A Love to Die For by Christine T. Jorgensen

 Picked up this cozy mystery, first published back in 1997.  It was interesting to me that there were so few reviews for it on Goodreads, only 18.  Seems to be a series that has been passed over.  There are five books total in the series.

This first book sets up the premise for the rest of the series.  Jane Smith is an accountant, who appears to have some sort of midlife crisis. She quits her steady, stable career, dumps her boyfriend and gets a job as a newspaper horoscope/advice columnist, reinventing herself as Stella the Stargazer.  There is a paranormal element here, she has some psychic type abilities that she puts to use in her advice giving and… in a murder investigation.

The murder plot was well done with adequate characters and red herrings to make it difficult to solve.  Stella/Jane is an interesting sleuth.  She has enough fear and caution to balance her curiousness to make her character more real.  You definitely get a sense of her human frailty.  Her main sidekick is her pet Fluffy, a little chameleon, maybe a metaphor for her change?? There are humorous quips, literary references,  romantic episodes and paranormal elements all included in this book.  I quite enjoyed it and will look for another in the series to read.

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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.

 

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.

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!

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.

Defending Angels by Mary Stanton

 

I have had this book sitting on my nightstand for a while (I was cheating and piling new books on top of it instead of below).  I purchased it at the strong recommendation of a friend and really against will.  🙂

I don’t generally read paranormals and I really don’t read religious reads and I really don’t care for “angel” books, so…anyway.

After reading it, I have to admit it held my attention and skipped along at a pretty good pace.   I had some issues with the book but not what I would expect. There is really no “preachiness” that I thought for sure would be there. The angels are not the sickly sweet, Lifetime TV movie types so that was good as well.

If I had to characterize this, I would definitely say that it is much more of a paranormal than a cozy.  The mystery takes a back seat to the celestial beings. I don’t want to reveal too much but it is hard to discuss my issues with the book without saying something.  The protagonist, Brianna, behaves…really strangely at times and doesn’t really sleuth.  Things that should terrify and upset her don’t really and other times she is a violent rager with no real cause.  She doesn’t have concerns or ask questions that I (and any rational person) would.  This may be due to something revealed towards the end, but that was not really made clear, it is just my supposition.

My other issue is that the ending felt really rushed…We had the reveal for the story on the temporal plane, but when it came to the celestial one, it just ended quickly and with no detail.  It seemed really odd because the angel story was the main story line throughout.

I am intrigued enough that I will buy the next one and see if it resolves these issues.