it wasn’t natural. There are quite a few suspects, but it becomes pretty obvious from the beginning who the killer or killers are. At least, it did to me. 😊 Doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the story.

But I did have questions… like why was Stella trying to evade the police and sneak back into the mansion? After all, she was a guest there so had a legitimate reason to be in the house. Nobody else had a problem going in and out, so why did she? And what was with the name Ms B.Ology? Every time I got to her name, it stopped me. Some of the others are odd too, but that one threw me.

Stella (our amateur sleuth) is a bit off-putting too. She hates being compared to characters like Miss Marple and Jessica Fletcher (they’re too old to her), but I’d think she’d be happy for the comparison. Both ladies were quite adept at what they did. Stella and her husband are happily married and work well as a team—though Nick is a very minor character, but it is his attention to detail that helps Stella solve the case.

Recommendations: I’ve read better cozies—and worse. Which is why this got 3 stars. It’s not a bad book, just not one of my favorites in the cozy mystery genre. I don’t know that I’d read more by this author, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a try. Opinions are very subjective and you might love it where I just liked it.

Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”



Fiction, Cozy Mystery, Paranormal, Contemporary


Blurb: Cass Peake’s web design company accepts a job to bolster the local college’s efforts in attracting new students. With the winter break, she and her colleagues expect a very quiet campus. What they don’t anticipate is the reunion of a strange secret society called The Black Triangle Club on the grounds… and a dead body. Then corpses start piling up like gifts under a Christmas tree. Coincidence or not? With the help of her ghostly friend Doris and other allies, Cass works frantically to uncover the real killer. But it might take a real holiday miracle to solve this Yuletide mystery.

Thoughts: This is the third book in the Cass Peake mystery series. I read the first one in the series, so I already knew most of the characters and the background. The author did a decent job weaving in back story so the reader would know what was going on – like who Doris is (a ghost). Cass takes on the job of doing a new video for a local college and hires some young people to help her out, but while filming, they stumble onto a murder…or three. Her cop boyfriend George doesn’t like her getting involved, but Cass can’t help herself. Oh, and it’s Christmas so her brother and his wife are there as well.

There’s a lot going on in this book—sometimes so much that it gets a little confusing. And I was left with a lot of questions unanswered – like Thor – why was he so lethargic? And what happened to Doris? And such a big deal was made out of the diary, but it ended up not being important, so why the big deal?

Still, I enjoy the stories about Cass and her live-in ghost Doris and their sleuthing.

Recommendation: I suggest you pick up the first book in the series first so you understand better what’s going on in this one, then go ahead and pick them all up.

Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”




Fiction, Cozy Mystery, Contemporary


Blurb: Angie Turner’s Idaho restaurant, the County Seat, is the perfect site for a picturesque country wedding, but the party planning skids to a halt when the groom-to-be is implicated in a murder investigation… When Angie’s best friend and business partner, Felicia Williams, picks the County Seat to host her upcoming nuptials, Angie wants it to feel like a family affair–especially since Felicia is set to marry the farm-to-fork restaurant’s talented sous chef, Estebe Blackstone. Unfortunately, the bride’s actual family is far less enthusiastic about the union. They’re pulling out all the stops to cancel the couple’s wedding, even arranging for a surprise visit from Felicia’s ex-fiancé (and her father’s current lackey). But when her ex is killed days before the ceremony and Estebe is framed for the crime, Angie and the County Seat crew must scramble to solve the murder and save the wedding . . .

Thoughts: This was a good cozy mystery (though to be honest, there was little mystery as to who the culprit was). The characters are interesting and likable and the setting is the typical small town setting. In other words, this is a standard cozy mystery – which is perfectly fine. It’s what you want in a cozy. And even though this is the sixth in the series, we get enough background to know who is who and what’s going on without being hit over the head with details. We are comfortable with the characters and their interactions, and they do move forward in their relationships so that’s even better. I haven’t read the others in the series, and yet I knew enough about them to know what was going on with them and why.

Recommendations: For a comfortable, nice cozy mystery with some recipes at the end, pick this one up. Especially if you’ve read the others in the series. And even if you haven’t, you won’t be lost. Enjoy.

Disclaimer: Thanks to the author for providing this book. All opinios are my own and are not influenced by anyone. I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”



Fiction, Cozy Mystery,


Blurb: The Psychic Fair is in town, with Mediums and Psychics, Astrologers galore. And a lone murderer! Believers and skeptics stroll the booths, nooks and crannies, along with the wise and the fools, all searching for answers to life’s dilemmas. Some of them will go home full of hope, other filled with disappointment. One of them won’t go home at all.

Good Italian Catholic girl Monica Baker has no interest in the fair, until Homicide comes calling and she finds out the people she trusted most were lurking there. Where can she turn? To the willing arms of the married Frenchman who fills her nights with lusty dreams or the long arm of the law? Is the answer to the murder and Monica’s future in the cards, the stars, the crystal ball? Or in Monica’s own date with destiny.

Thoughts: This was an interesting cozy. Yes, there is a dead body and we hear about it in the beginning, and at the end… and maybe a couple times in between, but for the most part, the story does not center around it. And the main character, Monica, doesn’t do any sleuthing. Plus, to me, it was obvious who the killer was. The story seemed more about Monica’s life – her love life, her job as a realtor, her ex’s aunt, Brenda, who she lives beside, and more. Very little of the story is about the mystery. And there are so many threads left dangling that you know there’s going to be more in the future. I was a little lost at times as to what had gone on before – a problem only because this is book 2 in the series and I hadn’t read book 1 yet. Overall, it’s not a bad read. Monica is an interesting character. But don’t go into this expecting a standard cozy mystery. It’s more about Monica and her life than a mystery.

Disclaimer: Thanks the author for providing this book. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone. Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”



Fiction, Cozy Mystery


Blurb: With her grandmother in Florida and Russell’s brother and sister-in-law going out of town for the holiday, Eleanora Pacelli is looking forward to a quiet Thanksgiving dinner with Kittiport’s sheriff. All of that changes when a handful of unexpected guests show up at her house, including her ex-fiance, Kenneth Aubrey. Thinking that things couldn’t possibly get any worse, Ellie realizes how wrong she is when a body turns up in the marina. The victim is someone she was close to, and she tells herself that she will stop at nothing to find the killer, but when the evidence begins to point towards someone she loves, she begins to think that there are some mysteries that are better left unsolved.

Thoughts: This was a cute cozy mystery, though I will admit, I nearly put it down after a few pages. I’m glad I didn’t though. I didn’t really get into the story until Ellie’s ex shows up with her mother. Then the rest of the story read quickly. In the beginning, there’s a lot of extraneous stuff that tells us all about Ellie’s life, but not really much about the mystery. Once we get the dead body (and I knew right away who the murderer was!), it was a quick, fun read. I will also not that there were a lot of editorial issues (for me). There really needs to be more contractions in the dialogue. It’s very stilted. Plus typos (which happen in every book—they’re unavoidable).

Recommendations: If you’re looking for a quick cozy read with a satisfying ending, you’ll get that here.




Fiction, Paranormal Mystery, Contemporary


Blurb: The Wraith Files, Case File #53. My name is Zoe Thorne and I’m just an ordinary woman. My life is mundane, and that’s perfectly fine with me; I work a boring job, watch TV, read books, and sleep alone. There’s nothing special about me. Except that I can see ghosts. After suffering years of rejection due to my freakish ability, I’m determined to hide my “gift” from others. That is until I meet Malachi Flemming and his peculiar yet amusing friends. Mal hosts a paranormal web show titled The Wraith Files and when he discovers my talent, he offers me a job. Well, offer may not be the right word. He won’t take no for an answer. One night, we stumble across a spirit on the side of a deserted, country road. He seems lost and scared, convinced someone murdered him. Mal’s interest is piqued and he insists on helping me investigate the accident. The deeper we dig, the clearer it becomes that the killer doesn’t want us to discover the truth. Desperate people will go to any lengths to keep their secrets buried. Sometimes it’s best not to wake the dead unless you plan to join them.

Thoughts: This was a great story with fun characters who had real issues. Ever since Zoe died (for 2 minutes) when she was five, she can see and hear ghosts. And attracts ghouls and zombies (and can send them back). She even has a live-in ghost! But everyone in town thinks she’s a nutcase. Then Mal and his ghost-hunting team show up and suddenly, she has friends… and a job. Unfortunately, not everyone is happy with what she can do and especially one killer.

The characters are fun – especially Zoe’s live-in ghost (and her antics with handsome guys!). The book ended happily – though there is a definite thread leading to the next one(s). Which I will definitely look for and read.
Highly recommended.

Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”




Fiction, Cozy Mystery, novella


Blurb: After injuring herself on the job as a Los Angeles cop, Mel O’Rourke leaves the force battered both physically and mentally. Looking for a fresh start, she moves to a quiet mountain town and opens the Babbling Brook Inn. Excited for her new life, Mel decides to participate in the town’s holiday cookie contest, but her newfound joy crashes when one of her guests turns up dead in her lobby. Mel is tempted to attribute the death to natural causes, but when another guest dies, her cop sense kicks in. The local Sheriff tells her to stand down, but with her own life in danger, Mel won’t back off. With everything on the line, she has to push through her own fears to catch the killer before more bodies drop, perhaps even her own.

Thoughts: This is a quick, cute murder mystery that actually crams two murders into one short read. Mel is desperately trying to make a go of her new B&B business, but a dead body at the inn and then one of the guests also dying make it a definite challenge. There’s the requisite cute guys and a cookie bake-off challenge to add to the mix. And a snow storm that keeps everyone stuck there and the emergency people away is a nice twist. I laughed when Mel’s mom tells her the secret to making her grandmother’s cookies. Without giving it away, I could definitely see someone doing something like that! There were only two anomalies that kept this from being a 5 star for me. First, why not just tell the sheriff she’s an ex-cop? He found out anyway, and Jack knows so it didn’t seem to make sense to make an issue out of it. Also… I didn’t “get” the whole problem between Jack and the sheriff. That one didn’t work for me. But maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, I could see the author turning this into a series. One that I would enjoy reading. And you will too. Recommended.

Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”



Fiction, Mystery


Blurb: Ezra James used to be a big deal: Harvard graduate, FBI agent, beautiful wife. After being accused of fabricating evidence in a serial killer trial, he finds himself suspended, on the verge of a divorce, and working security at a posh Catholic school in Chicago. Then something out-of-the-ordinary happens: a young student-teacher is attacked during a Christmas pageant and left for dead in the snow with a noose around her neck and an electrical burn. Plus, she’s pregnant. Ezra, along with up-and-coming police detective, Lucia Vargas, and school chaplain, Fr. Remy Mbombo, must work fast before the culprit returns to finish the job.

Thoughts: This is an interesting mystery. Okay, I know “interesting” is usually a death knell, but in this case, it actually is interesting. The characters are realistic and believable. And there are enough red herrings to keep you guessing (though I was pretty sure I knew whodunnit and was right). Ezra is an FBI agent on the outs with the bureau and stuck providing security at a posh private school with all the snobbery that goes with the elite. His partner in solving the crime is Detective Lucia Vargas – who has her own issues. Neither of them completely trusts the other one – which leads to misunderstandings. The author refers to “Catcher in the Rye” a lot along with other classics. Even the title comes from a line in a poem about Icarus by W.H. Auden (Musee de Beaux Arts, 1940). And I especially loved the mental chess game (as well as the physical one) Fr. Remy and Ezra play. The one thing that really hit home for me was Ezra’s struggle with manic/depressive episodes. This was well-done by the author as many times the person does decide they don’t need meds since they feel so much better, but then… well done. I thought the funniest bit was the irony of Ezra’s mother telling him he doesn’t need to put that poison in his body… while she lights up a cigarette.

Although this is a complete book, there were enough loose strings left dangling that I believe it could be part of a series. We never discover exactly where Remy is from. Does Ezra go back to the FBI? Or does he stay with the school? Or something else? I know I’ll be looking for more by this author.

Recommendation: This is not a sweet cozy mystery, but one that will challenge your insights into who the perp is and how they get caught. It’s a good story with a satisfying ending but with some strings dangling as noted so be aware of that. Still, overall, a good read.

Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”



Fiction, Cozy Mystery, Contemporary


Blurb: In Pennsylvania’s Amish country, Daisy Swanson is serving hot tea at a fundraiser for a homeless shelter–but tempers are getting heated too…
Daisy’s orange pekoe is flowing at a fundraiser–and she’s also made a new friend, Piper, a young woman whose hopes for motherhood were dashed by a foul-up at a fertility clinic. But before they can settle into a long conversation, the event is disrupted by masked protestors who object to building a shelter in Willow Creek. Among the angry crowd is Eli–who left his Amish community some time ago, with help from a lawyer named Hiram. It just so happens that Hiram is also representing the fertility clinic in a class-action suit–and soon afterward, he turns up dead, felled by an insulin injection. Daisy can’t help but get drawn in, especially since Piper’s husband had been pretty steamed at the victim and didn’t hide it. She’d love to spend some time with the dog she and her boyfriend have just adopted–but first she ‘ll be straining to find a killer…

Thoughts: Daisy is at it again in this seventh addition to the Tea Garden Mystery series. Even though she keeps promising not to investigate, she does it anyway—even against the wishes of her boyfriend, Jonas, and other family members. We also have the return of some family members—her daughters Jazzi and Vi, grandson Sammy, her parents, and others. One thing I really like about the stories is that Daisy is completely someone I can relate to. She’s a single mom trying to raise her kids in a small town (though they’re pretty much raised by this story), owns a business, has friends—and “not friends”. She’s a person you can totally understand. And the small town is great too. Yes, it’s fiction, but it’s also very true to the small towns in Amish country, PA.

Which is another thing I love about these stories. The author is authentic. For instance, in one spot, she’s talking about chicken pot pie. To most people, this would be a casserole-like dish with a pastry topping. But not in Pennsylvania Dutch country. It’s a stew with square noodles—and the author describes this. As well as shoo fly pie and other goodies. I would love to visit Daisy and her town, stop in the shops and enjoy some tea.

And that’s what’s great about these mysteries. Yes, there is an underlying mystery that needs to be solved, and Daisy does, but in a way that we could all relate to. The tie-ins to the Amish culture are beautifully explained and authentic. And the relationships between Daisy and her family and friends continue to grow and expand—as does her menagerie since we have now added a shelter dog (I loved how they take the dog to see the original owner, an elderly woman who had to move to a nursing home). It’s a beautiful addition to the story.

In this one, the town is planning to build a homeless shelter and has a fund raiser that is raided by protestors. There’s also a fertility clinic in town that had an “accident” and people who’d been going there are frustrated and angry. The lawyer for the clinic is killed and the race is on to find out who killed him and why.

Recommendation: Definitely pick this one up! You don’t have to have read any of the books in the series to get what’s going on, but it will help you understand the relationships that are going on. Still, the author makes a good point of letting you in on the background without overwhelming you with back story. While you’re at it, pick up the entire series. You won’t be sorry.

Disclaimer: Thanks to the author and Kensington Press for providing this ARC. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone.




Fiction, Mystery, 1999 setting


Blurb: All Darrell Henshaw wanted was to enjoy his honeymoon with his beautiful wife, Erin, in the charming town of Crystal River on the sunny Gulf Coast of Florida. But his carefully laid plans go sideways when they discover a hidden painting of two young Latino children, which turns out to be haunted. Is Darrell willing to derail their entire honeymoon in this perfect, quiet corner of the world to unravel the mystery of the children’s deaths?

Thoughts: This is the next book in the Haunted Shores series, though you don’t need to read the books in order, I do suggest that so you know all about Darrell. Each book, though, is a stand alone and can be read without having read the others because the author is adept at adding in Darrell’s past without being over-the-top about it. Darrell is a unique character in that he’s a coach, a teacher, suffers with OCD, and can see ghosts—specifically those who want his help. He’s not always happy about it, though. Especially now as he’s trying to enjoy his honeymoon with Erin, his new wife. But the two children are haunting him in more ways than one. He finally breaks down and tells Erin and they go on the search to find out what happened to the children.

The story takes place in Crystal Springs, Florida, a real place, though some of the settings are purely fiction. But the imagery and descriptions are beautiful and made me want to go there and swim with the manatees myself. Or just enjoy the Gulf Coast scenery.

What I liked: I loved the comment about having a happy marriage was to know two words: “Yes, dear.” Laughed out loud at this. Loved the imagery and brought back memories of Y2K since it’s Christmas/New Year’s 1999. I loved that the artist used—Jared Emerson—is a real person as is his amazing work. The author gives his website which I checked out.

What I didn’t like: the derogatory terms used for migrants/Hispanics. Though it does fit with the setting (a large plantation-like farm) and year. And the author gives a lot of information in the end about the plight of migrant workers.

Recommendation: A definite purchase for lovers of mysteries. This is at times light and fun, and other times, dark and disturbing. But it has a satisfying ending. Recommended.

Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”



Fiction, Paranormal Mystery with Romantic tones


Blurb: Valentine’s Day could be the most dangerous time of the year if an angry Cupid is the hit man hunting you down. Bram Farrell, paranormal PI, has been yanked from the pages of the novel. His author and creator brought him into real-world Detroit to do a job for her, but the job went south, and the real-world Detroit is as loaded with monsters and magical beings as the pages of her books were. And they are all out to get Bram and exact some otherworldly revenge on him. Most guys wouldn’t mind that it’s raining females, some expected, some surprises, one he could do without. And then there is his new secretary, Naomi, who he’s falling in love with. Keeping her alive—and himself—is going to be tricky. Outrunning an alchemist, a vampire, and a witch is going to take more than cutting wit. Luckily, this paranormal Sam Spade has some resources besides his dry sense of humor. His dachshund Hellhound is with him and his magic is coming back. Which should be helpful considering someone has put a hit out on him. There’s a lot on Bram’s plate this February. The question is, will he live through it this time?

Thoughts: This was fun, magical, romantic, mysterious, and more all rolled into one rollicking 1930s-esque story. Bram Farrell is a detective who was brought over from the fictional world to our world where he becomes the “writer” of the stories instead of the detective. It’s a little confusing at times, but it’s still fun. He has a human police detective friend who know about him and the paranormal world. And a lot of contacts in the “unhuman” world – witches, vampires, trolls, and more. He was brought into this world by the witch Calista and inherited her vast estate.

What I liked: Raven’s hellhound dog Beelz – a dachshund! Who can morph into a Great Dane when needed. Love that. Also enjoyed that he and the human detective are friends and help each other out (even when they’re frustrated with each other). In fact, this plot is so unique, so different, there’s not much about it that I didn’t love. It’s a fast read with something happening on every page. It’s laugh out loud funny at times with the banter and the touch of romance between Bram and Niela is perfect. The mystery about who is trying to kill Bram is also well done and keeps you guessing until the very end. And there’s just enough of a thread left dangling that, even though you’re satisfied with this one, you’re going to want to read more.

So, why not 5 stars?

Because it’s a little confusing. I didn’t realize this was the second book in a series and was a bit lost at the beginning even though the author explains that Bram was brought over from the fiction world. I would seriously recommend reading the first book in the series first. So much so, that I’m going to purchase a copy and read that one, then this one again.

Recommendation: Highly recommended. But I’d read the first one first, then get this one. A definite must read for anyone who enjoys paranormal mysteries that are fun and have a touch of romance.

Disclaimer: Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”



Fiction, Paranormal Cozy Mystery with Romance


Blurb: Family legacies are a curse! Welcome to the Lost Souls ParaAgency, where agents work together to ensure the safety of humans and to prevent exposure of the paranormal community. The Assignment—stop witches from creating magical chaos in the small town of Burberry, South Carolina. There’s no dead body… yet. And there won’t be if Lex Dimas takes this assignment. Forced to take on the occasional paranormal case by his manipulative grandfather, he’d prefer to spend his days striking deals in the boardroom. Instead, he’s stuck in small town Burberry searching out witches who intend to harm the unsuspecting townspeople. Only, he doesn’t come upon a group of hateful witches—instead he finds a sweeter-than-peach-pie tea shop owner who wouldn’t harm anyone. Amira Walker and her two sisters come from a long line of witches who harness the power of emotional manipulation. But the Walker girls aren’t interested in fulfilling their witchy destinies, much to the chagrin of their three powerful aunts. When Lex shows up, Amira mistakenly believes he’s spelled by the aunts in a love match attempt. To her mixed delight and disappointment, she discovers he’s there to apprehend a paranormal villain. As Burberry becomes a hotbed of magical activity, Lex is sure Amira’s youngest sister is to blame. It’ll be up to Amira to prove her sister’s innocence and help Lex find the true culprit. Can they survive malicious witchcraft and come together as a paranormal investigative team before it’s too late?

Thoughts: Take three witch sisters, three elderly witchy aunts, throw in a bad witch and a paranormal investigator who’s handsome and rich and you have the basis for a fun read. Lex is on the hunt for rogue witches, but he has the perp wrong when he focuses on Amira. The two have to put aside their differences and team up to find out who the real bad witch is. Just a fun read with a satisfying ending that leaves the door open for more adventures with the sisters-and Lex. Definitely recommended.

Disclosure of Material: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”



Fiction, Cozy Mystery, Contemporary


Blurb: Death by Sample Size is a humorous cozy mystery that takes place in the Los Angeles garment center. The last thing Ditzy Swimwear sales exec Holly Schlivnik expected was to discover ruthless buying office big wig Bunny Frank’s corpse trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey with a bikini stuffed down her throat. When Holly’s colleague is arrested for Bunny’s murder, the wise-cracking, irreverent amateur sleuth jumps into action to find the real murderer. Nothing turns out the way Holly thinks it will as she matches wits with a wily killer hellbent on revenge.

Thoughts: Unlike most cozy mysteries, this one starts off with the murder, then we are taken back in time to meet the people surrounding it. That was a little…startling at first. I had a little trouble switching gears from “now” to “then” and then back to “now” later on to find the killer. It was also confusing trying to follow who was who and what they all were doing. I know nothing about the clothing industry and how it works so the whole buyer/supplier/designer/etc. thing was a bit confusing.

The main character, Holly, is the VP of Sales for Ditzy Swimwear. She’s the one who finds the body – Bunny Frank. It seemed that everyone hated Bunny and everyone had a motive for killing her, including Holly’s best friend. Holly can’t let her friend take the fall for this, so like any good amateur sleuth, she goes after the real killer—which makes her a lot of enemies, including the real killer.

What I liked: The cover is…unique. And the author’s sense of humor matches. The characters are well-done and believable.

What I didn’t like: the “now/then/now” setup. Also…a question—and maybe it’s a timeline thing that I missed—but in one part of the book, two characters (Angela and Louis) are together. Then Angela leaves and Louis takes up with another woman. And two pages later, Angela and Louis are sitting at a table together. So either she came back, or I definitely missed something somewhere timeline wise. I was very confused about this.

Recommendation: It’s a decent story with a satisfying ending and good characters. I got a bit lost at the beginning, but it eventually evened out and became better for me. If you don’t mind the setup, add this one to your cozy mystery stack for a fun read.

Disclaimer:  I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



BLACK CAT CROSSING by Molly Fitz et al.

Fiction, Anthology, Paranormal Cozy Mystery


Blurb: Lions and tigers and… black cats? OH MY! Picture a chilly fall night spent curled up in your favorite armchair with a purring cat on your lap and a mug of steaming cider in your hand… Are you cozy? Good. Now imagine how much more cozy you’ll feel when you add a book to the scene. BLACK CAT CROSSING offers the perfect finishing touch for all that autumnal bliss. This collection of 11 all new, never-before-read cozy mysteries is thrilling without being terrifying—yup, it’s just what the witch doctor ordered. From talking pet detectives to strays harboring magical secrets, friendly ghosts in need of aid, vampires who don’t bite, and even poison apples intended for costumed princesses, come celebrate Halloween with ten sweet and delicious stories that will keep you up well past your bedtime.

Black Cat Benefit by Molly Fitz
Secrets of the Black Cat by Mila Riggs
Black Cat Comes Back by Emmie Lyn
A Wash & Werewolf by S.E. Babin
A Haunted Offer by Carolyn Ridden Aspenson
Kitty Cat Caper by Stephanie Damore
Bewitching Henry by Michelle Francik
Poison Apple Potion by Nyx Halliwell
Magic and Mystery by Izzy Wilder
The Witch Wears Prada by Lisa Siefert
Blackjack Crossing by F.M. Storm

Thoughts: Like most anthologies, I enjoyed some more than others in this grouping. And in fact, there was only one that I actually didn’t care for and that was mostly because the villain wasn’t caught or dearth with. It was the only one that wasn’t complete for me. All the other stories were complete stories by themselves even though they are part of larger series by the authors. Each one centers around a black cat that in some way helps the heroine solve the problem. Some of them talk, some don’t. Some I just want to scoop up and hold and pet. Some, I’d stay far away from! But I enjoyed them all.

Recommendation: I’d definitely recommend this if you’re looking for some short stories to entertain you, and especially if you’re familiar with the authors. If you’re not, this is a great way to introduce them and discover which ones you’d like to read more of. I know for certain I’m going to be picking up more by almost all of them. They’ve all been added to my “keep an eye out for…” list. They’re fun, quick, entertaining reads.

Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



Fiction, Cozy Mystery


Blurb: Whitney Dagner is your tour guide to a Pacific paradise that’s to die for–only to find it’s a place people are also willing to kill for–in Gabby Allan’s Much Ado About Nauticaling, first in the Whit and Whiskers Mystery series. After far too many years in the Los Angeles corporate world, Whitney Dagner has come home to Santa Catalina Island off the California coast to help her brother Nick run Nautically Yours, the family tourism business. Between gift shop shifts selling all manner of T-shirts and tchotchkes and keeping her feline Whiskers in fine fettle, she pilots the Sea Bounder, a glass bottom boat showing tourists the underwater sights of aquatic plants, marine life–and a murder victim? The self-proclaimed Master of the Island, Jules Tisdale was a wealthy man with business interests throughout Catalina who was about to be honored as Person of the Year before someone strangled him with his own tie and tossed his body into the water. That someone appears to be Nick, who had a raw deal from Jules and no alibi the night of his murder. To clear her brother’s name, Whit will have to investigate Jules’ shady associates and not exactly grief-stricken family members–with the unwelcome help of Felix Ramirez, police diver and Whit’s ex-boyfriend who’s looking to rekindle their relationship.

Thoughts: I loved this book. The scenery and characters are great and an ending that satisfies. I love the imagery of Catalina Island – and who knew there were bison on that island? And how they got there. It’s obvious the author did her research—or has even been there—because she makes the island real without overdoing it on details. I love that everyone gets around in golf carts instead of cars (except for the police and emergency services). The author made me want to go to the island, find Whit’s gift shop, and go on a treasure hunt! So much fun. Excellently done.

The characters are what makes the story. The main character, Whitney, has moved back to the island from the mainland where she’s been living for the past few years. She joins her brother in taking on their grandparents’ glass-bottom boat tours as well as opening her own gift shop—which seems to be rarely open as she does other things, like look for a murderer. Whitney’s grandmother—Goldy—is a hoot. Whatever you do, don’t call her anything related to “grandmother”. Not Grams, Granny, Nana, or anything else. She’s Goldy. She loves sunbathing and won’t take gruff from anyone. I also loved the grandfather, though he doesn’t show up a lot in the story, but his calm demeanor is a perfect counterpoint to Goldy’s out-there attitude and does a lot to soothe Whit’s nerves. I also loved the idea of the treasure boxes! And Whitney’s ex-boyfriend follows her there. Whit thought their relationship was over because of her moving away. He wasn’t ready to end it, though. Having Felix there creates some interesting issues for Whitney.

In this one, the island man-of-the-year, Jules, has been murdered and Whitney’s brother is the prime suspect. There are a lot of suspects as Jules is not a nice person. But the chief wants to close the case quickly so it is up to Whitney and her friends—and a lovely ex-boyfriend who may not be so ex—to give the police other suspects. One of my favorite scenes is Whitney in the closet in the spa listening to two conversations (one on either side) from two of her suspects. Hilarious!

If there was anything at all I didn’t like, it was a very minor thing toward the end. Whit has fallen (or been pushed) down a ravine and has a bloodied leg and supposedly looks like she’s fallen down a ravine, and nobody notices or says anything. Like I said, very minor and probably doesn’t occur to anyone but me. That being said, it’s still a really fun book to read.

Recommendation: I highly recommend this book. It’s fun. It’s quirky. It’s a small-town cozy that takes place on an island—a real place with real landmarks that we can actually take the book to and look for (with the exception of Whitney’s shop – but I’m sure there are others around). I am looking forward to more books by this author.

Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Look for “THE PLAYER ENCORE” by Joe Cosentino under LGBTQ for Adults



Fiction, Cozy Mystery


Blurb: In A Tale of Two Cookies, a cozy mystery from Eve Calder, it’s nothing but sugar and spice at The Cookie House, but elsewhere on Coral Cay everything isn’t so nice. Pastry chef Kate McGuire is loving life on the laid-back island of Coral Cay, Florida. As junior partner in a bakery renowned for luscious desserts–especially her cookies–life is pretty sweet. So when an old friend arrives and announces a spur-of-the-moment beach wedding, that’s just the icing on the wedding cake. But the groom vanishes right as a television crew descends on the town to film a hot, new realty show. Is there a connection? Is her friend Desiree somehow involved? Or did groom Judson simply get cold feet? The bride and groom were paired better than warm cookies and cold milk, so Kate doesn’t buy it. As the show’s cast runs amok on the island and the investigation into Judson’s disappearance heats up, Kate and her pal Maxi, along with town dog Oliver, will brave the rambunctious world of reality TV and a wedding weekend gone awry, in an all-out effort to find the missing groom.

Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book. Even though it’s the third in a series and I hadn’t read the others, I had no trouble getting into the story and figuring out who was who. Kate is the main character in the stories. She’s a baker whose friend, Desiree, comes to visit her and hold her wedding on the beach. Unfortunately, the groom (and the JP) never arrive. Kate shows just how good a friend she can be when she helps Desiree prove that her fiancé did not have a case of cold feet and flee the wedding. Unfortunately, there are a lot of others who do think that. Kate and her cadre of friends go to work solving the mystery of the missing bridegroom.

This is a fun book set on a fictional Florida key (cay) in a small community. It’s full of mystery, intrigue, great baked stuff (I really wanted to be in the bakery with them!), fantastic characters, and even a little ecology as the groom attempts to save nests of loggerhead turtles. There are lots of suspects to keep you guessing until the very end.

I will note, that even though I thoroughly enjoyed this book, there were several minor editorial issues that I hope will be cleaned up in the final version of the book as they glared at me. I didn’t take off a star because this was an ARC from Netgalley but hopefully the proofreaders will catch the issues.

Recommendation: A definite buy. And I’ll be getting the rest in the series as well.

Disclaimer: I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”


DOUBLE OR MUFFIN by Victoria Hamilton

Fiction, Cozy Mystery


Blurb: In the new Merry Muffin Mystery, baker Merry Wynter must solve a disturbing crime among opera singers before the culprit decides it’s curtains for her . . . When a reality TV show for aspiring opera singers descends on Wynter Castle, Merry’s got her hands full catering to the endless demands of the distinguished judges and ambitious contestants. Then mysterious rumors about the cast and crew begin to surface, suggesting that some of their performances may be filled with false notes. When a dogged reporter with an eye for scandal who’s been covering the competition is attacked and left for dead, Merry’s determined to discover who orchestrated the heinous deed. Her long list of suspects is filled with eccentric personalities, including a promiscuous tenor known for making unwanted overtures, a pampered young prodigy and her meddlesome mother, and a quiet up-and-comer whose shadowy uncle may have ties to the underworld. As the musical contest and Merry’s investigation near their finale, she’ll have to act fast to keep a conniving contestant from plotting out her final act…

Thoughts: If you like reality TV shows, you’ll love this story. It’s all about a reality TV show that is being filmed at the Wynter Castle. There’s a rather large cast of characters – which was part of the problem for me. This is the seventh in the series so I was a little lost with background on the main characters, although the author does a really good job of relating them to each other. But I believe you’d be better served if you started with the first book rather than the seventh as I did. I’ve never read this author before, but I will be reading more of her work. Once I got into the story, I really enjoyed it. There were a lot of suspects and it was, at times, difficult to keep them all straight. They all had secrets in their pasts that they wanted kept…secret. The story is full of all the stuff we expect from reality TV – favors in exchange for getting ahead, bribery, blackmail, egos, talent vs. no-talent, and more. This time, there’s no dead body—they found the victim in time—but being in a coma means not telling the cops who the villain was. Convenient, but it works.

I enjoyed the characters of Pish, Merry, Virgil, Lynn, Gordie, and the others attached to the story line. I’m looking forward to reading more about them. And learning more about this castle and how it came to be for Merry. Which means I am definitely reading more in this series—from the beginning.

Recommendation: Although this is a stand alone with a satisfying ending, I suggest you start at the beginning of the series so you know who’s who and what’s what. I believe your enjoyment will be enhanced by this. But overall, it’s a good cozy mystery that has a good ending.

Disclaimer: Thanks to Netgalley and the author/publisher for providing this book. I received a copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my Unbiased Opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”



Fiction, Cozy Mystery


Blurb: Nick and Nora are back in a tantalizing new mystery that’s far more dangerous than a game of cat and mouse . . . Never one to turn away from a challenge—even when it goes against her better judgment—Nora Charles can hardly say no when an old friend of her mother’s comes to town seeking her help. The author of steamy romances has learned that her writing partner is severing their relationship and threatening to reveal dark and dirty secrets in a tell-all, and she pleads with Nora to intervene. Reluctantly agreeing to help, Nora pays a visit to the writing partner, ready to make her case—right up until the moment she discovers the woman’s lifeless body. With the police convinced that Nora’s friend is the culprit, she and Nick begin delving into the dead woman’s past and her provocative tell-all. It soon becomes apparent that the woman had a knack for digging up dirt and wasn’t shy about exposing skeletons in closets, and before long Nora has a seemingly endless list of suspects who were at risk of having their darkest secrets revealed. With a police force intent on throwing the book at Nora’s friend and time running out, she and Nick must outwit a dangerous killer before they take their own secrets to the grave . . .

Thoughts: This was a fun book and definitely part of a series—none of which I’ve read (but I’m going to!). It’s definitely a stand-alone in that the mystery is solved, but there are parts that I would have probably understood better had I read the previous books in the series. It would have made understanding the dynamics between characters easier. There were lots of references to other mystery books like “Murder She Wrote”, “Columbo”, “The Thin Man” and more which I loved. Even the main character’s name “Nora Charles” is a reference to Dashiell Hammett’s Nick and Nora of “The Thin Man” fame. Nora is our amateur sleuth, but it is her cat Nick who seems to do a lot of the solving of the mysteries. I loved Nick! I also loved some of the names – like “Anne Onymous” – that was hilarious. And the twist at the end with who the murderer turned out to be was well done.

Things I didn’t like: that the cat is all over the food prep and counter areas – definite health code violations and while I love cats (I really do!), I don’t want them in my food. Plus Nora does some things that are not just unethical, but illegal as well. But if you can overlook these things, it really is a fun read, especially what Nick (the cat) does.

Recommendations: If you like witty cozy mysteries, this sounds like a good one to get into. I really liked this book but wish I had read the others in the series first. That being said, I can recommend this as a good book with a satisfying ending and a cat who I wish I had around!

Disclaimer: I received this from Netgalley in hopes of a review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone.

Vicky 2/25/21



Fiction, Cozy Mystery


Blurb: Wilderness guide Crystal Rainey leads a group of college students to a private campground amidst the awe-inspiring Olympic Rain Forest. The excursion is ruined when the charming hostess Roxie is discovered standing over the landowner’s body, murder weapon in hand. Enlisted to investigate the crime to absolve her friend, Crystal descends on the quiet city of Forks to find loggers, developers, and eco-protesters circling the property, intent on either exploiting or protecting the bastion of old-growth forest. The list of suspects is intimidating. Can Crystal find answers in a community determined to keep her in the dark?

Thoughts: I loved this story! This was the second in the Seattle Wilderness series. I enjoyed the first one enough to pick this one up as well – and wasn’t disappointed. This is a solid follow up to “Winter Takes All”. We are once again pulled into the life of Crystal, a wilderness guide who seems to stumble into murders. In the way of all cozy mysteries, she is our amateur sleuth who finds out who the killer is (and almost gets herself killed in the process). In this one, she has to save her friend Roxie the chef from being prosecuted for the murder of Roxie’s boss. She’s up against the local cops, developers, loggers, and tree-huggers. I especially loved the character of Emerson. He is perfect. The characters are fun and realistic and the imagery is amazing. The author shows us the northwest without being overly descriptive. And the light romance between Crystal and Conner is well done as well, although Conner isn’t in much of this book due to a sprained knee.

Recommendation: Highly recommended for all cozy mystery readers. And even those who aren’t. It’s just a fun book.

Disclaimer: I received a copy from Netgalley in the hopes I’d review it. All opinions are my own.


CRIMSON AT CAPE MAY by Randy Overbeck

Fiction, Paranormal Mystery


Blurb: No matter how far you run, you can never really escape a haunted past. Darrell Henshaw-teacher, coach, and paranormal sensitive-learned this lesson the hard way. Now, with his job gone and few options, he heads for Cape May to coach a summer football camp. The resort town, with gorgeous beaches, rich history and famous Victorian mansions, might just be the getaway he needs. Only, no one told him Cape May is the most haunted seaport on the East Coast. When a resident ghost, the Haunted Bride, stalks Darrell, begging for his help, he can’t refuse, and joins forces with Cassie, another sensitive. As Darrell and the street-wise teen investigate the bride’s death, they uncover something far more sinister than a murder. Can Darrell and Cassie expose those behind the crimes before they end up becoming the next victims?

Thoughts: This is the second book in the Haunted Shores Mysteries series, but it can stand alone. The author gives you enough insights into the previous book that you know what is going on with the main characters without bogging you down in too much detail. At the same time, there is a separate mystery here—actually, there are three mysteries in one. The first one is what happened to Darrell in the first book – why he lost his job and who was behind it all. That one was solved, but did the person behind it all get caught? I wasn’t sure about that. The second mystery is how the haunted bride ghost died—which is kind of tied to the third one about the missing girls. They are all tied up neatly (with maybe the exception of the first one) and everything turns out well. I will note that unless you really pay attention to the fact that this is set in 1999, you’re probably going to find it strange that nobody has cell phones, that they’re using a dot matrix printer (some readers aren’t even going to know what that is) on a DOS computer, and GPS isn’t available. It’s almost, but not quite, historical in that aspect.

The opening chapter draws you in and the action and events keep you reading. There is a lot of detail about Cape May which puts you right there. Darrell is working a temp job at a football camp, but his sensitivity to ghosts is still with him which leads to him seeing the Haunted Bride. While at dinner with his girlfriend Erin, Cassie, a young waitress overhears them talking about the bride and it turns out that she can see ghosts too. Together, the three of them try to figure out who killed the bride, and how to help the girls who have been disappearing from around the area.

I loved that Darrell and his girlfriend care so much about Cassie and that she gets a home in the end. I also loved the pug. And that Darrell has OCD issues and money problems. It makes him more…human. Things aren’t so great for him, which is the way life is for a lot of people. It also touches on a very real problem—that of sex trafficking that happens whether we believe it or not. I did find the story a bit slow in some of the narration, but overall, it was a pretty quick read.

Recommendation: I would definitely pick up this series by Mr. Overbeck. And I plan on looking for more from him

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.


HOW TO SEX YOUR SNAKE by Melissa Banczak

Fiction, Cozy Mystery

5 Sparklers

Blurb: A pool of blood…
A missing body…
A brother accused of murder…

June Nash has the lousiest luck. As personal assistant to her twin, international tv star and reptile expert, Dewey Nash, all June wants is a little break from the endless mail, the crazy fans and the remote locations. She just never seems to get one. Finally home after an extended shoot, June desperately needs to veg in a hot tub and soak the rainforest out of her pores. But the blood, the missing body and her brother’s possible incarceration keep getting in her way. That and the Mexican gang looking to collect a debt, her brother’s hardcore fans sniffing around for a nibble, and her own brilliance at being in the wrong place at the right time. When she accidentally stumbles onto the truth, the reluctant adventurer is faced with a split-second decision. Race into danger and follow the lead or stay safe and dial 911. The wrong choice sends her on a mad dash to recover the evidence and get it safely back to the sheriff before her brother’s arrest goes public and her career…and his freedom…are history.

Thoughts: I love June Nash! She is so completely inept and disaster-prone. Everything she does turns out to be the wrong thing, and yet, she survives. The title of the book drew me in. I mean it’s rather strange and off-beat for a cozy mystery title. But it was the character of June and the writing that kept me reading. June works as a personal assistant to her famous twin brother Dewey so when he gets arrested for the murder of his best friend Morgan, what can she do but help? And that’s when it starts getting real. And real funny. Everything she does just gets her deeper into trouble as she ends up facing drug runners, human trafficers, smugglers…but all with hilarious outcomes. And she is always hungry! Always! There are multiple times when her stomach rules against her better judgement (not she has much of that to begin with). She is spacey, misses a lot because she doesn’t listen, and makes more mistakes in one weekend than most people make in a lifetime. The story was quirky, funny, intriguing and a nice uplift to the happenings in the real world. Oh, and yeah, the title comes from the fact that June’s brother is a herpetologist (snake guy).

What I liked: June! She is the best (un)heroine I’ve read in a while. The writing was quick and humorous and it was just a fun book to read.

What I didn’t like: Though I gave this five sparklers, I will note that there were several editorial issues (misspellings/misuse – like “adds” for “ads”) and other minor mistakes that need to be addressed. But the book was so much fun that I’ll let it slide—this time.

Recommendation: If you’re looking for a quirky, fun cozy with a decent outcome and a totally inept heroine, pick this one up. I’ll definitely be looking for more from this author.

Disclaimer: I received this book in hopes of an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone.

Vicky 12/20



Fiction, Historical mystery, Pub date: February 2021


Blurb: London, 1878. With faith in Scotland Yard shattered after a damning corruption investigation, Charles Lenox’s detective agency is rapidly expanding. The gentleman sleuth has all the work he can handle, two children, and an intriguing new murder case. But when a letter arrives with an unexpected invitation, he’s unable to resist the call of an old, unfulfilled yearning: to travel to America. Arriving in New York, he begins to receive introductions into both its old Knickerbocker society and its new robber baron splendor. Then, a shock: the suicide of the season’s most beautiful debutante, who has thrown herself from a cliff. Or was it a suicide? Her closest friend doesn’t think so, and Lenox, sacrificing his plans, travels to the family’s magnificent Newport mansion in the guise of an idle English gentleman. What ensues is a fiendsh game of cat and mouse. Witty, complex, and tender, An Extravagant Death is Charles Finch’s triumphant return to the main storyline of his beloved Charles Lenox series–a devilish mystery, a social drama, and an unforgettable first trip for an Englishman coming to America.

Thoughts: This is a story that takes place mostly in New England (America) during the Golden Age – between the end of the Civil War and the turn of the century. Lenox is a London detective who has been asked (commanded) by British PM Disraeli to get out of London until the results of his last case are over. His last case being one where he discovered and reported corruption at the highest levels of Scotland Yard. Although reluctant to leave his wife and two daughters, Lady Jane convinces him that it is best for everyone if he does. In America, he is asked to look into a murder that occurred in the highest levels of Newport society. While there, he is shocked at the absolute extravagance of the families—“cottages” that are nothing less than mansions; people who think nothing of spending millions on parties, and more. It’s almost more than his modest British sensibilities can handle. But he plows ahead and follows the clues, no matter who they might lead to. Lenox is a beautifully done character. You feel his emotions as he misses his family and deals with society. And the history in the book is well-researched and presented.

What I liked: This is the first book I read in this series but it is very well written and easy to read. You learn a lot of little things through Lenox and he discovers America. Things like how we got the words “shrapnel” (Lt. Henry Shrapnel invented an artillery shell that fragmented in 1803) and “grapevine” (the Grapevine Tavern in N.Y. was a place where Union officers and Confederate spies mingled during the Civil War. Thus, the source of news, information, gossip, and rumors was through the Grapevine). These little factoids added to the overall flavor of the story. I also loved Lenox’s wife, Lady Jane. How he married into society is a bit of a mystery in itself, but it works well for them—and the reader, especially when she manages to get him a “suitable” suit for the Astor party.

What I didn’t like: Actually, I thought at times, the story was a bit slow. There is a lot of detail—almost too much—before we even get to the “mystery” of the story. You’re almost a third of the way through before we get there. Also…the author made a big deal of the “Wallace murder” near where Lenox lives in London and he takes the files with him to America to work on and…nothing. It is not solved. Nothing about it is even mentioned after the Newport murder. I assume this will be solved in a later book, but it was disappointing to be teased by this case and then it is dropped. Not fair.

Recommendation: If you’ve read the other books in the series, definitely pick this one up. Though a bit slow for me, it is nevertheless well-written and has a satisfying conclusion to the murder. If you haven’t read any, though you can enjoy this one, I believe starting with the first will give you more of a basis with which to understand Lenox and his stories.

Disclaimer: Thanks to Netgalley and Minotaur Books for providing this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone.

Vicky 11/3/2020


WINNER CAKE ALL by Denise Swanson

Fiction, cozy mystery


Blurb: Once again, it looks like Dani Sloan will get a slice of the action…
In the small town of Normalton, IL, there aren’t a lot of opportunities for small business owner Dani Sloan to cater big-ticket events. But that’s about to change—a client named Yvette Joubert is marrying Franklin Whittaker, the richest guy around, and they want Dani to cater their engagement party! The swanky event is the perfect opportunity to put Dani on the map for wealthier clients. But when a storm hits the party after guests arrive, it becomes clear that more than the dinner is ruined: Yvette is found dead beneath the marquee. Is her death a tragic accident, or a perfectly orchestrated murder? Then the case gets even juicier—it turns out that Yvette’s ex-husband is Spencer Drake, Dani’s almost-boyfriend, and the police start circling. Now Dani must follow an unending list of clues to save her business, her better half, and catch a criminal. Let’s just hope they get their just desserts!

Thoughts: I haven’t read this author before but will be looking for more of her books. I had a little trouble getting into the story…it was a little slow for me and the multiple points of view (instead of just the main character) was a little different. But once I got into the story, I did enjoy it. All the cozy mystery tropes are there: (relatively) small town, amateur sleuth, lots of friends to help with clue-finding, friend in jeopardy, and more. The clues are there, but the villain isn’t obvious. Also, even though I haven’t read the first two books in the series, it wasn’t hard to follow who was who and the relationships among all the characters. In this book, there are actually a couple of mysteries going on—the main one (who killed Yvette) and a secondary one (who is attacking college students where Spencer works and pinning them to the walls).

What I liked: the characters are well done and easily relatable. Dani was fed up with her corporate life and downsized to run her own catering business—which seems to be doing well. Spencer is a good counter for her with his own background issues. And the girls who live with Dani are fun. They keep the age level from being too one-sided and add another layer to the story. The ending was satisfying, solving the mystery while leaving threads dangling so you know there is more to come.

What I didn’t like: very little. It’s a sweet cozy mystery—though told from two points of view (Dani and Spencer) which makes it a little different than others. It does get a little slow sometimes and usually, with a “food” cozy, there are recipes included which there aren’t here. So some things that make it different than others. But that is not necessarily a bad thing.

Recommendation: If you like cozy mysteries, definitely check this one out as well as others by the author.

Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in hopes of an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone.

Vicky 10/9/2020



Fiction, Cozy Mystery

sparkler sparkler sparkler

Publisher Blurb: When Main Street in Lake Eden becomes a movie set, a clever killer rewrites the script and bakery owner Hannah Swenson, while trying to decide which marriage proposal to accept, must sift through a cast of suspects before the film wraps with an even deadlier ending.

Thoughts: This is the eighth book in the Hannah Swensen series and Hannah—a baker/amateur sleuth—investigates when an actor is murdered with a prop gun. The book can be read as a standalone, but you’d understand the character dynamics better if you read the previous ones. Like the other books in the series, this one includes some luscious recipes. In this story a Hollywood movie is being shot in Lake Eden, Minnesota where Hannah lives. The movie staff roll into town and local citizens discover to their delight that they will be involved as advisors and bit players. In addition to the hoopla, Hannah has received two marriage proposals (Mike and Norman), but she’s also enamored of one of the movie staff, Ross.

What I liked: The mystery is nicely done—a sweet cozy that leaves you guessing. It’s entertaining with characters that continue to grow and change—with the exception of Hannah. It’s fun “watching” the characters try their best to be chosen for parts in the movie. And the recipes are yummy too. I especially loved that Moishe the cat got a part.

What I didn’t like: I’ve read all the books in the series, and I really don’t like how Hannah continues to string both Mike and Norman along. Make a choice already. I understand why the author is doing this, but it makes me not like Hannah. She’s being selfish in not choosing one and letting the other get on with his life. If I were them, I’d dump her. Plus, the murder doesn’t happen until page 200 – a long way to read to get to the heart of the book. This is a murder mystery after all. Which means the murder should be central to the story but it’s almost an afterthought. And then there’s the movie. Would a director really use so many townspeople in key roles in the movie? Walk-on extras maybe, but not generally. He’d have to pay them standard fees. Finally, this book seemed to drag more than the others did. I didn’t dislike it, but it didn’t wow me either.

Recommendation: If you’re a fan of this series, pick this one up to see what’s next. If you haven’t read others in the series, don’t start with this one. The earlier ones are better.

Vicky 9/7/2020



Fiction, Cozy Mystery


Blurb: Becky’s pastry shop, the Blue Bay Café, is popular among the natives of Ouna Bay, as well as among the tourists passing by. But Becky’s life is turned upside down when someone puts their eye on her beloved Blue Bay Café. Who would want her to give up her café? And most importantly, why? Could the new, handsome man in Becky’s life have anything to do with it? As things heat up and sinister events become the norm, Becky decides to take matters in her own hands. Join Becky and her best friend, Rosalie, as they try to get to the bottom of this mystery and stop the madness.

Thoughts: This was a cute, short read, but… there were so many technical errors with it – from spelling, word misuse, grammar… and more. It really detracted from the entire story for me. Maybe someone who’s not quite so picky with good writing won’t care, but I do. Unfortunately for this writer.

What I liked: The main character isn’t bad. Becky runs a small café in a small town. She has a best friend, Rosalie, who’s always losing things but is there for Becky. Houston is a nice romantic interest and conflict arises from who he works for (his uncle is trying to buy Becky out). The ending is satisfying and ties things up nicely.

What I didn’t like: a lot. Mostly the editing. It needed serious going over by a professional editor. And if the author paid one – get your money back. Also, questions that occurred to me while reading: Becky doesn’t notify the cops about what’s going on because she doesn’t want to run into her ex, Roger. So… aren’t there any other cops in this town? And her avoidance at all costs seems a bit too cowardly to me. Also, why doesn’t Maia (or is it Maria? They seemed to be the same person) ask what’s going on and then report it? Especially after the paint thinner incident. Why can’t “she/her” be identified earlier? It’s just irritating to wait until the last pages for that reveal. Especially since it has nothing to do with the problem. Plus… there’s a phone booth? How old is this story? I haven’t seen one of those in years. There were some other things, but I’ll stop there.

Recommendation: Although this is a cute story, I cannot recommend it until it’s had a complete redo by both the writer and a professional editor.

Vicky 8/24/2020



Fiction, Cozy Historical Mystery


Blurb: The gossip columns can talk of nothing else, and even the Regent is intrigued. The murder of Lord Beazley at Gopshall Manor has caused a sensation, and the fact that two sweet governesses could have done it has further tickled the nations bloodthirsty soul. Lucy Anne Trotter, who stands accused, steals a horse and hurtles off to convince the only man in the country who can save her bacon— the national hero and the most handsome man in England, Lord William Hartell Adair. With him by her side, she sets out to discover the Gopshall family’s secrets and the murderer.In true Anya Wylde style, plenty of madness, kisses and burning breeches make an appearance. It’s a carriage ride not to be missed.

Thoughts: Lucy is at it again. While she is working as a governess at Gopshall Manor, a guest is found murdered, and of course, everyone blames Lucy. Once again, she goes to Lord Adair, who got her the job, for his help in solving the mystery and saving her from the hangman’s noose. The suspects are many as are the vices including blackmail, madness, affairs, drinking, and more. While Lucy is “investigating”, she discovers that the other governess is in love with one of the young men of the house—and he with her. Lucy attempts to discover who the murderer is before Lord Adair, but as usual, he is always one step ahead of her.

What I liked: the humor in the story is fun. This is not your standard historical mystery. There’s a lot going on here in the background and poor Lucy is usually at the center of it all.

What I didn’t like: Unfortunately, this book could use a strong editorial hand. There are point of view shifts all over the place, capitalization issues, and continuity issues. In one scene, the lady of the house starts off with a green robe. In the next sentence, it’s red. And a paragraph or so later, it’s blue – and she hasn’t moved. Also, Aunt Sedley comes in far too late. If you haven’t read the first book, you won’t know who she is (a ghost) and her showing up so late in the story is a head-scratcher. Suggest the author have her show up when Lucy is hanging upside down with her backside exposed to the world. That would definitely be comical.

Recommendation: Read the first book first so you know what’s going on. If you can overlook the multiple editorial issues, pick this one up. It’s cute. Fun. And has a satisfying ending.

Disclaimer: I received this book free through an author promotion. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone or anything.

Vicky 6/11/2020



Fiction, Cozy Mystery


Blurb: This Christmas, Tallie Graver would like to take a break from running her cleaning business to be with her boyfriend, Max, and enjoy their first holiday together–alone. Instead, she’s stuck keeping her mother and grandmother from duking it out during the town’s annual Christmas Eve bingo game. As for festive spirit, she’ll have to settle for her mean-spirited Aunt Ronda, whose mouth could use some soap.

The night only gets worse after Tallie discovers Ronda’s body. It seems someone cleaned her clock with a can of varnish. While all the evidence points to Ronda’s husband, Tallie doesn’t believe her beloved Uncle Hoagie could do such a dirty deed. Of course, his sudden disappearance doesn’t help his case. If Tallie hopes to clear his name, she’ll need to dig up some dirt to locate the real killer. Otherwise, someone else could get rubbed out

Thoughts: In this next book in the Tallie Graver series, our intrepid heroine is in the midst of the holidays. She not only has to deal with her grumpy grandmother, but apartment renovations (with the marvelous Max), another murder, and an arsonist. Her mother and grandmother drag her to Christmas Eve bingo—not her first choice of how to spend the evening—and when she wins (much to the anger of the regular players), instead of gathering her prize, she finds a body. But the real surprise is when Police Chief Burton actually asks for her input. And then her uncle Sherman asks her to help find the firebug who’s burning up buildings around town. With the help of Max and her friends, Tallie once again discovers the secrets being hidden. But before we get to the satisfying ending, there are a lot of twists and turns that leave you guessing. One thing about the series is that each one is a stand-alone story. Yes, reading them in order gives you background on the family that would help you get deeper into the story, but you don’t need to have in order to enjoy the stories.

What I liked: I love the family dynamics in the Tallie stories. The books aren’t just about the murder, but about Tallie and her life and relationships. And it all keeps you turning the pages.

What I didn’t like: Nothing. I love the Tallie Graver series!

Recommendation: If you’ve read the other ones in this series, you need to read this one. But if you haven’t,  you can still read this one and know what’s going on. I suggest you read them all for a fun, light-hearted mystery with interesting characters and endings that satisfy.

Disclaimer: I received this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and are not influenced by anyone or anything.

Vicky 6/4/2020



Historical Cozy Mystery


Blurb: A murder and a theft have been committed at Rudhall Manor. A box of jewels has vanished and Lord Sedley, a lusty old aristocrat, has been stabbed six times in the chest.
It is all very mysterious, and the Sedley family and the servants have decided that Miss Lucy Anne Trotter, a recently employed governess, is to blame for the unfortunate events. The legendary and wickedly handsome Marquis, Lord William Adair, learns of the matter and decides to uncover the truth. Lucy, however, has little faith in blue blooded creatures—even if they possess dashing good looks— and, accompanied by two naughty pugs and a moody raven, decides to investigate and unmask the killer herself. But the hunt for the killer turns out to be far more complicated than she anticipates—what with snooty servants, warts in odd places, mixed up love affairs, agitated chickens and dreadful disguises ruining her plans.
Soon she begins to wonder if, for once, she is in over her head…

Review: This was a cute historical (old England) cozy mystery with a satisfying ending. There’s the actual murder, theft of jewels, and a flippant ghost who only Lucy can see and hear. But…the writing was almost slapstick at times—too over the top. The character of Lucy actually reminded me of another Lucy—as in “I Love Lucy” and the antics that Lucy would often get into. The imagery was good if also a little over the top. The story is light-hearted though often devolves into the ridiculous (Hey Lucy!).

What I liked: the writing is light and funny though slapstick. Lucy is lovable if a bit impulsive and daft. Though I’m not a huge fan of slapstick comedy, the writing had me smiling and even laughing at times – always a good thing. And the mystery part of the story was not bad with a surprising ending (sort of). And I loved Aunt Sedley (the ghost). She was quite the character as well.

What I didn’t like: Lucy kept telling the good Lord Adair how accomplished she was at a variety of things, but we never see that side of her. All we see are the antics.

Recommendation: If you like over-the-top slapstick humor with your mystery, definitely pick this one up. It’s absurdly fun.

I receive a copy of this book from the author.

Vicky 4/20/20


THE FINDERS by Jeffrey B. Burton

Thriller/Murder Mystery


Publisher blurb: What happens when the hunter becomes the hunted? Jeffrey B. Burton’s The Finders marks the beginning of a fast-paced new mystery series featuring a heroic golden retriever cadaver dog named Vira and her handler, Mason Reid.

Mason “Mace” Reid lives on the outskirts of Chicago and specializes in human remains detection. He trains dogs to hunt for the dead. Reid’s coming off a taxing year—mourning the death of a beloved springer spaniel as well as the dissolution of his marriage. He adopts a rescue dog with a mysterious past—a golden retriever named Vira. And when Reid begins training Vira as a cadaver dog, he comes to realize just how special the newest addition to his family truly is…
Suddenly, Reid and his prize pupil find themselves hurled into a taxing murder case, which will push them to their very limits. Paired with determined Chicago Police Officer Kippy Gimm, Mace must put all his trust in Vira’s abilities to thwart a serial killer who has now set his sights on Mace himself.

Review: This is a hard-core suspense mystery with a lot of tension—and bodies. And one amazing golden retriever. Vira was absolutely the best character in this book. The others are pretty good too, but Vira took my heart—and I’m a cat person! Reid is a dog whisperer who trains dogs for a variety of duties, including finding cadavers. Some of the facts the author added to the story about dogs and their sense of smell are rather interesting and added to the book.

What I liked: Vira. Hands down, she is the main character and so interesting.

What I didn’t like: I received this book thinking it was a light murder mystery. I was very wrong. It’s bloody, gory, intense…with some lighter moments, but is definitely not a light mystery. It is not my kind of book at all… But, that being said, it is well-written with good characters, high suspense, and a satisfying ending. It’s not a bad book – it’s just not *my* kind of book.

Recommendation: This is the first in a series and if you like dogs and intense murder mysteries, you’ll probably enjoy this one. Will I ever read another book in this series? No. But…if you like suspenseful thrillers and a bit of intensity, then pick this one up.

This book was provided to me by the publisher.

Vicky 4/13/2020



Historical mystery


Publisher blurb: Glittering Gilded-Age New York holds its lavish charms–and a litany of deadly sins–as intrepid reporter Genevieve Stewart uncovers a trail of corruption and murder. As a chill sets in on New York City in the winter of 1888, a jewel thief dubbed the “Robin Hood of the Lower East Side” has been stealing from the city’s wealthiest and giving to the poor. Genevieve Stewart–a young woman whose family is part of Mrs. Astor’s famed 400 but who has forged a life of her own as a reporter–decides to chase the story, but gets more than she bargained for: a murder victim sprawled in a dark alley in the dangerous Five Points neighborhood. A handsome neighborhood tough comes to her rescue–but when she encounters the same man at a glamorous ball a few nights later, she realizes he’s society scion Daniel McCaffrey. Could this be her Robin Hood? When two more murders rock the Knickerbocker world, it becomes apparent that something much more sinister is afoot than a few stolen diamond necklaces. Genevieve is determined to prove that Daniel is Robin Hood–but she’s loath to believe he is a killer as well. From the glittering lights of Fifth Avenue to the sordid back alleys of Five Points, the truth is just one murder away.


New York, 1888: At twenty-six, Genevieve Stewart is a single woman due to a failed engagement and who was born to a wealthy family. As such, she is part of New York society, but is trying to make a name for herself as a journalist. She follows a lead on the notorious “Robin Hood” –a thief who is going after the wealthiest members of society. Her ambition leads her into one of the roughest parts of the city where she meets Daniel—a rich man who grew up in the poorest neighborhood. She thinks he is the thief and trails him doggedly. Unfortunately, her investigation leads her into serious trouble—and an intriguing partnership to find the thief—and the murderer who is framing him. The story has a lot of details as to what life was like in 1888 NYC. From the rich and powerful and their lavish parties, to the working poor, living in the slums.

What I liked: The world building. Though light on some sensory details (what did the slums smell like compared to Genevieve’s uptown neighborhood?), there is enough richness of background to embed you in the story. I liked Genevieve and her family. They are “society” but in an unconventional way. I loved Esmie and how she eventually finds herself. And I liked the scene in Genevieve’s friend’s home when she faces two men, one of whom is Robin Hood, and shows how well she can aim a gun! Loved this scene.

What I didn’t like: I wasn’t especially fond of the fact that the ultimate bad guy didn’t get his, but… from what I saw in the “ending” there is more to come so I assume he’ll get his sometime. And, although the mystery in this book is solved, there were enough loose ends left dangling that you know there will be more adventures for Genevieve.

If you like cozy historical mysteries, I do recommend this book. Though I found it a bit slow at first, by the middle/end, I couldn’t put it down. It will keep you turning the pages, even though it’s not a real heart pounding story. I look forward to more adventures with Genevieve and Daniel.

Vicky 3/24/2020


ONE LAST SPELL by Raven Snow

Paranormal Cozy Mystery Novella


Author blurb: Zelda has sworn never to perform magic again. She’s also sworn never to help solve a murder again — last time she did both, disaster occurred. She’s had it with magic, murder, and men. She’s happy with her life now, secluded on the mountainside in the small cozy town of Castlerock. No one bothers her and that’s the way she likes it. But when her long lost best friend and police detective Jessica turns up on Zelda’s doorstep one day everything changes. Jessica tells her there’s been a murder in town and Zelda is the only one who can help. Last time, things ended in disaster. Zelda’s life and relationships were destroyed. Zelda however can’t say no to her best friend, especially when she hears that the murder victim is someone Zelda knew – a fellow outcast. Now the case is personal in more ways than one. Zelda agrees to help out but only this one last time. Zelda meets handsome but bumbling police recruit Josh, and she gets dragged further and further into the mystery, she might just have to rethink her stance on life. Maybe life back with the mortals might not be so bad after all, but things are not all they seem. Can Zelda solve the case and put her past to rest? Will Josh prove himself to be worthy of a witch’s affections? Will this really be Zelda’s last spell?

Review: This is a short story started in “Volume One” and concluded in “Volume Two” – both of which I received for free from the author. The author admits up front that this is an older story that she dusted off for publication. Although there were obvious issues, if this was an “old” work before she reached her stride as an author, I’m definitely going to be looking for more. The biggest issue for me was backstory – as in there obviously was one which we get hints of throughout. But it was cute, a fast read, and intriguing enough for me to want to look for more.

What I liked: the characters. And light-hearted giggles here and there, like the scene where Zelda is brewing a cup of tea with her new-found cat at her feet: “Here I was, a witch, leaning over a cauldron, with a black cat at my feet.” I liked the interaction of the characters and the flavor of a small town. The mystery was pretty standard and I figured out the culprit pretty early, but it was still a satisfying, quick, fun read.

What I didn’t like: a few minor editorial issues that had me cringing. Yes, I can be picky about them, but if it takes me out of the story, it’s a problem for me.

Recommendation: I’d definitely look for more books by this author—and I will.

Thanks to the author for providing this for free with no strings attached.

Vicky 3/11/2020



Sci-Fi Thriller/Murder mystery


Publisher blurb: She calls herself Lady Justice. And once she has chosen a man as her target, she turns herself into a tall blonde or a curvaceous redhead, makes herself as alluring and seductive as possible to them. Once they are in her grasp, they are powerless.

The first victim is wealthy businessman Nigel McEnroy. His company’s human resources department has already paid out settlements to a couple of his young victims—but they don’t know that his crimes go far beyond workplace harassment. Lady Justice knows. And in one shocking night of brutality, she makes him pay a much steeper price.

Now Eve Dallas and her husband, Roarke, are combing through the evidence of McEnroy’s secret life. His compulsive need to record his misdeeds provides them with a wide range of suspects, but the true identity of Lady Justice remains elusive. It’s a challenging case, made even more difficult by McEnroy’s widow, who reacts to the investigation with fury, denial, and threats. Meanwhile, Lady Justice’s criminal crusade is escalating rapidly, and if Eve can’t stop this vigilante, there’s no telling how much blood may be spilled…

Review: I have to confess – I have never read any of the “In Death” books – which is something I’m going to rectify immediately. This is book number forty-nine in the series. Because of that, there is a lot of background that I was missing. And because of that, I had a a little trouble “getting” some of the character dynamics. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. I knew “whodunnit” by the middle of the book, but it was still nice to see how the story played out.

What I liked: The “futuristic” aspect of the story was fun with androids and (I assume) flying cars. I loved Roarke – Eve’s husband – and their couple dynamic. The scene around page 215 with them talking about childbirth was hilarious – as in Eve would rather face a serial killer than go through that.

What I didn’t like: as mentioned above, I hadn’t read any of the previous books so the character dynamics didn’t work well because I had no idea who they were and what had happened in the past. But there were enough clues to let me know a little.

Recommendation: If you’ve read others in the series, definitely pick this one up! It’s deep and dark and thrilling with a satisfying ending. If you haven’t read any, I suggest you start with earlier ones. You can read this and enjoy it, but without the background, you won’t get the full Eve Dallas experience.

Thanks to the publisher for providing this book.

Vicky 2/24/20



Cozy Mystery


Publisher Blurb: Hannah Swensen already has her hands full, between dodging her mother’s attempts to marry her off, and running Lake Eden, Minnesota’s most popular bakery, The Cookie Jar. But when the Cozy Cow Dairy’s beloved deliveryman is found murdered behind Hannah’s bakery with her famous Chocolate Chip Crunchies scattered around him, Hannah sets out to track down a killer. The more Hannah snoops, the more suspects turn up. This is one murder that’s starting to leave a very bad taste in Hannah’s mouth, and if she doesn’t watch her back, her sweet life may get burned to a crisp.

Review: Even though this is an older book and I’d already seen the TV show (Hallmark mysteries), I did enjoy reading this—and seeing the myriad differences between the book and the TV show. I do believe it was updated from the original in that people now have cell phones and laptops, which is a good thing.

What I liked: getting to know the characters more in depth than the TV show allows. They are quirky, fun, and believable, as is the setting. Plugging in your car in the middle of winter may sound odd to those in more temperate climes, but it is a necessity in Minnesota and the cold of the winter comes across well. And the recipes! If you are a baker at all, you have got to try some of them!

What I didn’t like: very little. As I said, I was already familiar with this story from the TV series so pretty much knew what was going on, but seeing the differences between the show and the book was…interesting. I guess the only thing I didn’t care for is the realization of all the pounds I’m going to gain from making the recipes!

Recommendation: For a good start to the series, I’d definitely pick this one up first. Plus, my copy has a bonus novella in the back that was a good read as well. I liked it enough to go pick up all the other ones in the series so I’m looking forward to those reads.

Thanks to Kensington for providing this book. The opinions are all my own.

Vicky 2/14/2020



Cozy Mystery


Publisher blurb: Claire Barclay, responding to an invitation to tea, does not expect to find her hostess murdered and herself the chief suspect. It is all overwhelming—a new house, a new village, new friends and now murder. She will cope, she always copes, but it won’t be easy.

Review: This is the first book in the British Book Tour Mystery series. In this one, we meet Claire Barclay, who grew up in England, moved to the States, and now is back in the village of Ashton-On-Tinch. She was doing okay teaching and working as a tour guide, but when her stepfather died, he left her a substantial amount of money, which allowed her to return to her roots. Though she doesn’t need the money, she continues offering tours to people who are enamored with British mysteries, showing them where authors like Agatha Christie and Sir Athor Conan Doyle lived and where their characters might have lived. The problem is, her quaint village isn’t as quiet as she’d hoped for as her first invitation to tea ends up with her discovering a body.

What I liked: Claire is a nice character, older than most standard cozies (she’s 47) but still younger than the iconic Miss Marple. The characters come across well as belonging to what seems to be a typical (as garnered from other books and television) English countryside village. The scenery was nicely done as we get a tour of the surrounding countryside and a variety of pubs and walking trails. Claire’s dealings with the tour group is nice and the wide variety of authors mentioned throughout is fun.

What I didn’t like: The killer seemed a little obvious to me as I had the person pegged from the beginning. I also had to wonder about the whole scene with the tour group where the troubled son called, etc. It just seemed so out of place and had absolutely nothing to do with the story. Also, when the tires were slashed on the bus and Claire showed up with a different mode of transportation, not a single person said anything? Not even her “boyfriend” the cop? I’d have thought someone would have said something.

Recommendation: This is the first in a series of British setting cozy mysteries. Though this one had some issues, I would recommend it and I will be looking for more. It was cute, with a satisfying ending (though there were a bunch of loose ends I’d like to see tied up). The book intrigued me enough—even with the above issues—that I will definitely look for more.

I was provided an advance copy. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Vicky 2/14/20



Cozy Mystery


Publisher Blurb: With her Let It Bee honey boutique buzzing along nicely, life is as sweet as nectar for Wren Johnson—until she takes a morning walk along the Pacific beach with her Havana Brown cat, Everett, and stumbles upon the body of Agnes Snow, the cranky queen of the local craft fairs, stiff as driftwood. More unfortunate? Clutched in the victim’s fist is a label from Wren’s homemade beeswax-and-honey lip balm. Which makes Officer Jim Hampton focus his dreamy-blue Paul Newman eyes on Wren as suspect number one. With fabulous feline support from Everett, Wren must comb the town for clues and clear her name before someone else gets stung.

Review: My thanks to Kensington for providing me with an ARC copy of this book. I enjoyed the book overall…but… even though this was an ARC, there were some editorial issues that glared at me. The story was really good for the most part, but it definitely needed some stronger editing.

What I liked: Everett, the cat. What an amazing animal. I also liked Wren and her friend Porsche as well as Aunt Eloise. I loved the description of her store, the bees, and their importance to the environment. I also liked the recipes that sprang up throughout the story and am going to try some. The descriptions of Halloweentown week was so much fun too.

What I didn’t like: those recipes that sprang up—sometimes in the middle of a scene that had nothing to do with the recipe. Recipes that had nothing to do with the story, but no recipes for things that were actually in the story (like the honey cookies). Honestly, I’d prefer to have had them at the end of the book rather than disrupting the flow of the story. They definitely allowed me to “put the book down and walk away” at times because they were so intrusive. Also…why introduce Conrad at all? If you’re setting him up to be a love interest later on, okay, but it really didn’t work in this story. It was as if the author just dumped him in because someone said she had to have a love interest that would conflict with the cop. And the same with the old high school enemy. Why? It made no sense. Another thing…on the day after Halloween, they closed the store early because there were absolutely no sales…so why is she going to the bank to make a deposit? There’s nothing to deposit if there are no sales. And on the last page…there is a glaring error that I hope has been fixed (re: the number of bodies).

Recommendation: I would recommend this because it *is* a good story with some fun things, but there needs to be some serious editing done first. I hope it got done.

Thanks to Kensington for providing me with this book for free.

Vicky 1/23/2020



Paranormal Cozy Mystery


Blurb: It may have been a ghost that led Eleanor Wilde to set up shop in a quaint English village. But now that she’s established herself as the town witch, Ellie’s contentedly casting spells on anyone desperate enough—or gullible enough—to request her mysterious potions…

Selling mystical elixirs and tantalizing tonics is a pretty good way for a fake medium to earn a living. Or at least it’s Ellie’s main source of income—until a villager turns up dead. The cause? Murder by poisoning.  And though Ellie’s concoctions don’t include anything worthy of a skull and crossbones, suddenly she’s the prime suspect. Her only recourse is to find the culprit who did do away with Sarah Blackthorne. No one liked the mean old battle-axe. But did anyone hate her enough to kill her?

It’s enough of a mystery to make Ellie hang up her witch’s hat and take millionaire beau Nicholas Hartford up on his offer to keep her afloat.  Except Ellie is not the kind of woman to lean on a man—least of all a man she adores but whose place in her life is uncertain. Besides, Ellie’s taken on two young witches-in-training—apprentices if you will—and both of them are convinced a werewolf is the murderer.

Just as Ellie’s wondering if there really is something otherworldly going on, animals suddenly begin to disappear—including her beloved cat, Beast. Now Ellie’s on the warpath to uncover the wicked truth about the people and the place she’s only just begun to call home…

After deciding to settle in a small English village, Eleanor Wilde finds establishing herself as a resident somewhat challenging. Ellie brews elixirs to sell and provides spells for villagers willing to pay, fueling speculation that she is a witch or psychic, when she is simply faking it.


This is the second in a series. In this one, Ellie has moved to a small village in Sussex, England and taken up residence in a cottage near the castle where her love interest, Nicholas, lives. Supporting herself as a witch, she’s not very popular in public, but many come to her back door for one of her potions.  Lenora, the twelve-year-old daughter of the local schoolmaster and his doctor wife, signs up to shadow Ellie for a school project, though her mother objects to her being with a witch. Ellie gets caught up in the murder of Sarah Blackthorne, a local who’s hated by all and who is poisoned by tea laced with aconite also known as wolfsbane. Things get interesting when Lenora writes a paper on werewolves and her friend Rachel joins in the research to prove they are real. A neighbor’s pet pig is killed and the nephew of the murdered woman exhibits werewolf characteristics which adds to their reasoning. Reports of missing pets, including Ellie’s cat Beast, lead to more rumors of werewolves. And the appearance of a mysterious, handwritten journal piques the interest of Ellie, Lenora and Rachel leading to their determination to decode its meaning.

What I liked: The author keeps the reader glued to the page as she weaves several plot threads into a complex mystery full of twists and intriguing details. The characters are well developed, the dialogue realistic and the pace steady. An unexpected development with Beast is a sweet surprise. Even though this was not the first in the series, there are enough background clues that you don’t have to have read the others to know the characters and what’s going on here. I also loved the twist at the end—I hope that leads to more interesting developments in forthcoming books.

What I didn’t like: Actually, very little. It was a nice cozy mystery with paranormal aspects that added to the fun. Though I will be honest and say that I didn’t understand the deal with Nicholas and his mother and the castle. If he’s a millionaire several times over, why are they living in near poverty from the way it sounds? What does he do? That part was kind of confusing—but it’s a very small part of the overall story.

Recommendation: Get this book, especially if you like a little paranormal in your cozy mysteries. It’s fun, cute, and has a satisfying (and surprising) ending. Will definitely be looking for more from this author.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 11/14/19


CAST IRON ALIBI by Victoria Hamilton

Cozy mystery


Blurb: Looking forward to her girls-only college reunion vacation, Jaymie’s on cloud nine at the idea of lazy trips to the beach, dinner cruises on the nearby river, and snug sleeping in the vintage trailer she’s renovated. But no sooner does the group reconnect than her hopes turn to tension as petty squabbles and old acrimonies surface, along with tagalong friends, unexpected guests, and stalkerish ex-husbands. And when a local tool-belt Romeo with an eye for one of the women is found murdered, his home ablaze, the simmering hostility in the group suddenly shifts to secrecy.

Local law enforcement is zeroing in on the victim’s best friend and girlfriend as the most likely suspects, but Jaymie’s inquisitive instincts are telling her one of her former classmates may have been involved in the foul deed. Forced to navigate her fraught relationship with a local police detective and determined to uncover the myriad secrets her college friends are hiding, Jaymie knows she’ll have to dig deep to figure out whose alibi is cast iron, and whose is flimsy as tin . . .


This is the ninth book in the “A Vintage Kitchen” series, but it’s the first one I read. There’s a cast of characters list at the beginning that provided enough detail to let you know who’s who so it can be read as a stand-alone. It’s set in upper Michigan on an island that requires a ferry to get to. The small town that is on the mainland is where the main character lives but she has a cabin on the island for vacations.

What I liked: I liked that it wasn’t obvious who the killer was because of the plethora of suspects. I liked Jaymie’s relationship with her husband and stepdaughter—very well done. I liked the descriptions of the campfires, the trailer, and other settings as well as mountain pies. Love them! The ending was a good twist. And I’m going to have to find the recipe for those butter tarts she described. There is a recipe at the end for hobo packets that took me back to my camping days. The “camping” part of the story was really well done and made me long for those times once again. I could almost smell the fire, hear it crackling, taste the s’mores… Excellently done (though I did wonder where the mosquitoes were).

What I didn’t like: the characters. Okay, not all of them, but most of Jaymie’s friends were very unlikable. I was ready to throttle a few of them and Jaymie came across as a bit wimpy when it came to standing up for herself with them—especially Tiffany! Yes, it was nice to get together with her old friends, but some of them were no friends of hers any longer and should have been told to take off.

Recommendation: I’d recommend reading other books in this series first—though it’s not absolutely necessary. But I believe it would give you a better basis for some of the characters in this one. Still…it’s not a bad cozy. So pick it up if you’re familiar with the series and maybe enjoy a campfire and a mountain pie while you’re at it.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 11/8/19


A STUDY IN MURDER by Callie Hutton

Victorian Book Club Mystery


Blurb: Bath, England, 1890. Mystery author Lady Amy Lovell receives an anonymous letter containing shocking news: her fiancé, Mr. Ronald St. Vincent, has been dabbling in something illegal, which causes her to promptly break their engagement.

Two evenings later, as Lady Lovell awaits a visit from Lord William Wethington, fellow member of the Bath Mystery Book Club, her former fiancé makes an unexpected and most unwelcome appearance at her house. She promptly sends him to the library to cool his heels but later discovers the room seemingly empty–until she stumbles upon a dead Mr. St. Vincent with a knife in his chest.

Lord Wethington arrives to find Lady Amy screaming and sends for the police, but the Bobbies immediately assume that she is the killer. Desperate to clear her name, Lady Amy and Lord Wethington launch their own investigation–and stir up a hornet’s nest of suspects, from the gardener who served time in prison for murder to a vengeful woman who was spurned by St. Vincent before he proposed to Lady Amy.

Can they close the book on the case before the real killer gets away with murder?


This is a murder mystery set in 1890 and is the first book in the A Victorian Book Club Mystery series by Callie Hutton. The main character, Lady Amy Lovell, is an author of mystery novels and her father, who disapproves of this, gets her to agree to write under a pseudonym. In addition, she belongs to a reading club that specializes in murder mysteries. She is also the prime suspect in the murder of her ex-fiancé since he ended up dead in her library.

At the start, the police seem too eager to convict Amy which gives Amy the motivation she needs to look into the murder and find the killer herself. With the help of her friend, Lord William Wethington, they dig into her s life and come up with a list of suspects with possible motives.

Things I liked: Amy’s constant reminding everyone that the victim is her ex-fiancé – and then everyone saying to her at the end! Laughed so hard at that one. Though I don’t normally read many historicals, I found myself intrigued by this one from the start. Amy is a young woman of society, gently reared, and yet… she not only writes murder mysteries, but solves them herself. I also loved Lord Wethington! He not only supports her, but does so with a sense of humor. And the last line in the book lets you know that Amy and the lord are not done with murders. The ending was satisfying and made sense with the clues given.

Things I didn’t like: In all their digging, did the police never find out that Amy was a murder mystery writer? That seemed a bit odd as it would have given them even more reason to suspect her.

Recommendation: I would definitely recommend this, not just to those who like historical mysteries, but as a crossover for both genres. The society details were well done as well as the mystery. A nice blend of both leading to a satisfying ending and a nice beginning of a new series.

Thanks to NetGalley, Crooked Lane Books and the author, Callie Hutton, for this ARC that I received in return for an honest review. Expected Publication date: 12 May 2020

Vicky 11/11/19


MURDER BEACH by Rena Leith

Cozy mystery


Blurb: Her husband’s infidelity turns Cass Peake’s world upside down. Hoping to start fresh, she moves to a sleepy little town called Las Lunas on the northern California coast. The cute seaside bungalow is surprisingly affordable and Cass snaps it up. She soon discovers why the place was so cheap; it’s haunted! And the beach by her new home is called Murder Beach by locals. She can’t even get a pizza delivered. Back in the Roaring Twenties, the bodies of Doris Pierpont, a notorious bootlegger’s daughter, and her lover were discovered on the beach. Summoned by a seance in the Swinging Sixties, Doris returned to the house. Now she wants to know who murdered her. As Cass tries to make a new life and solve Doris’s murder, the corpse of the local bookstore owner is found in the sand. Is Murder Beach living up to its name once again?

Review: This is the first of a series, but the second book I read in the series and I strongly suggest anyone who reads them to start with this one. The second one makes much more sense then!

It’s a cute cozy mystery with a ghost (Doris) who wants her murder solved, a cat who doesn’t particularly like it when Doris takes him over, quirky characters, and more. Cass has divorced her philandering husband, moved from her posh San Francisco home to a coastal cottage, and is working on finding a new job, new friends—and the clues to who murdered her resident ghost and the bookstore owner. Oh, and the local detective is an old boyfriend. Let the fun begin.

What I liked: The characters are fun, weird, and definitely not boring. I especially loved Doris—she’s so much fun! The author had me hooked with her first line: “Ghosts can be murder on property values.” I knew then this was going to be fun. And it was.

What I didn’t like: a few minor editorial issues (peaked vs. piqued) and other similar things. Not enough to detract from the story, but a stronger proofreader would have helped.

Recommendation: Definitely pick this one up for a fun read.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 11/3/19




Blurb: Happily settled in her cozy cottage with its resident ghost, Cass Peake looks forward to Halloween. Then another corpse is found on her beachfront. With the support of family and her ghostly roommate, Cass investigates. To her dismay, she finds the murder victim handled her goofy neighbor’s trust fund and he was in dire need of money. The suspect list grows with a former husband, another needy relative, and a maybe shady accountant who suddenly disappears. To top it all off, rumors circulate about treasure hidden in Cass’s cottage. Detective George Ho doesn’t like his Cass snooping around. Despite that, sparks still fly between him and Cass. But superstitious George has no idea Cass’s home is haunted. Can Cass solve the mystery and renew the romance with her ghost-adverse ex?


Now that she has settled into her haunted seaside cottage, with its resident ghost Doris, Cass is looking forward to Halloween with her brother and sister-in-law. But when a murdered body is found near her house, things get a little too spooky. The body the aunt of her close neighbor—and she just happens to be the person running his trust fund. The suspect list grows as Cass discovers reasons for them all to want the woman dead. To complicate matters, Detective George Ho, an old/maybe new again boyfriend, doesn’t like Cassie snooping around because she might be the target. And then there’s Doris, Cass’s ghost, who helps out with some of the mystery, but also causes problems when superstitious George finds out about her.

What I liked: Doris! She’s a hoot. And Thor (the cat who Doris sometimes inhabits). In fact, all the characters were interesting as was the mystery itself. It’s an interesting mix of cozy mystery and paranormal aspects that meld together well.

What I didn’t like: Coming into a series when you haven’t read the first one often leaves you trying to figure out back story. I was a little lost because of this. But… that being said, I wasn’t so lost that I didn’t enjoy the story. Also, there were two clues that I don’t believe were addressed and I wondered who had done them: who left the recording pen in Cass’s kitchen and who took the plastic bag of “found” things from the counter? I *think* I know who it was, but am not certain. Just a couple of really small details that left me dangling.

Recommendations: I definitely recommend this, but suggest strongly that you get the first one in the series first (Murder Beach) and read that so you know better what’s going on. Beyond that, I can’t wait for more of these books!

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review

Vicky 10/29/19



Cozy Mystery


Blurb: Crystal Rainey is aghast when she realizes her new year’s resolutions haven’t changed one whit from the previous year. Wanting to escape a future as dreary as a Pacific Northwest winter, she walks out on her dead-end office job, despite her tenuous savings account. Stumbling across a job opening posted by a wilderness guide outfit, an intrigued Crystal bluffs her way into the position. With handsome fellow guide, the stalwart Conner Oakes, she leads a corporate retreat on a snowshoe hike to a majestic alpine chalet. But when the company’s detestable owner turns up dead in the snow, she fears her new life and budding romance slipping away. She finally has something worth fighting for and is determined to solve the murder and grab her chance at happiness before it’s too late.

This was a fun read. Crystal is perfectly imperfect. She’s tired of working for an abusive boss in a dead-end job (who hasn’t had that experience?) so she quits and tries for something new. As a guide, she finds a new boyfriend…and plunges headfirst into solving a murder just so she can keep the new job—as well as her condo. Her car barely makes it around town (and sometimes doesn’t). Her cat is evil. Her younger sister is the star of the family. She just wants something to go right.

What I liked: Crystal! I especially liked the scene where she pulls her rattletrap car into a fast-food parking lot and just sits there and cries—then finds her backbone again. I loved Roxie, the chef who pretends to be from the south. And her cat! That cat is pure evil, but she keeps him anyway. So much fun. And the ending with catching the murderer was realistic and well-done. The setting was also well done.

What I didn’t like: The only thing that kept this from being five stars was the editing. Even though I know this is an ARC and therefore hasn’t gone through final editing, there were too many mistakes that should have been caught before this. Maybe they’re only glaring to me, and I know typos and errors occur all the time in books. It happens. But this one had a few too many for me to ignore. ☹

Recommendation: Ignoring the editorial issues, I would recommend this book as a light-hearted fun cozy mystery with a satisfying ending.

Vicky 10/23/19




Cozy Mystery


Maggie and her knitting friends—Dana, Lucy, Phoebe, Suzanne—head out to the Piper Sisters’ plant nursery for their weekly knitting get-together. Rose and Holly Piper are close enough to Dana to call her “Aunt” and she helps them out where she can. During their teen years, Rose and Holly were in an accident that killed one young man and left Rose with serious head trauma that she never really recovered from. After their parents’ deaths, Holly took on not only the family business, but Rose’s care. As part of her therapy, Rose takes in dogs and trains them. Now, years later, someone is trying to hurt the girls. The friends believe it was the girls’ half-brother who showed up after ten years and tries to take over the nursery. When someone burns down the greenhouse and tries to kill Holly, the friends go to work to figure out who could be so horrible—but they have too many suspects.

What I liked: This is a cute cozy mystery all about family ties, vengeance, and friendship. I liked the character of Rose and how, even with her problems, she is respected for her work with dogs and trains them well. I liked how the friends all worked together to help Holly and Rose and Dana cope with everything that was going on. I liked the satisfying ending and especially liked the links to knitting techniques in the end and the recipes, not only for human food, but dog treats as well. I especially liked that Holly had a a happy ending.

What I didn’t like: Hmm – how to say this without giving away a spoiler. There was one nasty person who didn’t get any consequences in the end and I would have preferred to see that happen. Also, I was a little confused at times as to who was telling the story. I believe Maggie is the main character, but the cast—being quite large—made it a little hard to figure out sometimes.

Recommendations: If you’re familiar with the series, I’d recommend this one as a good addition. You can read—and enjoy—it without having read the others, but it helps to know the characters better if you do. I’d also take a definite look at the other series this author has in cozy mysteries. I know she’s definitely on my “to buy” list now, and should be on yours as well.

Vicky 10/11/19



Cozy Mystery


Bernie and Libby are sleuthing sisters who also run a catering business and (I think) work in a restaurant? I’m not completely sure about the restaurant. After doing a DNA test, they connect with a cousin, Ada, who convinces them to cater a family New Year’s Eve party. Sean, Bernie and Libby’s dad, tries to convince them otherwise, saying that that branch of the family is less than honest—or sane. They go anyway and meet their relatives…who aren’t happy to see them. It’s also the tenth anniversary of Ada’s dad’s death. While the police chalked it up to accidental, Ada has always believed he was murdered and she’s out to prove it. Unfortunately, a family friend in attendance ends up being murdered and Ada is the prime suspect. It’s up to Bernie and Libby to find out who the real killer is.

This was a challenging book for me to read. It’s almost all ping-pong dialogue with very little setting details. Other than it’s freezing, snowing, and they drive around in a less-than-reliable van, there’s not much else in the way of description. We don’t even know exactly where they are (somewhere along the Hudson River) until chapter thirteen. Point of View is all over the place with multiple people so you’re not even sure who the main character is supposed to be. The sisters do nothing but snipe at each other and argue about what to do—mostly with Bernie winning. They remind me of a couple of old biddies who have nothing better to do than argue. Their father, Sean, seems to have a Blofeld complex (James Bond character who always had a cat) in that he’s always petting one. Sean, Bernie, and Libby keep chasing down clues to the murderer, but ex-cop Sean seems to be the one who puts it all together. So I’m not sure who the sleuths are supposed to be. Also, the girls go through the dead woman’s house looking for clues and find one, but wouldn’t the police have already done that? There are just too many things here that don’t make sense to me.

Things I liked: The story has an interesting premise and the ending is satisfying. And the recipes are good!

Things I didn’t like: the ping-pong dialogue with no relief; multiple POVs in the same scene; no descriptions (I don’t even know what the girls look like); the incongruities with police procedures (the police would have gone to the dead woman’s house). Half the time, I couldn’t figure out what anyone was doing—and I read cozy mysteries on a regular basis (at least two a week). So I’m not new to the genre.

Recommendations: I know this is the next book in an on-going series, but honestly, there is nothing here for me to recommend. Maybe I’d like it better if I’d read the earlier ones, but this needed a heavier hand in the editing. If you’re okay with multiple POVs, head-hopping all over the place, ping-pong dialogue, then maybe you’ll like this. As for me, though I hate to say it, it’s a no for me. I am sorry.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 10/7/19



Cozy Mystery


This is the fourth book in the cozy “Knit & Nibble Mystery” series. I have not read the others in the series, but had no trouble getting into this story so it’s not absolutely necessary to have read them in order—but it would probably help with knowing who’s who and where they fit into the story.

In the series, Pamela Paterson is the sleuth. She has joined the Knit and Nibble gang who enjoy crafting their projects as well as making goodies to share. She works at home for a “fiber” related magazine—which figures into her solving the murder. In this one, Pamela’s daughter Penny is home from college for the Christmas break and, while on a hike, discovers the body of one of the knitters’ friends. There are the usual suspects and an interesting twist at the end that I didn’t see coming. I also love the idea Pamela came up with in order to trap the killer. That was fun (not giving away secrets!).

Things I liked: the twist at the end. The characters were also interesting. And all the references to holiday music set the stage well.

Things I didn’t like: The author tends to go on for much too long with “filler” – describing every step in great detail of how the character is baking something, the plates (and colors) being used and more. There was so much of this that had absolutely nothing to do with the mystery. I found myself skipping entire pages of this filler. It really turned me off of the entire story, which was a shame because I think it could have been really enjoyable except for that.

Recommendation: If you’re already reading the series, pick this one up. The mystery part of the story is really good. It’s all the filler that drags it down into the three-sparkler level.

Vicky 10/21/19



NOGGED OFF by Barbara Ross

Cozy Mystery – Novella


In this Christmas themed part of the Maine Clambake series, Julia Snowden is heading to NYC to pack up the last of the personal items in her apartment before she moves permanently to Maine. When she arrives, the woman who is subletting her apartment has just quit her job and can’t take the lease over. With no other options, Julia rents a moving truck and packs up the apartment. To her surprise, Imogen—the renter—heads to Maine with her.

While she’s packing the truck, Julia spots a man sitting in a white car who appears to be watching them, but thinks no more of it once she gets on the road. When she stops LL Bean for Imogen to get warm clothes for Maine, she sees the car again. But she gets home and parks the truck and Imogen, at her mother’s house and goes to her apartment to sleep. When she wakes up, the truck and all of her belongings are gone.

When the truck is found, Imogen’s ex boyfriend is in the back—dead.

This novella is the first I have read in this series, but it is fine as a stand alone. The author gives you enough information so you’re not lost with what’s going on.

What I liked: the characters and especially, the local flavor. The “Gentleman’s Night” of shopping before Christmas. The pajama breakfast (and shopping). I can just see that happening in a small town. I like the twist at the end (not giving away any spoilers).

What I didn’t like: Honestly? It was too short! LOL. I enjoyed the story and wished it was longer.

Recommendation: If you’re reading this series, this is a must. If you haven’t, it’s a cute way to get introduced to the characters. I will be picking up more by this author in this series.

Thanks to Kensington Press and Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 10/3/19


COACHED TO DEATH by Victoria Laurie


I don’t know how to describe this book. It’s not quite a straight mystery and not quite a cozy mystery. At least not in the way I think of those two genres. For me, a cozy has an amateur sleuth—which this does—and takes place often in a small town where everyone knows everyone. This takes place in the posh Hampton’s in New England. It’s a place of Ferraris, BMWs, mansions, and designer clothes. And our amateur sleuth—Catherine—is ultra-rich. Okay, I can accept that. It’s different. Unique. Interesting.

But… the murder and the bad guys are more in line with a standard thriller—Russian mafia, professional assassins, mysterious people showing up, multiple murders. And the one thing that frustrated me—two heavy threads left dangling. Oh, the initial mystery was solved. We know who murdered the main victim and why, but the rest… we’re left with questions that will (hopefully) be answered in later books.

Catherine (Cat) is a rich divorcee with twin fourteen-year-old sons (away at boarding school). She made her money by running a successful marketing business, sold it, and now works as a personal life coach. She bought land in the Hampton’s and is building a big house there. Meanwhile, she’s living in the guest house with her best friend, Gillie while his husband is traveling. When Cat’s neighbor is murdered, she becomes the prime suspect thanks to a very public threat she made earlier when the woman humiliated Cat. It’s up to Cat and Gillie to prove her innocence, but they have to deal with a surly detective, a mysterious—but delicious—man who flirts with her, and more.

Things I liked: Sebastian! The house electronic “butler” who does everything a computer can do for her. I want Sebastian! I am in love with him. I like the unique setting, the fact that Cat is not your standard amateur sleuth in that she’s uber-rich. She’s different and interesting. And I love Gillie too! He’s so sweet.

What I didn’t like: the two huge threads left dangling (no, I won’t say what they are – that’s cheating). I don’t mind a small thread or two in a cozy—like the continuing relationship between the sleuth and someone (usually a law person)—which we have here—but I was highly frustrated by the two unknowns that will continue (I assume). When I turned the last page, I was actually angry. I tried to page on past to see if it finished, but it didn’t. I had to be satisfied with the ending I got—and I wasn’t. Yes, we solved who killed the main victim. But… yeah, not happy.

Recommendation: This is a darker, heavier “cozy” that is a good story at its base, but be prepared for heavier subjects like Russian mob and professional assassins. If that’s okay with you, also understand that there are two major threads (and a minor one or two) that do not get solved. As long as you’re aware of that, the ending is okay then. Overall, though, it was a good story, which is why it got four sparklers. I did enjoy it right up to the end. If I were true to myself, I would have downgraded it, but… it’s a decent story. I’m just one of those readers who likes things tied up in neat bows and this one left the ribbons dangling.

Thanks to Netgalley and Kensington for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 9/28/19


APPLE CIDER SLAYING by Julie Anne Lindsey

5 sparkler sparkler sparkler sparkler sparkler

Winnie Montgomery is trying desperately to increase income at her Granny’s orchard and having a winter fest and opening a cider bar/restaurant/gathering space is her dream, but she needs a bank loan to help her dreams come true. But every time she invites the banker out to see the space, something disastrous happens – like a dead body in the cider press building, and Granny Smythe being the main suspect. The nastiness keeps piling up with threats and more. Sheriff Colton Wise tries to keep Winnie from interfering, but what’s a girl to do when her granny is the one being blamed? So of course she continues what she’s doing—even when the real killer goes after her.

This is such a fun book. I love the names—Granny Smythe runs an apple orchard! And the kittens: Dolly and Kenny (Rogers). It’s a light-hearted cozy mystery that gives a satisfying ending. The only question I had while reading was about half-way through the book, Winnie is dead tired but decides to do one more online search to see what she can find about her dead neighbor. Then the sheriff, Colton Wise, calls. After they talk, she goes to make gallons of cider rather than going to bed. Doesn’t make sense to me, but that’s the only thing I questioned in the story. The descriptions and setting are amazing. I can picture everything right away. The characters believable and realistic. And the reason behind the murder and other issues is also believable. Well done.

Things I liked: the names, the setting, the characters… all well done, believable, and realistic. Oh, and the recipes in the back? Nice! And delicious!

Things I didn’t like: Other than that one question above, nothing. I had fun reading this and it went quickly.

Recommendation: I would definitely recommend this as a fun cozy and I will be looking for more books by this author.

Thanks to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review

Vicky 10/2/19




Cozy Mystery

Callie Asper is in charge of a Valentine’s Day event at a mansion. She has lots of activities—Fall in Love with Books, Fall in Love with Music, Fall in Love with… something for everyone. Her great-aunt Iphy is manning the tea room part of the event. Everything is going smoothly until the singer shows up. Sean Strong is not the singer who was supposed to be there, but he tells them he’s stepping in for a sick friend. Callie notices, though, that there’s something odd between him and Iphy. But she’s got too much on her mind to look into it. Like the famous antiques/book dealer who seems to be under-rating everything shown him, and who’s doing his best to make sure nobody likes him. Then he ends up dead and Callie is thrown into helping solve another murder—against the strong wishes of her sometimes boyfriend/cop Ace.

This is a cute, standard cozy mystery with a murder, an amateur sleuth, and a cop who doesn’t want them involved. There’s lots of angst going on throughout the story, but it’s all tied up nicely at the end. Though this is obviously part of a series, it is a stand alone that can be read without reading the others, but you are missing some of the background, especially concerning Callie and her relationship with Ace.

Things I liked: The names! I absolutely love Callie and Iphy’s names—though we only learn Iphy’s real name once. We never do find out if Callie is short for something (maybe Calliope?). The characters were realistic and well-developed.

Things I didn’t like: There’s nothing overt that I didn’t like, but the book didn’t wow me. Setting was almost non-existent. Callie and Iphy run a tea room, but we have no idea what it looks like. Or the great mansion. Or even the town. I’d really like to have more sensory input as well. And…for me…it was kind of obvious who the perpetrator was.

Recommendations: I’d suggest reading the other books in the series first. Not because you can’t get what’s going on but so you have the background on the characters, the town, etc. As I said above, it’s not a bad book so if you’ve read the others in the series, pick this one up.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing this book in exchange for an honest review.

Vicky 9/23/19




Cozy Mystery Novella

This is a cute, sweet, short (novella length) cozy mystery. Unlike most mysteries, there’s not really a dead body—unless you consider a spirit a dead body. The mystery has to do with putting the ghost to rest not by finding the murderer. After all, she was hung for being a witch so there’s no mystery about that. But…something was lost that needs to be found.

Pepper Sullivan wants to ditch her big city law job and move back to Misty-on-the-Sound, the small town where she grew up and open up a law practice there. When a beautiful ocean-side house becomes available at a reasonable price, she does that—but there’s something about the house. It’s haunted. With the help of her beagle, Mr. Woogles, Pepper attempts to solve the mystery of the ghost in the house. She has to put up with the spirit, her nosy mom, a crooked lawyer/realtor, and her ex-boyfriend.

Things I liked: It was a cute, fluffy story with a good ending. I believe this might be a prologue to longer Legal Beagle mysteries and if so, it’s a good set up. The setting was beautiful, though I’d like to see more of the house. As important as it was, we “see” very little of it other than it’s much bigger than her NYC apartment.

Things I didn’t like: There was a major timeline issue with the story that stopped me in my tracks. Most people probably wouldn’t even notice it, but my training as an editor just wouldn’t let me go past it. Basically, it’s 5 p.m. Sunday and Pepper is in her apartment, packing. A few paragraphs later, she says she has to be out of the apartment by 4 p.m. Oops #1. Her mother calls and they talk about dinner. Pepper says it’s a two hour drive so she won’t be there until 7. Okay, that fits, except she still has to finish packing everything up, haul it all down to the car/movers, and still drive the two hours. Oops #2. An easy fix would be if instead of 5 p.m., it’s 3 p.m. Then this would work. Also… she’s moving into an old house that’s been sitting empty for a while. She doesn’t have to do any painting/cleaning/fixing? I’ve moved a lot and there’s always something to do. You don’t just move in and have everything ready to go.

Recommendation: If you’re reading the other books in this series, this would be a good starter. It gives you the background on the characters, the setting, and more all in a neat little package. But don’t expect an in-depth read. This is light fluff. Yes, the “mystery” is solved, but there’s almost nothing else. It’s a prologue to the series and nothing more.

Vicky 9/13/19


A CUP OF HOLIDAY FEAR by Ellie Alexander


Cozy Mystery

Juliet Montague Capshaw owns a bakery in Ashland, Oregon. She recently moved back there after ten years because she wanted to find her roots. Like many small business owners and small towns, she knows almost everyone.

It’s Christmas and everyone is celebrating with parades, feasts, and more. But there’s something dark underneath all the joy in town—something that leads to murder.

This is a standard cozy mystery with an amateur sleuth and lots of suspects, but that’s where the stereotyping ends. Unlike most cozies, the sleuth is never in mortal danger (which is not necessarily a bad thing!). And she doesn’t have an in-town boyfriend. Instead, she has a husband (who’s off at sea for the entire story) and a stepson (who also doesn’t show up until the end). Different, but interesting. The killer is kind of easy to spot, but nothing is really given away until the end—and again, nobody is in mortal danger. Yes, Juliet goes into the dark basement for things, but…really, no angst there.

Things I liked: the imagery! The writer has a deft hand with describing the scenery and the surroundings. I almost wanted to get a cup of hot peppermint cocoa to drink while reading—during ninety-degree weather where I am! I also liked the characters—they were well described and believable, as was the reason for the murder. Plus, no angst about the main characters being in danger. Kind of a nice change from the norm. And her name! Ashland, OR is famous for its Shakespearean Festival and theater and to name the main character after Juliet…had to smile at that.

Things I didn’t like: I was just a little lost with the whole absent husband thing and exactly who the Professor (Doug) is—I gather he’s a police detective? But I’m not certain. This is not the first in the series, so I assume these things were explained in earlier books. Also, going back to the norm with most cozies, there was never any danger for any of the characters (except the victim—and it was obvious from the beginning who it was going to be).

Recommendation: I really would recommend this series, but I’d recommend you start with book one (Meet your Baker) so you understand the connections between characters and who they are. I know I’ll definitely be looking to get the series. Not necessarily because of the mystery, but the imagery alone drew me in. I want to be there—and can, through the books.

Vicky 9/6/19


WONTON TERROR by Vivien Chien


Asian Cozy Mystery

Wonton Terror is the fourth installment of the Noodle Shop Mystery series. Lana Lee, the amateur sleuth, manages her family’s restaurant. She lives with her best friend Megan—a bartender—and is dating a cop, Adam, who she presumably met on a previous case.

This story opens with Lana and one of her cooks, Peter Huang, running a booth for the restaurant at Cleveland’s Night Market. During a lull in business Lana notices the son of her mother’s old friend arguing with his father at their food truck. A short time later, the food truck explodes, killing the owner, Ronnie, and injuring several others. Ronnie’s wife Sandra becomes the top suspect in the explosion, so Lana begins to investigate to try to clear her mother’s friend’s name.

The theme of this book seems to be family issues—Lana with her sister, Lana’s mother with her sister (Lana’s aunt), the owner of the food truck with his wife and son and his wife’s brother. Most of the issues are the usual family bickering, but, for some (Ronnie and Sandra), it goes much deeper into the issue of domestic abuse. This can be a difficult subject for some and I wish the author had put in an afterword about where victims of domestic abuse could find help. There are hotlines available for this and I wish the author had included them.

I was also a little confused as to why Lana’s family, who own a restaurant, went to so many other restaurants to eat out—which it appears they did often. I can understand it once in a while, but it seemed almost every other chapter involved them eating out at another restaurant.

Things I liked: It was an interesting story with a different kind of amateur sleuth (Chinese) and the dynamics of Lana’s family. It was a unique read. The mystery was fair with ample suspects.

Things I didn’t like: It was a little slow with too much emphasis on Lana’s family dynamics. They were always bickering and it got old after a while.

Recommendation: Overall the story was okay, but I probably won’t add the series to my list of must-buy cozies. It was good, but just didn’t grab me hard enough to make me want to go out and get more.

Thanks to Netgalley for the free review copy.

Vicky 8/17/19



Cozy Mystery

Andy Carpenter is a rich lawyer with a beautiful ex-cop wife and a son. He only takes on cases when he wants to—which, thanks to his wife and friends, is a lot more often than he cares for. The case in this story is about a murder that happened fourteen years ago. The victim was a young woman, strangled. Her killer was never found but police think they have their man now as DNA evidence became available. Like most perps, he swears he didn’t do it, but she had his skin under her fingernails. In investigating, Andy runs into a lot more than he bargained for, including an assassin wanted by Interpol.

This was an interesting book—different from most cozy mysteries. Those usually have an amateur sleuth who wants to find the killer. In this one, Andy is a lawyer with lots of experience and a team of investigators to back him up. There were lots of possible bad guys and reasons for the girl’s murder. I will say I was surprised by the end as the villain wasn’t who I expected—which is a good thing. I’m usually much better at figuring that out.

Things I liked: it was unique with the lawyer/cop wife. There were a lot of twists and turns to keep you interested. It’s also different to have a sleuth who doesn’t want to be a sleuth. He wants nothing to do with the case, but goes into it determined to win. I loved Andy’s dogs and his wry humor.

Things I didn’t like: the skipping from first person when we’re with Andy, to third person at times when with other parties. Sometimes I wasn’t sure who I was with except when I was with Andy. Plus, it was a little slow at times.

Recommendation: If you’re looking for something different than the usual amateur sleuth cozy, I’d definitely pick this one up.

I received this book for free from the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Vicky 8/15/19

THE ESCAPE ROOM by Megan Goldin

5 sparklers

Suspense (This is NOT a cozy mystery)

Wow. Just…wow. This is a 350+ page book and I read it in one day. I can’t say that about a lot of books, but this one I can. It’s a gripping suspense story that grabs you at the beginning and holds onto you until the very end.

So… the bad things first. I’m not generally a fan of mixed point of view and I really don’t like omniscient POV that head hops all over the place because I don’t know whose head I’m supposed to be in. This one switches from first person in one chapter to third person omniscient in the next and back and forth depending on who we’re with. It’s told from the point of view of the main character, Sara (1st person), and four of her colleagues (third person omniscient) separated by chapters(which is good). It also flips back and forth between past and present. But, that being said, once you get into the story, it’s not as off-putting as it sounds because the story itself is so good.

And that’s the saving grace and the reason it got five sparklers instead of a lower rating. The story is just that good. Okay, there were a couple of other “editorial” issues that caught my eye, but that’s me. As far as the story goes… my first impression stands. Wow. I could not put this down. I just kept reading, even though I had other things to do. And that’s what makes it a five star. If you’ve grabbed me that strongly that I can’t put it down, that’s worth the top rating.

The story centers around Sara Hall—a young woman who lands a prime job at a top financial corporation in New York—and her four main colleagues. To the sharks at the top, getting rich is all that matters. But when financing takes a downward turn, things get interesting. The four colleagues end up in an elevator escape room where they begin to show their true colors, and it isn’t pretty. Not only do they need to survive, but the biggest mystery to solve is what happened to Sara.

The ending is brilliant and unexpected.

Kudos to the author for making me forget the head-hopping, the POV flip-flopping and draw me so deeply into the story that I couldn’t stop reading. Well done, and definitely recommended.

Vicky 7/29/19

Murder with Lemon Tea Cakes by Karen Rose Smith

5 sparklers

Cozy Mystery – Book 1 of Daisy’s Tea Garden Mysteries

I really enjoyed this book. The characters in the small town that the author created are realistic with problems and issues that we all face. The small town atmosphere comes through as well. And tying it to a tea shop with recipes I can then try… nice. 🙂

Daisy and her aunt Iris run a small tea shop in a nice little town. Daisy is widowed with two teenage daughters. I love that one is adopted and searching for her biological parents – the emotions we see Daisy go through with this are spot on. There are love interests, but nothing too serious.

The murder – and the reason behind it – are well done. We’re given lots of options for the person(s) who “dunit”, including Daisy’s aunt. The ending is satisfying, but you know this is the beginning of a series as there are several threads left dangling (but not who the murderer is!). The murder is solved, but we’re just getting started with Daisy’s life.

The only thing that didn’t seem to fit was the subplot of Daisy’s adopted daughter, Jazzy, looking for her birth parents. You could have taken that entire subplot out and it wouldn’t have made a difference to the story. Yes, it gives us insight into Daisy’s life, but it just didn’t seem to fit. Still… the rest of the story was really good.

Overall, a satisfying read with a good ending.

The Body on the Train by Frances Brody

4 sparklers

Cozy mystery – 1929 British

In this eleventh book in the Kate Shackleton series, Scotland Yard calls in Kate to investigate an unidentified body is found on a special train from Yorkshire, but they thwart her efforts by demanding her silence on certain things. During her investigation, she learns of another murder—one that supposedly has no connection to the one she’s looking into—or does it? Kate doesn’t believe in coincidences. The local police believe they have the culprit for the second one, but Kate believes he is innocent and is determined. She goes to work with her crew of assistants (an ex-cop turned PI and her housekeeper) to uncover the truth.

The plot and setting for this story were intriguing, but there was too much story—especially the details of rhubarb growing and mining in the area. Yes, the history was interesting at times (I had no idea there was so much call for rhubarb!), but it dragged down the story. The solution was fairly obvious from the beginning, and the end was something of an let down. I will say I found the characters interesting and diverse, but I didn’t pick this up to read a history of rhubarb.

As for the writing, note that there are multiple points of view and though Kate’s is in first person, the rest are all in third person, something I found distracting at times. There was also a lot of head-hopping.

Overall opinion: it’s an interesting cozy somewhat in the style of the Australian TV show, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries – same era (1920s) and all that entails. I felt it was a little slow due to the historical facts, and the end was a little anticlimactic, but overall, it’s not a bad read. If you enjoy the other books in the series, you’ll like this one as well. It did intrigue me enough that I will probably look for others.

My thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane books for the advanced reader copy made available for my review.

Vicky 7/12/19


CARPET DIEM by Misty Simon

4 ½ Sparklers

Cozy mystery

Tallie Graver has done it again. Okay, for those of you who are not familiar with the Tallie Graver cozy mysteries, Tallie is a 30-something woman who was once rich and now works as a cleaning lady for the same rich folks she used to pal around with. She lives in a tiny studio apartment over the funeral home her family owns—along with a St. Bernard, an uppity cat, and, on occasion, her boyfriend Max. When Tallie divorced her rich husband, she took on the role of squeegee queen. She now has built a reputation as an honest—and good—cleaner and has a crew of women working for her. She is quirky and fun and adding a little bit of romance to the mystery only ups the intrigue.

Like most cozy mysteries, this one is set in a small town where everyone knows everyone and think they know everything. But it is really Tallie who has all the info. Well, almost. In this one, she relies on Max to help her dig up the dirt on the possible perpetrators. That, in addition to the gossip queen (friend Gina’s mother!) and other sources, Tallie starts putting together the pieces of this puzzle.

In this one, Tallie is helping the local chief of police, Burton, figure out who killed the woman rolled up in the carpet in the dumpster. But nothing is coming together. There are too many clues—and not enough. Both Burton and Tallie are frustrated. But things do come together in the end.

I love these stories, but the end of this one felt a little rushed to me. I couldn’t figure a couple things out (like how everyone knew Tallie was in trouble and how they all got to where she was). That’s the only reason for the half-sparkler off. But you have to try the recipe for snickerdoodles that is included. Yummy cookies!

If you’re a cozy-mystery lover, take a look at the Tallie Graver mysteries. Each book is a stand-alone, but I’d start with the first one (Deceased and Desist) just so you know what’s going on in Tallie’s life and the background on some of the people. It’s not absolutely necessary, but it is a good idea.

I definitely recommend these books.

Note: I received this ARC free from the author for a true and honest review.

Also noted: Misty is a friend of mine, but the review is honest and I still recommend the books.

Vicky 6/26/19





AN EXCUSE FOR MURDER by Vanessa Westermann

Romantic Suspense

4 sparklers

From the blurb: Former bodyguard Gary Ferris has the perfect motive to kill—revenge for the murder of the woman he loved. Then he meets Kate Rowan, a bookstore owner who lives with her great aunt. Together they manage to find an attachment in the midst of blackmail, break-ins, and murder.

This is an interesting story. I can’t say I liked it, but… I couldn’t stop reading. Thus the “interesting”. Items that distracted me: It’s very British, including terminology, but the author uses those terms in such as way as to make it understandable even for a Yank.  However, the sudden shifts in point of view were problematic for me. I really don’t like it when an author does that and this one did so—not often, but enough for it to be a challenge for me to keep reading. I will note that I’m not talking about the chapter shifts. Those are fine. I have no problems with shifts to a different POV from one chapter to the next. It’s the shifts within paragraphs or short scenes that distracted me. And yet, I kept reading.

Also, the writing itself was…different. And I will chalk that up to perhaps a difference between “British” writing and “American” writing. It was very choppy with more fragments than I’m used to. And yet… I kept reading.

I wasn’t enamored of the hero. He was more an anti-hero. He was definitely a broken hero. Without giving anything away, I’d like to have seen a different conclusion to what he did. For me, he was unlikeable and I couldn’t figure out why the heroine went with him. And yet…I kept reading.

I didn’t understand the whole bit with calling Great Aunt Roselyn Mrs. Marsh – especially when Kate stopped calling her great aunt Mrs. Marsh (even after the plausible explanation) and started calling her by her name (without any explanation as to why she did this). And yet… I kept reading.

The characters of Ian and Elaina were interesting, but I’m not sure why they were there. But I kept reading.

I loved the scene in the book with Romeo/Prince Charming/Mr.Darcy – that was amazing. So I kept reading.

So there it is. I can’t say I loved the book, and yet, the author drew me in to the point that I kept reading just to see what would happen.

Would I recommend this book? Maybe – with the caveat that it is different from most Americanized romantic suspense books. There’s no HEA ending, but a HFN (happy for now) is implied and acceptable. The writing is also different from what I’ve come to expect—not necessarily in a bad way, just different. It took me a while to really get into the story…and yet, I kept reading. 


A HIGH-END FINISH (A Fixer-Upper Mystery) by Kate highend finish kate carlisleCarlisle

5 sparkles (actually, I’d give it more if I could!)

Wow. Just wow. I currently have a love/hate relationship with this author. I absolutely loved this book – so what do I hate? I kept telling myself I’d finish *this* chapter so I could go do the other things I had on my to-do list. That didn’t happen. I kept reading. And reading. Until I finished the book. I could not put it down. And I’m getting the rest of the books in the series as soon as I possibly can.

In this book, Shannon Hammer is a well-known contractor/carpenter in her small Northern California town of Lighthouse Cove. Her friend (hah!) sets her up with a blind date that turns out less than stellar. In fact, after the guy—Jerry Sexton—attacks her, she knees him where she can (misses the family jewels just by a bit, but got close enough to get away)—in front of most of the townspeople on the boardwalk above the beach where she and Jerry were. When Jerry is found a couple days later dead with her pink pipe wrench the murder weapon, Shannon is placed at the top of the police suspect list.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, several other things happen that not only keep Shannon at the top of the suspect list, but also put her in danger for her own life. It’s only through the intervention of the cute new police chief and a more-than-handsome crime writer that Shannon survives and helps bring the culprit to justice.

If you are a fan of cozy mysteries in small towns and with amateur sleuths, I definitely recommend this book.

And if you’ll forgive this short review—I’m off to get more of these books by Kate Carlisle. So much for my dishes/cleaning/work/anything else I might need to do.

Vicky (6/6/19)

TOXIC TOFFEE by Amanda Flowers

4 sparklers

toxic toffee cover

This is a cute cozy mystery but it didn’t draw me in as other cozies do. It’s not that there was anything wrong with it—because there wasn’t—it just fell a little flat for me. And that’s strictly on me.

The character of Bailey King works—she’s the granddaughter of an Amish woman who owns a candy store in the square of town. She also has a popular TV show about candy-making. She’s dating the local sheriff’s deputy, Aiden Brody, and is well-known and well-liked in town. Her grandmother is also well-liked but is Amish so doesn’t approve of everything Bailey (who’s not Amish) does. Bailey used to live in a small apartment above the candy store with her grandmother, but moved out so she could have a place of her own—one with electricity.

Some of the other characters are a little over the top. For instance, Aiden’s mother Juliet carries her pet pig everywhere and, even though Bailey and Aiden just started dating, she’s already planning their wedding. It was just a little too much for me. And the town “promoter” Margot—she’s a bit too much to take too.

The author seems to know the Amish culture pretty well, but she also gets a little repetitive with some things (like the no electricity thing). Living in an Amish community myself, I was able to chuckle at the realism she did put forth. Yes, there really can be “traffic jams” with buggies and cars. It happens often. So this was something well-done.

The murder of Stephen—an Amish rabbit farmer—was definitely different, which was a plus. As was the reason and the killer. Kudos to Ms. Flower for an interesting twist. And that’s all I’m going to say. No spoilers here. J

Overall, the story wasn’t bad. It was mostly enjoyable and had an interesting end, but it just didn’t keep me interested the whole way through. Still… I am definitely going to look for more from this author. She intrigued me enough to look for others by her.

Vicky B



Kate Carlisle

4 ½ sparklers

This is part of the “Bibliophile Mystery” series from Kate – and I loved it! The quirky characters, interesting setting, and attention to details had me laughing while keeping me reading to see what happens next.

Through her two best friends, main character, Brooklyn Wainwright, has been invited to the home of eccentric millionaire Grace—aunt of Suzie—for a week to celebrate Grace’s 50th birthday. Grace’s home is huge, secluded near Lake Tahoe—and surprisingly unique. Kind of like Hogwart’s from Harry Potter, Grace’s home includes walls that move, trapdoors, secret nooks and more. Brooklyn’s room is the “book room” – not the library. But it’s covered floor to ceiling (and even across the ceiling!) with books. It’s intimidating at first for Brooklyn, but she adapts.

There were two things that kept me from giving this a five sparkler review – the first is “who the heck is Gabriel?” This guy Gabriel shows up just after the murder and is obviously a very good friend of Brooklyn’s. So… I know him from other books, but if someone was reading this one first, they would have no clue who Gabriel is. A sentence or two is all that is needed to let the reader know who he is and what is relationship to Brooklyn is. Yes, we learn tidbits about him through the story, but knowing a little up front would be nice.

Second is that this is an obvious takeoff of Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indians” – it’s even referred to near the end of the story. We have a party of people gathered together in a remote home that has a lot of odd places, a storm (snow in this case) that keeps the police away and strands them in the house, the murder (of course), and multiple secrets—and not just in the house. Still, unlike Agatha, Kate kept me laughing. I enjoyed Agatha’s book a long time ago and there have been myriad takeoffs of it, but this one was a hoot. So… well done, Miss Carlisle.

I also loved the attention to detail about books. Being an old librarian who has spent some time repairing and restoring books, I loved the little things Kate put in about Brooklyn’s work. Also the information about the murder “weapon” was interesting and informative – and tied so well to the last line that I closed the cover laughing. Thank you for that as well!

Recommendations: If you like cozy mysteries with quirky characters, this is a definite yes… But… I suggest you start at the beginning of the series with “Homicide in Hardcover” so you know who’s who and how they all fit together. You can read them out of order, but you’ll miss the connections that make it all come together better.

Vicky (5/27/19)


A SPELL OF TROUBLE by Leighann Dobbs & Traci Douglass

3 ½ sparklers

a spell of trouble cover

This was a lighthearted, fun paranormal cozy mystery. Issy (Isolde) Quinn and her cousins are close so when one (or two) are on the suspect list for the murder of a nasty woman, they come together as a tight-knit family to help solve the mystery.

Fun things include the quirkiness of the cousins, the townspeople – most of whom are paranormals, including the sheriff’s deputy who just happens to be a werewolf. I loved that the witch’s familiars are not all cats – and not even all animals (one is a Venus flytrap!). And the introduction of the FBPI – the paranormal section of the FBI—is an interesting twist. I absolutely love Brimstone – a black cat who talks to them all, has quite a bit of power himself, but comes and goes as he pleases.

The mystery is a standard cozy mystery – nasty woman who has an issue with Issy is killed right in front of her store, making her the prime suspect. Of course she’s innocent, and it’s up to her and her cousins to figure out whodunnit and why she (and her cousin Gray) are being framed. The answer is satisfying with Issy being exonerated (come on, I’m not giving away anything here—the “sleuth” in a cozy mystery is always suspect, never the perp).

Problems: a little more editing for some spelling/grammar issues would help (trees have boughs not bows). Also a salamander is an amphibian not a reptile. While I enjoyed the story, these and other editorial issues were enough for me to not give it a higher grade.

Would I read more? Yes. I enjoyed it enough to look for more. Would I recommend it? Yes, to friends who enjoy paranormal light cozy mysteries – but with the caveat that there are issues with it. Still… it was a fun read during a storm afternoon.