Three reads…

These are my latest three reads, State of the Onion was this month’s read for the Cozy Mystery Corner on Goodreads. This was an okay cozy mystery, more action or tension than the average cozy and less character development.  I think this is mainly due to the White House setting and all the attendant security and political issues.  The book was well written and paced, however some of it seemed to push hard at the boundaries of belief suspension.  Many readers do enjoy this series and so I am inclined to give it the benefit of the doubt and think about reading another in the series.

Stirring the Plot is the third in the Cookbook nook series by Daryl Wood Gerber, who also writes the Cheese Shop Mysteries that I like under the name of Avery Aames.  This book has a Halloween setting and witches abound, all in good fun until one of them ends up dead.  The witches, a charitable group, and others come under suspicion and the twists and turns uncover secrets and misdirect the reader and Jenna, the sleuth.  The romance subplot begun in earlier books continues to develop here as does Jenna’s life and immersion in the community, which she moved to in order to recover from her husband’s death.  I heartily recommend this fun, fast paced cozy mystery.

Making Marion was an impulse pick up for me from the library. I was scanning the new arrival shelves and the cover popped out at me.  This book handles the topic of childhood neglect and its impacts sensitively without being maudlin.  Marion is still, as an adult, dealing with the rejection from her mother and the resulting selective mutism, but has bravely chosen to strike out on her own in search of answers about her beloved father who died when she was a child.  She meets a motley crew of campground characters and makes her way into their unconventional “family” with the help of Scarlett, the owner.  Lovely happy ending after some bittersweet moments, themes of loving yourself, forgiveness and family are all explored in this charming book. I will definitely look for more by this author, Beth Moran.

I “read” another book besides these three this week, Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death.

I read this as the November read for the Kindle English Mystery book club.  I use the word read lightly.  This book is organized into a series of loosely connected short stories with recurring characters.  I read the first one and then skipped around and read another.  Finally, I skimmed most of it.  For whatever reason, I just couldn’t get into the character or the book.  To be fair I don’t really read many historical fictions and very few with religious undertones, so it might work for other readers.

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The Fat Woman Mystery and One Dead Cookie

  These are my two latest cozy mystery reads.  I got The Fat Woman Mystery on my Kindle for $2.99 after seeing it advertised.  I enjoyed it, especially the realistic discussion of the differences between the casual dieter, 10 to 20 pounds to lose, and the life long dieter with serious issues with food in the obese to morbidly obese category.  The main character, Margaret, is very likable and easy to relate to, at least for me.  She doesn’t want pity or sympathy from her friends, other members of her diet club, as she deals with the death of her husband.  She is in a not so small case of denial about her grief.

The mystery was interesting and tied together lots of pieces very nicely.  My first issue with this is that I found that the book seemed short, either that or it was a very quick read.  The second is that I found the theme really similar to another series that I really, really love by JB Stanley AKA Ellery Adams, the Supper Club Mysteries.  I couldn’t help compare the two, with the Supper Club Mysteries coming out on top as far as character development and richness of setting and story line.

One Dead Cookie is the fourth book in a Cookie Cutter Shop Mystery.  I really enjoy this series.  The main character, Olivia owns the shop and lives above it with her dog.  She is busy dealing with baking for her best friend Maddie’s engagement party.  The party gets wilder when a B list celebrity arrives and the murder occurs.  The murder is connected to people who stayed in the area and to an old unsolved crime.  On top of the murder, there are other smaller crimes occurring muddying the waters.  I really do enjoy this series, but I will say this was not my favorite it it so far.  I am looking forward to reading the next one nonetheless.

All Fudged Up by Nancy Coco & A Peach of a Murder by Livia J. Washburn

Woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep last night, so I read these two cozy mysteries.  All Fudged Up was definitely an impulse buy, I saw it in my local bookshop and just added it to the pile.  A Peach of a Murder is book one in a series that has been around a long time and I finally decided to give it a try.

All Fudged Up revolves around a young woman returning to her family owned resort to take over running it upon the death of her grandfather.  She was not unprepared because she had been planning for it for a while but her grandfather died suddenly and she had jump in feet first.  The setting is Mackinac Island and a grand old hotel and fudge shop.  As soon as she starts working to get ready for the tourist season, a dead body turns up in her hotel, putting her in the hot seat as far as local law enforcement and just the locals in general are concerned.

The character, Allie, has a lot to overcome and she handles it all admirably with the help of some loyal staff and a friend that comes to stay  and help.  I did enjoy the setting and the main characters.  The townsfolk need to be fleshed out more but I  am assuming that will occur as the series progresses.  The mystery was interesting with lots of twists and turns, it was wrapped up very quickly in the end.  There seems to be a couple possible romantic leads but nothing too much happened in this book.

This is a promising, fun series with an interesting setting and theme.

A Peach of Murder is book one in Livia J. Washburn’s A Fresh Baked Mystery Series, which now boasts nine books.  The protagonist, Phyllis, is perfecting her peach recipes for competition, when a murder occurs at the peach orchard.  Her son is a local cop and that gives her an in with inside information and leads that she wouldn’t know about otherwise.  Phyllis’s husband has died and she has turned the family home into a boarding house, mainly for retired teachers.   One is an older good friend of hers, Mattie, who is sadly showing the first signs of dementia.

The plus was the resolution of the mystery and the tie up of all the threads, exceptionally well done!   The hints were there, but subtly done.  The theme of baking/cooking contests was fun and entertaining, just seeing the petty rivalries that such events stir up.  The negative was I just didn’t find Phyllis all that exciting or likable.  She is the stereotypical school marm character and comes across as judgmental to me.  Myaybe being a teacher I am just sensitive to that portrayal of us?   I think if you like very, very  clean cozies that exemplify southern Christian values you will enjoy this more than I did.  It is well written and I said the mystery piece was handled very well.

 

Cookie Dough or Die by Virginia Lowell

 I just finished this cozy mystery, Cookie Dough or Die by Virginia Lowell.  The theme is not cookie baking, although there is some of that going on, but rather a shop that sells all things cookie related with an emphasis on cookie cutters, both antique collectibles and the everyday kind.

The sleuth, Olivia or Livie as she prefers to be called, is a divorced woman living with her mother who owns The Gingerbread House, the cookie and everything cookie related shop.  She has a dog, Spunky, and a partner/sidekick, Maddie.  Livie had a mentor in starting her business, Clarissa Chamberlain, who dies in what Livie feels are suspicious circumstances.  The police seem convinced it is an accident or perhaps suicide and Livie sets off to investigate.

I found the characters of Livie, her mom, and Maddie fun and interesting.  They are well drawn, not just stereotypes.  The mystery is interesting although there are few “real suspects”, pretty early on the pool of suspects is narrowed down to three probable villains.

I did find that the victim, Clarissa, seemed to be somewhat contradictory character.  She is Livie’s mentor and seemed to single-handedly pick her up and push her into a business of her own, yet she also seemed to be a somewhat ruthless and calculating business woman, controlling with her sons, manipulative, and yet mawkishly sentimental over her collection of antique cookie cutters.  Certainly interesting to read about.

Well done cozy mystery.  I am sure I will read more in this series.

 

Insomniac Reading

Could not sleep tonight, probably due to meds from ankle surgery that I had today. I put my insomnia to good use by finishing the books pictured above.

The Outsmarting of Criminals was a great read when I needed cheering up so much.  Funny satirical take on the typical “village” mystery.  The character, Miss Prim, is anachronistic for her time, the book is set currently..but she is a perfect old time cozy mystery sleuth eschewing computers and CSI-type testing or forensics.  The author has set up the characters to fulfill all the standard mystery tropes.  Miss Prim even has a checklist to fulfill her requirements as an “outsmarter of criminals”.  The book might be a smidge too long but it was nevertheless a quick read and a page turner.

I always enjoy Jill Mansell’s books.  The characters are always easy for me to relate to and I love the way the relationships among them develop and show growth along the way. In Take a Chance on Me, Cleo is the protagonist.  A single woman in her thirties, she lives in the village she grew up in with her married sister close by.  She works as a chauffer and quite enjoys it.  In the beginning, she has a “perfect” boyfriend, who turns out to be not quite so perfect.  Rounding out the cast is her sister and her sister’s husband, her best friend and neighbor, Ash, and her childhood nemesis, Johnny La Venture.  There are other character’s as well and lot’s of “action” to keep the pace clipping along.  Death, divorce, almost affairs, car accidents, and minor celebrities make for an entertaining fast read. Anyone who likes women fiction or romance would enjoy this (or any of the other Jill Mansell books).

The Spinster Sisters was my third read and definitely my least favorite.  The story idea was interesting, what happens to sisters who have an entire self-help business devoted to spinsterhood, and one of them decides to get married.  The aunt characters were more interesting than the spinster sisters themselves.  I found the dialogue awkward and unnatural and the main characters, Jodi and Jill, were just really not all that likable.  They seemed shallow and always seemed to be looking down on others.  This one just didn’t work for me.  Also, they excerpts from their self help manuals were …irritating and overly long.

 

Sink Trap by Christy Evans

 

Sink Trap has been on my TBR list for a while and it was actually available from my local library so I picked it up this week.

There is a lot to like in this first of a plumbing themed cozy mystery series.  The main character, Georgiana Neverall, her mother, Sandra, her “not my boyfriend”, Wade, and boss, Barry are all good characters.  They are interesting and behave as they are drawn. The relationships between them flow naturally in conversation and are believable, (who doesn’t have moments that their mother drives them nuts?)  The plumbing theme is not overwhelming but the pieces included are interesting, at least to me.  The book is well written as far as voice and tone for a cozy mystery.

The issue is that it is patently obvious almost from the beginning of the mystery, when Georgiana finds the brooch of Ms. Tepper in the sink trap, who the villains are and basically why they did it.  The rest of the book is spent with the sleuth leading the readers around as she chases red herrings and tires to convince others that a crime has actually been committed.  She lets her feelings of animosity towards certain characters drive her investigation rather than looking at what is actually happening. In fact, she doesn’t really solve the mystery, the reveal is more that the killer(s) come out.

There is enough enjoyable here with the characters and the setting that I will probably give another in the series a try.

 

Good Enough to Eat by Stacey Ballis

 

Picked up this one from the library and really enjoyed it.  If I had to classify it, I would call it more women’s fiction, however there is some romance in it.  Melanie, the protagonist, has lost a lot of weight, basically a whole other person.  On top of that she has changed careers, giving up the law for a healthy eating food business and just as she is feeling the success of these positive changes her husband leaves her.  The fact that he left her for a heavier woman and a woman who was her friend just added salt to the wound.

This could have been a very typical “fat girl gets thin, finds love, lives happily ever after”, however it is not.  The author does a great job showing that the weight is not the defining feature of Melanie, there is so much more to her, and any person than his or her body size.  The supporting characters, Kai, Phil, Nadia and Nate all have interesting lives and are well fleshed out.  The intersection of this particular group of people is believable and works with the plot of the story.

The treatment of food addiction/comfort eating/unhealthy relationship with food is well done.  Food is a really difficult addiction to live with and conquer, mainly because you can’t just go cold turkey on it 🙂 and it is not a very sympathy inducing addiction.  This struggle is really brought to life well through Melanie, her actions and reactions and her relationship and conversations with her nutritionist, Carey.  As someone who struggles with my own weight, I could so relate to Melanie’s feelings and experiences and they rang very true to me.

I loved the ending…I won’t give it away but definitely not typical.  Highly recommended read!