The Trouble with Witches & Murder, Lies and Chocolate

hot chocolate witches



Murder, Lies and Hot Chocolate was free Kindle read.  The supporting characters are some of the best parts of the book, her neighbor and employee.  They add most of interest to the story. The mystery was okay and was actually more about a “treasure hunt” than the murders.   This read more like a chick lit to me than a “cozy”, lots of girly-type bonding over chocolate, a no-good cheating ex, a battered wife friend, etc. I did not read Book 1, so perhaps I would have enjoyed this more if I had.  As it stands, I would just rate it as an okay mystery.

The Trouble With Witches is book 3 in a series that I have been reading.  The protagonist, Ophelia, is becoming more and more comfortable with her gifts and in this book the magic takes more of center stage. Ophelia and Abby leave home in this book to explore a “cult” that is implicated in a young woman’s disappearance.  The disappearance of Brandi, a murder, and some older crimes are all bound together and resolve neatly in the end. The “cult” has connections to magic and psychic research.  Out of the three that I have read in the series so far, I still find the first one my favorite.  I will continue to read the series to see what happens in Ophelia and Abby’s lives.

The Evil Beneath by AJ Waines & Charmed to Death by Shirley Damsgaard

I read both of these last night from my Kindle.

The Evil Beneath is a book club choice this month for the Kindle English Mystery Club at Goodreads.  Well done mystery plot with an interesting protagonist,  Juliet Grey, a therapist who becomes embroiled in a series of murders.  A small hint of romance is included in the plot, but nothing distracting.

The mystery plot had many twists and turns and false leads.  Juliet’s past is threaded throughout and an old mystery is solved along with the new.  I figured out one part of the reveal, but not the whole thing and I was way off base with another part so the red herrings certainly did their job, at least for me.

I enjoy mysteries with interesting settings or places I have been, so London and the Thames and the various bridges made this a good read for me.  The setting is an integral part of the mystery and I did like that about this book. Relatively quick, enjoyable mystery but hard to classify it exactly, perhaps soft boiled, although there is quite a bit of police involvement and procedure.

I would read another from this author given the opportunity.

Charmed to Death is the second book in a cozy mystery series.  I found the 1st, 3rd & 4th books at my local indie book shop, but couldn’t get a hold of the second, so I ordered it on my Kindle….must read in order syndrome.  I am not a big reader of paranormal cozies..but I seem to keep saying that lately so maybe I am reading more of them than I think.  Anyway, I enjoy this one and will continue reading it.  I like the combination of realistic and paranormal elements.  The characters Ophelia and Abby are charming and the cast of characters adds plenty of local color.

The mystery was interesting and well paced.  Ophelia is growing as a character, in her relationships and in her craft. I am interested to see where this series will go in the subsequent books.


Readers’ Workouts

  This is a meme hosted by Joy’s Book Blog found here.

Had a minor setback in the form of some bursitis in my hip that flared up.  It really was okay with walking, but it stopped me from doing yoga last week and this weekend.  Now we have a ton of snow, so I am not sure how much exercising I will get done, other than snow shoveling.

Hopefully by Thursday the snow will be gone (or at least done) then I can get back outside to the track. Failing that it will have to be the treadmill at the gym.  Also, planning on getting back to yoga this week.

Still loving my fitbit!  I am really surprised I haven’t lost it or washed it yet :).  I am going to make an effort to do more with the food logs this week, so I can track calories in vs. expended.

Hope everyone else is doing well and keeping moving!

PS  I am thinking about a new tattoo – a quote from Rachel Joyce:

“If I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, it stands to reason that I’m going to get there. I’ve begun to think we sit far more than we’re supposed to.” He smiled. “Why else would we have feet?”

We have been having big tattoo discussions in my house this week…both my daughters want another tattoo.

Larceny and Lace by Annette Blair

This is the second book in the “A Vintage Magic Mystery” series.  I liked the first one, A Veiled Deception enough to pick this one up to read.  I have mixed feelings about this cozy.  When it comes to cozies you expect to suspend your disbelief and when it comes to paranormal cozies, doubly so.  There are just some places that the character’s reactions veer off into the ridiculous.

There is plenty to like in Larceny and Lace.  I love the theme, vintage clothing and the covers of this series are beautiful.  I like the relationships between the main characters, Madeira & Eve, Madeira & Dante, Professor Dad & Aunt Fiona, and Madeira & “Weiner”.  The setting  and the idea of a  shop in a former funeral home and the discussion of the features of the building is all fun and interesting.  Sort of a re-purposed building vibe, like those shows where people make homes from old churches, schools, cargo containers or airplanes, etc. The mystery plot itself is good, too.

On the flip side, too many unnecessary characters flitting about the story, this seemed to slow the book down and cause me confusion at times, which leads into another issue.  The writing felt really scattered for some reason, disorganized almost.  Usually cozies are light, quick reads but here I sometimes felt lost.  Finally…the puns, really unrealistic punny dialogue that went along with some unrealistic behavior.

I am undecided over whether to try another book in this series.

Lost and Fondue by Avery Aames


This is the second book in the “A Cheese Shop Mystery” series by Avery Aames.  I finally got to it in my TBR pile.

Fun cozy mystery, but not as quick a read for me as the first.  I think there were so many characters and location changes (a closed winery, an inn, the shop, etc.) that I had to read more carefully. Many new characters and recurring ones from the first book round out a robust cast.

The mystery was well done and I really had no idea “whodunnit” until Charlotte, the protagonist, did.  Charlotte is a good cozy mystery sleuth, in that she actually investigates the mystery.  I prefer that to sleuths who just seem to stumble on the resolution.  I enjoyed all the cheese information (I love cheese and food themed cozies so this is a great combination for me).  This outing was very romance light, almost a passing note, which was fine with me because there was so much else going on in the story.

All in all, a good cozy mystery with a bit more reading “meat” in it than the average cozy.  The first one in this series, The Long Quiche Goodbye,  is still my favorite so far, but I intend to read the next one, Clobbered by Camembert, soon.

Bran New Death & Peach Pies and Alibis

 A new series from Victoria Hamilton, who also writes the Vintage Kitchen Mystery Series, which I love.  Bran New Death does not disappoint!  From the setting, upstate small town in upstate New York to the protagonist Merry and her friend sidekick Shilo, everything is well crafted and written.  The mystery has all the twists and turns and reveals of family secrets that you want in a cozy mystery.

The basis for this book and indeed the series is that Merry has inherited this castle in the small town of Autumn Vale from a basically unknown family members.  She is a widow and pretty much alone in the world.  She moves into the castle with the expressed purpose of getting it ready for sale, but you definitely get the impression that she is there to stay.

The town has it share of quirky or eccentric characters, but they don’t overwhelm the plot.  The theme, muffin baking, is also kept low key.

Another highly recommended cozy mystery from Victoria Hamilton!


Next up, Peach Pies and Alibis by Ellery Adams.  I enjoyed the first book in this series, Pies and Prejudice.  These books are well written, the story line is well crafted and the characters are engaging.  The book definitely lives up to the series name – charming.  I would  call this second book in the series much more a paranormal than a mystery.  In the first book, the paranormal element was a light feature of the story but in this book it definitely takes center stage.

Fans of Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire series will probably enjoy this as a lighter version- no vampires or werewolves in sight yet, but an assortment of other “fey folk” and much magical action incorporated with realistic features.  Think fairies that pack guns!

Fans of paranormals will definitely enjoy this!

Murder on the Rocks, Staged to Death, & Dipped, Stripped & Dead

staged on the rocks dipped

Three quick cozies that I finished.  The first, Murder on the Rocks, is the second book I’ve read with that title.  In this case, the rocks are actual rocks on the Maine coast line, while in the other one, it was ice in a drink. This was a book I read for the Cozy Mystery Corner on Goodreads.

It was an “okay” mystery.  The plot, setting, theme and the characters were fine, but for some reason it didn’t really grab me.  I can’t  put my finger on why.  There was nothing wrong with it, I just didn’t connect with the characters or get involved with the story.

Staged to Death was the second mystery.  Again, this one was just okay.  I will say that the writing style didn’t work for me.  Over use of adjectives, just wore me down.  Sample:

After checking Dylan’s progress, Caprice went to the coffeemaker and pulled out a lime-green, yellow-flowered canister. She and Bella both enjoyed flavored coffees….Caprice’s buttercup-colored 1950s vintage style stove that matched her retro refrigerator…


After she set the royal blue dish with a spoonful of cream in its center on the floor, Caprice arranged the turquoise, yellow, and lime-green mugs on a tray with a crystal creamer and sugar bowl. She poured cinnamon-hazelnut coffee into the mugs, and then carried the antique tray with its picture of pink peonies under the glass into the living room.

This was a long book for a cozy, most seem to run around 270 pages, and this one comes in at 374, mostly adjectives or descriptors.

I saved the best for last.  Dipped, Stripped, and Dead, A Daring Finds Mystery was my favorite of the three.  I liked the protagonist Dyce, a divorced single mom, and her sidekick, Ben. The mystery was well plotted.   There were some interesting and humorous characters to add color to the story, a cross-dressing ex-Marine furniture maker for one and Dyce’s parents and son for others.  The romantic interest in the form of Cas was intriguing and I’m sure the romance will be developed more in later books. The dual nature of the mystery was well done, but I won’t say more than that.  This is a series that I will continue to follow.


Reader’s Workouts

  This is a meme hosted by Joy’s Book Blog found here.  

I received a Fitbit One for Christmas from my daughter and I have to say that it really is a great tool as far as awareness goes.  I haven’t really gotten into inputting food or activities into it, but just the fact that I can see in general how active or inactive I have been at at a moment’s notice is great.  After all:



My current goals are 10,000 steps per day and 30 minutes of high level activity.  We had a  couple really cold, icy days that I didn’t meet my goal, but I am getting there now.  I am looking forward to upping my activity levels with this tool. 

This works for me because if I don’t feel like making it to the track or gym, I look on the display and see that I am nowhere near my goal and it pushes me to go.

Currently, I am trying for 30 minutes of jogging 5 days per week and 1 hour of yoga 4 days per week. I found a great local studio that I am enjoying right now.   I prefer running outside but I am using an elliptical when the weather doesn’t cooperate.    

I am interested in hearing about other reader’s workouts.


Mind Over Murder by Allison Kingsley

 I just bought this yesterday but it had been on my TBR list for a while.  I loved it!  I liked the little hint of paranormal, not too cutesy or over-the-top, just enough to add a twist to the story.  The character Clara with her unwanted “gift” is an interesting and likable character.  The story has enough of a cast of characters without becoming overwhelming or a distraction.  Even the “villain” is given a human face, which is different from many mysteries.   Also, I always enjoy a book shop theme in a cozy.  A good read for cozy mystery fans, I will definitely get the next ones in this series.

The Lewis Man & Death in Four Courses

four courses lewis man I read a couple very different mysteries last night.  The first was Death in Four Courses by Lucy Burdette, the second in the Key West Food Critic series.  In this book Hayley is covering a foodie conference with her mother along for the ride.  Hayley’s mother is a great addition to the cast and Gloria becomes slightly more prominent as well.  The keynote speaker is murdered and Hayley’s friend is accused and this kicks off the sleuthing.  This was a good cozy mystery.  I didn’t like it as much as the first in the series, but it was still a fun, quick read.

The Lewis Man by Peter May is book 2 in the Lewis Trilogy.  Fin is such a sympathetic and even noble character and he pulls you into the story.  This is an emotional and suspenseful read as Fin explores Marsaili’s family background in the wake of a body that has been discovered in the peat. At the same time Fin’s son is dealing with his own issues with Donna and his daughter.  The overarching theme in both the books I’ve read so far is memory.  In this book, personified by Tormod MacDonald, Marsaili’s father and dementia sufferer.  The search for the truth and the consequences are what drives the plot.  Excellent read.  I can’t wait to read the next book, The Chessmen.