Thoughts On DEATH AND A POT OF CHOWDER

Hello, hello!  It’s the last Wednesday in June, so it’s time for another book review.  Around this time of year, I have a tendency to miss Maine.  I decided to request book one in a new cozy series called Maine Murder Mysteries.  It’s called Death and a Pot of Chowder by Cornelia Kidd and it came out earlier this month from Crooked Lane Books.  As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for sending me an advanced copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  With that out of the way, let’s get on with it!

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Adorable cover, but I can’t really remember a picnic.

Death and a Pot of Chowder is set on Quarry Island, a tight-knit community focused on family and lobstering.  It focuses on Anna Winslow and her family.  First, she receives a letter from a sister she didn’t know she had who wants to meet.  If that wasn’t enough excitement, she brings Izzie (the sister) home with her only to discover that Anna’s brother-in-law, Carl, was murdered.  Anna is a little resistant to getting mixed up in a murder investigation until charges are brought against her husband.  Then, the fun really begins.

I knew nothing about this book going in, aside from the fact that it was set in Maine, so I had no expectations of it.  That was a good thing, because I probably would have been sorely disappointed in it if I was expecting something.  It was slow moving and just kind of drifted along like it wasn’t in a hurry to get anywhere.  Which isn’t a bad thing.  It gave us plenty of time to get to know the characters and become invested in their lives, though I’m definitely more interested in Izzie than Anna.  I didn’t really empathize with Anna the way I was supposed.  It was mostly because she focused on wanting to know the “dad” who abandoned her rather than being content with the “step-father” who raised her.  I just don’t understand people who are so obsessed with a sperm donor (there’s more to it, but that’s basically what he was).  Especially when a loving father figure is in the picture.  But anyway, I really liked everyone else.

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Sorry, Anna.

As far as the plot goes, it was one of those where I figured out what was going on pretty early.  The fact that Anna didn’t figure it out earlier was written off as her being too close to everyone involved, but what was Izzie’s excuse?  Was she just too focused on her own stuff to see the signs?  Maybe.  Or maybe I just automatically assume the worst about people.  But just because I knew what was going on, didn’t mean that I was sure about the murderer.  I wavered back and forth between two people until close to the end, so that was nice.  It’s a pretty standard plot, though.

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Maybe.

The writing was okay.  Like I said, it was slow and drifting.  It was also one of those stories that had to repeat all the clues at least three times, which was annoying.  But the parts about Maine and island life were lovely, so I didn’t mind the rest so much.

Ultimately, Death and a Pot of Chowder was just okay.  If a second one comes out, I’ll probably pick it up because I liked the characters and want to give them a second chance.

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Overall, I’d give it a three out of five stars.  If you’re into cozies and Maine, give it a shot.  Otherwise, it’s not going to hurt if you skip over this one.

Thoughts on A MURDER FOR THE BOOKS

Hello, hello!  We’ve reached the last Wednesday in December (the last one of 2017).  Can you believe that?  And that means it’s time for my monthly book review.  For December, I chose a cozy mystery (think along the lines of Murder She Wrote, only this heroine is a young librarian).  I was looking for something light and fun this time, and A Murder for the Books by Victoria Gilbert, which was published on Dec. 22nd, popped up in my recommendations list on NetGalley.  Yes, it’s another advanced reader copy (ARC), so I must thank the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGalley for giving me access to the ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Now, let’s get on with the actual review.

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An interesting cover, but the more I look at it, the less it fits the book.

A Murder for the Books is the first in a new cozy series collectively known a the Blue Ridge Library Mysteries.  It follows Amy Webber, who has moved in with her elderly aunt Lydia under the guise of taking care of Lydia (who doesn’t really need much in the way of help), but is actually fleeing her old life after making a public scene when she found out her long-term boyfriend had been cheating on her.  She’s gone from being a librarian at a major university to being one at a small town public library.  Plus, she’s self-conscious about her weight and wary of anyone who shows a romantic interest in her.  Cue the entrance of Richard Muir who is a dance instructor at her old university and is new to her little town.  He asks for some help researching an old murder and that’s when they stumble upon a fresh murder and things just get weirder from there.

After the last three ARCs I got turned out to be less than satisfying, I had very low hopes for this book.  But I went into it with an open mind and, to my surprise, I liked it quite a bit.  The characters were relatable (if somewhat over the top occasionally).  And the plot was fun.  It was a little predictable at points, but the main antagonist turned out to be a bit of a surprise.  I figured they were somehow involved, but I didn’t think they’d actually do their own dirty work.  So, it was fun.

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And they did it.

That being said, I did have one major issue with the plot.  Every time Amy painted herself into a seemingly inescapable corner, instead of finding a logical way out, the author employed a deus ex machina (plot device where something is magically cleared up by the intervention of something random).  A book that’s been lost for years shows up even though they had done a complete inventory of the library earlier that year and no one had found it, another book randomly falls off a shelf at her house… twice, a shadow in the woods spooks the killer into running away, a gust of wind on an otherwise calm day knocks the killer off balance, etc.  These things are explained away as the possible actions of a ghost, which would be fine if this were a paranormal series (I love ghost stories!).  But it’s not.  The whole prospect of ghosts doesn’t even come up until more than halfway through the book, so it feels like a lazy escape method from having to find logical alternatives.

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A little too convenient.

Beyond that, the writing was good.  There was a little too much focus on description.  I didn’t really need to know what every house and garden Amy went in looked like in full detail.  That made it drag a little bit in places.  And there was a lot of hair twirling and similar actions that could’ve been left up to the reader’s imagination.  But none of that detracted from the fun of the story itself, so I’ll let it slide.

Ultimately, I was satisfied with A Murder for the Books.  It was interesting and fun enough that I’ll probably pick up the second book when it’s available.  Hopefully, there won’t be as much deus ex machina in the second one.

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Overall, I’d rate it 4 out of 5 stars.  If you’re looking for something nice to snuggle up by the fire with, this one would be a good choice.