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 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 FROM BEER TO ETERNITY

Howdy, howdy! It’s the last Wednesday of the month again, so you know what that means. It’s time for the regularly scheduled book review! This month, I decided to go back to cozy mysteries for something fun and quick and with a happy ending. I got an ARC for Sherry Harris’s newest release, From Beer to Eternity. It’s the first in her Sea Glass Saloon series and was released on the 28th (yesterday) from Kensington Books. As usual, I must thank the publisher and NetGalley for giving me access to the book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Let’s get to it!

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Cute cover, but doesn’t seem like an accurate depiction of the bar.

From Beer to Eternity follows Chloe Jackson as she takes some time off from her library job in Chicago to fulfill a last promise to her best friend Boone who died. She goes to his hometown in the Florida panhandle and gets a job at his grandmother’s bar. The only problem is that Vivi, his grandmother, doesn’t want or seem to need help. Throw in a murder, a hot mystery guy, and a few attempts on Chloe’s life and Chicago just keeps looking better and better. Unfortunately, Chloe keeps her promises, so she can’t run away. Instead, she dives head first into a murder investigation like anyone would. No? Just her? Okay then.

First, the character development. I love Chloe. She’s the first snoop I’ve seen in one of these books who actually acknowledges that she’s bad at it and tries to come at things from different angles when she screws up. The only complaint I have about her is that she’s overly dumb sometimes even though she’s supposed to be smart. If multiple people start looking at you like you’re nuts when you say someone is a handywoman, you inquire as to why they’re looking at you like that, especially when no one actually told you her profession beyond “she fixes things.” Don’t be dense. Chloe’s new in town, so there’s no bestie to support her, but that means we get to see the budding friendship between her and Joaquin, the gay bartender. There’s also the weird romance thing going on with Rhett, but Chloe’s resistant to it for a couple of reasons (only one of which is acceptable to me). And of course there’s the tension with Vivi. It all makes for some really nice development.

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The setting is lovely. Harris does a wonderful job of depicting life on the Gulf. I love the beach imagery and the storms rolling in and even the bar. Everything is so vivid. All of the senses are utilized to create the whole picture. It’s kind of an immersive experience, which is neat.

The plot and pacing is great for the most part. It kept me guessing until the end, but we didn’t get to see much of the killer, so they basically flew under the radar. However, the last few chapters kind of went from a good and steady pace to a random avalanche. Throwing in that completely random and unfounded suspicion about Boone’s death only made the ending convoluted. His death never seemed to come into question until that point, so it is jarring and distracts from what actually happened.

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The writing is lovely, like I mentioned with the setting. Everything flows well and the imagery is gorgeous. Other than the pacing of the last few chapters, I can’t find anything to complain about with the writing itself.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed From Beer to Eternity. I will definitely by picking up future books in the series and may even check out Harris’s other cozy mystery series.

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Overall, I gave it four out of five stars. If you enjoy a good cozy or want something quick and fun to read, it’s worth picking up.

Thoughts on BELINDA BLAKE AND THE SNAKE IN THE GRASS

Howdy, howdy!  Can you believe it’s already the last Wednesday of the month?  You know what that means!  It’s time for another book review.  Since my mind has been drifting to my own cozy mystery, I decided to see if any new series in that genre were releasing this month.  Yup!  I went with the Exotic Pet-Sitter series because who can resist animals and a good murder or two?  Not me.  It’s by Heather Day Gilbert and the first book is called Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass (kind of a mouthful, I know).  Since it was only released yesterday (June 25th), you would be correct in assuming that I got an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) through NetGalley.  So, I must thank them and Kensington Books for allowing me access to this ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review, which I’ll be getting to presently.

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A cute cover that has nothing to do with the story.

Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass follows (you guessed it!) Belinda Blake as she embarks on a new phase of her life.  Moving from a studio apartment in Manhattan to a carriage house on some rich family’s property in Greenwich, Connecticut, Belinda works hard to keep her exotic pet-sitting business going strong.  She’s currently taking care of a ball python for a client in Manhattan who insists she carts the animal back and forth from his place to hers (because snakes need vacations too) as well as taking it for walks and even bathing it.  As if that plus an embarrassing run in with the homeowners’ handsome son, Stone Carrington the fifth, isn’t bad enough, she finds a dead woman in her garden.  From there, things just get stranger.

The plot of this one is pretty standard.  A young woman (26) finds a dead body and gets dragged into investigating it with the hot new guy in her life, who she falls in love with, of course.  But could he possibly be the murderer?!  Dun dun dun…  It’s a cozy, so what do you think?  He’s still shady, though.  And I admit that I picked out the murderer as soon as they showed up, but it took me a little while to piece together the why part, so it’s still a fun journey.

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My main problem with this story is the pacing and the odd scenes that feel tossed in for no particular reason.  It’s super jumpy.  Things would be going along nicely, then something completely random would pop up.  Like the kiss.  It doesn’t feel like it belongs there to me and it’s out of character for Belinda, so it seems really forced.  Then, she goes home (upstate New York) for Thanksgiving and randomly gets sent to a neighbor’s house to pick up honey.  I’m guessing he’s supposed to be the rival love interest, but his part in this particular book seems unnecessary and rushed.  His introduction could’ve waited for a book or two until he’s needed.  There’s also this thing with escaped cows that makes no real sense and does nothing for the actual plot of the story.  There are some other instances, but these stand out the most.

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Me wondering how things fit together in this book.

As far as the writing goes, it’s a little stilted in spots.  The book is in first person, so we’re in Belinda’s head when we’re not dealing with dialogue.  I spent a lot of time telling myself that people don’t talk that way.  It’s distracting, but I was still able to enjoy the story.

Ultimately, I enjoyed Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass enough that I’ll check out the next book to see if it’s better.  Also, I kind of want to see just how much randomness makes it into the next one.

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Overall, I gave it 3 out of five stars.  While many, my complaints are actually pretty minor.  If you like cute cozies and animals, go ahead and check this one out.  If you have too many books on your TBR lists, you’re not missing much if you skip this one.

Thoughts On LITTLE COMFORT

Hello, hello!  Welcome to the last Wednesday of August.  That means it’s time for another book review.  This month, I’ll be looking at Edwin Hill’s debut novel, Little Comfort.  It came out on August 28th.  It’s a new cozy mystery series that I actually forgot I had requested from NetGalley until I received the approval notice.  I must thank them and Kensington Books, the publisher, for sending me an Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Without further ado, let’s get to it.

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A nice, simple cover.  But I don’t remember a bird in the story.

Little Comfort introduces us to Hester Thursby.  She lives with her partner (but refuses to marry him) in Boston, though she maintains a separate apartment area above his for when she needs time alone.  They have recently been saddled with taking care of his niece because his sister/Hester’s best friend took off.  So, Hester took some time off work until they could find a new life rhythm.  When things seem to be quieting down, a woman contacts Hester and asks her to track down the woman’s brother.  Since finding people had been Hester’s side business for a while, she agreed.  From there, things went very wrong.

This book was a little different from the cozies I’ve been reading because it shifted POVs.  We start out with Hester (an interesting character), then jump to Sam, Gabe, and a couple of other characters (all interesting in their own right).  The story shuffles back and forth around them.  I, personally, like that method.  I mean, following one character throughout the whole book as she figures out the crime is fine, but it wouldn’t have worked here.  This way, we not only get to figure out what’s going on, but we get better insight into the minds of the bad people.  The story isn’t really about whodunit, but how they ended up in that position and why they chose to do what they did.  That’s why the rotating POV works here.

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Who doesn’t love being in the mind of a sociopath every now and again?

As far as the plot itself goes, there are plenty of twists and turns to keep it intriguing.  My only complaint would be that the climax felt a little rushed.  Normally, I’m all for a quick “end it while cutting off the villain’s monologue” type thing, but considering the person who actually ends it, I wanted more.  More struggle, more explanation, more conniving on the bad guy’s part.  I wanted the niece to have a bigger part because I didn’t believe the guy would just let her loose.  That whole scene just felt too quick and easy.  Granted, there’s some stuff after the climax that kind of makes up for it, but I expected a little more.

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Pretty much.

The writing was a little shaky at times.  A lot of it was tight and pulled me along.  But sometimes, especially in the beginning, there was a lot of focus on tits.  Like, a lot.  It was borderline comical/annoying.  Don’t get me wrong, tits are great, but it felt like the author was overcompensating for something and I couldn’t decide what.  Mostly, though, things either went along at a really nice pace or they went too fast.

Ultimately, I enjoyed Little Comfort enough that I’ll look for future Hester Thursby books.  Hester was a great character and I’m interested to see what happens with the kid and the partner.

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Overall, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.  My issues with the story weren’t big and could be attributed to the fact that it’s the first book.  If you’re into these kinds of stories, give it a shot.  However, I’d say if you’re legit sensitive to certain kinds of topics or just have a tendency to say things need “trigger warnings,” this book probably isn’t for you.