Monday, February 24, 2020

Book Review: Coconut Layer Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke

When Hannah learns that her sister Michelle’s boyfriend, Detective Lonnie Murphy, is the prime suspect in a murder case, she goes straight from a movie studio sound stage to the Los Angeles airport.
Back in frigid Minnesota, she discovers that proving Lonnie’s innocence will be harder than figuring out what went wrong with a recipe. Lonnie remembers only parts of the night he went out to a local bar and ended up driving a very impaired woman home. He knows he helped her to her bedroom, but he doesn’t recall anything else until he woke up on her couch the following morning. When he went to the bedroom to check on her, he was shocked to discover she was dead.
Hannah doesn’t know what to believe—only that exonerating a suspect who can’t remember is almost impossible, especially since Lonnie’s brother, Detective Rick Murphy, and Lonnie’s partner, Chief Detective Mike Kingston, have been taken off the case. Before everything comes crashing down on Lonnie like a heaping slice of coconut layer cake, it’ll be up to Hannah to rack up enough clues to toast a flaky killer . . .[summary via Amazon]

It's time for another visit to Lake Eden, and this time it is going to be Hannah Swensen's 25th mystery!! I can barely believe it's been 25 books since I picked up Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, one of the very first cozy mysteries I ever read. From that very first book, Joanne Fluke has been delighting me with suspenseful mysteries and mouth-watering recipes, and Coconut Layer Cake Murder is no exception!

In Coconut Layer Cake Murder, Hannah and her mom, Delores, are off to sunny California, to help a friend move back to Lake Eden. However, not all is sunshine and happiness. When Hannah receives a frantic phone call from her sister, Michelle, she must turn her back on the sunshine and head back to freezing Lake Eden to help clear Michelle's boyfriend, Lonnie, who is the number one suspect in a murder case.  It's up to Hannah, with help from Norman, and the rest of the Lake Eden gang to put their heads together and solve the crime before Lonnie is put away for life.

I've loved every book in the Hannah Swensen mysteries, and it's one of two very long-running series that I've kept up with every book. It always delivers the coziest of cozy towns (I want to move to Lake Eden - minus the murders of course!) and a page-turning mystery. This time, I guessed the mystery quite a while before Hannah and her sleuthing friends, but this didn't diminish my enjoyment. I love watching Hannah follow the clues, and solve the mystery. 

Chocolate Cream Pie Murder (book 24) leaves readers with a cliffhanger, and Coconut Layer Cake Murder picks up this storyline right away. For this reason I don't recommend starting this series with Coconut Layer Cake. Each book in this series builds on the previous, and it's best to read in order. I suggest starting with Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder. You won't disappointed, as this series is one of the most recommended, for good reason!! If you are a fan of "food-themed" cozy mysteries you need to read this series!

I'm looking forward to Christmas Cupcake Murder, coming out in September. From the start I've been #TeamNorman and I can't wait to see if my Christmas wish comes true!! I would love to see Hannah settle down with ever-lasting romance one of these days!!

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Book Review: And Then There Were Crumbs by Eve Calder

Kate McGuire’s life was sweet in Manhattan before she lost her restaurant job and fiancĂ© both. But sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crumbles, and soon she finds herself starting from scratch in the island town of Coral Cay, Florida. It has everything she’s looking for: sunny beaches, friendly locals, and a Help Wanted sign in the bakery shop window. Once she convinces the shop’s crusty owner Sam Hepplewhite to hire her, Kate can’t tie on her apron fast enough. Little does she know that trouble, like warm dough, is on the rise. . .
Stewart Lord is a real estate developer with a taste for a different type of dough: the green kind. He knows that he could make a killing by purchasing the Cookie House from Sam, who flat-out refuses to sell. But when Stewart turns up the heat on Sam—then turns up dead after eating a fresh batch of Sam’s cinnamon rolls—all eyes focus on the town’s beloved bakery. When the police arrest Sam for murder, Kate must somehow prove that her curmudgeonly boss is innocent. Enlisting the help of a team of lovable locals, Kate sets out to catch the real culprit with his hand in the cookie jar…before someone else gets burned.[summary via Amazon]

I recently read Sugar and Vice, the second Cookie House Mystery, and I loved it so much that I wanted to go back and read the first book, and find out how the story started. Let me preface this by saying, I always say I will do this and never do. Why not? Because my pile of books is usually so high and I always get side-tracked by another cozy mystery. However, in this case Sugar and Vice charmed me so much that I made sure I bought And Then There Were Crumbs at my next bookstore visit, so that I would do just that! Did I mention how much Sugar and Vice charmed me?

So here is the first book in the delightful Cookie House Mysteries... We see Kate McGuire arriving in Coral Cay, and it is almost like destiny when she ends up on the doorstep of the Cookie House. However, what first starts as helping curmudgeonly baker, Sam Hepplewhite, out in his bakery soon turns to detective when he is accused of murdering Stewart Lord.

From reading Sugar and Vice I knew that Sam doesn't get convicted of murder, but not who the actual murderer was. I love this about cozy mysteries. The reader knows that there is past mysteries but not exactly who did the actual killing. It's one of my favourite things about cozies - it means you can pick up a book mid-series and still go back and enjoy the earlier stories.

I was already smitten with Kate, her adorable pup, Oliver, and Coral Cay. And Then There Were Crumbs absolutely deepened this love. I love how she makes that transition from tourist to local, and her relationships with the locals, especially florist, Maxi. They are definitely a duo partners-in-crime that spur each other on, into mischief and adventure!!

The mystery itself was really fascinating. It twisted around with a well-planned plot, and I love the final denouement. It definitely is one of a kind, and one that I didn't see coming!

I can't recommend this series enough!! It is #1 in my favourite culinary cozy mysteries right now, and I hope I've encouraged more readers to try it. Pick up And Then There Were Crumbs today and enjoy a first-class debut. Oh, and hey, while you're at the store, why not pre-order Sugar and Vice too. You won't be disappointed!

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Book Review: Of Books & Bagpipes by Paige Shelton

Delaney Nichols has settled so comfortably into her new life in Edinburgh that she truly feels it’s become more home than her once beloved Kansas. Her job at the Cracked Spine, a bookshop that specializes in rare manuscripts as well as other sundry valuable historical objects, is everything she had dreamed, with her new boss, Edwin MacAlister, entrusting her more and more with bigger jobs. Her latest task includes a trip to Castle Doune, a castle not far out of Edinburgh, to retrieve a hard-to-find edition of an old Scottish comic, an “Oor Wullie,” in a cloak and dagger transaction that Edwin has orchestrated.
While taking in the sights of the distant Highlands from the castle’s ramparts, Delaney is startled when she spots a sandal-clad foot at the other end of the roof. Unfortunately, the foot’s owner is very much dead and, based on the William Wallace costume he’s wearing, perfectly matches the description of the man who was supposed to bring the Oor Wullie. As Delaney rushes to call off some approaching tourists and find the police, she comes across the Oor Wullie, its pages torn and fluttering around a side wall of the castle. Instinct tells her to take the pages and hide them under her jacket. It’s not until she returns to the Cracked Spine that she realizes just how complicated this story is and endeavors to untangle the tricky plot of why someone wanted this man dead, all before getting herself booked for murder.[summary via Amazon]

Booklovers rejoice, there is a bookstore in Scotland (albeit a fictional one), that holds magic and charm, and every step inside is an adventure. Of course I'm talking about The Cracked Spine and the Scottish Bookshop Mysteries.

Delaney is running an errand for Edwin, owner of The Cracked Spine. She's picking up a comic book, a old comic book called Oor Wullie. However, when the person she's supposed to pick the book up from is found dead, in a castle no less, she sets her sights on investigating and solving the crime. Who is this Billy Armstrong and what is his connection with Edwin?

I love stepping inside The Cracked Spine and joining Delaney for a new adventure. As her side kick she has her adoptive parents in Scotland "Elias and Aggie", who help her find clues and put them together. She also has her "booklovers-in-arms" in Rosie and Hamlet, who also work in the bookshop. Not to mention her boyfriend, Tom, who owns and runs Delaney's Pub. It all adds up to so much Scottish charm and adventure, and I love every second of it.

I really liked this mystery. It kept me guessing right until the end, and I didn't solve it before Delaney. It is definitely one of the best well-plotted mysteries I've read for a while. The mystery unravels a little of Edwin's background, and oh boy isn't he a mysterious one! From his warehouse of artefacts (yes, it completely reminds me of Warehouse 13!) to his half answers, I know there is more to Edwin then meets the eye!! 

Full of mystery, charm and "bookish voices" this series is not to be missed.

"Books, they're definitely the stuff of magic"

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Book Review: Murder in the Reading Room by Ellery Adams

Jane’s boyfriend is missing, and she thinks she may find him at North Carolina’s historic Biltmore Estate. Officially, she’s there to learn about luxury hotel management, but she’s also prowling around the breathtaking buildings and grounds looking for secret passageways and clues. One of the staff gardeners promises to be helpful . . . that is, until his body turns up in the reading room of his cottage, a book on his lap.
When she finally locates the kidnapped Edwin, his captor insists that she lead him back to Storyton Hall, convinced that it houses Ernest Hemingway’s lost suitcase, stolen from a Paris train station in 1922. But before they can turn up the treasure, the bell may toll for another victim . . .[summary via Amazon]

When the Charmed Pie Shoppe Mysteries ended (also written by Ellery Adams), I didn't think another series would capture my attention and all of my emotions so much. However, the Book Retreat Mysteries were waiting in the wings, waiting to captivate. And, captivate they do!! This series holds a very special place in my cozy heart...

Jane Steward is the Guardian of Storyton Hall, and among the responsibilities this entails, it involves murder, mayhem and protecting not just those that she loves, but also a secret library. In Murder in the Reading Room, Jane is racing to the man she loves, to save him. However what she finds changes everything she knew about being a Guardian and the people around her. 

Oh gosh... this series is everything that defines a cozy. It is set in a small town, there is murder and mayhem, and "cozy" characters and situations that give readers the "toe-curling" feeling of wanting to curl up with this book for hours. However, it also provides so much more than the traditional cozy. I finished Murder in the Reading Room and described its words as "constantly moving, never stationary". For anyone that has read a book by Ellery Adams this is such a perfect description, because she has the ability to spin her stories on the axis and move them in a direction that we never see coming, a direction that is the perfect evolution for the story and characters. This is exactly what happens in Murder in the Reading Room. Forget everything you thought you knew about Storyton Hall, Jane and her friends because life will never be the same again!

Every story in this series centres around at least one author in history. This time it is Ernest Hemingway and I loved reading more about him. Quite often, at the end, I put down the book, and pick up my computer to research said author. I love that Ellery Adams has me researching and wanting to learn more about the authors I'm reading about.

I cannot recommend the Book Retreat Mysteries enough. They transcend the traditional cozy, and I strongly believe that every cozy mystery reader should be reading them. Intelligent, well-plotted and definitely cozy these are books not be missed!

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Book Review: Bound for Murder by Victoria Gilbert

Taylorsford Public Library director Amy Webber's friend "Sunny" Fields is running for mayor. But nothing puts a damper on a campaign like an actual skeleton in a candidate's closet. Sunny's grandparents ran a commune back in the 1960s on their organic farm. But these former hippies face criminal charges when human remains are found in their fields--and a forensic examination reveals that the death was neither natural nor accidental.  
With Sunny's mayoral hopes fading, Amy sets her wedding plans aside, says "not yet" to the dress, and uses her research skills to clear her best friend's family. Any of the now-elderly commune members could have been the culprit. As former hippies perish one by one, Amy and her friends Richard, Aunt Lydia, and Hugh Chen pursue every lead. But if Amy can't find whoever killed these "flower children," someone may soon be placing flowers on her grave.[summary via Amazon]

Anyone that knows me knows that I love "books about books" the best. My favourite cozy sub-genre is the mysteries set in bookstores and libraries. The bibliophile in me just loves to get an extra dose of biblio goodness within my cozy mystery!! One of my favourites in this sub-genre is the Blue Ridge Library Mysteries by Victoria Gilbert. In her latest mystery she packs a lot into 311 pages: a buried body (dating back to the 60s), a recent dead body and a mystery that even the greatest sleuths will have trouble untangling!!

Firstly, I loved that the mystery surrounded a cold case, that led to other unexplained deaths. As a long-time mystery reader I love to follow the threads between cases and hunt for clues, right alongside the sleuths and the police. Bound for Murder kept me on the edge of my seat as I tried to untangle the mystery. I wasn't able to untangle it before Amy was, and this increased my enjoyment immensely. I love when I'm stumped!!! This is the mark of an extremely good mystery writer!

Secondly, I have nothing but praise for Victoria Gilbert stepping away from the usual cozy mystery trope of romantically pairing the sleuth with the police chief. In this case Amy is engaged to neighbour and dancer, Richard. I've really enjoyed watching their growing romance and now their wedding is almost upon us. They make such a beautiful couple, and I'm looking forward to many more adventures with them.

Bound for Murder is the fourth instalment in the Blue Ridge Library Mysteries and is one not to be missed. Victoria Gilbert delivers a intriguing mystery, that even the most experienced sleuths will have trouble untangling. More than just a mystery, Bound for Murder is another enjoyable trip to Taylorsford, catching up with all my favourite characters and activities, including Sunny and her bid to be Mayor of Taylorsford.