Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Book Review: Read to Death by Terrie Farley Moran

With their book club season wrapping up with The Florida Life of Thomas Edison, Sassy and Bridgy decide to take their group on a day trip to the beautiful Edison and Ford Winter Estates. Hiring driver Oscar Frieland, who’s known for his colorful stories and love of the café’s Robert Frost fruit tartlets, the bibliophiles set off for a day of sunshine and history.
After a lovely excursion, the club returns to the café for lunch and a book discussion, but the group falls silent after Oscar is found dead in his van. The sheriff’s deputies have some questions of their own for the group, and if the ladies don’t find some answers soon, the next book they read might be from a prison library.[summary via Amazon]

Read to Death is the third book in the Read 'Em and Eat Mysteries. Sassy Cabot and Bridgy Mayfield are on a field trip to visit the Edison and Ford Winter Estates. All is going well until their driver is found dead, after they arrive back at the cafe. With Bridgy discovering the body, the police instantly suspect her. It's up to Sassy to try to clear her best friends name.

I really enjoyed the first two books in this series, and the third (and final) book is no exception. It was a charming and fun mystery, surrounding the book club's read of The Florida Life of Thomas Edison

I read a lot of mysteries and I love picking up clues early on. When the victim teases about knowing "all the girls way back when", I knew that was the line that had sealed his doom. Of course, I was right! It was interesting to try to figure out which book club member was keeping a secret and who the murderer was.

Beyond the mystery and the wonderful characters, I love all the "book title" dropping that this series provides. The various book clubs that meet at the Read 'Em and Eat Cafe are always interesting. Quite often, after reading the mystery I want to head to the library to check out the other books mentioned in the book. This time, it was Julie and Julia, and other Julia Childs cookbooks. The bookclub made the books sound so interesting, so I will definitely be having some cookbook reading in my future.

Read to Death is the last book in this series, and I hope some time in the future it might be picked up for more stories. I really enjoyed visiting with Sassy and Bridgy (and their moms in this book) and I hope there are more adventures in the future.

If you love books about books about books, then definitely pick up the Read 'Em and Eat Mysteries. They are well worth a read. And, there are delicious recipes too!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Book Review: Carving Out a Path by Lorraine Bartlett

A young shoplifter not only swipes a couple of hand-carved figurines from Ray Davenport, owner of Victoria Square’s Wood U gift shop, but barrels into and injures Katie Bonner, manager of Artisans Alley. Upon his escape, the police are called, but before the ink is dry on the report, the boy’s grandmother drags the would-be thief back to return the purloined items. She’s got an agenda and great expectations? Can Ray come through in a pinch?[summary via Amazon]

Carving Out a Path is the first novella in the "Life on Victoria Square" series. For those that haven't read the Victoria Square Mysteries, I recommend starting with A Crafty Killing. These novellas fit between the books, and contain small spoilers for the earlier books in the series.

Carving Out a Path centres around Ray Davenport's back story and involves a young shoplifter. I really enjoyed this novella. As a big fan of the Victoria Square mysteries, I like learning more about the individual characters - in this case Ray and his daughters. Lorraine Bartlett also gives a little background into her own family history involving wood carving, which I find really interesting.

This was a fun, short read and I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the novellas in the Life on Victoria Square series. These are the perfect little mini stories, while I wait for Murder Ink to be released on December 31, 2019.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Book Review: A Murder for the Books by Victoria Gilbert

Fleeing a disastrous love affair, university librarian Amy Webber moves in with her aunt in a quiet, historic mountain town in Virginia. She quickly busies herself with managing a charming public library that requires all her attention with its severe lack of funds and overabundance of eccentric patrons. The last thing she needs is a new, available neighbor whose charm lures her into trouble. 
Dancer-turned-teacher and choreographer Richard Muir inherited the farmhouse next door from his great-uncle, Paul Dassin. But town folklore claims the house’s original owner was poisoned by his wife, who was an outsider. It quickly became water under the bridge, until she vanished after her sensational 1925 murder trial. Determined to clear the name of the woman his great-uncle loved, Richard implores Amy to help him investigate the case. Amy is skeptical until their research raises questions about the culpability of the town’s leading families... including her own.
When inexplicable murders plunge the quiet town into chaos, Amy and Richard must crack open the books to reveal a cruel conspiracy and lay a turbulent past to rest in A Murder for the Books, the first installment of Victoria Gilbert’s Blue Ridge Library mysteries.[summary via Amazon]

A Murder for the Books is the first book in the Blue Ridge Library Mysteries and introduces the reader to Amy Webber, a librarian, who has moved in with her Aunt Lydia after a disastrous relationship. Life turns a little more adventurous for Amy and Lydia when a local is found murdered at the library. But who would want to kill the sweet Doris? With the help of the hunky new neighbour, Richard and her friend, Sunny, Amy is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery.

I love books about books, especially when it comes to cozy mysteries. With lots of new series popping up over the last couple of years, I found that I  love exploring all the new fictional small towns that feature books about books - whether it be bookstores or libraries. As such, it's no wonder that I discovered the Blue Ridge Library Mysteries and instantly fell in love too!

A Murder for the Books features a cold case that is linked to a modern day murder case, and I loved this change of pace, as most of my recent reads are just modern day murders. The mystery itself was very interesting and I had fun trying to link the new and old cases together, and unravel it before Amy and Richard did. 

Amy is a wonderful amateur sleuth, with an inquisitive mind for finding the truth and getting into trouble. Her love life is a little bit more complicated, and I like that she seems to have found a "good man" in Richard. I'm definitely going to enjoy seeing her relationship grow in future books. However, it is her Aunt Lydia that I may be paying more attention to. I'm sure Victoria Gilbert has something up her sleeve for Aunt Lydia and I can't wait to see what develops with her personal life.

I'm such a character-driven reader and I see a lot of potential with the characters in Blue Ridge, and I'm eager to find out what kind of adventures they go on next!!

A Murder for the Books is such a fantastic debut, and I'm glad there is a couple more books in this series for me to devour!

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Book Review: Twelve Angry Librarians by Miranda James

Charlie is stressed out. The Southern Academic Libraries Association is holding this year’s annual meeting at Athena College. Since Charlie is the interim library director, he must deliver the welcome speech to all the visiting librarians. And as if that weren’t bad enough, the keynote address will be delivered by Charlie’s old nemesis from library school.
It’s been thirty years since Charlie has seen Gavin Fong, and he’s still an insufferable know-it-all capable of getting under everyone’s skin. In his keynote, Gavin puts forth a most unpopular opinion: that degreed librarians will be obsolete in the academic libraries of the future. So when Gavin drops dead, no one seems too upset...
But Charlie, who was seen having a heated argument with Gavin the day before, has jumped to the top of the suspect list. Now Charlie and Diesel must check out every clue to refine their search for the real killer among them before the next book Charlie reads comes from a prison library...[summary via Amazon]

Twelve Angry Librarians is the 8th book in the "Cat in the Stacks Mysteries". As the interim Library Director Charlie Harris has a lot of duties that he doesn't want to do. One of those is sitting side-by-side with Gavin Fong, a man he hasn't seen in years and one he doesn't like at all. However, it seems like Charlie isn't the only one that doesn't like Gavin. When Gavin is poisoned at the Southern Academic Libraries Association annual meeting, it seems like there is at least a dozen people that could've killed him... or "Twelve Angry Librarians"!

I've been a big fan of this series from the beginning, but this instalment showed how amazing a writer Miranda James is. I've read hundreds of cozy mysteries and I've never read a denouement quite like the one presented in this story. The way the mystery unravels would rival the writings of the great Agatha Christie. I don't want to give any spoilers away, but I was open-mouthed in shock, and it takes a lot to shock me in a cozy mystery!

There is a lot of development for Charlie and his family in Twelve Angry Librarians. As revealed in earlier books Charlie's family is growing bigger with the the addition of to-be-born grandchildren. These changes continue as Charlie and Helen's relationship develops, and I love the direction Charlie's life is going to take in future books. While I absolutely love the mystery element it is the continuing sub-plots surrounding Charlie's life that make me treasure this series so much!

I consider every visit to Athena like going home to visit family, and Twelve Angry Librarians exemplifies this completely. I loved this visit with Charlie, Diesel and the gang and I can't wait to see what they get up to next!

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Book Review: The Diva Runs Out of Thyme by Krista Davis

Few can compete with local celebrity Natasha Smith when it comes to entertaining, but Sophie Winston is determined to try. Her childhood rival may have stolen the spotlight—and her husband—but this Thanksgiving Sophie is determined to rob Natasha of the prize for Alexandria, Virginia's Stupendous Stuffing Shakedown. She just needs the right ingredient.
But Sophie's search for the perfect turkey takes a basting when she stumbles across a corpse. And when the police find her name and photo inside the victim's car, Sophie will have to set her trussing aside to solve the murder—or she'll be serving up prison grub...[summary via Amazon]

Sophie Winston is competing in the Stupendous Stuffing Shakedown competition again amateur cooks, like herself, and local celebrities, like her rival Natasha Smith. Despite just being an amateur Sophie is determined to give it her best try and win. However things don't go according to plan when ingredients are tampered with, and she then uncovers the dead body of one of the organizer. As Sophie and her family and friends delve further into the police investigation, it looks like the murderer could have been anyone of them. It's up to Sophie to find the killer before she gets life in prison.

I've seen the "Domestic Diva Mysteries" around for the last few years, and as I'm usually in the middle of several long-running series I haven't picked them up. I finally picked up the first book in the series and all I can wonder is why I haven't started these earlier? 

The Diva Runs Out of Thyme blew me away with its complex mystery and intriguing characters. As the first book in the series I was instantly hooked, and I turned the last page feeling like I really need to binge the rest of the books immediately!

Sophie Winston lives with her dog, Daisy, in a old house that once belonged to her ex-husband's family. Marc, her ex-husband and Sophie have no desire to re-unite. Instead Marc lives with Natasha, Sophie's rival and local celebrity. I loved how the two families are still intertwined - to the point of having Thanksgiving together, even though it wasn't planned. Sophie deals with every situation with such tact and grace. I'd be banging my head on a wall, after downing a bottle of wine!! Sophie definitely deserves the title of "Domestic Diva" as she handles all the family and friends that descend on her house during the holidays.

The Diva Runs Out of Thyme is such a charming debut. I was particularly interested in all the little "Q&As" at the beginning of the chapters, from Natasha and Sophie's point of view, how to deal with the holidays, families and running a household. I'm certainly going to be looking forward to future books with more tips and tricks!!

And, because Mochie wouldn't allow me to write a review without mentioning him. Special cozy cat mention to Sophie's new kitten Mochie. I can't wait to see what trouble this ocicat gets up to in future mysteries. 

Great mystery, interesting characters... the Domestic Diva Mysteries are well worth a read!

Friday, May 3, 2019

Book Review: Read Herring Hunt by V.M. Burns

To the town of North Harbor, Michigan, MISU quarterback Dawson Alexander is a local hero. To Samantha Washington, owner of the Market Street Mysteries Bookstore, Dawson is more than a tenant—he’s like an adopted son. But to the police, he is their prime suspect after his ex-girlfriend is found murdered. It’s more than enough real-life drama for Sam to tackle, but her role as a mystery writer also calls. Returning to the English countryside between the wars, she finds Lady Daphne Marsh in quite the quandary. Someone has tried to murder the scandalous American divorcée Wallis Simpson, for whom Edward VIII so recently abdicated his throne. It seems finding a suspect is no small challenge when most of England has a motive . . .

While Sam’s lawyer sister Jenna rushes in to build Dawson's defense, Sam and her lively grandmother, Nana Jo, huddle up to solve the mystery and blow the whistle on the real killer. With the tenacious members of the Sleuthing Senior Book Club eager to come off the sidelines, Sam and her team just might stop a killer from completing another deadly play . . .[summary via Amazon]

Read Herring Hunt is the second book in the Mystery Bookshop series, and all our favourites are back for another murder mystery to solve. Dawson Alexander is a football player, college student and part-time worker at Market Street Mysteries Bookstore. Things are going well for Dawson, as he  becomes part of the "family" at the bookshop. However, it looks like someone has some trouble in store for Dawson when his ex-girlfriend turns up dead and the police are determined to pin the crime on Dawson. With the help of the Senior Sleuths, Sam and her family set about to find a killer and clear Dawson's name.

I was absolutely head over heels for the first book in this series, The Plot is Murder. My favourite sub-genre of cozy mysteries is books about books, and this series stands out because it takes it further with a mystery inside a mystery! That's right V.M. Burns delivers two fantastic, compelling mysteries within the same book.

This time we have the mystery involving Dawson, which I solved well before the Senior Sleuths and Sam. However, I still enjoyed watching it play out, especially as anything involving the Senior Sleuths is bound to be hilarious - and it was!! The second mystery continues on with the historical mystery series that Sam is writing and that one was a lot trickier to solve. Both plots kept me well glued to each page, and I was sad when each respective mystery was solved. Luckily for me there are two more books in this series for me to devour!

While Sam is a wonderful amateur sleuth and knows how to solve a mystery, it is her Nana Jo that has me coming back for each new book. Her Nana Jo is an absolute hoot and I wish she was related to me. Not only is she willing to dig into a new mystery, but she's a perfect marksman (and not afraid to take her gun out and prove it!) and she knows her mystery books!!

The Mystery Bookshop series is fast becoming one of my favourite series, and is well worthy of being on the top of even the pickiest reader's reading list. If you're not reading this series yet, you should be!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Book Review: Yule Be Dead by Lorraine Bartlett & Gayle Leeson

It's Christmastime, but not everyone is jolly--especially not Vonne Barnett. Her dead body has been found in Victoria Square. Katie Bonner, the manager of Artisan's Alley, happens to be at the tea shop Vonne's mother, Francine, owns when the news is delivered.
Vonne left a trail of men behind her so the suspects are many--but the clues are few. A broken teacup leads Katie to one of the suspects, but before she can investigate, she's attacked. Katie may be closing in on a murderer, but time is ticking because the murderer is definitely closing in on her.[summary via Amazon]

Yule Be Dead  is the fifth book in the Victoria Square mysteries, and sees Katie Bonner, the manager of Artisan's Alley, enjoying the Christmas season with the residents at Victoria Square. Not everything is jolly though, especially when local resident, Vonne Barnett, is found dead. What initially looks like a car accident could be something much more sinister... especially when it looks like someone is out to get Katie too.

I adore Lorraine's other series (the Booktown Mysteries, written as Lorna Bartlett) and the Victoria Square mysteries has always come a close second. However, after finishing Yule Be Dead, I believe this series is now my new favourite!!

I've been following Katie's adventures from the first book, A Crafty Killing, and I have to say that I absolutely love Lorraine's character development. Katie Bonner is a strong woman, and stronger than she ever thought she would be. She's turned the Artisan Alley into a success, which wasn't an easy feat - especially given that she didn't want to own it to begin with. On top of that she's made a life for herself in Victoria Square. That is... until her former mother-in-law shows up. I really liked the inclusion of her former mother-in-law, Margo. It showed the reader how far Katie has come, and by the end of the book I felt like I knew Katie even better.

Lorraine Bartlett writes strong, relatable female characters. Yes, they stick their nose into murder mysteries, but they're also someone that I wish I had next to me on the adventure that we call life. It's her ability to write such memorable amateur sleuths that has me coming back again and again.

I really liked the mystery. Francine and Vonne have a "interesting" mother-daughter relationship. It was a very compelling read, watching all the detail unravel, as Katie learns a lot of secrets - and maybe some she wished she didn't know.

Yule Be Dead is quite possibly my favourite book in this series. The riveting mystery coupled with the brilliant character development has me wanting more books in this series! I'm excited to see what new adventures are going to be coming Katie's way in the next book!!