Here you’ll find cozies and more. Enjoy!
THE ESCAPE ROOM by Megan Goldin
Suspense (This is NOT a cozy mystery)
Wow. Just…wow. This is a 350+ page book and I read it in one day. I can’t say that about a lot of books, but this one I can. It’s a gripping suspense story that grabs you at the beginning and holds onto you until the very end.
So… the bad things first. I’m not generally a fan of mixed point of view and I really don’t like omniscient POV that head hops all over the place because I don’t know whose head I’m supposed to be in. This one switches from first person in one chapter to third person omniscient in the next and back and forth depending on who we’re with. It’s told from the point of view of the main character, Sara (1st person), and four of her colleagues (third person omniscient) separated by chapters(which is good). It also flips back and forth between past and present. But, that being said, once you get into the story, it’s not as off-putting as it sounds because the story itself is so good.
And that’s the saving grace and the reason it got five sparklers instead of a lower rating. The story is just that good. Okay, there were a couple of other “editorial” issues that caught my eye, but that’s me. As far as the story goes… my first impression stands. Wow. I could not put this down. I just kept reading, even though I had other things to do. And that’s what makes it a five star. If you’ve grabbed me that strongly that I can’t put it down, that’s worth the top rating.
The story centers around Sara Hall—a young woman who lands a prime job at a top financial corporation in New York—and her four main colleagues. To the sharks at the top, getting rich is all that matters. But when financing takes a downward turn, things get interesting. The four colleagues end up in an elevator escape room where they begin to show their true colors, and it isn’t pretty. Not only do they need to survive, but the biggest mystery to solve is what happened to Sara.
The ending is brilliant and unexpected.
Kudos to the author for making me forget the head-hopping, the POV flip-flopping and draw me so deeply into the story that I couldn’t stop reading. Well done, and definitely recommended.
Murder with Lemon Tea Cakes by Karen Rose Smith
Cozy Mystery – Book 1 of Daisy’s Tea Garden Mysteries
I really enjoyed this book. The characters in the small town that the author created are realistic with problems and issues that we all face. The small town atmosphere comes through as well. And tying it to a tea shop with recipes I can then try… nice. 🙂
Daisy and her aunt Iris run a small tea shop in a nice little town. Daisy is widowed with two teenage daughters. I love that one is adopted and searching for her biological parents – the emotions we see Daisy go through with this are spot on. There are love interests, but nothing too serious.
The murder – and the reason behind it – are well done. We’re given lots of options for the person(s) who “dunit”, including Daisy’s aunt. The ending is satisfying, but you know this is the beginning of a series as there are several threads left dangling (but not who the murderer is!). The murder is solved, but we’re just getting started with Daisy’s life.
The only thing that didn’t seem to fit was the subplot of Daisy’s adopted daughter, Jazzy, looking for her birth parents. You could have taken that entire subplot out and it wouldn’t have made a difference to the story. Yes, it gives us insight into Daisy’s life, but it just didn’t seem to fit. Still… the rest of the story was really good.
Overall, a satisfying read with a good ending.
The Body on the Train by Frances Brody
Cozy mystery – 1929 British
In this eleventh book in the Kate Shackleton series, Scotland Yard calls in Kate to investigate an unidentified body is found on a special train from Yorkshire, but they thwart her efforts by demanding her silence on certain things. During her investigation, she learns of another murder—one that supposedly has no connection to the one she’s looking into—or does it? Kate doesn’t believe in coincidences. The local police believe they have the culprit for the second one, but Kate believes he is innocent and is determined. She goes to work with her crew of assistants (an ex-cop turned PI and her housekeeper) to uncover the truth.
The plot and setting for this story were intriguing, but there was too much story—especially the details of rhubarb growing and mining in the area. Yes, the history was interesting at times (I had no idea there was so much call for rhubarb!), but it dragged down the story. The solution was fairly obvious from the beginning, and the end was something of an let down. I will say I found the characters interesting and diverse, but I didn’t pick this up to read a history of rhubarb.
As for the writing, note that there are multiple points of view and though Kate’s is in first person, the rest are all in third person, something I found distracting at times. There was also a lot of head-hopping.
Overall opinion: it’s an interesting cozy somewhat in the style of the Australian TV show, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries – same era (1920s) and all that entails. I felt it was a little slow due to the historical facts, and the end was a little anticlimactic, but overall, it’s not a bad read. If you enjoy the other books in the series, you’ll like this one as well. It did intrigue me enough that I will probably look for others.
My thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane books for the advanced reader copy made available for my review.
CARPET DIEM by Misty Simon
4 ½ Sparklers
Tallie Graver has done it again. Okay, for those of you who are not familiar with the Tallie Graver cozy mysteries, Tallie is a 30-something woman who was once rich and now works as a cleaning lady for the same rich folks she used to pal around with. She lives in a tiny studio apartment over the funeral home her family owns—along with a St. Bernard, an uppity cat, and, on occasion, her boyfriend Max. When Tallie divorced her rich husband, she took on the role of squeegee queen. She now has built a reputation as an honest—and good—cleaner and has a crew of women working for her. She is quirky and fun and adding a little bit of romance to the mystery only ups the intrigue.
Like most cozy mysteries, this one is set in a small town where everyone knows everyone and think they know everything. But it is really Tallie who has all the info. Well, almost. In this one, she relies on Max to help her dig up the dirt on the possible perpetrators. That, in addition to the gossip queen (friend Gina’s mother!) and other sources, Tallie starts putting together the pieces of this puzzle.
In this one, Tallie is helping the local chief of police, Burton, figure out who killed the woman rolled up in the carpet in the dumpster. But nothing is coming together. There are too many clues—and not enough. Both Burton and Tallie are frustrated. But things do come together in the end.
I love these stories, but the end of this one felt a little rushed to me. I couldn’t figure a couple things out (like how everyone knew Tallie was in trouble and how they all got to where she was). That’s the only reason for the half-sparkler off. But you have to try the recipe for snickerdoodles that is included. Yummy cookies!
If you’re a cozy-mystery lover, take a look at the Tallie Graver mysteries. Each book is a stand-alone, but I’d start with the first one (Deceased and Desist) just so you know what’s going on in Tallie’s life and the background on some of the people. It’s not absolutely necessary, but it is a good idea.
I definitely recommend these books.
Note: I received this ARC free from the author for a true and honest review.
Also noted: Misty is a friend of mine, but the review is honest and I still recommend the books.
AN EXCUSE FOR MURDER by Vanessa Westermann
From the blurb: Former bodyguard Gary Ferris has the perfect motive to kill—revenge for the murder of the woman he loved. Then he meets Kate Rowan, a bookstore owner who lives with her great aunt. Together they manage to find an attachment in the midst of blackmail, break-ins, and murder.
This is an interesting story. I can’t say I liked it, but… I couldn’t stop reading. Thus the “interesting”. Items that distracted me: It’s very British, including terminology, but the author uses those terms in such as way as to make it understandable even for a Yank. However, the sudden shifts in point of view were problematic for me. I really don’t like it when an author does that and this one did so—not often, but enough for it to be a challenge for me to keep reading. I will note that I’m not talking about the chapter shifts. Those are fine. I have no problems with shifts to a different POV from one chapter to the next. It’s the shifts within paragraphs or short scenes that distracted me. And yet, I kept reading.
Also, the writing itself was…different. And I will chalk that up to perhaps a difference between “British” writing and “American” writing. It was very choppy with more fragments than I’m used to. And yet… I kept reading.
I wasn’t enamored of the hero. He was more an anti-hero. He was definitely a broken hero. Without giving anything away, I’d like to have seen a different conclusion to what he did. For me, he was unlikeable and I couldn’t figure out why the heroine went with him. And yet…I kept reading.
I didn’t understand the whole bit with calling Great Aunt Roselyn Mrs. Marsh – especially when Kate stopped calling her great aunt Mrs. Marsh (even after the plausible explanation) and started calling her by her name (without any explanation as to why she did this). And yet… I kept reading.
The characters of Ian and Elaina were interesting, but I’m not sure why they were there. But I kept reading.
I loved the scene in the book with Romeo/Prince Charming/Mr.Darcy – that was amazing. So I kept reading.
So there it is. I can’t say I loved the book, and yet, the author drew me in to the point that I kept reading just to see what would happen.
Would I recommend this book? Maybe – with the caveat that it is different from most Americanized romantic suspense books. There’s no HEA ending, but a HFN (happy for now) is implied and acceptable. The writing is also different from what I’ve come to expect—not necessarily in a bad way, just different. It took me a while to really get into the story…and yet, I kept reading.
A HIGH-END FINISH (A Fixer-Upper Mystery) by Kate Carlisle
5 sparkles (actually, I’d give it more if I could!)
Wow. Just wow. I currently have a love/hate relationship with this author. I absolutely loved this book – so what do I hate? I kept telling myself I’d finish *this* chapter so I could go do the other things I had on my to-do list. That didn’t happen. I kept reading. And reading. Until I finished the book. I could not put it down. And I’m getting the rest of the books in the series as soon as I possibly can.
In this book, Shannon Hammer is a well-known contractor/carpenter in her small Northern California town of Lighthouse Cove. Her friend (hah!) sets her up with a blind date that turns out less than stellar. In fact, after the guy—Jerry Sexton—attacks her, she knees him where she can (misses the family jewels just by a bit, but got close enough to get away)—in front of most of the townspeople on the boardwalk above the beach where she and Jerry were. When Jerry is found a couple days later dead with her pink pipe wrench the murder weapon, Shannon is placed at the top of the police suspect list.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, several other things happen that not only keep Shannon at the top of the suspect list, but also put her in danger for her own life. It’s only through the intervention of the cute new police chief and a more-than-handsome crime writer that Shannon survives and helps bring the culprit to justice.
If you are a fan of cozy mysteries in small towns and with amateur sleuths, I definitely recommend this book.
And if you’ll forgive this short review—I’m off to get more of these books by Kate Carlisle. So much for my dishes/cleaning/work/anything else I might need to do.
TOXIC TOFFEE by Amanda Flowers
This is a cute cozy mystery but it didn’t draw me in as other cozies do. It’s not that there was anything wrong with it—because there wasn’t—it just fell a little flat for me. And that’s strictly on me.
The character of Bailey King works—she’s the granddaughter of an Amish woman who owns a candy store in the square of town. She also has a popular TV show about candy-making. She’s dating the local sheriff’s deputy, Aiden Brody, and is well-known and well-liked in town. Her grandmother is also well-liked but is Amish so doesn’t approve of everything Bailey (who’s not Amish) does. Bailey used to live in a small apartment above the candy store with her grandmother, but moved out so she could have a place of her own—one with electricity.
Some of the other characters are a little over the top. For instance, Aiden’s mother Juliet carries her pet pig everywhere and, even though Bailey and Aiden just started dating, she’s already planning their wedding. It was just a little too much for me. And the town “promoter” Margot—she’s a bit too much to take too.
The author seems to know the Amish culture pretty well, but she also gets a little repetitive with some things (like the no electricity thing). Living in an Amish community myself, I was able to chuckle at the realism she did put forth. Yes, there really can be “traffic jams” with buggies and cars. It happens often. So this was something well-done.
The murder of Stephen—an Amish rabbit farmer—was definitely different, which was a plus. As was the reason and the killer. Kudos to Ms. Flower for an interesting twist. And that’s all I’m going to say. No spoilers here. J
Overall, the story wasn’t bad. It was mostly enjoyable and had an interesting end, but it just didn’t keep me interested the whole way through. Still… I am definitely going to look for more from this author. She intrigued me enough to look for others by her.
PERIL IN PAPERBACK by Kate Carlisle
4 ½ sparklers
This is part of the “Bibliophile Mystery” series from Kate – and I loved it! The quirky characters, interesting setting, and attention to details had me laughing while keeping me reading to see what happens next.
Through her two best friends, main character, Brooklyn Wainwright, has been invited to the home of eccentric millionaire Grace—aunt of Suzie—for a week to celebrate Grace’s 50th birthday. Grace’s home is huge, secluded near Lake Tahoe—and surprisingly unique. Kind of like Hogwart’s from Harry Potter, Grace’s home includes walls that move, trapdoors, secret nooks and more. Brooklyn’s room is the “book room” – not the library. But it’s covered floor to ceiling (and even across the ceiling!) with books. It’s intimidating at first for Brooklyn, but she adapts.
There were two things that kept me from giving this a five sparkler review – the first is “who the heck is Gabriel?” This guy Gabriel shows up just after the murder and is obviously a very good friend of Brooklyn’s. So… I know him from other books, but if someone was reading this one first, they would have no clue who Gabriel is. A sentence or two is all that is needed to let the reader know who he is and what is relationship to Brooklyn is. Yes, we learn tidbits about him through the story, but knowing a little up front would be nice.
Second is that this is an obvious takeoff of Agatha Christie’s “Ten Little Indians” – it’s even referred to near the end of the story. We have a party of people gathered together in a remote home that has a lot of odd places, a storm (snow in this case) that keeps the police away and strands them in the house, the murder (of course), and multiple secrets—and not just in the house. Still, unlike Agatha, Kate kept me laughing. I enjoyed Agatha’s book a long time ago and there have been myriad takeoffs of it, but this one was a hoot. So… well done, Miss Carlisle.
I also loved the attention to detail about books. Being an old librarian who has spent some time repairing and restoring books, I loved the little things Kate put in about Brooklyn’s work. Also the information about the murder “weapon” was interesting and informative – and tied so well to the last line that I closed the cover laughing. Thank you for that as well!
Recommendations: If you like cozy mysteries with quirky characters, this is a definite yes… But… I suggest you start at the beginning of the series with “Homicide in Hardcover” so you know who’s who and how they all fit together. You can read them out of order, but you’ll miss the connections that make it all come together better.
A SPELL OF TROUBLE by Leighann Dobbs & Traci Douglass
3 ½ sparklers
This was a lighthearted, fun paranormal cozy mystery. Issy (Isolde) Quinn and her cousins are close so when one (or two) are on the suspect list for the murder of a nasty woman, they come together as a tight-knit family to help solve the mystery.
Fun things include the quirkiness of the cousins, the townspeople – most of whom are paranormals, including the sheriff’s deputy who just happens to be a werewolf. I loved that the witch’s familiars are not all cats – and not even all animals (one is a Venus flytrap!). And the introduction of the FBPI – the paranormal section of the FBI—is an interesting twist. I absolutely love Brimstone – a black cat who talks to them all, has quite a bit of power himself, but comes and goes as he pleases.
The mystery is a standard cozy mystery – nasty woman who has an issue with Issy is killed right in front of her store, making her the prime suspect. Of course she’s innocent, and it’s up to her and her cousins to figure out whodunnit and why she (and her cousin Gray) are being framed. The answer is satisfying with Issy being exonerated (come on, I’m not giving away anything here—the “sleuth” in a cozy mystery is always suspect, never the perp).
Problems: a little more editing for some spelling/grammar issues would help (trees have boughs not bows). Also a salamander is an amphibian not a reptile. While I enjoyed the story, these and other editorial issues were enough for me to not give it a higher grade.
Would I read more? Yes. I enjoyed it enough to look for more. Would I recommend it? Yes, to friends who enjoy paranormal light cozy mysteries – but with the caveat that there are issues with it. Still… it was a fun read during a storm afternoon.