Hooked on Ewe – Hannah Reed

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3/5 Scottish Sheepdogs

On The Back:

In national bestselling author Hannah Reed’s latest Scottish Highlands mystery, aspiring romance novelist Eden Elliott discovers the landscape isn’t the only thing that’s dramatic when a local woman is done in…

It’s early September in Glenkillen, Scotland, when American expat (and budding romance novelist) Eden Elliott is recruited by the local inspector to act as a special constable. Fortunately it’s in name only, since not much happens in Glenkillen.

For now Eden has her hands full with other things: preparing for the sheepdog trial on the MacBride farm—a fundraiser for the local hospice—and helping her friend Vicki with her first yarn club skein-of-the-month deliveries. Everything seems to be coming together—until the head of the welcoming committee is found strangled to death with a club member’s yarn.

Now Eden feels compelled to honor her commitment as constable and herd together the clues, figure out which ones are dogs, and which ones will lead to a ruthless killer . . .

My Thoughts:

Though not as good as the first, Hooked on Ewe was an engrossing second book.

Let me start with the absolutely amazing setting of Glenkillen. It sounds stunning! I really wish we’d have more time in the book to actually explore the town business and such. The mystery was also well-plotted and it held up well. I didn’t see the killer coming until Eden did; though Eden did some pretty stupid things during the investigation they weren’t too over the top.

The characters were almost all wonderful. Eden was funny, and strong, and an honest to goodness amazing investigator. Vicki, the Inspector, and the rest of the characters were wonderful except for Sean. I absolutely could not stand Sean. I sincerely hope he gets pushed off the cliff in the next book or something because I don’t know if I can stand an entire book with Sean.

Overall a pretty solid book. Sean was incredibly dumb, Eden did some slightly bullying investigation tactics, and this took me longer than usual to get through, however, it was a very good book. I will read the next one.

This Old Homicide – Kate Carlisle

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4.5/5 Sprawling Mansions

On The Back:

Contractor and part-time sleuth Shannon Hammer specializes in improving the quirks and flaws of the Victorian homes in Lighthouse Cove, California. The quirks and flaws of their residents are another story….
Valentine’s Day is approaching, and while Shannon is delighted to be friends with not one but two handsome men, not everyone in town is feeling the love. After her elderly neighbor Jesse Hennessey fails to make his daily appearance at the local diner, Shannon swings by his place to check on him. Not only does she find Jesse dead—of an apparent heart attack—but she also realizes that his home has been ransacked.

Someone suggests that a thief was searching for a priceless necklace Jesse claimed to have retrieved from a capsized sailing ship, but Shannon doesn’t believe it. Everyone knows Jesse had a penchant for constructing tall tales—like the one about him having a hot new girlfriend. But his death is soon ruled a homicide, and shady suspects begin popping out of the woodwork. When another victim turns up dead, Shannon is convinced she must find the killer before someone else gets nailed….

My Thoughts:

I put off reading this book for so long, and I honestly don’t know why. I had gotten the first chapter read and then set it down and never picked it back up about a year ago, so when I saw it at my local thrift store for a quarter I picked it up. I am so glad I did! This book was the perfect cozy; laid back, lots of clues and suspects, and a wonderful cast of characters.

The characters were an absolute pleasure to read about. Shannon was funny, normal, and realistic enough that I genuinely liked her, even if she was a bit too serious in her ‘detecting’ for my taste. Mac, Jane, and Eric were also wonderful supporting characters. I really hope Eric takes a bigger role in the next book and we learn more about his past, however. There’s a small love triangle brewing but Shannon’s mot in  an actual relationship with either man, so it works.

The mystery was wonderfully plotted; I was 99% sure I knew who the killer was and then I was taken aback by who it actually was. The setting was also riveting; I love the fact that the entire town is a historic landmark.

Overall a superb mystery; I will be reading the next one. Highly recommend!

Cozy Mystery Publishers: The Authors

Part of the cozy mystery publisher series.

With drastic cuts recently at Penguin Random House (which publishes Berkley Prime Crime/NAL) in the cozy mystery genre many readers are wondering what’s going to happen to their favorite series. Will the author continue to publish their books under a different publishing house? Will they drop the series, or will they independently publish their series? Because of these questions, I decided to explore the path of independent/self publishing and tell a little about it. It is one of the most popular forms of publishing when it comes to cozy mysteries.

Traditional to Indie/Self Publishing

I’m going to start with authors going from traditional publishers to independently publishing for many different reasons. Many authors have switched from traditional publishing to indie bu their own accord and many have found success going that route.

I don’t know for sure why some of these authors switched but some more prominent authors who went to self-publishing in one or more series either to wrap up the series or to simply write more in a series include Joyce and Jim Lavene, Kate Parker, Heather Webber, Ellen Byerrum, and Elizabeth Spann Crain (who wrote a great blog post about why she switched).

Though it may not work for everyone, many authors have made a wonderful living in the self-publishing world. Being self-published has many pros, some of which include, quick publishing times, the authors get almost all (if not all) of the input on the book (they don’t have to change a plotline if they don’t feel they need to), and they are often cheaper (or even free!) to buy in ebook format.

However, there are some major cons with many, though by no means all, self-published books that I have seen just in my comparisons between self-published books I’ve bought vs traditional books I’ve bought, not to mention many of these were mentioned in a variety of articles I read on this topic. First, traditional publishing usually comes with a cover designer, marketing team, and professional editor. I’ve seen some Indie books who’s cover alone turned me off of the book, but other indie books I though were published by a big-name company because of the cover; honestly the cover makes or breaks the book for me, if I don’t like the cover, 99% chance I won’t even buy or read the book. However, there are tons of graphic artists who are available for hire that can create professional-looking covers.

As the cozy-mystery world of traditional publishing continuously gets smaller thanks to cuts by big publishers, the independently published cozies are exponentially growing.

I’ve compiled a small list of some great articles from authors on independent publishing, if you have time , and are interested, I highly recommend reading these:

 

Death Al Dente – Leslie Budewitz

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3.5/5 Murphy Mercantiles

On The Back:

The town of Jewel Bay, Montana—known as a Food Lovers’ Village—is obsessed with homegrown and homemade Montana fare. So when Erin Murphy takes over her family’s century-old general store, she turns it into a boutique market filled with local delicacies. But Erin’s freshly booming business might go rotten when a former employee turns up dead…

Murphy’s Mercantile, known as the Merc, has been a staple in Jewel Bay for over a hundred years. To celebrate their recent makeover as a gourmet food market, Erin has organized a town festival, Festa di Pasta, featuring the culinary goods of Jewel Bay’s finest—including her mother Fresca’s delicious Italian specialties.

But Erin’s sweet success is soured when the shop’s former manager, Claudette, is found dead behind the Merc on the Festa’s opening night. With rival chef James Angelo stirring up rumors that Fresca’s sauce recipes were stolen from Claudette, Erin’s mother is under close scrutiny. Now Erin will have to hunt down some new suspects, or both her family and her store might wind up in hot water…

My Thoughts:

An okay start to a series, Death Al Dente was an Agatha Winner for Best First Book in 2013 and I honestly can say that I expected a bit more. This wasn’t a bad book in any way, however it was simply average for a first book and it started off slow.

The MC, Erin, started off sounding extremely stuck-up. She seemed to criticize many things and thought that her store’s products were the only way to go. However, in the last 2/3 of this book she took 20 steps forward and I found that I really liked her. The other characters were great, I didn’t really have a problem with them; however they lacked the “wow factor” for me.

The mystery was also okay. I didn’t find the killer that surprising, but the mystery was plotted well. The book also started slow, but once I reach that halfway mark it accelerated quickly, and I was eating it up. Jewel Bay sounds like a wonderful place to live; Ms. Budewitz did a stellar job of describing the setting and making me want to move there!

Overall the first half of the book was a solid 3 stars, but the last half was 4 stars which leads me to my rating of 3.5 stars. Not my favorite book, but I’ve heard wonderful things about this author’s work, so maybe it was my mood that made this a simply okay book. Because of the things I’ve heard, I definitely will read the next one!

You’re Going to Hate Me, but…

I just bought 24 more books. Yes, you read that right, and yes this is a haul post. It seems like I rarely buy books in the winter but in the summer I have haul after haul after haul, but I’m alright with that! I got all of these for a great price and I’d already read 9 of them, but for their price it was totally worth buying them.

Books Bought: 24

Price Paid: $6

Already Read:

All of these I’ve already read and I enjoyed them enough to get them. (The price helped matters some!)

Pane and Suffering – Cheryl Hollon

The Diva Wraps it Up, The Diva Digs Up the Dirt – Krista Davis corny titles but a really solid series

The Christie Curse – Victoria Abbott

Clammed Up- Barbara Ross

Home of the Braised – Julie Hyzy

Book, Line, and Sinker – Jenn McKinlay

Pies and Prejudice, Peach Pies and Alibis – Ellery Adams

TBR:

First Degree Fudge – Christine De Smet, You Cannoli Die Once – Shelley Costa, Bran New Death – Victoria Hamilton All first in a series books, here’s to hoping they’re actually good!

A Dish Best Served Cold – Rosie Genova, Scam Chowder – Maya Corrigan, Murder Hooks a Mermaid – Christie Fifield, Bowled Over – Victoria Hamilton, The Scarlet Pepper – Dorothy St. James, Dyeing Wishes – Molly MacRae, If Mashed Potatoes Could Dance – Paige Shelton, Recipe for Treason – Andrea Penrose, All Natural Murder – Staci McLaughlin All in series that I either have parts of, or I’ve started reading

Murder for the Halibut – Liz Lipperman, Battered to Death – Gayle Trent Two wild cards!

I’m in love with this haul and I can hardly wait to start reading some of them!

Tea Cups and Carnage – Lynn Cahoon

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5/5 Tea Cups

On The Back:

The kettle’s about to boil over . . .

The quaint coastal town of South Cove, California, is all abuzz about the opening of a new specialty shop, Tea Hee. But as Coffee, Books, and More owner Jill Gardner is about to find out, there’s nothing cozy about murder . . .

Shop owner Kathi Corbin says she came to South Cove to get away from her estranged family. But is she telling the truth? And did a sinister someone from her past follow her to South Cove? When a woman claiming to be Kathi’s sister starts making waves and a dead body is found in a local motel, Jill must step in to clear Kathi’s name—without getting herself in hot water.

My Thoughts:

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Kensington and Netgalley. All thoughts and opinions stated in this review are explicitly mine*

The seventh book in a quickly growing series, Tea Cups and Carnage was a vast improvement over the last book and overall an above-par book that I enjoyed!

The main characters were back, and they all seemed to have new life breathed into them. The characters had started to get repetative in the few books before this one and in the last book they fell completely flat; however in this book they were wonderful. They all had new layers added on and I especially liked the parts with Josh.

The mystery was also so much better. Jill didn’t do very much sleuthing and it all just fell into her lap; that’s my favorite kind of mystery! The ending was very suspenseful, and my heart was beating so fast!

Overall a simply wonderful book. I will be reading the next book and I’m very excited for Ms. Cahoon’s new series coming in September!

Picking the Collection: How do you part with books?

I love books and many of you do too, because this blog is obviously dedicated to books. However, after coming home from a recent expedition with a stack of new books in my hand I realized that I had a problem; I have too many books. I know, that’s not possible! However, for me, it is. In my eyes if I will never read a book, why do I own it and why does it take up shelf space where another book could be sitting? I know that many people will probably hate this post on principle, but tonight I’ve decided to share with you my two simple, yet necessary, rules that keep my book collection under control.

1. Am I honestly interested in it?

I shop at thrift stores, used bookstores, and such places for most of my books, and at those places I often find amazing deals on books. At a local thrift store I once found 50 cozies for $10, I recently went to a fill-a-bag booksale where you filled a bag of books for $1. Often, because of that I buy books that may not currently interest me but I think might some day. For me, this is a horrible habit because that’s a TON of books! Picking through my shelves I found entire series that I removed because I was no longer interested in it.

2. Is it at the end of a lengthy series?

As I said above I buy so many books used that often when I see a great sale I buy up every cozy that I don’t already own. When I was going through my piles of books I realized that I had more than a dozen books that were numbers 5, 10, 16, or even 20 in a series where I had never read and/or didn’t have the first few books in the series. Because of that, I’ve made it a general rule that unless I’ve read and/or own the first few in a series I don’t buy further back than number three in a series. This eliminated a load off of my shelves.

From these two simply rules I have added over 70 books to my get rid of pile, and I’ve only just finished my mystery section. I still have over 250 left, but I’m trying to read books I already own, so I can buy more! As Charles William Eliot said, “Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”

The Murder at the Murder at the Mimosa Inn – Joan Hess

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4/5 Mimosa Inns

On The Back:

When you make a game of murder, be careful who the players are…

Who could resist the mock-murder weekend at the charming Mimosa Inn– certainly not bookstore owner and amateur sleuth Claire Malloy, who decides to bring her petulant daughter Caron along for some detecting. As the guests settle in for a weekend of sleuthing, dressed as their favorite literary detectives, many a Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot stand poised to solve a murder. But fiction becomes alarmingly real, as the mock-murder victim isn’t just playing dead– he’s really been bashed to death. More determined than even to find the killer, Claire combs the grounds of the lovely inn for this most uninvited guest.

My Thoughts:

Definitely liking this series so far. In The Murder at the Murder at the Mimosa Inn (What a mouthful!) Claire and Caron attend a murder weekend at a small inn outside of town. However, when a real murder happens it’s up to Claire to find the culprit.

Ms. Hess has a talent with subtle, dry humor and she proves it by adding it in throughout the story. I actually found myself laughing out loud at bits of the story. The characters were again written wonderfully. I loved Caron and her perpetual distaste, and Clair and her sarcasm! Peter also reappears and is featured in this book, however besides that this is an entirely new cast of characters are in the mystery.

The mystery itself was good. Claire almost got too close to the annyoing sleuth during a few parts but overall it was good. I really liked how the reveal was played out; it was very unique.

Overall a wonderful second book. I will be continuing this series!

Strangled Prose – Joan Hess

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4/5 False Identities

On The Back:

She would have killed for a bestseller–but someone beat her to it…

Professor of Passion, the smutty new romance from Mildred Twiller–a.k.a. Azalea Twilight–isn’t the kind of book Claire Malloy likes to hock at her bookstore, but Claire agrees to host a book party for her friend’s trashy tale. As torrid as the novel is, it’s nothing compared to the evening. After the party, poor Mildred is found dead in her home–strangled with a tightly knotted silk scarf. Now it’s up to Claire to find Mildred’s killer, and it won’t be easy–the two-bit author had offended nearly every faculty member she worked with at nearby Faber College. But who could have hated Mildred with such smoldering passion?

My Thoughts:

In some of my spare time over the last few days I’ve been cleaning and going through my bookshelves, and I was honestly shocked to see how many books I had that I forgot about. This was one of them. I had started reading this soon after I first got it almost a year ago but I soon lost interest. However, I have like five books in this series on my shelves and I need the space so I read it to see if I hated it all the way through. Luckily, I didnt. In fact, I really enjoyed this book!

The main character, Claire, had an extremely hilarious, dry sense of humor that I loved and the potential love interest did also. I also loved the way the author portrayed Claire’s daughter, even if she was a bit on the whiny side.

The setting was simply realistic. To me, realistic is one of the highest compliments that can be put on a setting because in many books the setting falls flat, or is too perfect. However, though the setting wasn’t featured, the town did seem quaint and very realistically portrayed. The mystery was onkay, however it was extremely transparent. I saw the killer long before the reveal, and I’m surprised Claire didn’t.

Overall a very good book. I may or may not make this one of my ‘series projects’ (longer series I enjoy enough to read all the way through). I’ve already started the second one, which was also sitting on my shelf for longer than this one had. Recommend!

Book Haul (!!!)

I really love buying a group of books at a time. There’s something wonderful about it; you get to look at all of them in a stack and shelve them one by one. It’s an amazing feeling and I love sharing my hauls! This time I got 19 books for about $20.

Number Bought: 19

Price: about $20-ish

Murder at Union Station – Margaret Truman Sounds really good

Hangman’s Root – Susan Wittig Albert Really liked the first one in this series

Berry the Hatchet – Peg Cochran Loved the characters/setting in the first one, let’s hope the dialogue/internal thoughts get better in this one

Murder on Gramercy Park – Victoria Thompson, Mrs. Jeffries & the Yuletide Weddings – Emily Brightwell I’ve been meaning to get around to these series and I probably will soon

Cooking Up Murder – Miranda Bliss Loved this author’s other series she writes under the name Kylie Logan

Cherry Cheesecake Murder – Joanne Fluke One of the few series I don’t ever read in order. I haven’t read this one yet

Death at Wentwater Court – Carola Dunn This was almost brand new at a small thrift store near where I live

Set Sail for Murder – Carolyn Hart Fill a bag for $1 booksale I stumbled on

Tea Chings: The Tea and Herb Companion – The Republic of Tea Love tea and herbs and fill a bad booksale!

Liberating Paris – Linda Bloodworth Thomason Looks okay, may or may not give this away or read it. Fill a bag booksale

Mystery Train, A Crime for Christmas, Buried in Time, The Last Resort, The Paris Connection, Shock Waves, Double Crossing, Dangerous Games – Carolyn Keene My older sister still LOVES these Hardy Boy Nancy Drew Super Mysteries so when I saw them at the fill a bag booksale I grabbed them up. I’ll probably be trying these soon.

I am extremely proud of this haul and with multiple vacations coming up expect more haul posts in the coming months!