Thursday, October 31, 2019

Book Review: The Witches' Tree by M.C. Beaton

Cotswolds inhabitants are used to inclement weather, but the night sky is especially foggy as Rory and Molly Devere, the new vicar and his wife, drive slowly home from a dinner party in their village of Sumpton Harcourt. They strain to see the road ahead—and then suddenly brake, screeching to a halt. Right in front of them, aglow in the headlights, a body hangs from a gnarled tree at the edge of town. Margaret Darby, an elderly spinster, has been murdered—and the villagers are bewildered as to who would commit such a crime.
Agatha Raisin rises to the occasion (a little glad for the excitement, to tell the truth, after a long run of lost cats and divorces on the books). But Sumpton Harcourt is a small and private village, she finds—a place that poses more questions than answers. And when two more murders follow the first, Agatha begins to fear for her reputation—and even her life. That the village has its own coven of witches certainly doesn't make her feel any better...[summary via Amazon]

#QuickandCozy reviews are quick, bite-size reviews that feature all our favourite aspects of cozy mysteries. These reviews are provided on books that I have purchased only.

COZY TOWN: Welcome to the heart of the Cotswolds. Carsley is like every other village, quaint, cute, picturesque, and with a killer lurking around the bush!

THE CRIME: When a vicar and his wife are returning from a dinner party, they are surprised to see something hanging from the witches' tree. They discover it is the body of elderly spinster, Margaret Darby. Who would kill a spinster? Maybe her twin sister? Maybe someone from her past? It's up to Agatha Raisin to find out!

ROMANCE: Oh poor Aggie! Between her dud of an ex-husband, James Lacey, and we're-just-friends Sir Charles Fraith, she is need of some romance, and that's romance with a R! I've read 28 mysteries with Agatha Raisin and I've stuck with her from her first foot in Carsley. I've watched her heart be broken, and her heart soar again. What I really would love to see is a real romance, and maybe even a real boyfriend. Seriously with how many times she's almost been killed she needs some love in her life!

FURRY SIDEKICK: Agatha's housemates, Hodge and Boswell, play minor parts in The Witches' Tree but I always like seeing them cross the page. 

MY VERDICT: Another great mystery with Agatha. I got caught up in Agatha's relationship (or lack there of) with Sir Charles, and didn't manage to solve the mystery before Agatha. I loved the paranormal element with the local coven. This definitely added a change from her usual mysteries. I will be digging into the 29th mystery, The Dead Ringer, really soon and I can't wait to see what is next for Agatha.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Book Review: Crime & Poetry by Amanda Flower

Rushing home to sit by her ailing grandmother’s bedside, Violet Waverly is shocked to find Grandma Daisy the picture of perfect health. Violet doesn’t need to read between the lines: her grandma wants Violet back home and working in her magical store, Charming Books. It’s where the perfect book tends to fly off the shelf and pick you... 
Violet has every intention to hightail it back to Chicago, but then a dead man is discovered clutching a volume of Emily Dickinson’s poems from Grandma Daisy’s shop. The victim is Benedict Raisin, who recently put Grandma Daisy in his will, making her a prime suspect. Now, with the help of a tuxedo cat named Emerson, Violet will have to find a killer to keep Grandma from getting booked for good...[summary via Amazon]

#QuickandCozy reviews are quick, bite-size reviews that feature all our favourite aspects of cozy mysteries. These reviews are provided on books that I have purchased only.

COZY TOWN: Welcome to Cascade Springs. The town is as picturesque as it sounds, especially with the magical spring waters.

THE CRIME: Violet has returned home for a fly-in visit, when her Grandma dupes into believing that she is going to die. Instead she finds Grandma Daisy is healthy and happy, until the dead body of Daisy's boyfriend is found outside her bookshop. Who is Benedict Raisin and who wanted him dead?

ROMANCE: Oh la la! Daisy left behind high school sweetheart, Nathan, (who is now Mayor) when she left 12 years ago. He seems intent on reuniting the spark. There is also the added appeal of Police Chief, David Rainwater. Just to go on record right now, I'm total #TeamDavid. He writes children's books in his spare time!

CHARMING BOOKS: This bookstore is magical, and sounds like the kind of place I'd want to curl up all day! Did I mention it's magical? The magic part is so intriguing and I can't wait to dig deeper into the bookshelves!

MY VERDICT: This is a fabulous first-in-a-new-to-me-series. The mystery was fantastic. I didn't guess the killer, and Cascade Springs... well lets just say I know there is more mystery under the surface. I absolutely can't wait for the next book!

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Book Review: French Fried by Kylie Logan

The Statue of Liberty is 130 years old, and for the struggling residents of Hubbard, Ohio, any opportunity to bring in tourists is reason enough for a celebration. Laurel Inwood and her aunt, Sophie, are pitching in. Sophie’s Terminal at the Tracks, a former greasy spoon turned charming ethnic eatery, will be offering French cuisine for the entire week.
For expert help with their quiche and escargot, the ladies turn to Raquel “Rocky” Arnaud, a former French chef and friend of Sophie. What looks like a match made in heaven turns rank as quickly as buttermilk on a summer’s day. Rocky turns up dead and when her nightly red wine shows notes of oak, cinnamon, and poison, Laurel turns from soufflĂ© to sleuth.[summary via Amazon]

#QuickandCozy reviews are quick, bite-size reviews that feature all our favourite aspects of cozy mysteries. These reviews are provided on books that I have purchased only.

COZY TOWN: Hubbard, Ohio is your regular picturesque small town, where you can't imagine anything bad ever happening. The cozy shops are quaint, and well Terminal at the Tracks is just delightful. I love the ethnic twist at the Terminal - with each month a new ethnic treat is being served up!

THE CRIME: Sophie's friend, Raquel "Rocky" Arnaud has been murdered. Rocky is a French ex-chef, who likes to potter amongst her herbs. Who would want her dead?

ROMANCE: The incorrigible, Irishman, Declan, is on the scene to help Laurel solve the crime. However, also enter Police Detective, Tony Russo. Things are definitely sizzling up between the pages. Not a fan of love triangles? Don't worry! I have it on good authority that Laurel's love life is going to resolve itself by the end of the book!

MY VERDICT: I'm absolutely crazy for Kylie Logan's books! I loved her League of Literary Ladies books, and the Ethnic Eats are just as good! I'm not usually one for foodie-themed mysteries, but I definitely make the exception for this series. The mystery itself is thrilling, with lots of twists and turns. The Ethnic Eats mysteries are getting better and better, and I can't wait to see what mischief Laurel is going to get up to in Italian Iced.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Book Review: Dying for Devil's Food by Jenn McKinlay

Melanie Cooper has zero interest in catering her fifteen-year high school reunion, but Angie insists it's only right that they bask in the success of Fairy Tale Cupcakes--and Mel's engagement to the delicious Joe DeLaura is the cherry on top!
Everything is going better than expected until Cassidy Havers, resident mean girl and Mel's high school nemesis, picks a fight. No longer willing to put up with Cassidy's bullying, Mel is ready to tell the former homecoming queen to shut her piehole and call it a night. But as Mel and Joe prepare to depart, Cassidy is found dead in the girl's bathroom, next to a note written in lipstick that points right to Mel--making her the prime suspect.
Now, Mel must follow the clues to find the real killer and keep her reputation from being frosted for a crime she didn't commit.[summary via Amazon]

Another cupcake bakery mystery! There are a small handful of cozy mystery series that I've stayed up to date with since I discovered cozy mysteries and the Cupcake Bakery Mysteries is one of them! I've been a fan since I read Sprinkle with Murder, and just like a delicious cupcake this is one series that I don't think I will be quitting anytime soon!

This time Mel, Angie and Tate are returning to school for their reunion. Soon they realize that so many people haven't changed and it is just like the song says "high school never ends"! Especially when mean girl, Cassidy Havers, starts to bully Mel. However, Mel has learnt to stand up for herself and doesn't want to be pushed around! When Mel finds Cassidy dead, all fingers (and lipstick) are pointing to Mel! It's going to take our favourite detecting trio all they've got to solve this one!

In the words of Mel herself, this is how this series feels to me:
As soon as she unwrapped it and took her first bite, she felt the sugar hit her bloodstream and suddenly her world made sense again.
-Dying for Devil's Food
This is positively the life essence of this series. Each mystery is well-plotted and intriguing, but just like a good cupcake it is also addictive and you can't just have one! I sunk into Dying for Devil's Food like you would a truly delicious buttercream frosting, and devoured it in less than 24 hours! 

The mystery itself is fast-paced and thoroughly unputdownable as the victim, Cassidy, is such a classic "mean girl" type. This leaves the gang with so many suspects to sort through. It was interesting to see how some people changed over the 15 years since high school ended, and some not so much! By setting the mystery at their reunion, I like how the reader got a window into their lives as teenagers, and how they dealt with the bulling - both then and now.

It's impossible for Jenn McKinlay to write a mystery that I don't like, and as such I absolutely loved Dying for Devil's Food. The mystery is great, character progression is spot on... and... Marty flossing to a rap song.... well you have to read it just for that!

The Cupcake Bakery Mysteries are always #1 on my list when recommending "foodie" themed cozies. They're the perfect decadent treat anytime of the year and I can't wait for the next one.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Book Review: Apple Cider Slaying by Julie Anne Lindsay

Blossom Valley, West Virginia, is home to Smythe Orchards, Winnie and her Granny’s beloved twenty-five-acre farm and family business. But any way you slice it, it’s struggling. That’s why they’re trying to drum up business with the “First Annual Christmas at the Orchard,” a good old-fashioned holiday festival with enough delicious draw to satisfy apple-picking locals and cider-loving tourists alike—until the whole endeavor takes a sour turn when the body of Nadine Cooper, Granny’s long-time, grudge-holding nemesis, is found lodged in the apple press. Now, with Granny the number one suspect, Winnie is hard-pressed to prove her innocence before the real killer delivers another murder . . .[summary via Amazon]

Welcome to Blossom Valley, West Virginia, where the sun shines over the mountains and across the farms. However, not all is perfect in Blossom Valley and the population is about to be one less... Winnie Montgomery is trying to help her grandmother save the struggling Smythe Orchards. To help during their slow season, she is planning a Christmas festival. However, what isn't in her plan is finding a dead body in their barn.  With the new Sheriff trying to peg the crime on her grandmother, Winnie must solve the mystery and keep the farm from going under!

Apple Cider Slaying is the first in a new series from Julie Anne Lindsey, who also writes the Kitty Couture Mysteries as Julie Chase.  With Apple Cider Slaying she delivers an intriguing mystery surrounding an apple orchard, that evolves into one of the most heart-felt mysteries I've read in a while.

What makes this series so special is the relationship between Winnie and her grandparents. Winnie has been raised by her grandparents, after being abandoned by her mother. The love between Winnie and her grandmother, Granny Smythe, shines through the pages, and as I read the story I wished I had a Granny Smythe in my life. Julie Anne Lindsey has perfectly captured the relationship between them, and I think readers are going to cherish these two long after they turn the last page.

The mystery itself is very compelling. I read over 100 cozy mystery novels a year, and I love it when I'm completely stumped and have no clue who the killer is. This happened with Apple Cider Slaying. Right up to the "big reveal" I was stumbling in the dark trying to figure out who wanted the bossy, annoying Nadine Cooper dead. 

Apple Cider Slaying will definitely be hitting my Top 5 favourite books of 2019. Beyond the mystery and wonderful relationship between Winnie and Granny Smythe, I can see there is a lot more to unravel in future books. I'm excited to dig into the lives of the residents of Blossom Valley again, and see what kind of adventures they go on!

If you're looking for the perfect holiday read pick up Apple Cider Slaying. It's got adventure, a little romance, intrigue and two cute feline sidekicks. However, this book comes with a warning.... it is so good you will want to finish it in one day (I did!) and want to eat apple pie and drink cider while you do (I did this too!)

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Book Review: Can't Judge a Book By Its Murder by Amy Lillard

As Sugar Springs gears up for its all-class high school reunion, Mississippi bookstore owner Arlo Stanley prepares to launch her largest event: a book-signing with the town's legendary alum and bestselling author, Wally Harrison. That's when Wally is discovered dead outside of Arlo's front door and her best friend is questioned for the crime.
When the elderly ladies of Arlo's Friday Night Book Club start to investigate, Arlo has no choice but to follow behind to keep them out of trouble. Yet with Wally's reputation, the suspect list only grows longer—his betrayed wife, his disgruntled assistant, even the local man who holds a grudge from a long-ago accident.
Between running interference with the book club and otherwise keeping it all together, Arlo anxiously works to get Chloe out of jail. And amidst it all, her one-time boyfriend-turned-private-eye returns to town, just another distraction while she digs to uncover the truth around Wally's death and just what Sugar Springs secret could have led to his murder.[summary via Amazon]

Do you love a fast paced mystery, with a little sprinkling of romance? Do you love a dead body thrown into the first chapter, and then a mad dash to find the killer? If you answered yes to both of these questions then you need to read first book in the Main Street Book Club Mysteries, Can't Judge a Book by Its Murder.

Arlo Stanley loves everything about her life in Sugar Springs. Together with her best friend, Chloe Carter, they own and run "Arlo and Chloe's Books & More, and life is pretty idyllic. That is until a dead body is found outside their shop. The body in question is Wally Harrison, best selling author and the town's golden boy, and the father of Chloe's son, Jayden. With Chief Matthew "Mads" Keller determined to pin the crime on Chloe, Arlo must join forces with her book club to keep Chloe from jail and find the real killer.

As a reader, what I love the most is a dead body early on! There is nothing like a dead body hitting the first chapter to really keep me entertained! In this case it is a dead body hitting the first page and the pavement! From this early excitement, Can't Judge a Book by Its Murder, got better and better. Especially when Arlo enlists the help of her book club to find the killer!

The "Main Street Book Club" members are an eclectic bunch, including ex-teacher, Camille, and Arlo's godmother, Helen, and the ever interesting, Fern. Not to mention new member, Sam, who is returning to town after years away. Sam provides a lot of colour to the situation, as he is also Arlo's ex-boyfriend!  These group are an absolute hoot, as they go around town interrogating people and looking for clues!!! If this first adventure is anything to go by, I'm going to love future mysteries with this book club!

Amy Lillard sets a great pace for the mystery. With the early excitement, she doesn't ease up on the pace, and I found myself wanting to read faster and faster, trying to uncover clues. While I did guess some aspects of the mystery, I was definitely surprised when the final denouement came down. 

And, because I absolutely adore the feline, furry and feathered friends of cozy mysteries... A special mention to Faulkner, "the book shop bird", who is an absolute hoot! His contributions to the case are hilarious, especially when they involve "bad kitty" Auggie!

Can't Judge a Mystery by Its Murder is a strong, delightful first in a new series. For those that enjoy a dash of romance with their mysteries, we have two of Arlo's ex-boyfriends now back in Sugar Springs and I'm definitely looking forward to how that will play out!!

Can't Judge a Mystery by Its Murder should be on everyone's fall reading list. You won't be disappointed!

Friday, October 25, 2019

Book Review: Coached to Death by Victoria Laurie

When Catherine Cooper settles in the Hamptons on the heels of a nasty split from her long-time husband, the luxurious coastal community seems like the perfect place to get back on track in style. But as Cat soon discovers, starting fresh on the East End can be deadly . . . 
 Cat Cooper never imagined selling off her in-demand marketing firm would mean going from the pinnacle of success to a walking hot mess. Gouged from an unexpected divorce, Cat suddenly finds herself struggling through a new career as a business-savvy life coach for the hopelessly adrift in East Hampton and contending with Heather Holland—a spiteful neighbor who will do anything to bully her out of town. But her second act may very well continue behind bars when Heather’s dead body turns up next to a shattered punchbowl . . . and Cat’s pinned as the murderer. 
But given Heather’s mean girl reputation, any one of the guests at her invite-only luncheon could have committed the crime before planting Cat’s punchbowl next to the body. Determined not to trade designer duds for an unflattering prison jumpsuit, Cat sides with her best friend Gilley to scour chic boutiques and oceanfront mansions in search of the criminal who framed her. With a stoic detective looking to get her in cuffs, it’s up to Cat to catch the real killer and land on her feet once again . . .[summary via Amazon]

Are you looking for a new, tantalizing, fast paced cozy mystery series to start? Perhaps a little something cozy and mysterious for these beautiful fall days? Then look no further than this new series by seasoned cozy mystery author, Victoria Laurie.

Coached to Death is the first book in the Cat & Gilley Life Coach mysteries. Following her divorce, Catherine "Cat" Cooper has moved to East Hampton to start a new life, and a new career as a life coach. However, not all is clear sailing with her new life. Her neighbour, Heather Holland, is determined to make her life miserable, and try to bully her into leaving town. When Heather turns up dead, all fingers point to Cat. However, as Cat soon finds out, Heather had many enemies in the Hamptons. It's up to Cat, with the help of her best friend, Gilley, find the murderer.

Victoria Laurie's  Psychic Eye Mysteries and the Ghost Hunter Mysteries are well known for being first class paranormal cozy mysteries. As a fan of both series, I was absolutely thrilled to see that she was starting a new series, as a spin-off involving Abby's sister, Cat, and her best friend, Gilley. 

There is nothing ghostly or paranormal about Cat. She's just your normal blonde Hamptons mom. Well almost normal. As her sidekick she has the ever awesome Gilley, who lives with her while Gilley's husband is abroad. Gilley comes with sleuthing experience, as he used to help MJ (see the Ghost Hunter Mysteries). This experience is sure going to come in handy, as Cat and Gilley try to find a killer, and avoid being the target of some pretty crazy people!

I absolutely loved this mystery. The pace is fast! It's not just your average cozy mystery with amateur sleuths solving the mystery at a normal pace. No this is a race to the end, and with Gilley involved there isn't a dull moment! When you add in a mysterious new man, named Maks, the temperamental policy detective, Detective Shephard, and a crime family, well you've got a fast-paced mystery that is a thrill a minute.

If you're only going to read one new series this fall, make it this one! Coached to Death is a book you don't want to miss! Coached to Death was, simply, unputdownable and I absolutely can't wait for the next book in the series.