Several Cozies

The last few days have been busy.  It is that time of year, getting the classroom ready for back to school.  Anyway I have been reading through my bouts of insomnia but not really writing reviews, so now I will try to play catch up with some brief reviews.

Lynn Cahoon’s books Guidebook to Murder and Mission to Murder were purchased on my Kindle.  The first one, Guidebook, was discounted and I liked it so much that i purchased the second one and read it straight away.  This series has a tried and true cozy theme, a coffee and book shop, but it does not feel tired in this rendition.  Lovely California setting, a place I am not familiar with and I don’t think I have read too many cozies set there.  Interesting characters especially as the series progresses in book 2 and her Aunt becomes more important   Nice romantic element that is developing from book 1 to book 2.  I enjoyed these two books and look forward to reading more in the series.

Evil Eclairs is the fourth in the Donut Shop Mystery series that I am thoroughly enjoying despite myself.  I am one of the terrible people donut shop owner Suzanne Hart would not want to deal with in that I really don’t like donuts.  It says a lot about the quality of the series that I can enjoy it even with a theme that does not appeal to me at all.  The characters of Suzanne, Grace and George are fun to read about and make a great crime solving team.  The addition of George as a sidekick is one  of the aspects of this series that I really like.  In this outing, Suzanne’s livelihood is threatened by an obnoxious shock jock type of DJ, who ends up dead right after an argument with her.  Suzanne wants to solve the murder to protect her business and her reputation .  Well written, fun to read cozy mystery.

A Novel Way to Die by Ali Brandon is the second in the A Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series.  The black cat is Hamlet, the bookshops mascot and arbiter of employees. Another bookshop cozy, yes I know, but this is a well written series with great characters, reminiscent for me of the early Dido Hoare series, which seems to have dropped off the face of the earth.  We have a new addition to the cast, he made a tiny appearance in the first book but features much more prominently here and seems to be set to be a recurring character.  James as the retired professor turned bookseller is excellent and Darla is an interesting sleuth with ideas of her own, although she does tend to jump to conclusions.   The mystery is well done, but i suspected who did it early on.  This didn’t stop me from enjoying the story as it was told.  There is a twist very near the end that I didn’t see coming and I am still not sure how I felt about it.  It seemed a little jarring, but maybe that was just me.  Delightful feline and book cozy mystery.

Some like it Hot-Buttered by Jeffrey Cohen was a total impulse buy.  I was at my local bookshop and a friend was turning in her books so I sorted through and grabbed a couple, including this one.  If I had take more time, I probably would not have bought it.  The book centers around a divorced man, who purchased an old theater and is using it to exclusively show comedies in pairs, a classic with a current.  Needless to say this is not a huge money making operation.  A patron dies, an employee is suspected and the mystery takes off.   It was just not my type of humor, the main character Elliot is the king of the one-liner and often lets loose with them, if not out loud, then in his thoughts.  I just didn’t find it all that funny.  To be fair, I’m not really a reader or watcher of much comedy, so this is probably just be my lack of appreciation.

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Four Cozies from My Trip

I dropped my daughter off at college in Hattiesburg, MS and through the traveling and nights in hotels I managed to finish quite a few cozies, including these:

Murder in the Mystery Suite is written by Ellery Adams, who also writes the Books by Bay Mysteries.  This was a interesting twist on a cozy mystery and I don’t really know how much to say without giving away anything.  Well developed protagonist, fun concept, a book reading retreat, and well written just as the other books by this author.   If you have ever seen and enjoyed the movie The Librarian:  Quest for the Spear,  there is element here like that.   I will be interested to see how far this veers from cozy mystery and into action adventure.

Well Read, Then Dead by Terrie Farley Moran is another series set in Florida with all the colorful Keys type characters that go with that trope.  The protagonist(s) own a bookstore cafe and become embroiled in a murder when one of their regulars dies under suspicious circumstances.  Secrets are revealed about the victim and the other characters.  I enjoyed reading this and look forward to seeing more in this series.

Murder with Ganache by Lucy Burdette is a Key West Food Critic Mystery.  I do really like the series with the protagonist being a food critic and living in Key West.  The Key West setting is well done and quite interesting.  Lots of drama occurring surrounding an on again- off again wedding, as well as the murder and thefts.  I enjoy this series and will certain continue to read it.  Any fans of series set in Florida will appreciate it.

A Cookie Before Dying by Virginia Lowell is A Cookie Cutter Shop Mystery.  The main characters are interesting, the book is well written and the plot is engaging enough to encourage readers to suspend their disbelief that anyone could make a living just selling cookie cutters. This was made a little more believable by an inheritance which will help support the protagonist.  Charming setting and plenty of twists and turns, I certainly was fooled at points in the mystery.  I am enjoying this take on a culinary cozy mystery.  Well done, fun read.

 

 

 

Current Cozy Mystery Reads

In the last couple days I have read the above 4 cozies.  I enjoyed Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter by Blaize Clement a great deal, perhaps in part because the author took some risks and broke some of the cozy rules so the book has a different feel to it than a standard cozy.  Dixie Hemingway, pet sitter and retired deputy, becomes embroiled in a mystery by finding victim(s) throughout the book as part of her pet sitting duties.  As readers, we get a lot of insight into why Dixie acts the way she does and what she is thinking.  Dixie is a  fully developed character and the dynamic between her and the detective investigating the murders is well done.  The character of Marilee is also particularly good, as a character she is not all good or all bad but rather a realistic mix, who can engender sympathy one minute and anger another.  I am really enjoying this series, even with reading it out of order.  Well done, believable characters and realistic motives, intriguing mystery plot and little more like “soft boiled” than cozy. Highly recommended.

Buttercream Bump Off is the 2nd book in the cupcake bakery mystery by Jenn McKinlay.  The partners in the Fairy Tale Cupcake Bakery business find themselves immersed in another murder, at the same time as the development of some tension among them.  There are many suspects and an additional sidekick  in the form of Marty, a hanger on at the cupcake store.  Romantic tension is ratcheted up for more than one character in the book so it will be interesting to see how that develops in the ongoing series.   Very enjoyable read in a fun series.  

Last Licks by Claire Donally is the third book in the Sunny and Shadow Mystery series.  This particular outing in the series had a really interesting Shadow part of the story, in fact I would say it overshadowed the rest of the book.  In this book, Sunny’s boss Oliver is injured and ends up in a rehab facility where a murder or at least suspected murder occurs.  Sunny investigates with the help of Will and seems to more or less stumble upon the culprit after uncovering other mysteries.  I did enjoy it and would continue with the series, I just found books one and two stronger.  

A Tale of Two Biddies by Kylie Logan picks up where book one left off. It is summer and the island is having a Bastille Day celebration in aid of tourism.  The literary ladies are drawn into the murder of a local with a habit of messing up badly and angering lots of people.  This leads to a plethora of suspects for the murder and the literary ladies follow the leads and search the island for clues.  The book makes lots of references to The Tale of Two Cities and the mistaken identity plot twist and that is well done and adds to the mystery plot.  The resolution was very clever and I didn’t guess it at all. Fun series and I look forward to reading more in it.

 

 

 

Progressive Lenses – A Rant

glasses  Be prepared, this is a rant I just need to get off my chest.  I had my biannual eye exam and due to having  a hard time reading and being tired of whipping readers on and off my face at work all the time, I decided to get glasses.  The eye doctor said, “So you’ll need progressives, then.”  Note:  I don’t need glasses for distance at all, I’m farsighted.  But what do I know? I’ve never had prescription lenses before so away I go.

I tried on lots of frames and fell in mostly like with the ones above and bought them to have my brand spanking new progressive lenses put into them.  When I get the glasses, first thing I’m told is not to wear them driving….ok,  this is a problem because one of my issue areas is driving someplace and having to look at directions…need glasses to see the directions, but not to drive.  Thought these would eliminate the whole “driving with readers on the end of my nose so I can look at the directions again at traffic lights, but still see to drive.”  But ok moving on..

So, I take the glasses and leave, about $300 poorer.  Get home and start trying to wear them…no freaking peripheral vision at all…like being in a tunnel.  Giving them the benefit of the doubt, maybe I just have to get used to them, I try to keep wearing them.  Head rushes when I move my eyes, hmmmm.   Then I try to read…yeah that didn’t work well either.  I read very quickly and I was always reading into a blurry zone.  If I read the first word in a line the last word is blurry.  ARGHHHHHH!

So, then I get the bright idea that maybe the reader part of the lens isn’t strong enough and that is why everything is blurry.  Call up the eye doctor and get an appointment to have them looked at again.  Meanwhile, back to my cheapo readers.

Go back to eye doctor, he does all his hemming and hawing, trying to find a way that it is me that is the problem.  First, he says I am not wearing them close enough to my eyes and pushes them so far up my nose that my eyelashes are getting stuck on the glasses…no, I can’t really wear glasses that way and guess what I told the optician that when he did the order for the lenses and he marked out the levels for the long, mid and close prescriptions based on where I wear my glasses.

Then, he tried to act like I was trying to read through the wrong part of the lens.  He kept lifting them to sit up higher, “That is better now isn’t it…isn’t it…?”  “No, it is exactly the same, I know where to look through the lens for reading.”

Then he blames that I didn’t buy wire frames, “If you bought wire frames we could adjust the nose pieces and raise it up. We can’t do anything with plastic frames.”

“Didn’t we just go through the whole, they don’t need to be higher…oh, yeah that is right, we did.”  Blank stare

I explained the problems again..basically said that is the nature of progressives…After I explained that the reading was really an issue for me as it is a big part of my life…”Well, if you are going to read 800 pages of Game of Thrones a night, you will need to wear readers.  That is all there is to it.”

Wow.

So I try again…on to a different problem.  I’m a teacher, in an urban, low SES crime ridden area.  Peripheral vision is kind of important.  Kids have to get the impression that you have eyes in the back of your head. (in teacher’s college the technical term we were actual taught back in the dark ages was  “with-it-ness” and is a key component of successful classroom management)  I use my peripheral vision ALL THE F*CKING TIME.  Working with one kid at his desk, my eye is tracking Joe Cool on the other side of the room, who is trying to get his phone out to text under his desk.  Then I turn even more away from Joe Cool and calmly say out loud, “Joe Cool put your phone away unless you want to give it to me.” Joe Cool jumps, scrambles to put the phone away, staring at the back of my head, wondering how the f*ck I just did that.  Peripheral vision – vital.  Eye doctor’s response, “You have to get used to turning your head, not your eyes.”

OK, then.  Guess that just clears up everything, right?

Anyway, I left went home did some online research.  Found many others complaining of the same problems with progressives and from what research I did seems like I probably should have had bifocals instead with just the clear top and reader bottom.  This hindsight is not really helpful seeing I spent $300 on these glasses so I won’t be buying any new ones for a while.

Just a note to eye doctors and opticians:  Maybe ask about people’s life styles, what is important to them, when recommending corrections.

End rant.

 

 

Sinister Sprinkles by Jessica Beck

  This is the third in the Donut Shop Mystery series by Tim Myers writing as Jessica Beck.  Even though I am not a fan of donuts, I do like this series.  The main character Suzanne, her sidekicks Grace and George and the relationship with her mom are all well written and engaging.  The mystery this time involves secrets, mistaken identity, elder fraud,I  internet fraud, and of course murder.  I especially thought the internet fraud was timely, there was  a tragic case in the news locally of an older woman who committed suicide after losing all of her money to internet fraud.

The town is a nice place to visit through Jessica Beck’s writing.  The locals are recurring features and over the course of the series I am sure we will get to know them better.  This is a Christmas book that I read in August so it was a fun change of pace for that reason, I loved all the snow descriptions when it is hot and humid here.  Overall, a well done cozy mystery series that I will continue reading.

 

 

A Roux of Revenge, Written in Blood, & The Cornish Coast Mystery

My latest three reads are pictured above.  A Roux of Revenge is the third book in the “A Soup Lover’s Mystery” by Connie Archer.  Lucky is busy running her business, hosting a pumpkin carving contest, and attempting to sort out the family problems of young employee, Janie and her mother, Miriam.  In the midst of all this, a fair is being hosted in the town by a somewhat sleazy businessman, a murder occurs of  a mystery man, and details of an old unsolved robbery surface.  There is lots of action that certainly pushes the plot along in this outing of the series.  Lucky is a great character and the other recurring characters continue to be fleshed out as the series develops.

The mystery plot is interesting with a few red herrings to throw the reader off the trail.  There is also an interesting romantic subplot with Lucky that is explored more than it was in previous books.   I thoroughly enjoyed A Roux of Revenge and look forward to the next book in the series.

Written in the Blood by Caroline Graham is one of the books that the Midsomer Murders TV series is based on  with the wonderful Inspector Barnaby as the sleuth.   This was actually one of my favorite episodes of the TV show.  A writers group’s invitation to a well known author to speak leads to murder and old secrets springing forth.  The members of the writing group are an eclectic bunch from a woman writing her family history, to a college professor who does improvisational work and a kind of poetry, the professor’s wife with a children’s book about a dragon and others.  There are many secrets that come to light before the murderer is finally exposed.   A really well done English village mystery which includes a colorful cast of characters, a lovely setting, and an intelligent, admirable sleuth.

The Cornish Coast Mystery by John Bude is a British Library Crime Classic.  It is part of a series of crime novels from the British golden age of crime writing that are now being republished after almost disappearing from sight.  This was an engaging read right from the first chapter.  The Vicar earns not only the Inspector’s respect but the reader’s as well.  His methodical approach to solving the crime and following the clues shows intelligence and insight.  The interest in this book is in the details.  The details show the difference between reading a book that written in the past and reading a modern day historical  fiction.   The scene is established vividly through the details.  The red herrings are supported by evidence to lead the reader along enough to be convincing.

The author employs a technique that I know I have seen in current mystery novels and I am curious whether he was the first to try it.  I don’t want to say more because it is an integral part of the plot.  I am certain I will enjoy reading more work by John Bude and more of the British Crime Classics in general.

Fiction from #Deadly Ink

I attended the Deadly Ink conference this past weekend and the authors of these books were all there.  The Donna Andrews book I picked up ahead of time after hearing that she would be the Toastmaster of the event and realizing I had never read any of her books.  I purchased other books at the conference, which was excellent and very well ran.  I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to attend writing classes, listen to authors on panel discussions and just in general meet with authors in a more intimate setting.

The Cat Sitter’s Cradle is book 8 in the Dixie Hemingway series, a series began by Blaize Clement and continued by her son, John after her death.  I had read a book or two in the series a while ago, unfortunately I am not very good at keeping track of my series and was surprised to see how many books I had missed.  This happens to me all the time with lots of series.

Even though I read this one out of order, it did not impact my enjoyment of it.  The book opens with Dixie   stumbling across both a woman giving birth and a “dead” expensive exotic bird while walking her dog.  The book takes off from there and continues at a good pace.  On one of Dixie’s pet sitting jobs, a dead body appears and she finds herself right in the middle of the investigation, knowing both the victim and the suspects.

The mystery plot was well done and I was surprised at who the killer was revealed to be.  The characters are interesting and very natural feeling.  Dixie’s back story is tragic and probably a little darker than the average cozy, but makes her a more complex character.  Dixie’s brother and his partner are well done, in that they fit seamlessly into the story.  Lately, I have noticed that there seems to be a trend to have a gay character, just for the sake of having a gay character, not because they are a purposeful part of the story, that type of insertion feels to me more like a marketing ploy and turns me off.

Very good pacing throughout the story and the romantic subplot was charming.  The writing gave a well defined sense of place (or at least I think so having not spent much time in Florida).

Lovely, quick reading cozy mystery.  I bought a second one at the conference, The Cat Sitter’s Pajamas which I will read soon.

Murder with Peacocks was written by Donna Andrews, the Toastmaster of the convention.  This series is set in Yorktown, Virginia and I spent some time growing up in Norfolk, so I am somewhat familiar with Virginia.

Meg Langslow has returned home for the summer to be  the unpaid, unofficial wedding planner/wrangler/point person for not one, but 3 family members.  Lots of crazy characters and antics are involved here along with the murder of a particularly unpleasant guest. There is also a romantic interest, sort of anyway.  Let’s just say that there are obstacles in the way of the romance and leave it at that.

This is the first in the series and so I assume that that is why so little of the book is actually concerned with the mystery, rather it involves the antics of a wide ranging cast of characters.   I feel as though this book really was introducing the supporting characters, the setting and the sleuth.  Setting up for a very popular and long running series of cozy mysteries.  Definitely on the side of the humorous cozies, this series seems more for comedy than mystery.

Cinnamon Girl:  A Village Cooks Mystery by Valerie Horowitz is a culinary mystery with some interesting political connections.  The sleuth Bonnie Emerson, is a daughter of a former POTUS.  Now married, she has a son and a small cookbook and cooking supply store in a affluent New Jersey community.  A murder occurs and through several events it becomes evident that the murderer thinks that Bonnie knows who he is.  The Secret Service is called in and the investigation continues through a large cast of characters, interesting cookbook references, and another death.

I live in New Jersey and so the setting is very familiar to me and seemed accurate. There is a large cast of characters and the author provides a list in the front of the book to keep them straight. This is the author’s first in a series of Village Cooks Mysteries.