Thoughts on STEEPED IN SECRETS

Howdy, howdy! How was everyone’s Thanksgiving (or Thursday)? We had a nice, quiet one with yummy food and the company wasn’t too bad. We’ve mostly been lazy since then. Shame on us. But I’m here to review a book, not ramble about watching tv. Yes, that means this is the last Wednesday of November! I decided to request a new cozy mystery for this month because I was too lazy to look for something else. Luckily, Steeped in Secrets, the first Crystals and CuriosiTEAS mystery by Lauren Elliott, was available. It was released from Kensington Books on November 29th. As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for allowing me access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get to it!

Cute cover that’s pretty relevant to the story.

Steeped in Secrets follows Shay Myers as she returns home broke and baffled. After her husband swindles her out of everything she’s built for herself, Shay discovers she’s inherited an old tea shop and more from a woman she barely knew as a child. With no alternative, Shay goes to see what she’s gotten herself into. But a dead body on the greenhouse roof throws even more turmoil into her life. There’s a dog and a hot ex-cop turned pub owner and friends from childhood being far too shifty and family secrets to spice up the plot even more.

Plot wise, it’s not bad, but it could’ve been better. There’s really only one person the baddie could’ve been, which I was fine with. I don’t mind an obvious villain as long as the story is good. But it was one of those things where he randomly shows up and has little to nothing to do until poof! He’s evil! That was disappointing. Plus, his whole background story is convoluted and comes out of nowhere. It’s like the first three quarters of the book were leading somewhere a little more mundane and believable, but someone said that was boring, so instead of rewriting the whole thing to weave everything together, the author just chopped the ending off and added this one. It just didn’t feel natural.

The characters, on the other hand, were fabulous. I enjoyed Shay as a lead and her reactions to everything were mostly relatable or at least believable. Her whole mottle monster thing when she was embarrassed or whatever was adorable. I still find Liam a little creepy. But that’s mostly because I find all super extroverted people creepy. There’s no way I would let a dude I just met come and go from my house as he pleases. I don’t care how helpful and hot he is. Learn to knock, my dude. And Tassi was a cute character with a lot of potential. Everyone else is still pretty flat, but hopefully they’ll grow in future book. Oh, and I adored the dog as usual.

Me to Liam.

I thought the writing itself was nice. It flowed well and made for a quick read. I’m hoping to learn more about tea and crystals in future books, but I also don’t want to be inundated with information. It has the potential to be annoying and infodump-y, but this particular book didn’t overdo it.

Ultimately, I thought Steeped in Secrets could use some work. But I liked the characters enough that I’ll probably check out the next one just to see if the plot’s better.

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Overall, I gave it 3 out of 5 stars. The series has potential if the plots get better, but based strictly on this story, I don’t strongly recommend it. If you’re into cozies and hints of supernatural stuff, go for it. If not, save your money.

Movies and TV

Hello, hello! How’s everyone doing? Are you ready for turkey day (or just Thursday depending on where you are)? It’s going to be another small one this year with the lady across the street as well as my minion and one of his spawn (if they show up on time. If either of you are reading this, here’s an additional reminder that dinner is at 4). But I’m not here to yammer about Thanksgiving! It’s time for another number. Jenae (hugs, sis!) picked number 8. So far, we’ve covered 13 (you can find the prompt list there), 7, and 2. Numbers 3, 10, 6, 14, 11, and 1 are all going to be answered in the coming weeks. There are a few left, so feel free to pick one and let me know. Today’s prompt: Tell me which book had the best movie or show adaptation. Yikes.

I’m not really qualified to answer this one. I mean, I watch a lot of stuff based on books, like most of the cozy mystery stuff and British mysteries. Midsomer Murders, Shetland, Vera just to name a few. The shows are great. Are they good adaptations? I have no clue. I’ve yet to read any of the books they’re based on. And the shows that I should have some experience with the accompanying books, I either haven’t read or read so long ago that I remember nothing. I vaguely remember reading an Agatha Christie book featuring Poirot, but have no clue if the series with David Suchet did it justice. It probably did because it was a good series, but I don’t really know. Shame on me for not reading more.

And if we’re talking movies, I’m even worse because I don’t watch many. Sure, I could talk about Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit (none of which were super great, though LotR was by far the best of these). That’s about it, though. Oh! Coraline was a pretty good adaptation. It held the creepy air of the book. So that was fun. But mostly I can’t think of movies based on books that I’ve actually read the book version of. I don’t know if I should read more mainstream stuff or what.

Manga to anime is a little better for me. I love both of the Fullmetal Alchemist anime, but prefer Brotherhood as an adaptation. The original is wonderful and I’ve watched it so many times, but it was created alongside the manga and when it reached the end of what was available in the manga, it took a turn and became its own story. Brotherhood follows the manga more closely. Sailor Moon is another one where I prefer the newer releases as adaptations, but still love the original anime for what it was. The original used the manga as a guide, but there was a lot of padding and fluff added in. I love it, though. Cardcaptor Sakura was a fun adaptation too. And please be aware that I’m not talking about the old Americanized versions of SM (with the creepy cousins thing because cousins who flirted with and blushed at each other was somehow less disturbing to kids than lesbians) and CCS (with the random blushing between dudes because they were “jealous” of each other or some similar BS and totally not crushing on each other). Those were awful. But anyway, my knowledge of adaptations is weak even with manga/anime.

Best cousins ever.

I admit it. I’m not a movie or TV buff. I’m not even good about reading things that are popular enough to be turned into movies or shows. Oh well. What are some of your favorite adaptations? Did you see the movie/show first or read the book first? As always, feel free to leave your questions or comments here or on my social media pages!

Home Away From Home

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this fine Wednesday? It’s the first week of November. Can you believe that? Thanksgiving will be tomorrow, Christmas next week, and 2023 the day after that. At least that’s how it feels. Another year slipping by. But that’s okay! We’re not here to be all maudlin just because time’s a jerk. We’re here today to ramble about bookish things! I found another one of those pick a number things, so that’s what I’ll be blogging about for the foreseeable future. I only posted the request for numbers between 1 and 15 a few minutes ago, so I’ve only got 13 and 7 so far, but I’m sure at least a couple of more people will choose something. You can choose too by commenting here or on my social media profiles or telling me or carrier pigeon. Whatever. The first picture will be the prompts. It’s from national book lovers day (I’m late, I know), so you may have seen it already. Anyway, the lovely Ana chose 13, so I will be rambling about books that make me want to live in fictional worlds!

Which book made me want to live in a fictional world? Most of them? People usually say Narnia, Hogwarts, or Middle Earth and I can’t exactly argue. I know it’s a problematic world (it always was, even before JK went off the deep end), but I would’ve been down for Hogwarts as a kid. Magic provides a lot of work arounds to being cripple. It would’ve been great. Middle Earth would’ve been cool too. Who doesn’t want to live with elves? At least as a kid. Now, I’d be a hobbit all the way. Never have to leave the shire? Live quietly? PO-TAY-TOES! I am so there. Narnia, on the other hand, never appealed to me. Even as a kid. It was a fun story, but I never wanted to join in.

I’m trying really hard to think of worlds I wanted to join when I was younger, but considering I mostly read Stephen King… no thanks. I was perfectly happy watching those stories from the outside. And now that I’m older (read that as ancient), mostly of the fictional places that I want to live are idyllic small town USA spots or tiny English villages. Both of which are hotbeds of murder with some nosey chick who solves all the crimes before the police. I’d gladly be a background character in one of those worlds.

Mostly, I’m into worlds that are only slightly different from the one we live in. A medieval adventure sounds great, but even if I weren’t cripple, I wouldn’t survive a week. I’d eat the wrong berries or mushrooms and die. And a future world? Probably dead within a week as well. Not sure how it would happen, but it would. I love reading about those worlds, but nah.

What about you? What fictional worlds did you want to live in growing up? What about now? As always, feel free to leave your questions or comments or whatever here or on my social media pages! And pick a number. Since I’ve been writing this post, we’re up to 13, 7, 2, 8, 3, and 10!

Thoughts on A DOOMFUL OF SUGAR

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this wonderful Wednesday? Things here are about the same as normal lately. But it’s the last Wednesday of October, so at least I have something to ramble about. It’s book review time! I was boring and went back to my comfort zone this month with the first installment of a new cozy mystery series. A Doomful of Sugar by Catherine Bruns was released yesterday (the 25th) from Poisoned Pen Press. As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

Cute cover and pretty relevant to the story.

A Doomful of Sugar follows Leila Khoury as she returns home in the wake of her father’s unsolved murder only to discover that he’s left her the family maple business. As any daddy’s girl would, not only does she accept the challenge of the farm, but she also takes it upon herself to solve the murder, no matter who she has to risk alienating along the way. Toss in a hot new employee that may just be a murderer, an overbearing mother, a brother with a chip on his shoulder, and a bestie that supports all the shenanigans and you’ve got yourself a cozy mystery.

Honestly, the plot is pretty standard. The big bad sticks out way too much from the get-go, then kind of fades into the background until a little bit before the big reveal. I mean, why else would Leila’s dad do what he did? Super obvious, but fine. I was willing to believe it without much thought. The twist was where the story lost me. It was also really heavy handed, which is probably why it felt like more of an ‘ugh’ moment than an ‘aha’ moment. It just wasn’t particularly necessary and felt like a leap. It might just be a me thing, but it made the ending too convoluted.

As far as the characters go, I was mostly unimpressed. I think Leila was supposed to be quirky and headstrong and someone who jumps into things without thinking, but she’s kind of a douchenozzle. She insults people all of the time and they magically forgive her. When she isn’t being rude, she’s accusing people of murder with zero evidence beyond the fact that they exist. And, of course, according to her, everyone else is always judging and being mean to her. I liked her mother and Noah. They were the only reasonable adults in this book. Everyone else ranged from flat and stereotypical to immature and annoying.

The writing itself was okay and made for a quick read despite my lack of motivation to finish this one. And there was maple syrup in it, so at least there’s that.

Ultimately, I didn’t care for A Doomful of Sugar. It’s not going on my list of cozies to keep up with and didn’t spark an interest other series by Bruns.

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Overall, I gave it 2 out of 5 stars. One and a half is more accurate. Mostly because it wasn’t my thing, but other people seem to like it. If you enjoy immature characters and an easily decipherable plot, go for it. Otherwise, you’re not missing much.

Thoughts on BURIED IN A GOOD BOOK

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing? Things here are quiet. SSDD if you know what I mean. But it’s the last Wednesday of May, so you know what that means. Book review time! This month, I decided to stick with something I’m used to, something on the predictable side. So, I went with the first book in a new cozy mystery series. Buried in a Good Book by Tamara Berry was released yesterday (the 24th) from Poisoned Pen Press. As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get to it!

Cute cover and mostly relevant to the story, except the canoe.

Buried in a Good Book follows Tess, who’s fresh off a divorce, as she drags her teenage daughter Gertie into the woods for a much needed escape. Unfortunately, when they arrive at the cabin Tess inherited from her grandfather, a strange set of circumstances unearths a body. Being a mystery writer, Tess leaps at the chance to help solve a real life murder while avoiding her looming deadline and messy personal life. Plus, small town life seems to be helping her daughter cope with her absentee father a bit. What could go wrong?

Where to start? The plot was fairly standard, but with an annoying writer constantly comparing everything to her books. The hot sheriff is exactly like her detective, at least looks-wise. There’s a new bestie who encourages all of the shenanigans. The sullen teenage daughter who’s too smart for her own good is a rare addition to cozies, but not unheard of. The only problem with the plot is that the cast of characters is so small that you know right away the baddie is either going to be a peripheral character who doesn’t get much page time or the dreaded random character who comes from nowhere. There’s really only one person it could be, so I mostly kept reading for character development.

Speaking of characters, I really liked most of them, which made the book worth reading. Yes, Tess is annoying as fuck with her “Detective Gonzales would do it this way…” crap, but as a mother and human being in general, she’s pretty okay. She’s navigating being newly single and realizing that she has no one in her life besides the ex and her daughter. And making friends as an adult is HARD. It’s all very relatable. Gertie is adorable. Sheriff Boyd is grumpy, but lovable. Nicki is a little flat, but that’s because she’s trying to be something she isn’t. Hopefully her character will have some room to grow in the next book.

I admit, there were some really weird red herrings that made me mutter “wtf?” to myself a few times. The Bigfoot thing, I was down with. It was strange, but whatever. I liked it. A lot of Tess’s theories on things were just plain nuts, though. It kind of slowed down the pacing towards the end. But once things came back around to relatively believable scenarios, things sped up again.

The writing was actually wonderful. It was quirky and sarcastic and pulled me along without becoming too much. There was some over the top stuff, but it wasn’t enough to make me want to quit reading. Roll my eyes, yes. Stop reading? Nah. Mostly, it was a fun and quick read.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed Buried in a Good Book. I’ll definitely grab the next book in the series when it comes out. The writing style and characters make it worth a second chance at least.

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Overall, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. If cozy mysteries are your thing, definitely check it out. It’s pretty short and fun, so yeah. I recommend it.

Thoughts on CHEDDAR OFF DEAD

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this week? Allergies are kicking my ass, but otherwise things are okay. I’ve been on a music kick. It’s about the only thing I can focus on with my sinuses throbbing. But enough complaining (maybe). It’s the last Wednesday of the month! That means it’s book review time. I went back to the safety of a cozy mystery this month. Cheddar Off Dead is the first in Korina Moss’s Cheese Shop mystery series. It was released yesterday (the 29th) by St. Martin’s Press. As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s do the thing!

Cute cover and pretty relevant to the story.

Cheddar Off Dead follows Willa Bauer, cheesemonger and owner of Yarrow Glen’s newest shop, Curds and Whey. A cheese shop. She’s new to town and inexperienced when it comes to putting down roots and making lasting friendships. It doesn’t help that a well-known (and severely disliked) critic is murdered outside her shop with a custom cheese knife she had planned to give out at an event. Not trusting the detective, Willa feels compelled to clear her name before any lasting damage can be done to her reputation. The problem? Her investigation means potentially alienating the handful of people she’s started bonding with, including the attractive mead maker across the street.

Let’s start with the plot. Instead of our heroine returning home after a bad breakup, she decides to start over in a new town. There’s still a bad breakup, but it’s unclear how recent it was. A lot of her past is unclear timeline-wise. Anyway, her newness doesn’t stop Willa from finding the best friend who encourages her shenanigans. There are two potential love interests. Future love triangles? Probably, but I doubt it’ll be the fun kind. Of course there’s an overprotective detective. Plenty of red herrings. I admit I didn’t catch onto the murderer until later, mostly because we don’t learn anything about them until pretty much everyone else is ruled out. I honestly felt a little cheated by that, but this isn’t the first cozy to do it that way. I’m just glad it wasn’t a random person who only got mentioned once. They’re there throughout the book, just not really expanded on until super late. So, standard cozy fare with a couple of little twists.

The pacing was off. The first third was beyond slow. Like, if I had been reading it for fun, I probably would’ve given up after three chapters. It was that slow. But it picked up after a while. I think when the cheese talk finally ran its course, everything smoothed out. Don’t get me wrong, I love learning about cheese, but when it’s not even interesting facts, it gets boring. But less is more. The first third of the novel was like cheese info dumps. Later on, there was still a bunch of cheese talk, but it was spread out in a way that felt natural.

Most of the characters were likeable. Willa occasionally annoyed me, but that’s just because she’s a busybody. That’s why most cozy mystery heroines annoy me. Otherwise, she was fine. I preferred Baz, Archie, and Mrs. Schultz. I would’ve loved to learn more about them. Detective Heath was a little flat, but he has potential. Same with Roman. Honestly, I can’t believe I’m saying this because I love cheese, but there could’ve been a bigger focus on character development and less on cheese.

The writing was fine. Like I said, the pacing was off and the characters were flat. But the actual words were fine. Nothing memorable. I finished it about a week ago and am already forgetting most of it. Ah well.

Ultimately, I was just meh about Cheddar Off Dead. If I come across the next book, I’ll pick it up to see if it’s any better, but I doubt I’ll actively look for it.

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Overall, I gave it 3 out of 5 stars. Two and a half, really. If you’re super into cheese and enjoy average cozies, pick it up. But you’re not missing anything if you don’t.

Thoughts on UP TO NO GOUDA

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing this week? Everything here has been okay. I interacted with real people (eye doctor appointment) on Monday, so despite the fact that everyone was masked and not hacking up a lung (I don’t think anyone even sneezed), I’m going to be anxious for a couple of weeks. But I digress. It’s book review time! I wanted something comforting and a little cheesy this month, so I went with the first book in Linda Reilly’s new cozy series. The book is called Up to No Gouda and was released on the 25th from Poisoned Pen Press. As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for giving me access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s do this!

Cute cover that relates to the story.

Up to No Gouda follows Carly Hale as she works to fulfill her lifelong dream of owning a grilled cheese restaurant. She’s a widow who has moved back to her home town to make her dream come true. And it’s working! At least until the town bully buys the building where her restaurant is located and refuses to renew her lease. With only a little time left, Carly has no idea what to do. Then, the bully is found murdered by the dumpster of the parking lot behind the restaurant. Of course, Carly can’t rest until she finds out what happened to him and what the future holds for her restaurant.

So, plotwise, this is standard cozy fare. Dude gets murdered, main character finds an excuse to investigate even though it doesn’t really concern her, and everyone encourages her except the killer and the cops, but even the cops don’t discourage her much. There were a couple of twists that I missed because I didn’t really pay attention to the set up. I didn’t even remember the robberies thing until it became relevant, and even then I had to go back and see what they were talking about. My bad. But I knew who the killer was just from one detail super early on that seemed out of character. I’m pretty sure I was supposed to glance over the detail and see it later as foreshadowing, but it felt super awkward and stood out. I never even doubted it when pretty much everyone else was considered a suspect except the actual killer. I think it was supposed to be an aha moment, but it wasn’t. It was just kind of obvious.

The characters are all adorable. I’m a fan of Grant and Gina. They were my favorites. Actually, Havarti was my favorite, but I figure everyone is tired of me gushing over fictional dogs. Most of the characters are a little flat, but can be fleshed out in later books. The love interest seems completely random. First, Carly acts suspicious of him for some unknown reason, then the next chapter she might have feelings for him. It is confusing. Speaking of Carly, she’s interesting and fun, but a bit too sentimental for me. I understand the whole focus on the dead husband thing, but it goes a little overboard and doesn’t exactly move the plot forward, so I mostly skimmed those sections. And that makes me sound like a horrible person. Oops.

The writing is okay. It flows well and makes for a pretty quick read. My only issue with that is the cutesy sayings. One or two is charming and fun, but like five every couple of pages is annoying. Holy jumping grasshoppers… or whatever. People don’t talk like that. Not all the time. So, please. Chill with the eye twitch inducing cuteness.

Ultimately, I thought Up to No Gouda was okay. Not bad, not great. If I see the next one, I’ll grab it and give the series a second chance. But it’s not going on my must-read list.

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Overall, I gave it 3 out of 5 stars. If you’re super into cozy mysteries and like cheesy goodness, pick up a copy. If not, I would give it a miss.

Thoughts on MURDER IN THE VILLAGE

Howdy, howdy! It’s the last Wednesday of August. Can you believe it? It’s basically 2022 already. Anyway, I don’t have to think of anything to ramble about because it’s book review time! I couldn’t figure out what I felt like reading this month, so I decided to fall back on the good old trusty genre of cozy mysteries. Murder in the Village is the first in Lisa Cutts’ new Belinda Penshurst mystery series. It was released today (August 25th) from Bookouture. As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get to it!

Cute cover, but feels off. It’s not wrong for the book, but could be better.

Murder in the Village follows Belinda Penshurst as she tries to settle back into village life after a bad break up. She prides herself on knowing everything happening within Little Challham, but when she discovers a dead body and finds out there have been a series of potential dognappings in the village, she quickly realizes how little she actually knows. In order to solve both cases, she teams up with village newbie and ex-detective Harry Powell to investigate everything going on.

It’s pretty standard cozy mystery fare. A nosy lady (though she’s in her 40s instead of the usual younger protagonists) stumbles upon a murder scene and finds a reason to investigate. She’s trying to protect her brother, whose stupid ideas have gotten him in trouble in the past. Throw in Harry Powell who takes over both the best friend and potential love interest roles and things get more interesting. He and his dog food delivery job make the whole story more fun, but mostly because dogs make everything better. And Harry is basically a giant pupper in human form.

No wonder Harry and Colonel get along so well.

When it comes to the characters, I’m definitely more a fan of Harry than Belinda. He’s more down-to-earth and a little doofy and an all around interesting dude. Belinda is rich and very much expects things to go her own way without regard to what other people want, unless it’s her brother. She coddles the crap out of him which is probably why he’s such an idiot. I just didn’t connect with Belinda the way I like to with protagonists. But that’s just me. The rest of the characters were potentially suspects, so I didn’t even try to get attached to them in case I was wrong about what was going on.

My biggest complaint about this book is that I hate when bad guys are only mentioned in passing, then surprise! This person who was just thrown in as an afterthought did it! It’s annoying. Don’t get me wrong, the murderer in this story was fine and had a decent role. It was just the dognapper who sucked. When the big reveal came, I literally asked myself “who the hell is that?” And apparently the author figured that would happen because she immediately explained who it was. I don’t even remember if they ever actually talked to this person or what, but I was too lazy to go back and check. That always feels like a cheap trick that people use when they can’t figure out how to tie everything together. It’s just disappointing.

Me at the big reveal.

The writing itself was nice. Everything flowed pretty well. There were a couple of spots where the pacing slowed a bit too much for my liking, but it wasn’t something that really bothered me. And there were some cute lines sprinkled throughout.

Ultimately, Murder in the Village was okay. I probably won’t go looking for the sequels, but that’s just because I didn’t connect with the characters enough to care what happens to them. It wasn’t bad, though.

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Overall, I gave it 3 out of 5 stars. If you enjoy cozies and have time, check it out. You might like it. If you don’t have time, I don’t think you’ll be missing anything.

Thoughts on DEATH IN BLOOM

Howdy, howdy! It’s already the last Wednesday in May. Can you believe it? I have no idea where the time went, but I know that it’s time for another book review! This month, I just chose another cozy mystery. I wanted something that was likely to be fluffy and have a happy ending. Cozies are usually good for that. Death in Bloom is the first in the new Flower House mystery series by Jess Dylan. It was released yesterday (May 25th) from St. Martin’s Press. As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for giving me access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get to it.

Cute cover.

Death in Bloom follows Sierra Ravenswood as she tries to settle into small town life after her dreams of being a singer in Nashville fall through. She returns to her hometown of Aerieville determined to build a better life for herself with the help of positive vibes and good thoughts. Unfortunately for her, her flaky boss skips town on some adventure and leaves her to run the flower shop on her own. Her first evening by herself is filled with a flower arranging class that she isn’t prepared to lead. Throw in a suspicious death during the class and things can’t get any worse, right? Wrong. Can Sierra solve a murder, find the person who keeps breaking into the Flower House, and take care of a new pup all at once? With the help of new friends and positive energy, anything is possible. She hopes.

The plot is pretty standard. Except the bestie is a rekindling of an old acquaintanceship from high school (they weren’t close back then, but why not now?) and the potential love interest is some sketchy dude who randomly shows up and asks way too many questions about the absent boss. Otherwise, there are plenty of obvious clues to lead you in the wrong direction all the way through. I admit that I doubted my murderer guess a couple of times, but stuck with it and was right in the end. It was twisty and turny enough to be a fun ride.

Me, at the end.

As far as the characters go, I liked them well enough. Sierra was a little wishy-washy when it came to the Flower House even though her choice was obvious. That was annoying. But her general personality and her familial interactions were all great. Deena is a little on the flat side, but there’s potential for some good development with her in later books. Calvin is super suspicious and with everything going on, I found it really hard to believe that Sierra just took the dude at his word. At least do some research on him. A quick google of the faculty website at the school he supposedly teaches at. Anything. But, no. It takes her more than half the book to realize he’s sketchy. It’s improbable. At least Gus is cute. He’s the corgi puppy she adopts when it becomes apparent her boss isn’t coming back for him.

Look at that face!

The writing is nice. Everything flows pretty smoothly and keeps the story hopping along at a quick pace. There were some sections that felt redundant as they rehashed the case, but that happens in all cozies I’ve found.

Ultimately, Death in Bloom was enjoyable and pretty fluffy. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for future books in this series. I might even check out the other series that Jess Dylan wrote using the name Jennifer David Hesse.

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Overall, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. If you like cozy mysteries with a weirdly positive lead woman and cute puppers, it’s certainly worth a look.

Thoughts on ONE POISON PIE

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing? So far, the year has been a mixed bag of meh and good. Nothing super bad for me yet. I hope it’s treating you okay. Anyway, it’s the last Wednesday of January, which means it’s time for another book review. This month, I was hoping for a quick, fun read to get me back in the spirit of cozy mysteries, so I requested an ARC of Lynn Cahoon’s One Poison Pie. It’s the first in her new Kitchen Witch Mystery series and was released on the 26th (yesterday) from Kensington Books. As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get on with it.

Cute cover. A little busy. Mostly has nothing to do with the story.

One Poison Pie follows Mia Malone as she strives to start a catering business in her grandmother’s small hometown of Magic Springs. Throw in an unexpected roommate in the form of her ex-fiancée’s little sister, some pushy guy trying to buy her new home/workspace out from under her, a hot grocer, and a nosy Gran and Mia’s life is complicated enough. That doesn’t stop fate from tossing another wrench in the works when Mia’s first catering client turns up stabbed to death. As a prime suspect, Mia sets out to clear her name, especially when it becomes obvious that she’s the next victim.

Sounds pretty standard, right? It is. Except for the whole witch aspect. I like the concept, but the execution is lacking. The magic system isn’t well thought out at all. In fact, for most of the book, it isn’t even really there. It feels like the magic is only mentioned when the author can’t think of any other way for the characters to get out of a situation. The random mind reading is weird and not explained well. At all. Trent doesn’t seem to need a special connection to someone in order to read their mind, so why didn’t he just scan people at the wake and be done with it? Unless maybe he can only read other witches? It’s confusing. Maybe it’s just because I’m used to elaborate magic systems that are discussed in detail, but I wasn’t happy with it. And don’t get me started on the random ghost visits. Otherwise, it’s a regular old cozy mystery.

Me trying to figure out the magic.

The characters themselves are okay. I like Gran and Christina. Mia is interesting even if she does fall in love super fast. She’s also weirdly trusting. On the other hand, she also locks her recipe book in a safe and makes a decoy one, so she isn’t entirely naive. The Major brothers are fun. The guy who’s trying to buy the building from Mia is way too obviously a douchenozzle. And a lot of other characters are not memorable at all. Like the bad people. I had no clue who they were at the big reveal, which isn’t good.

One more thing that I want to mention is the title. It has absolutely nothing to do with the story and that irks me worse than anything else about this book. There’s a mention of pies, but it’s not critical to the plot. And there’s no poison whatsoever. I even looked it up to see if maybe it’s a saying I’m not familiar with. If it is, Google doesn’t know it either, so I don’t feel bad. It’s completely misleading and not in a good “I see what you did there” way.

Me staring at the title after reading the book.

The writing is fine. There are some continuity errors that can be attributed to the fact that it’s an ARC. I go in with the understanding that these books haven’t had their final polish, but with all of the plot holes and seemingly random stuff, this book really feels like a first draft. Maybe a second draft. I hate saying that since they might have smoothed some stuff out with the final polish, but most ARCs are at least obviously final drafts. This isn’t.

Ultimately, I didn’t care for One Poison Pie. It had a lot of potential, but didn’t live up to it. If the next installment falls in my lap, I’ll read it to see if it gets better, but I won’t be spending any money on it. Cahoon’s other series might be better.

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Overall, I gave it 2 out of 5 stars. If you’re in to cozies and kitchen witches, maybe you’ll understand the magic system better than I did. Otherwise, there are better cozies out there.