Sunday, January 27, 2019

Book Review - Death and Daisies

Death and Daisies
By:  Amanda Flower
Published By:  Crooked Lane Books
Published On:  November 13, 2018
4 Stars

Death and Daisies is the second book in the Magic Garden mystery series.  In this book, Fiona Knox is still adjusting to life in Scotland.  Her godfather has recently died and left her Duncreigan Cottage, its garden, and enough money to open up her new flower shop, The Climbing Rose.  Many of the villagers have been very welcoming, but the local parish minister, Quaid MacCullen, has expressed nothing but disdain for not only Fiona, but for Duncreigan too.  Fiona does her best to move past his anger and threats and to concentrate on her grand opening.  Her grand opening seems to be a success and is starting to wind down when the village’s police officer storms in.  He reports that he has found the dead body of Minister MacCullen.  Chief Inspector Craig is at the grand opening and immediately heads to the crime scene.  Given MacCullen’s hostile feelings towards her, Fiona fears that she will be a prime suspect, and she races after Craig to the crime scene.  Fiona injects herself into the investigation, but in doing so puts herself in danger.

This was a quaint, cozy mystery with a bit of mysticism and romance sprinkled in.  I don’t usually like paranormal stories, but this book had just enough to make it enjoyable and unique.  The author has given us a great cast of characters in this book.  First we have Fiona, our protagonist, who is trying to make a fresh start in Scotland.  She is joined by her sister Isla who has come to stay with her for the summer.  Fiona grapples with accepting the fact that her younger sister is no longer a little girl.  This creates some tension between the two young women.  Fiona also struggles with understanding her relationship with Chief Inspector Neil Craig.  She is unsure of his true feelings for her.  Fiona also gets to know some of the secondary characters in this book better.  She also meets some colorful new characters.  Her suspect list becomes a mix of old and new acquaintances.  Wether good or bad, all of the book’s characters seem genuine.

This was a smartly written, fast paced story that I found very enjoyable.  The mystery was intriguing and kept me guessing all the way until the end.  There are many storylines that are left open for development in future installments. I’m looking forward to following these storylines within the context of future mysteries.  In addition, I’m anxious to read other books by this author.

Thanks to Net Galley and Crooked Lane Books for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #DeathAndDaisies

Friday, January 25, 2019

Book Review - The Christmas Cake Murder

The Christmas Cake Murder
By:  Joanne Fluke
Published By:  Kensington Books
Published On:  September 25th, 2018
3 Stars

This installment of the Hannah Swensen mystery series takes us back in time to when Hannah’s dad has just died, Hannah has decided to drop out of her doctoral program, Andrea is pregnant with her and Bill’s first child, and Michelle is still in high school.  Hannah’s mom, Delores, is struggling to deal with her husband’s death and has holed herself up in her room.  At the same time one of Lake Eden’s beloved residents, Essie, has broken her hip and is in the hospital. While there, Essie keeps talking about her first Christmas Ball and how much she would like to go back and experience it again.  Two of Delores’s friends come up with an idea to help both women.  They ask Delores to help recreate the Christmas Ball that Essie is reminiscing about.  Delores agrees to help and enlists the help of her daughters.  Hannah is put in charge of baking the cakes.  It is here that her dream for opening the Cookie Jar starts to form.

Hannah doesn’t actually stumble upon a body in this book.  Instead, the murder takes place in a story within the story.  The story comes from notebooks the girls find in Essie’s apartment.  Each night the family sits down together and listens to Hannah read from the story.  It turns out to be a mystery and everyone is engrossed in it and can’t wait to see how it ends.  The problem is that Essie never finished the story.  It’s left to the girls to figure out what happens next.

In this story we see how the Cookie Jar comes to be.  It is Hannah’s dream, but Delores helps make it all come true.  One of Hannah’s complaints about her mom though is that she tries to take control of her life.  Delores takes some pretty big actions involving Hannah’s life in this story, but she doesn’t move forward with those ideas before checking with Hannah.  Hannah seems good with all that her mother is doing to help her create a life in Lake Eden.  Andrea doesn’t play prominently in this story, but we get the first inkling about her future realtor career. We see a fair amount of Lisa and Michelle, and it was fun to see how their younger selves acted.  Although it is much like their future selves.  Lisa’s mother is still alive in this story, but she is sick, and Lisa spends a lot of time with the Swensen family.  Many of Lake Eden’s secondary characters do not appear in this story, but that’s ok.  It is a great time to get to know the Swensens better.

I loved the story within the story in this book.  I’ve really enjoyed the past installments, but it was a good change up from Hannah always stumbling upon a body.  The story is intriguing and provides a much different setting than just Lake Eden.  Just like the Swensens, I wanted to keep reading to see what happened next.

And like always, there are some yummy recipes included.

Fans of cozy mysteries and cooking mysteries will enjoy this book.

Thanks to Net Galley and Kensington Books for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #TheChristmasCakeMurder

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Book Review - Wine and Punishment

Wine and Punishment
By:  Sarah Fox
Publisher:  Kensington Books
Published:  December 18, 2018
3.5 Stars

Sadie Coleman packed up her old life in Boston and moved to the small town of Shady Creek, Vermont.  There she bought an old mill and turned it into a pub with a literary theme which she called Inkwell.  Sadie was adjusting well to life as a pub owner and resident of Shady Creek.  Things changed, however, the night that her lying, gambling ex-boyfriend, Eric showed up at her pub.  Sadie was on her way out of the apartment above the pub when one of her employees let her know that Eric was asking for her.  Sadie didn’t want to deal with him that night and continued on to the birthday party she was headed to.  On the way home from the party, Sadie noticed smoke and ran to find two stores ablaze.  By the time that Sadie finally made it back to her pub, her employees had closed up for the night, and Eric was gone.  The next day, Sadie went to head into town but found all four of her tires slashed.  She instantly thought that Grayson Blake could be responsible because she felt he seemed to have taken an immediate dislike to her.  She went to confront Grayson, and then they both ended up stumbling upon Eric’s body.  Sadie wants to find out what happened to Eric and if the other odd events are at all related.

Wine and Punishment is the first book in the Literary Pub Mystery Series.  It was a good read, and I’m looking forward to reading more in this series.

At the beginning of the police investigation, the police consider Sadie a possible suspect.  I believe that is what fuels her desire to investigate the case on her own.  She knows she didn’t do it, and she wants to make sure that Eric’s family gets some closure.  Like many other amateur sleuths, Sadie’s investigations lead to more trouble for herself.  Sadie then is not only trying to solve Eric’s murder, but also to protect her own life and property.  I think Sadie is a likable character except I found her a little too quick to fly off the handle with regards to Grayson Blake.  Yes, he doesn’t appear to like her, but she is downright rude to him. There are a number of other memorable characters that help bring depth to this story.

I think the author developed a great storyline that was easy to get invested in.  I was intrigued and wanted to keep reading to see what happened to Sadie, and to see if she could solve her ex’s murder.  The New England fall provides a beautiful backdrop for this story, and the literary inspired pub makes it a unique setting.

For those that are interested, the author includes the recipes for the literary inspired mixed drinks that Sadie created for her pub.  Sadie also hopes to add literary inspired menu items, and I’m looking forward to seeing those recipes in the future books.

Thanks to Net Galley and Kensington Books for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #WineAndPunishment

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Book Review - Edinburgh Dusk

Edinburgh Dusk
By:  Carole Lawrence
Publisher:  Thomas and Mercer
Publication Date:  September 18, 2018
4 Stars

Edinburgh Dusk is the second book in the Inspector-Detective Ian Hamilton mystery series.  The original cast of characters is back plus some engaging historical figures.  The story starts our with Sophia Jex-Blake, the first practicing woman doctor in Scotland, coming to the station to report what she believes was a murder by poisoning.  This would not be the poisoners only victim.  Hamilton discovers that these men who are poisoned all have one thing in common, sleaziness.  With the help of Sergeant Dickerson and a young medical student by the name of Arthur Conan Doyle, Hamilton races to find the murderer before any more unnecessary deaths occur.

I really enjoyed the first book in this series, and relished this second one even more.  We learn more about the characters in this book which helps us to understand them and their actions even more.  This story involves a very dark plot that is slowly wound up and then eventually unveiled.  The reader is taken along a pitch-dark ride through Edinburgh’s seedy side and through the immoral acts committed there. The ride starts all the way in the beginning and runs right through the end of the novel.

In addition to the engrossing storyline, we are also introduced to a couple of new characters that seem to have the potential of being included in the next novel.  Hamilton tries to come to the aid of a woman named Fiona Stuart.  Fiona Stuart, however, is none too happy that Hamilton intervened on her behalf, and is not too shy to tell him.  They continue to have a very tumultuous relationship throughout the story, but she is set up as a possible love interest. Hamilton is also introduced to Arthur Conan Doyle.  Doyle helps Hamilton with the medical aspects in the case, and in the process the two develop a budding friendship.  A friendship that I hope to learn more about in the next installment.

This story reminds me very much of a dark version of Murdoch Mysteries.  In fact, Doyle shows up in that series too, but is much older and is a world renowned author by then.

Thanks to Net Galley and Thomas & Mercer Publishers for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #EdinburghDusk

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Book Review - The Hanging Psalm

The Hanging Psalm
By:  Chris Nickson
Severn House Publishers
Publication Date:  January 01, 2019
4 Stars

The Hanging Psalm is a historical suspense-mystery novel set in Leeds in the early 1800s.  The main character, Simon Westow, is a thief-taker, a man who recovers stolen property.  Simon is hired by a wealthy businessman to secure the return of his kidnapped daughter.  Simon, with the help of his young, streetwise assistant, Jane, seek out the young lady.  The case grows into far more than a simple kidnapping though, and Simon finds himself embroiled in his toughest assignment yet.  Simon and Jane must be careful because there is danger lurking around the far too many dark corners of Leeds.

This is the first book I’ve read by Chris Nickson, and I’m very impressed.  The novel was exciting from start to finish.  It was a hard book to put down because I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next.  Each chapter brought exhilarating plot developments.  The book also made me think about what defines something as right and wrong.  I’m hooked, and I plan on reading any future titles in this series.  His other books sound equally as intriguing and I plan to read them as well.

The author did a great job describing both the tangible and intangible facets of 1820’s Leeds.  It wasn’t hard to imagine the dark and gritty town that Simon and Jane are dodging in and out of.  The characters are very complex and gripping.  Simon had a hard life growing up in a workhouse from a young age.  There he was mistreated, overworked, and underfed.  Simon had to be strong to make it through those kinds of conditions.  That toughness that he acquires carried through to his adult life and it is useful as his job as a thief-taker.  Yet, that toughness does not define his whole person.  He is a loving family man and is driven by the differences between right and wrong.  Jane seems impenetrable.  She is both street-smart and street-tough.  As tough as she is on the bad guys, she is even tougher on herself.  She holds both her secrets and her past close to her chest, and doesn’t let other get close to her.

Thanks to Net Galley and Severn House Publishers for an ARC of this book.  #NetGalley #TheHangingPsalm