Astrid and Veronika by Linda Olsson

181086 I had mixed feelings about reading this as I felt the trope is somewhat overdone, the whole “older damaged woman and younger damaged woman find each other and together they heal” has been seen in many novels and films and I wasn’t sure if I was interested in seeing it again.  I am really interested in books set in Sweden though and it is relatively short so I put aside my misgivings and gave it a try.

Astrid is the older  character here, living alone on her family farm, the villagers basically ignoring her in her old age, other than to refer to her as a witch.  Veronika is the younger woman, returning to Sweden after a life spent traveling abroad first with her father a diplomat and then as a young woman.  The women bond over their isolation and slowly over the course of the book, in alternating chapters they reveal the secrets and tragedies of their lives.

The writing is well done, the women’s stories are interesting and engaging, although I will say I think Astrid’s is much more compelling than Veronika’s.  There are some interesting parallels set up, both are abandoned by their mothers, and some contrasts for instance, one has a good father and one does not.   I just feel that the “sisterhood of damaged women” is an overdone trope and that there could have been a more interesting story here.

The Madness of Mercury by Connie di Marco

28146828  The Madness of Mercury is the first in the A Zodiac Mystery series by Connie di Marco, who also writes the Soup Lovers Mysteries as Connie Archer.  This series is set in San Francisco, with the protagonist, Julia Bonatti, being an astrologer, who is targeted by a religious cult leader at the same time she is being asked for help by an elderly client in fear of her caretaker.

The plot unfolds as Julia deals with the cult disrupting  her life and business and the businesses of other occult shop owners and  business people in the community.  Julia is also trying to ease the mind of Evandra, who feels she is in danger due to the terms of a trust and will.  Julia uses her star charts and investigative skills to follow up on all the threats and uncover what is really happening.  Who is the charismatic cult leader and what does he really want?  Is Evandra really in danger?  If so, from who?  Should Dorothy let Richard back in her life?

Great start to a cozy series!  I look forward to reading the next one.  Just one note, it would be helpful to have an appendix explaining the horoscope system and terms.

The Joys of Excess by Samuel Pepys

11890801This is another volume from the Penguin Books Great Foods Series.  Samuel Pepys was a noted diarist, an adminstrator for the Royal Navy, and a member of Parliment who lived from 1633 -1703.  This book is a compilation of diary entries primarily focused on food and as such can be rather choppy to read.  It is a celebration of Samuel Pepys’ love of food and indulgence, actually overindulgence and celebration of food to the point of gluttony.  The sheer quantity of food and drink that he regularly cataloged in his diary is overwhelming, often eating to the point of vomiting and illness the next day.  Even horrible historic events don’t seem to put him off his appetites.  In one entry, he mentions going to see a man being drawn and quartered and stopping off at the tavern to have oysters.  Other entries casually mention the plague killing hundreds, midst discussions of his meals.

Some interesting facts that popped up.  He discusses being introduced to a new drink from China, tea in 1660.  I didn’t know that was when tea was brought over from China.  In another entry, he states that he saw his first women acting on a stage in 1661. He was also not shy about discussing his extramarital affairs or the embarrassments of his guests.  He even discusses his home renovation projects.  It is an interesting look into the life of a man, who happened to be a “foodie” before the word was coined.  I do think the book would have benefited from the addition of a time line for those of us who have been out of school for many years and don’t remember all the historically significant events for the years of the diary.

 

A Dissertation Upon Roast Pig and Other Essays by Charles Lamb

11285726This is a book I received as part of the Penguin Books Great Food Series.  It is a collection of essays on a varied selection of topics ranging from the history of roasting suckling pig to Alcoholism and Gluttony.  I personally enjoyed the lighter topics included in the collection.

One essay was written about The New Year’s Coming of Age told as though each of the special days/holidays was a character, ” …The last of Lent was spunging upon Shrovetide’s pancakes…”  The humor was well done and the references to the nature of the days was still applicable today.  Another of the essays I thought was well done was titled, The Peach.  It was brief tale about resisting temptation and how torturous it can be, particularly in the time this essay was written, circa 1800.  The divide between the haves and have-nots was insurmountable and to be placed in the situation of the narrator, having access to seemingly unlimited wealth, but none of his own was making his life  a misery.

This was not my favorite in the series, but it was still an interesting addition to the Great Food Books.

A Whisker of Trouble by Sofie Ryan

25489471  A Whisker of Trouble is book 3 in the A Second Chance cat Mystery series, so named because the protagonist, Sarah Grayson is the proprietor of a second-hand shop called Second Chance.  Sarah has a black cat named Elvis who is preternaturally intelligent and helps her in her investigation along with “Charlotte’s Angels”.

Sarah is hired to clean out a home of someone who has recently died and discovers a dead body on the premises.  The family wants her and the PI team of Charlotte’s Angels to help solve the case.  The investigation uncovers a counterfeit wine scam, elder fraud, and other misdoings in the second-hand/trading community.  But is it enough motive to kill for?  Sarah, Elvis, and her team follow-up on the leads, trying both to stop a killer and to save other seniors from being defrauded.

A fast paced cozy with a very current theme and fun, engaging  characters to make an interesting read.

 

Fillet of Murder by Linda Reilly

23281653  This is a new author and a new series for me, A Deep Fried Mystery.  Talia Marby has returned home to nurse her broken heart and to look for a new job after leaving one that made her miserable.  In the meantime, she is working at the fish and chip shop she worked at in high school and living in her Nana’s bungalow while trying to sell it.

The fish and chip shop is part of a strip of shops, which like most small independent businesses straddle the line of financial solvency .  The possible opening of new shop in their midst has the shop owners in a tizzy with battle lines drawn resulting in the death of one of them.  Talia finds herself drawn into the investigation in an attempt to clear her friend’s name.

Talia’s back story is well done here and interesting.  The setting of the fish and chip shop is fun and engaging.  The whole cast of background and what I assume will be recurring characters are interesting and colorful adding depth to the story.  The mystery has several suspects and red herrings to keep the reader guessing. Talia as a sleuth is relatable and  intelligent.  Fillet of Murder is a really good first in a cozy mystery series.

No Farm, No Foul & Cheddar Off Dead

Two more new-to-me cozy mystery series, No Farm, No Foul from A Farmer’s Daughter Series by Peg Cochran and Cheddar Off Dead from An Undercover Dish Mystery by Julia Buckley.

Peg Cochran’s series concerns a widow, who runs an organic farm and writes a cooking/lifestyle blog whilst raising her children and being heavily involved in her local church in the small town of Lovett.  In this, the first in the series, a church  event is held on her property and is going well until one of the congregation ends up dead with an unexpected amount of cash on her person. Shelby investigates the murder, in between farming, cooking, blogging and dealing with the drama of raising children, especially one that is a teen.  There are hints of possible future romantic interests and plenty of interesting characters for recurring roles.  A fine start to a new series, particularly for fans of cozies with more of a church based focus.

Cheddar Off Dead runs in the opposite direction with more of city/contemporary feel.  Lilah is a chef with an interesting side gig as an undercover chef.  She will deliver the goods secretly and her clients can pretend to have made them themselves.  In this book, Lilah is present at the murder of Santa Claus, well not really Santa, but an actor set to perform in a Santa costume.  The killer sees her and Lilah is pulled into the investigation, pretty much against her will.  There is a Christmas theme, a loving family, a big dog side kick, a possible love interest, a victim with some enemies, and mobsters.  All these together make for a fun, quick, holiday cozy read.