Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Pumpkin Spice Peril

Caught back up on this series and am happy that there will be more after this one! A great cozy mystery series!

Pumpkin Spice Peril (Cupcake Bakery Mystery, #12)Pumpkin Spice Peril by Jenn McKinlay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While some cozy series tend to get a little stale 10-12 books in, Jenn McKinlay has managed to keep the Cupcake Bakery Mystery series fresh and exciting book after book! (See what I did there?)

Mel and Angie are running the bakery as usual with the help of long time employees Oz and Marty when Peter, a long time customer, shares with Mel that his wife has been feeling under the weather. Rene is working on an outdoor art exhibit for the city and asked Mel to cater the dessert. And then Rene winds up dead.

I enjoyed seeing the repeat character from the last book in the series pop in. And the few new characters show up to put a wrench in the investigating. I really look forward to the interactions with the DeLaura brothers in each novel and can't wait to see what happens with them in the next few!

Jenn also sets up some really nice storylines to be continued in the next books and I am excited to see what happens next! Jenn is absolutely one of my favorite cozy authors and I look forward to reading her books!

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Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Reviews - Truths I Never Told You and Welcome to the Pine Away..

Finished a couple of books this week!

Truths I Never Told YouTruths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Walsh family patriarch is going into Hospice care and the 4 siblings need to clean up the family house before they can decide what to do with it. Beth is the youngest and on maternity leave and offers to take charge of the cleaning out while the other sibs work full time. Her hidden agenda is avoiding her 5 month old son.

The book is told in dueling time lines - Beth's is 1996 and Grace is the late 1950's. Both are battling postpartum depression in times when mental illness is not routinely talked about. At least for Beth, postpartum depression was recognized by the medical community.

Both Beth and Grace had struggles that seem very real - absentee husband, unsupportive parents, infertility, feelings of not being enough or not knowing what they are doing - and the writing was able to share the struggles so that I felt for each of the women. I wanted them to find solutions and to feel better. The way that the feelings of each woman was explained through the writing - I felt like I was truly able to understand what they were going through. I also enjoyed the familial relationships of Beth and her siblings and how Grace's sister stepped in to help her in spite of how the sister felt about Grace's husband.

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My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This was a very unique book written from the POV of Henny who had just been hit by a truck and died and is now a ghost. I thought that I had read the description and I kept going back to see what I was missing because a few chapters in, I just wasn't understanding the story. Henny kept trying to get back to her body to "make it right" and come back to life.

Eventually, Henny follows her friends and her father around town and sees their interactions, but she can't figure out how to communicate with them. And the book becomes sort of Henny watching how everyone is dealing with her death in their own ways. And with it being a small town in Oregon, everything is intertwined.

I eventually did enjoy the novel, but I started listening to it 2 weeks after the loss of a work friend and that may have tainted my view of the death portion. The book did begin reminiscing about when Henny was in high school and how she started working at the Motel with her friends and how their friendships evolved. Their friendships became stronger while fighting against the Prop 9 agenda of banning LGBTQ rights in Oregon and somehow this agenda came front and center in the town again after Henny died. Probably some of the mot interesting parts were with the group of 4 friends fighting for LGBTQ rights.

The characters were interesting and well formed. The interactions between characters were unexpected and humorous. In spite of the dark beginning of death and my mental state at the time, it was an oddly uplifting book. I also may have shed a couple of tears with some of the resolutions.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Reviews - The Sun Down Motel, Blood of an Englishman, and Dishing the Dirt

Still catching up. These were read the end of February, beginning on March. The Sun Down Motel is a supernatural thriller. The MC Beaton books are in the Agatha Raisin series and are cozy mysteries.

The Sun Down MotelThe Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

1982 in Fell, PA - Viv Delaney was on her way to NYC when she ran out of money. She stopped to try and earn some money and ended up staying and working at the Sun Down Motel, the dive motel, on the outskirts of town for 3 months. Then she disappeared.

Current day, Viv's niece decides to take a break from school after her mother has died of cancer never knowing what happened to Viv and never talking about it. Carly has decided to drive the same route that Viv did when she ran away from home. She ends up visiting the motel and working there as well. As Carly investigates where Viv worked and lived, she ends up renting a room in the same building where Viv lived all those years ago.

I have enjoyed the previous novels by Simone St James and was excited to read another one set in current day US instead of post war England. The setting does not change the creepiness or ghost factor of St. James' novels!

This book tell Viv's and Carly's stories in dual story lines and jumps back and forth in time from chapter to chapter. The stories unravel very seamlessly. The anticipation of the ghosts and the ghostly happenings was fantastic! The build up was phenomenal! The reveal was shocking!

If you enjoy a bit of the supernatural, I highly recommend this book and any of St. James' books.

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My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Agatha is at a play with Mrs. Bloxby, the vicar's wife, and one of the actors is murdered before the last act. Mrs. Bloxby asks Agatha to investigate. Another small town with all of the drama and gossip. Agatha, Simon, Tony, Sir Charles, et al investigate and Agatha stumbles across the motive and murderer.

I love this series! As with any series, events can get formulaic, but to me, Agatha Raisin is flawed and intuitive and passionate and I thoroughly enjoy every book.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Agatha is still stumped on a previous case and trying to prove someone's guilt even though the police think the person is innocent. She finds out that the person has been seeing a therapist, Jill Davent who just moved to Carsely and has been romancing James Lacey, Agatha's ex. Agatha takes a chance and goes to see Jill herself as a patient and determines that she is a fraud and tells anyone who will listen. Agatha then finds out that Jill had hired a private detective to investigate Agatha and Agatha threatens Jill's life. Two days later, Jill is dead. And Agatha is in trouble. Again.

I love this series. I love Agatha. I love her flaws. I love the stories. I enjoy the antics and how they are not the same over and over in ever book - except for Agatha falling in love so easily and her make up. The books make me laugh and are a great break from real life and the very heavy suspense thrillers that I enjoy as well. Long live Agatha!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Reviews - Boar Island and Dying for Devil's Food

I am working to catch up on my reviews. For these two books, they are the latest in the series by Nevada Barr and Jenn McKinlay. Barr's books are more gruesome and set in national parks throughout the US. McKinlay has several series going that I have read and enjoyed and they are all cozy mysteries. I highly recommend both authors! Slight corection - the newest in the Cupcake Bakery series was released yesterday so now I have to read that to catch up again!

Boar Island (Anna Pigeon, #19)Boar Island by Nevada Barr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Boar Island is the latest in the Anna Pigeon series. It includes characters from the previous books which is somewhat new for Barr as the only real character from book to book is Anna and Paul, her husband.

Paraplegic Heath has discovered that her daughter Elizabeth is being cyber bullied. She enlists the help of her aunt Gwen and Anna. Heath decides that they should follow Anna to her temp duty as Chief Ranger at Acadia National Park in Maine for the summer and off they go. But the cyber bullying continues and then the threats seem to be happening in real life. Also, Anna seems to have been brought in just before a murder.

As the reader, we are aware of the murder and why it happens through the eyes of the murderer. We do mostly follow Anna around as she investigates, but we also have a view of Heath as she tries to guide Elizabeth through the summer and try to protect her as best she can.

I really enjoy this series and I hope that it continues. I like that Anna is a strong female protagonist who is not without her flaws. I enjoy the settings and learning about the national parks. Also, I have been listening to the audiobooks and the narrator is fantastic with the excitement and pace that she keeps in her reading.

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My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Melanie and Angie's 15th high school reunion is coming up and Angie wants to show off the Fairy Tale Cupcakes business by catering the reunion. Mel is adamantly against having anything to do with the reunion. Even with her engagement to Joe back on, Mel has no desire to attend, much less cater, the reunion until she is tricked by Angie into agreeing. Mel is then dreading running into Cassidy, the epic mean girl who made it her mission in high school to pick on Mel on the daily.

The night of the reunion, Mel is feeling get but also leery about a run in with Cassidy and when it happens, Joe is there to help her hold her head high and try to brush off the ridiculousness. Until Cassidy winds up dead in the girls' room with Mel finding her body.

This is a very fun series and this installment takes on bullying, in a way. I think that many people would be able to relate to the idea of having been bullied in middle school or high school. I know that I could definitely relate to the intimidation that Mel felt and the trepidation of going to the reunion. While this is a very serious topic, I think that McKinlay brought a bit of lightheartedness to the topic to take the sting out of any personally remembered incidents from my experiences. I'm sure there were many ladies who wished she had a Joe DeLaura on her side when facing a childhood bully!

I am thoroughly enjoying the growth of the characters from the first books in the series. I'm looking forward to when Joe and Mel do end up getting married and seeing how the interaction between Mel and Angie changes once the are both married. I enjoy the predicaments the characters get into and the hijinks that McKinlay creates. This series, 11 books in, has not gotten old for me!

Monday, April 20, 2020

Review - The Second Home

The Second HomeThe Second Home by Christina   Clancy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*I received a free copy of this novel from NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for my honest review.*

Ann Gordon's parents have died suddenly and it is up to her to get the houses in order to sell - the house in MIlwaukee and the house on Cape Cod. As she meets with the realtor on Cape Cod, she is remembering that one fateful summer that changed everything. The book then drops back to the summers and the family all together including Michael, the teenager the family has taken in. The first year after the adoption is when everything changes. Affter that summer, the novel jumps back to the current time period and we follow the 3 siblings through the aftermath.

Ed and Connie Gordon are the wonderful hippie parents. Ann meet Michael through school and develops a crush and when she learns that his parents are both dead and he is surviving by hiding from authorities, she brings him home and Ed and Connie take him in. Ann is the no-nonsense daughter - Ann with a Plan - who takes care of everything. Poppy is the younger daughter and a free spirit who gets caught up in drugs and a nomad life chasing the perfect wave.

I enjoyed this novel. I thought that the plot was well laid out and the writing was amazing. I was drawn in from the first page. The writing was very descriptive without being overly poetic and drippy. I have never been to Cape Cod, but could almost imagine it after this novel. I did enjoy the parents and felt the enormity of their loss through the siblings in the second half of the book.

There were some things that were glossed over that I wish had been a little more detailed - the changes in the relationship dynamics surrounding the adoption and a relationship after a death in the second half of the book. I feel like these could have been major books on their own. And the latter maybe could have been left out altogether? And things did seem to get wrapped up rather quickly in the end.

Overall, a great debut and I will recommend to others!

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