Tag Archives: cozy mystery

Book Review: Plotting for Murder – Book #1 in New Cozy Series

Plotting for Murder

By Tamra Baumann

Moving back to Sunset Cove was never part of Sawyer Davis’ plan. She is a chef, not a bookstore owner. Unfortunately, the death of her mother brought her back home, at least until she can figure out how to access the monies from her mom’s trust fund that are tightly held by her conniving uncle. The only thing her mother’s brother wants is the other half of the family’s money instead of  just the half he deserves. Her mom left some clues as to how Sawyer can use her inheritance to buy her own restaurant, but will she ever be happy in the small town she escaped from when her fiancé left her at the alter?

She is overwhelmed with the trust fund restrictions, the crumbling home she now lives in, running the bookstore that was her mother’s passion. Oh, and trying to figure out just where her life is going. Her mother has been lovingly meddling from the grave. She leaves a riddle for Sawyer to solve that promises funding for the restaurant she longs to open. Her mom has arranged for a puppy to be delivered, and to top it off, she has arranged for two men to become necessary in Sawyer’s life, one new and one from Sawyer’s past.

Gage, the lawyer in town assigned to help her is handsome, kind and doesn’t hide his attraction to Sawyer. To make matters worse, the sheriff is Dylan, the gorgeous guy who got cold feet and ran out on her. Sparks begin to fly but Sawyer does not have time for romance with either of them. Unfortunately, her life and livelihood depends upon working with these two men. And just when she thought life could not get more complicated, someone is murdered during book club at her store. Sawyer isn’t about to hide in a corner waiting for something to happen. She begins her own investigation much to Dylan’s chagrin. Lucky for her, there are plenty of locals that love to gossip, so she enlists her book club buddies to help catch the killer. Who can she trust? Will the killer strike again and will Sawyer be the target?

Plotting for Murder has all the essential elements of a great cozy. The setting is interesting, small town America is a treasure trove of small shops full of quirky characters and adorable men vying for her attention, Sawyer is surrounded by a rich cast. It is fun to meet them and see the connections they have to Sawyer’s past.  I am looking forward to seeing how they will grow and evolve during the series. One of my personal favorites is Cooper, the puppy. He is a gift from Sawyer’s mom from beyond the grave and hopefully will play a part in solving the mysteries to come.

This is the first in the Cozy Mystery Bookshop Series by award winning author Tamra Baumann. It is also the first book of Ms. Baumann’s I have read. It is no secret that I love cozy mysteries and to find a new series is like Christmas morning for this bibliophile. I’ll be watching for the next one in this series as well as checking out the other cozy series written by Ms. Baumann.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley and Book Buzz in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: One Taste Too Many – New Culinary Cozy Series

One Taste Too Many

By Debra H. Goldstein

Sarah Blair’s ex-husband, Bill, is dead. The bigger issue is that her twin sister Emily has been arrested for his murder. The police think that she purposely fed him something that he was highly allergic to, then instead of attempting to save him like she claims, she watched him die. Sarah knows that is as far from the truth as it can get, so she is determined to find out if this was just a horrible accident or someone really did murder Bill and frame Emily.

But that isn’t her only problem. Sarah has custody of RahRah , the cat that her mother-in-law loved and Bill hated. Sarah and RahRah are two peas in a pod. RahRah is not a cat that loves many people, but he adores Sarah. The feelings are mutual and they are happy to have each other. That is until documents surface giving RahRah to Bills current girlfriend – who really doesn’t want him, but wants to collect the money specified in Bill’s will to care for the feline.

All of this turmoil is set during a food festival. Emily is a fantastic chef and Sarah can’t boil water without instructions. As the girls start investigating, another dead body turns up. Emily is targeted as the killer again. Sarah doubles her efforts to clear her sister’s name, get back her beloved cat and find the real killer. She will go to any lengths to accomplish her goals even if she has to do something she fears more than the killer’s revenge – cooking!

­One Taste Too Many is the first book in the new Sarah Blair Mystery Series. The cast of characters are interesting and diverse. It is fun to peek behind the kitchen doors of the chefs in the story. Because Sarah works for a lawyer, we get to see how justice is served as well.

I love a book that gives me so many likely suspects I cannot figure out who the murderer is until the last chapters. This is a culinary cozy that mystery lovers will enjoy. Cooks of all levels will enjoy the recipes at the end of the book.

Ms. Goldstein is an award winner author. One Taste Too Many is the third mystery she has written. She also writes short works of fiction that have been published. I’m looking forward to the next book in the Sarah Blair series.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review. Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Murder Over Mochas – Newest Java Jive Cozy Mystery

Murder Over Mochas

By Caroline Fardig

There is nothing worse than having your lying, cheating, thief of an ex-fiancé show up at your job, unless you are Juliet Langley. She clocked him right in front of her customers at Java Jive before he could finish his plea for her help. Never known for her subtlety, everyone in the coffee shop could tell she hated the man she just punched. After her boss settles her down, she agrees to meet up with Scott, the infamous ex, even though she was still understandably not happy to meet with the man that took all her money and caused her to lose her business. Not to mention he broke her heart.

Things go from bad to worse when they meet as Java Jive closed that evening. Juliet was still steaming, but her boss Pete who is her best friend is there to keep her in check. Scott arrives looking rather sick, but is determined to enlist Juliet’s help finding his missing wife. Something shady is going on here and Juliet wanted no part of it. But when Scott collapses and dies right in front of Pete and Juliet she has no choice but to investigate. Especially since a detective holding a grudge attempts to pin a murder charge on Pete and Juliet.

Against everyone’s better judgement, Juliet pairs up with her on again off again boyfriend police detective Ryder to find the real killer and kidnapper. As the case unfolds, bribery, illegal kickbacks and stolen drugs muddy it up. But soon the investigation turns from frustrating to dangerous as the real killer may be targeting Juliet to keep her from finding out his secrets.

Juliet is a great main character for a cozy series. She is smart, funny and has more man trouble than she wants or needs. She has a neighbor that is basically a friend with benefits and Ryder is now dating her girlfriend. Juliet really doesn’t want him anymore, but sometimes the memory of what they had for a while haunts her. Then there is Pete. Good hearted, adorably cute and there for her no matter how crazy her life gets. They both have feelings for each other, but she is afraid to commit to a relationship and ruin their great friendship.

Caroline Fardig knows how to keep a cozy mystery true to form. Her books are funny, entertaining and always have a twist in the plot to keep her readers guessing. It is no surprise she is a USA Today bestselling author. With an interesting list of past professions; including funeral parlor associate and church organist, she sounds as interesting as her characters. This is not the first book I’ve read by Farding, and will not be the last. I highly recommend this book and series for cozy mystery fans.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Copyright © 2019 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: New Cat Cozy Mystery

Fool’s Moon

By Diane A.S. Stuckart

Ophelia and her brother Brandon have been dumped unceremoniously in a cardboard box far from home. The two cats lived with an old woman who loved and took care of them. Then something bad happened to the old woman and her mean son put them in a box and took them to a place they have never been to before. The cats are not used to traffic, other animals and having to find their own food. Fortunately for them, they find new owners but were lost to each other.

Ruby is now Ophelia’s human. She is a Tarot card reader, and Ophelia seems to have a knack for helping her out with her readings. When the housekeeper from the old woman’s house comes to have her fortune told, Ophelia and Ruby think that the old woman’s death may not be an accident.

Ophelia’s unlikely new canine friend Zuki is willing to help her find her Brandon and help solve the mystery of who killed the kind old woman Ophelia and Brandon loved. This decision will put all of them in danger. Especially after someone else turns up dead.

This cozy mystery is told from the point of view (POV) of the animals. This includes Ophelia, Brandon, Zuki and other assorted stray dogs, birds, chickens and fish. It is not a children’s book, but almost reads like one. The content of murder and complexity of the plot to find out who the murderer is would not be for children.

I love animals. Books featuring them are among my favorites. I loved the cozy series The Cat Who by Lillan Jackson Braun. I knew what the cats were thinking but the POV was from the human characters.  For me, they work well as sidekicks, even when they save the day by biting or jumping on the bad guy I can go with it. But for me, having the point of view totally from the animal’s perspective did not work. It is different and some of you may really get into it.

Reading the Tarot cards and explaining them was interesting. Who doesn’t like a little bit of fortune telling in a novel? It is a great way to foretell disasters waiting to happen. I would have enjoyed more of that part of the story instead of animal conversations.

All in all, Fool’s Moon has a solid plot and fits the bill for a cozy mystery. Just because I wasn’t fond of the POV, it doesn’t mean you won’t love it. This is the first book in the new Tarot Cats Mystery Series by Diane A.S Stuckart, aka Ali Brandon. She is a New York Times bestselling author with her Black Cat Bookshop Series. I plan to read the first book in the Black Cat Bookshop series because I loved her style of writing, but could not get past the children’s literature nod of writing from the cat’s POV in the Tarot Cats Mystery.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review. Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

 

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Book Review: Glitter Bomb – Cute Crafty Cozy Mystery

9-25-18

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Penguin First to Read in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Carmela is crazy busy at Memory Mine, her scrapbooking and graphic design business. Everything is hopping with all of the Mardi Gras hoopla going on. But she is not all business; in fact, she and her bestie Ava are front and center for the Pluvius parade, known for fabulous floats created by “krewes” that have been together for years. This year’s overall theme is “Spirits of the Sea”.

As the crowd swells, beads are thrown and bands blare. Everyone is having a great time until one of the floats begins to wobble, then rumble, and then explodes spewing an eruption of glitter and krewe members into the crowd, one of whom is Carmela’s ex-husband Shamus. Carmela and Ava have a front row seat, and are first to get to the man most seriously injured. The EMTs arrive, but to no avail. Hughes Wilder is dead.

Was this a tragic accident or murder? Carmela’s sort of fiancé, Detective Edgar Babcock, arrives at the scene to investigate. Carmela’s mind is already churning with a list of likely suspects. Babcock warns her not to get involved, but both of them know it is futile. Carmela can’t resist poking around when someone gets blown up right before her eyes.

Ava is Carmela’s willing accomplice, accompanying Carmela to various social events to help her get the skinny on the suspect list they have compiled. They still don’t know who killed Wilder, but there seem to be plenty of people that hated him enough to kill him. The problem is the murderer is on to them. Things really start heating up when someone targets Carmela and Ava. Babcock insists they stop investigating before one of them gets hurt or worse. But will Carmela listen?

The characters are interesting and easy to like. They do things that anyone might do in New Orleans, with the exception of amateur sleuthing. Carmela, Babcock, Ava and Shamus are the perfect foundation to balance the various supporting characters.

This crafty cozy mystery is full of action, humor and fun in one of America’s most vibrant cities. New Orleans is the perfect backdrop for murder and merriment and this book has both. I stayed in the French Quarter for a fabulous week a few years ago and was delighted to read about the characters visiting familiar places. One of my favorites is Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, so I was delighted to read the chapter that featured this historic last resting place of many New Orleans residents.

Childs adds scrapbook tips and recipes at the end of the book. The tips are handy if you are new to scrap-booking and the recipes (based upon meals in the book) all look delicious.

New York Times Best-Selling author Laura Childs writes several cozy mystery series, including this Scrapbook Mystery Series. Glitter Bomb is the 15th book in the series. It is the first one I’ve read, and it worked perfectly as a stand-alone mystery. But I am adding the rest of the Scrapbook Mystery Series books to my wish list for Christmas.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Hitting the Books – Perfect for Cozy Mystery Fans

Hitting the Books

By Jenn McKinlay

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Librarian Lindsey Norris is back for the ninth book in Jenn McKinlay’s Library Lover’s Mystery series. Lindsey is a full time librarian and a part-time amateur sleuth. Lucky for her, the small town she lives in has its full share of nosy-rosies that feed her obsession with solving crimes. The only person it town that does not support her sleuthing is her friend Emma Plewicki, the chief of police.

Emma does not encourage Lindsey’s need to poke her nose in police business, but seems to tolerate it. As the top cop, Emma appreciates the help Lindsey gives her when solving cases. Of course the librarian is instrumental in finding crucial information to help solve the mysteries in this tiny town.

To be honest she doesn’t seek out drama. As Hitting the Books begins, Lindsey is working at the library, minding her own business, when someone runs down a friend of hers right outside. The case takes a nastier turn when someone tries to suffocate the convalescing friend; Lindsey is determined to get to the bottom of the murder attempts.

Aside from the mysterious attacks on her friend, Lindsey has a full personal life. She has recently moved in with Captain Mike Sullivan. Sully as he is called is an ex-Navy man, who loves her, but does not especially like the danger she flirts with while poking around in attempted murders. Lucky for Lindsey, he is supportive of all her endeavors and seems to always be in the right place and the right time to keep her safe.

It may sound like Lindsey is so busy solving crimes that she doesn’t spend any time in the library. That is far from true. She is busy managing the quirky characters that work for her. I would love to visit their library. They have a group that meets for “Crafternoons”. Think a book club on steroids.

The Crafternooners discuss a book they’ve all read, enjoy a delicious lunch and create a craft. I love the bond that is created in these gatherings. The characters share their lives and loves, worries and concerns all the while supporting each other. It is a great way for the reader to learn about the personalities and quirks of the characters.

enn McKinlay has written several different books in addition to the Library Lover’s Mysteries. This is the first book I have read by this author. Even though it was the ninth in the series, I did not feel lost or confused. If you are a fan of cozy mysteries, I highly recommend Hitting the Books, as well as checking out McKinlay’s other books. There is nothing more fun than finding a new author with a long list of interesting books to enjoy.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Buried in Books – 12th Bibliophile Mystery Must Read for Cozy Lovers

Buried in Books

By Kate Carlisle

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Penguin First to Read in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Rare book restoration expert Brooklyn Wainwright has it all together. She is a renowned bookbinder/restorer and has a wonderful fiancé, security expert Derek Stone, whom she is set to marry in a few days. She is so confident that all of the wedding plans are on track, she agrees to not only attend the annual book conference, but will be teaching a group how to create a book as well as give a tour of literary highlights for charity.

Things start to go a bit strange when she realizes some of the booklovers that have signed up for her class and tour are dying to hear about the dead bodies she has stumbled upon in the past. They seem to be encouraged by comments made by her well-meaning mother and future mother-in-law. Brooklyn loves these two ladies, and tries to discourage the conversation, but her attempts to bring things back to books seem futile with this group.

The two moms have another surprise up their sleeves. Brooklyn is shanghaied into attending a surprise wedding shower. But the bigger surprise is seeing her two former best friends Sara and Heather. The trio split company after Sara stole Heather’s boyfriend. The feud has not ended, but both are somehow there in the same room. And both brought beautiful copies of rare books for gifts. But one of the books could be a fake and one of the women will not survive the night.

Brooklyn didn’t plan to solve a murder hours before her wedding, but she cannot ignore the fact that one of her besties from college is dead and the clue to finding out who did it may be in her possession.

This cozy mystery brings the best of the genre to light. Engaging characters, a quirky murder and a solid plot that teaches the reader a thing or two about book restoration are all wrapped up in a page-turning story. It was fun and had a nice twist at the end. Every element of this book works so well together it is not surprising that readers love this series.

Buried in Books is the twelfth Bibliophile Mystery written by award winning author Kate Carlisle. She is a NY Times best-selling author for good reason. In addition to this book series, she is the author of the Fixer Upper Mystery Series also. The latter series has moved to television and is now part of the Hallmark Mysteries Movies.

This is the first book I have read by Carlisle, but it works well as a stand-alone. I was not confused or lost at any point. I will go back and check out more of her books because her writing style is easy and informative, not to mention fun to read.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

 

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Book Review: Death al Fresco – Delicious Cozy Culinary Mystery

Death al Fresco

By Leslie Karst

Sally Solari is back in the third cozy mystery written by Leslie Karst. Death al Fresco finds her torn between helping out her father and the police. She is happy distancing herself from her father’s restaurant to focus more on her own restaurant, which is doing quite well. But things could be taking a bad turn. Her chef is itching to begin a new phase of his culinary career just as her father is hosting a huge party and desperately needs her help to pull it off.

As if that were not enough stress, Sally’s dog finds the body of a local fisherman on the beach. It doesn’t look accidental and her father may be the prime suspect! Against her better judgement, Sally realizes she has to investigate the murder in order to save her father’s restaurant and more importantly, keep him out of jail.

While looking for the killer, Sally has to fit in trying to manage her restaurant, dealing with protesters at her father’s restaurant – who knew Columbus Day would become such a political nightmare and trying to relax a bit by taking a painting class with her ex. She is as busy as her readers, which makes her character come to life. Honestly, who can’t identify with the juggling most women do today to keep things on an even keel?

Karst writes the perfect cozy mystery. She begins with a delicious storyline, mixes in a bit of murder, sweetens it up with a pinch of romance and then bakes it to perfection when the plot heats up. This is the second book in her series I have read. It works well as a stand-alone novel, but you might want to start with the earlier book(s) because I am sure you will be hooked and want to read the whole series.

The added bonus to this series is the recipes at the end of the book. The Spinach Salad with Orange, Fennel and Black Olives sounds delicious. Since you can make the dressing a day ahead, it would be perfect for company. You will wow your guests and maybe loan them Death al Fresco so they can fall in love with the series too.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review. Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Claws for Concern – Cute Cat Cozy Mystery

Claws for Concern  (Cat in the Stacks #9)

By Miranda James

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Penguin First to Read in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Retiree and amateur gumshoe Charlie Harris and his famous Maine Coon cat Diesel are back in the ninth episode of their adventures. Harris is minding his own business as a volunteer at the library when he notices a stranger. It is not unusual for people to seek shelter from the heat in the public library, but this fellow seems different.

As it turns out he is a distant relative of Harris with a shady past. Why has he felt the need to make contact now? Harris feels a tenuous connection as well as an obligation to help the stranger. But the more he finds out about him, the more uneasy Harris becomes.

Coincidently, an author of true crime books contacts Harris requesting to write about some of the crimes he has helped solve in the past. Reluctant at first, he is unsure about returning the author’s calls. Eventually, his curiosity gets the better of him, so he agrees as long as the author gives credit to the police department as the real heros. This arrangement with the author pulls Harris into a new investigation of an old crime that may have a big connection to the newly found relative.

James’ characters are delightful. How could you not love a Maine Coon cat that is as big as a bobcat and a perfect judge of character? It amuses me that Harris has to find a cat sitter because Diesel did not like to be home alone. The entire Harris family weaves in and out of the story adding depth, emotion and humor. I can’t wait to see how little Charlie grows in the next book. Harris’ friends and love interest pop on and off of the pages as well as his delightful house keeper Azalea.

The plot is interesting and holds a few surprises, ticking all the boxes of a great cozy mystery, Claw for Concern has a super supporting cast as well as interesting main characters. This is the first book I have read in the series, even though it is the ninth in the series. I was not confused or lost at any point during the tale as it works well as a stand-alone cozy mystery.

Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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Book Review: Murder in the Manuscript Room – Delightfully Twisting Tale

Murder in the Manuscript Room

By Con Lehane

Raymond Ambler doesn’t want to be involved with murder. He is a librarian, not a cop. But when it hits close to home, he is not only upset, he is driven to help his buddy NYPD Detective Mike Cosgrove work the case. Cosgrove doesn’t always welcome Ambler’s assistance, but the homicide detective realizes quickly that Ambler is invaluable to the investigation since the body was found in his library and he knows all of the suspects.

Unfortunately, Cosgrove and other police officials don’t always listen to or appreciate Ambler’s take on the case. Knowing he is just an amateur detective, most of the time Ambler is good with that, but when it gets too close, he has no choice. What Ambler doesn’t bargain for is his personal, professional and amateur sleuthing worlds colliding with such force. Threats are being made and chances are being taken that only police professionals should be involved in, not librarians. Should Ambler back off or is it too late?

Lehane’s story could be ripped from today’s headlines. One of the suspects is under scrutiny because he is Islamic. It doesn’t matter that he is a scholar; the authorities are suspicious of him and possibly rightly so. The resulting fallout could seriously affect the relationship Ambler has with his friend Adele Morgan. She sympathizes with the suspect, maybe a bit too much and Ambler is a little jealous of the two of them.

I love the writing style as well as the characters. The story is an intricate web but never confusing. It took me less than 48 hours to finish it because I absolutely had to know what was going to happen next. Don’t confuse easy reading with simplicity. Lehane knows how to draw his reader in and keep them wanting more throughout the entire book.

Murder in the Manuscript Room ticks all the boxes for a cozy mystery. Raymond is the curious librarian that helps solve murders that he quite accidentally encounters. But it is much meatier than most cozies. It is like comparing a 99 cent burger from a nationwide chain to a specialty burger bar that has fresh beef, caramelized onions, homemade sauces and artisanal cheeses. They are both burgers, but occasionally you really love to be treated to the surprise of flavors you enjoy with that specialty – in this case Lahane’s fabulous book.

I am delighted that this is a series. This is the first I have read, but it was not confusing in the least and easily works as a stand-alone novel. That being said, I am going to put the first in the 42nd Street Library mystery series Murder at the 42nd Street Library, on my list to read. Outside of the series, Lahane has published three other mysteries.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review. Copyright © 2018 Laura Hartman

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