A Dark and Stormy Murder – Julia Buckley

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5/5 Writer’s Apprentices

On The Back:

An aspiring suspense novelist lands in the middle of a real crime, in the first in a captivating new series by the author of the Undercover Dish Mysteries.
 
Lena London’s literary dreams are coming true—as long as she can avoid any real-life villains…
 
Camilla Graham’s bestselling suspense novels inspired Lena London to become a writer, so when she lands a job as Camilla’s new assistant, she can’t believe her luck. Not only will she help her idol craft an enchanting new mystery, she’ll get to live rent-free in Camilla’s gorgeous Victorian home in the quaint town of Blue Lake, Indiana.

But Lena’s fortune soon changes for the worse. First, she lands in the center of small town gossip for befriending the local recluse. Then, she stumbles across one thing that a Camilla Graham novel is never without—a dead body, found on her new boss’s lakefront property.

Now Lena must take a page out of one of Camilla’s books to hunt down clues in a real crime that seems to be connected to the novelist’s mysterious estate—before the killer writes them both out of the story for good… 

My Thoughts:

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Berkley and Netgalley. This title will be released on July 5. All thoughts and opinions stated in this review are entirely my own.*

If A Dark and Stormy Murder is any indication, you’d better get ready because Julia Buckley is soon going to be a common name in the cozy mystery world. I loved this book so much, I absolutely couldn’t put it down and I was honestly disappointed that it ended so soon.

Lena was an absolute joy to read about. She was smart, kind, and had just the right amount of snarkiness to make her funny at times. Camilla, though, was my favorite character. Even at the end of the book there’s some holes in her life that I’d like filled, but I believe we’ll see them filled in the next book. There’s a slight love triangle happening (which is the only downpoint of the entire book) but by the end it seems to be wrapped up. Both of the love interests were equally wonderful in my opinion, so I hope the story continues on the same track to dissipate the love triangle but keep both love interests.

The setting was beautiful and different from the cozy norm. Most cozy mysteries take place in the east or in the south, and honestly it can get tiring reading about the same areas. However, I love it when I stumble a book set in the midwest, which is actually where I live. It’s a nice change of pace.

The mystery was also great. There were actually two mysteries going on at the time and both were well plotted and honestly surprising. I can’t wait to see where Ms. Buckley goes with the second book and the second mystery, which was left a little bit of a cliffhanger.

Overall an startlingly good first in a series book. After reading this book and The Big Chili I can say that I’ll be following Ms. Buckley’s work for awhile yet. Highly recommend!

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Caught Bread Handed – Ellie Alexander

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4/5 Spanish Chefs

On The Back:

Welcome to Torte—a friendly, small-town family bake shop where the oven is heating up as high as the body count…

Jules Capshaw is still chewing over her husband Carlos’s return to Ashland, Oregon. Could there be too many cooks in the kitchen? Whatever is stirring between those two will have to wait. Despite the Oregon Shakespeare Festival being dark for the winter, the bakeshop is bustling, the dough is rolling, and there’s no rest for the weary…especially when murder is thrown into the mix.

When Mindy Nolan, the owner of a new restaurant in town, turns up dead, the batter at hand thickens. Jules knows that there was bad blood between Mindy and others in town, and tracking down the killer could prove to be an unwelcome treat. And to top it all off, there’s Carlos, who is pleading—with those delicious dark eyes and sexy Spanish accent—for Jules to take him back. Is home where the heart is or will she make a fresh start…and risk getting burned?

My Thoughts:

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from Minotaur and Netgalley. This title will be released on June 28. All thoughts stated in this review are entirely my own.*

This series is one of the best semi-new cozy mystery series for solid mysteries and characters that I’ve found yet. It’s consistently solid and entertaining; something that even old, well established series can’t always claim.

Jules recovered from her spineless state of the previous book and she even showed some stamina. She did have a few moments where she reverted to the unthinking, shallow character, but overall she was great. I couldn’t stand Carlos for the first half of the book, but I must say towards the latter half I found myself liking him. He wasn’t as fake as I’d thought before, and I actually liked him.

The mystery was simple, but really good, because it was so simple. Ashland sounds like a dream! I would love to go and sit in their theatre to watch some plays before getting a snack at Torte and going shopping at the specialty shops.

Overall an engaging read. I actually liked it more than the third in the series. Recommend!

The Readaholics and the Falcon Fiasco – Laura DiSilverio

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3/5 Readaholic Book Groups

On The Back:

Amy-Faye Johnson’s book club, the Readaholics, enjoys guessing whodunit in mysteries like The Maltese Falcon. But when a murder happens in their midst, they discover that solving crimes is harder that reading about them…

Amy-Faye has always loved her idyllic Rocky Mountain town of Heaven, Colorado. Her event-planning business is thriving, her fellow book-obsessed Readaholics are great, and her parents live only a few blocks away. But lately her hometown has felt a little less heavenly. First, she agrees to plan a wedding without realizing the groom is her ex-boyfriend. Then, Ivy, one of her fellow Readaholics, dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances.
The police rule Ivy’s death a suicide by poisoning, but Amy-Faye and the remaining Readaholics suspect foul play. Amy-Faye soon discovers that Ivy was hiding dangerous secrets—and making deadly enemies. Taking a page from her favorite literary sleuths, Amy-Faye is determined to find the real killer and close the book on this case. But finding the truth could spell her own ending…

My Thoughts:

This book has been on my pile for over a year. I bought it not long after it came out, intending to read it right away, but I just kept looking over it when I picked out what to read next. I finally read it and I must say, this was an engrossing, fast-paced book that was solid and wonderful.

I loved Amy-Faye. She goes through a lot in this book, and yet comes out of it still swinging. Ms. DiSilverio did a wonderful job of create a complex main character, with just as complex secondary characters without letting the secondary characters upstage Amy-Faye. I loved Maude and all of the Readaholics, also, with the exception of Brooke. I could not stand Brooke. She was rudely patronizing to A-Faye multiple times, but A-Faye just swept it off like it was nothing. Ugh ugh ugh.

The setting was wonderful. I’ve always wanted to visit the mountains of Colorado, and this book beautifully described a town in the mountains. The mystery was engrossing, and complex. However, the ending of the book was extremely frustrating. I felt that it was a cheap cop-out to add more drama to fill up the last few pages, and it left the door wide open for a love triangle in future books. Again: ugh.

Overall this was a good book. It had wonderful characters (with the exception of Brooke), a beautiful setting, and a tantalizing mystery. However the ending was horrible, and Brooke was horrible, also, so this book only gets 3/5 stars from me. I will read the next one, and I do recommend this one. It was really a solid first in a series book. Actually, above average for first books in a series.

Musseled Out – Barbara Ross

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5/5 Coast Guard Searches

On The Back:

The busy summer tourist season is winding down in Busman’s Harbor, Maine, but Julia Snowden senses trouble simmering for the Snowden Family Clambake Company. Shifty David Thwing – the “Mussel King” of upscale seafood restaurants – is sniffing around town for a new location. But serving iffy clams turns out to be the least of his troubles….

When Thwing is found sleeping with the fishes beneath a local lobsterman’s boat, the police quickly finger Julia’s brother-in-law, Sonny, as the one who cooked up the crime. Sure, everyone knows Sonny despised the Mussel King…but Julia believes he’s innocent. Proving it won’t be easy, though. It seems there’s a lot more than murder on the menu, and Julia needs to act fast….

Includes traditional Maine clambake recipes!

My Thoughts:

Wow, Barbara Ross just moved up a step on my good authors list. The first two books of this series were good, solid four-star reads, but this book absolutely blew them out of the water.

Julia, Chris, Jacqueline, Sonny, Livvie, Fee, Vee, Gus, and the other assorted characters reappeared in this book, which was, of course, wonderful. Also, we got to meet Sonny’s dad, and Gus’s wife, both of who I really hope reappear in the next few books. Jacqueline, Julia’s mother, and Sonny went through some things in this book that actually made me like them more. I really hope that Sonny stays this way in the next book and I hope we see more of Jacqueline.

The setting was absolutely to die for. I think I could move to Maine now and be fine for years to come. The mystery, however, was what brought this book to a new level. There were so many different things happening in the mystery that it left me thoroughly confused about who the killer could be and when the reveal happened I was shocked.

Overall an excellent book. I can’t wait to read Fogged Inn!

Snobbery With Violence – Marion Chesney

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3/5 Faux Castles

On The Back:

Lady Rose Summer’s father calls on Captain Harry Cathcart to investigate her suitor, Sir Geoffrey Blandon, resulting in a scandalous breakup. When the Marquess of Hedley calls Harry about a murder, Harry calls in Scotland Yard Supt Kerridge, and Rose. Harry and Rose must unravel a web of lies, rumors, perilous plots – and their own mixed feelings.

My Thoughts:

I’ve read some of M.C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth mysteries, and I have a few Agatha Raisin mysteries on my pile, so when I saw this book at a used bookstore I grabbed it. I love historical mysteries, almost more than typical mysteries, but it doesn’t seem like I read them as often as I should. So, last night when I was staring at my shelves trying to find something to read, I saw this book and I tentatively started reading. I’m glad I did, because I enjoyed this book a whole lot!

Lady Rose is not as much of a Lady as her parents would like her to be, at least by their standards. She takes part in suffragette rallies, and gives little thought to getting married, and for that I loved her. She was extremely typical for a MC, but she was also engaging. I really hope she and Harry have more parts together in the next book. Harry is also an enigma, we know some about him, but other things we know nothing about. I really enjoyed reading his character, also.

The setting was dismal, but it was supposed to be. The mystery was okay. It was well plotted, but it lacked many suspects and it went along one train of though for most of the book.

Overall a good book, I enjoyed it and it was a very quick read. I will be reading the next one.

Back to School Murder – Leslie Meier

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3/5 Newspaper Offices

On The Back:

TINKER COVE’S OWN AMATEUR SLEUTH LUCY STONE

DISCOVERS THAT SCHOOL DAYS CAN BE MURDER.

It’s back to school time in the peaceful Maine town of Tinker’s Cove, and for mother-of-four Lucy Stone it isn’t a moment too soon. But trouble at the local elementary school soon has the sometime crime-solver juggling family, job, and night classes with another mystery to solve. And it starts with a bang.

A bomb goes off with the noon lunch bell, but not before all the kids are safely evacuated, and Carol Crane, the new assistant principal, is hailed as a hero. But days later, Carol is found murdered and everyone is stunned when the most popular teacher at the school is arrested for the crime. However, not everyone is buying the open-and-shut case, including Lucy Stone, who senses there’s more to things than meet the eye.

It soon becomes clear that Lucy is flirting with danger, as sizzling secrets and explosive surprises provide a primer for the most diabolical of motives. Hot on the trail of a clever killer, the dedicated mom and seasoned sleuth must harness the courage and cool aplomb to uncover a crime that just might give her an education in the fine art of murder.

My Thoughts:

A good addition to an okay series so far, Back to School Murder was an engrossing book that I devoured.

As I’ve stated before I absolutely love Lucy. She’s strong, independent, funny, and yet she’s not so perfect that it’s unrealistic. Sue reappeared in this book, however she took a lesser role, which I was slightly disappointed about, but it worked out. Ted, the newspaper editor, also reappeared in this book, but he played a bigger role and he was hilarious.

However, Bill was back to his egotistical, annoying self, but maybe it’s because of his egotistical annoying self that I found that he is actually a really interesting character. I rolled my eyes through most of the scenes he was in, but he was a good dad. I just wish he would’ve shown more of that side of him, versus the egomaniac side.

The setting was wonderful as always. The mystery was good. I did not see that killer until it was revealed, and I was extremely surprised. It still was on the far side of cozy mystery, but it was fine.

Overall a good book, not quite as good as the last one, but better than the one before that. This was a perfect quick read that would be perfect for a day at the beach, a day by the pool, or a day stuck inside. I will be reading the next one.

Shop Till You Drop – Elaine Viets

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3.5/5 Upscale Clothing Stores

On The Back:

Once on the fast track to success, Helen Hawthorne is now going nowhere fast.  She traded in her chic life for a shabby one.  And now she’s on the fun, jumping from city to city and dead-end job to dead-end job, trying to stay one step ahead of her past…After two weeks as the new salesclerk at Juliana’s, Fort Lauderdale’s ultra-exclusive clothing boutique, Helen still feels out of fashion.  And since the only crime likely to be committed around here is being old-or worse, looking old-Helen figures she is safe.  Until she discovers the manager has been embezzling money and selling designer drugs along with the designer clothes.  Add murder to the mix-and Helen’s dead-end job is downright deadly.

My Thoughts:

I have heard people simply raving over and over again about how good this series is, so when I saw this book at a rummage store about a year ago, I picked it up and bought it. Until now, however, I never got around to reading it. Shop Till You Drop was a funny, fast-paced start to a longstanding series that’s a favorite with many cozy readers.

Helen was a MC down on her luck. Unlike most cozy mystery main characters, we don’t know much about Helen’s past when we first start the book, finding out only a few vague details. However, the pieces of her extremely interesting past are soon put together. I loved Margery, Tara, and the rest of the supporting characters, and I hope we see them again in the next book.

The setting was actually wonderful. Most of the story took place in a wonderful older apartment complex and Juliana’s, an extremely upscale clothing store, and Ms. Viets did a wonderful job of describing both. The mystery, however, left a lot to be desired. There was no real climax at the end, and I didn’t like the way the mystery was set up; you knew who the killer was for quite awhile and you just had to find the evidence. It was disappointing.

Overall a solid book. I’ll read the next one.

Trick or Treat Murder – Leslie Meier

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4/5 Carved Pumpkins

On The Back:

Haunted-house parties and ghostly galas…grinning pumpkins, mayhem and murder. It’s going to be one heck of a Halloween for Lucy Stone and Tinker’s Cove…

It’s October in Maine, and everyone in Tinker’s Cove is preparing for the annual Halloween festival. While Lucy Stone is whipping up orange-frosted cupcakes, recycling tutus for her daughters’ Halloween costumes, helping her son with his pre-teen rebellion, and breast-feeding her brand-new baby, an arsonist is loose in Tinker’s Cove. When the latest fire claims the life of the owner of the town’s oldest house, arson turns into murder…

While the townsfolk work to transform a dilapidated mansion into a haunted house for the All-Ghouls festival, the hunt for the culprit heats up. Trick-or-treat turns deadly as a little digging in all the wrong places puts Lucy too close to a shocking discovery that could send all her best-laid plans up in smoke…

My Thoughts:

I always try to give a series two (and sometimes three) bad books in a row before I quit it, because even though one book may be a dud, it doesn’t mean the entire series is. After receiving the 22nd book from Kensington and Netgalley as an ARC, and reading the 1st and 2nd books and having neither of them pop out at me, I was wary of this book, but I decided to plunge ahead and read it. I can say that I am pleased that I did!

I really like Lucy, and perhaps that’s why I read this one so soon after reading the second one. She’s strong, smart, and not afraid to work, all of which make her an admirable character. Her family is also wonderful; Bill can be annoying at times, but I’m very pleased to say that in this book he was tolerable!

The setting is so beautiful, and I wish I could find a town like Tinker’s Cove to live in. The mystery was well put together, though I did figure out the killer, the mystery still had tons of plot twists and turns and overall was just a good base.

Overall a good book, if the rest of the series stays like this, then I’ll stay with it! A perfect beach read.

Boiled Over – Babara Ross

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4/5 Maine Clambakes

On The Back:

For Julia Snowden, the Founder’s Day summer celebration in Busman’s Harbor, Maine, means helping her family’s clambake company to prepare an authentic taste of New England seafood. Any Mainer will tell you that a real clambake needs wood for the fire . . . so why is there a foot sticking out of the oven?

The townspeople want to pin the murder of the RV park owner on Cabe Stone, a new employee of the Snowden Family Clambake Company–who bolted from the crime scene and disappeared.

Julia knows having another murder associated with her family’s business is a recipe for disaster . . . but who is the killer? Cooking up a proper investigation doesn’t leave much time for the rest of Julia’s life, and this is one killer who’ll do anything to stop her from digging up clues . . .

My Thoughts:

A second book in what is becoming a solid, but not over-the-top series, Boiled Over was a delightful read with a few weak points.

I really like Julia, though I wish she’d admit the inevitable; she’s staying in Busman’s Harbor. Chris is great, but I wish he’d open up a bit about himself. Sonny was absolutely horrible at the beginning, but he warmed up towards the end. I seriously don’t know why he isn’t nicer to his sister in law!

The setting is absolutely idyllic. The last three books I’ve read in a row were all set in Maine and I must say, it’s looking pretty good right now! The mystery was positively wonderful, too. It was complex, and I was taken aback by the killer’s identity.

Besides an annoying brother-in-law, and too many flashbacks (which I don’t like), this was overall a very solid book. I will be reading the next one soon.

Tippy Toe Murder – Leslie Meier

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2/5 Tippy Toes

On The Back:

With three kids underfoot, a fourth on the way, and an oppressive heat wave bearing down, homemaker Lucy Stone is hardly enjoying an idyllic summer. But her preoccupation with swelling ankles, Bavarian creme doughnut cravings, and sewing endless sequins on ballet recital tutus gives way to dread when Lucy learns that her waistline isn’t the only thing that’s recently vanished from Tinker’s Cove…

The strange disappearance of a retired dance instructor has the tiny coastal town in a tizzy that turns to terror when a notoriously cantankerous shopkeeper is slain right on Main Street. Now Lucy’s up to her bulging belly in local suspects and red herrings. Eluded by a cold-blooded killer, with her due-date looming and the thermometer soaring, Lucy figures something has to break soon. With any luck, it won’t be her water…

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed the last two books I read in the series (numbers 1 and 22), however I did not enjoy this book. It was NOT a cozy and I found myself skipping and skimming about 1/4 of the book because of it.

Lucy was great, her family was great, her town was great. Her husband, Bill, however was not great. He can be so kind and was in the first book, however in parts of this book and in Candy Corn Murder he was rude.

The mystery was horrible. I’m honestly surprised that this book was marketed as a cozy because the mystery dealt with very dark, non-cozy topics. I read cozies because they’re light, and usually don’t deal with dark, complex topics.

Really a great setting and great characters, but this was absolutely not a cozy and I didn’t enjoy it because of that. I do NOT recommend this if you are looking for a cozy.