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 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.

Thoughts on TO FETCH A FELON

Howdy, howdy! It’s the last Wednesday of 2020. Just a couple of more days and we’ll get to see what fresh new hell 2021 can rain down upon us! I mean… 2021 will be better? I don’t know what you want to hear. But yeah, 2021 is coming. Before that, let’s squeeze in one last book review. This month I decided to request the first book in a cute new cozy series, A Chatty Corgi mystery series. Jennifer Hawkins’s To Fetch a Felon was released yesterday (December 29th) from the Berkley Publishing Group. 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. And actually has stuff in common with the story.

To Fetch a Felon follows Emma and Oliver, her corgi, as they move from a fast paced city life in London to a small village life full of nosy neighbors and drama in Trevena. The goal? To start a tea shop complete with homemade treats. The problem? The village witch (read that with a b instead of w) owns the shop Emma really wants to rent, along with most of the rest of the village. After a brief altercation over Oliver getting in the woman’s garden, Emma loses hope of getting the space unless she can smooth things over with the woman. The bigger problem? Emma and Oliver find the woman dead when bringing her some reconciliation scones. Now, Emma feels compelled to help solve the murder with the assistance of Oliver’s superior sense of smell. It helps that he can tell her everything he knows (yes, she and Oliver can understand each other), but sometimes she has to interpret his doggy views of the world, which can be tricky. But together they can take on any case!

I admit that I’m a sucker for stories with cute puppers, so I was excited to dig into this one. The plot was nice and twisty, adding new layers every few chapters. Every time I figured things out, a new puzzle popped up. That helped keep me invested even when no one in the story had put things together. Whenever things started dragging, something new happened. The inclusion of the decades old disappearance subplot was nice as well. I also enjoyed that we got to see some of the story from Oliver’s point of view. Those were probably the chapters I enjoyed the most.

The butt waggle!

As far as the characters go, I loved most of them. Emma was interesting and well rounded, but I kept reading her as younger than she’s supposed to be. I don’t really know why. It’s probably just me, so I’ll just say she’s young at heart. Oliver was completely adorable. He deserves all the cuddles. I felt like Taite was too obviously a greedy, sneaky dick. I had zero attachment to him and certainly no sympathy. But I liked Victoria (the village witch). She didn’t get a chance to grow as a character, but the snippets from her past made her likeable in the end. Louise and Jimmy and the rest of the characters were also intriguing people. And the other animals were great as well.

Stairs are hard for short legs.

The writing was smooth and made for a quick read. It’s a relatively short book that’s broken down into 53 chapters. I actually prefer this to longer chapters because it’s easier to find a stopping point for the night (or to squeeze in just one more chapter). But there was a nice balance between description and dialogue that made the reading experience pretty pleasant.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed To Fetch a Felon. I’ll definitely be getting the second book in this series when it comes out next year. Have to get my cute pupper fix somehow and what’s better than reading about an excitable little corgi?

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Overall, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. Some of it’s a little predictable, but it’s fun and full of adorableness. If you’re looking for a quick cozy with cuddly animals, I definitely recommend checking this one out.

Thoughts on OPEN FOR MURDER

Howdy, howdy! It’s the last Wednesday of November, which means it’s book review time! It also means that tomorrow is Thanksgiving, so have a safe and happy holiday. Dad and I are staying home and he’s going to cook a few favorites. It’s okay to be jealous. But back to bookish things. This month, I decided to go with a new cozy mystery series. Open for Murder is the first in Mary Angela’s A Happy Camper Mystery series. It was released yesterday (the 24th) from Kensington Books. As usual, I must thank the publisher and NetGalley for access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get on with it!

Cute cover.

Open for Murder follows Zo Jones, a former journalist turned gift shop owner, as she gets reacquainted with her old friend Beth, who has just moved back to Spirit Canyon in order to open the lodge her late aunt left her. Unfortunately, there’s a murder during Beth’s grand opening on Memorial day weekend. Zo must find the real murderer before all the suspects return to their normal lives, so her childhood bestie doesn’t go down for a crime she didn’t commit. Or did she?

The plot is fairly standard on this one. There’s a sexy forest ranger in place of a lead detective for the budding romance aspect, but he does his fair share of the police work. The supportive bestie happens to be the main suspect, which is fun. And there’s some ghostly weirdness with the late aunt popping up in Beth’s mom’s dreams. But otherwise, if you’ve read a few cozies, it’s not hard to see where everything is going pretty early on, even if you’re not quite sure why until later.

Pretty much.

I admit the characters are enjoyable. The background on Zo makes her a likeable and fleshed out person. She’s a free spirit and open to all sorts of things without being naive. While she indulges in stuff like dream reading and ghost stories, she takes those things with a grain of salt. She’s a realist, but doesn’t let that squash out all the fun in her life. Beth is definitely a planner, but she rolls with the punches. A storm interrupts the outdoor festivities? She has a backup plan. She doesn’t let anything get her down. Max likes rules and structure, but he’s the first to point out when something isn’t fair even if it goes against those rules. They make the story worth reading.

Me to most of the characters.

The writing itself is fine, but the pacing is slow. Things happen in every chapter to push things along, but the story just drags for me. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I guessed so much early on. It wasn’t bad, though. I was simply a little bored towards the end.

Ultimately, I was kind of meh about Open for Murder. I liked the characters enough that I’ll give it a second chance if another one comes out, but if things don’t pick up, I won’t go looking for more.

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Overall, I gave it 3 out of 5 stars. It wasn’t a bad story and I loved the characters, but it didn’t strike my fancy the way I was hoping it would. If you’re looking for a cozy mystery with interesting people, check it out. If you’re in it for the plot, there are better stories out there.

Thoughts on CHERRY SLICE

Howdy, howdy! It’s the last Wednesday in April. Can you believe it? Time has just been flying by these past few weeks. But you know what today is. It’s book review day! None of my requests were approved through NetGalley for this month, so I bought a backup just in case. It’s called Cherry Slice by Jennifer Stone and was released on April 2nd from Farrago Books. I decided to do another cozy mystery since it’s been a while since I reviewed one that wasn’t also fantasy. I wanted something cute and funny and overall happy. This book seemed like it would accommodate all of those things. Since I don’t have to thank anyone, let’s get on with the review!

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Simple enough cover.

Cherry Slice follows Cherry Hinton as she tries to reinvent herself after an undercover journalism mission on reality TV goes awry. She’s doing her best to avoid the spotlight while revamping her parents’ bakery into something her own. That is until an ex’s sister pops in and asks her to look into his murder which happened on live TV two years prior. It piques Cherry’s journalistic interest and drags her back into the midst of Essex’s reality TV obsession.

Plotwise, it’s pretty standard. Someone with no law experience (although she does have investigative reporting experience) is in the middle of a rough time when a murder falls in her lap and she must solve it in order to get her life back on track. There are a handful of suspects that keep both Cherry and the reader guessing, then throw in another murder and some more twists and you’ve got the gist of things. Don’t forget the quirky best friend, the hunky detective dude she’s already kind of dated but still has the hots for, and the overbearing mother. So yeah, it’s standard but cute.

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It’s also a little trashy, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

The characters are fun and pretty diverse. Cherry’s not afraid to get a little dirty to get the info she seeks. Her bestie, Kelsey, is down for anything as long as she can entertain her social media followers. Jacob, the detective, is a camera whore and a manipulative dick most of the time. I think my favorite character was probably Cherry’s mom. She rambles and has zero shame and basically solves the murder of Kenny Thorpe when Cherry’s stuck with no new leads.

One last thing I want to mention is the humor in this book. If you’re a fan of inappropriate humor, you’ll be fine. That being said, it does border on the offensive. There’s fat-shaming, slut-shaming (usually at Cherry’s expense), jokes at the expense of non-binary folks, and more. If you’re sensitive to stuff like that, this is not a book you’ll want to pick up. I’m not, so it didn’t really bother me. Sometimes though, the humor was super forced, which gave it an unnatural feel. That’s when I’d roll my eyes and move on.

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The writing itself was tight and fast-paced. It was a pretty quick read, but I admit that I occasionally didn’t want to pick it back up. Between figuring out who the killer was pretty early on and the forced jokes, I got a bit bored with it. But I finished it because the writing wasn’t bad and the story itself was okay.

Ultimately, I thought Cherry Slice was just okay. If I happen to see the next book in the series, I’ll probably give it another chance if the synopsis is interesting, but I don’t plan on looking for it.

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Overall, I gave it three out of five stars. Probably closer to two and a half if I’m being honest. It’s not bad, but it’s not great either. If you like inappropriate humor and cozies, give it a shot. If not, you’re not really missing anything.