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 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 LAST PEN STANDING

Howdy, howdy!  It’s already the last Wednesday of September.  Where did the month go?  For that matter, where did all the months since March go?  My internal clock is kind of lagging.  Anyway, it’s the last Wednesday and that means it’s book review time!  I decided to go back to a cozy mystery this time, because I wanted something with a guaranteed happy ending.  So, I requested Last Pen Standing, the first in a brand new series by Vivian Conroy.  It was released yesterday (Sept. 24th).  As usual, I must thank NetGalley and the publisher, Poisoned Pen Press, for allowing me access to an Advance Reader Copy (ARC) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Let’s get to it!

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Cute cover and pretty fitting.

Last Pen Standing follows Delta Douglas as she embarks on a new chapter in her life.  Delta’s grandmother gifts her a large sum of money because she wants to see what Delta will achieve with it instead of waiting and passing it on as an inheritance.  So, Delta quits her big city job and becomes co-owners of a stationery store in a small town with her college bestie, Hazel.  During their first workshop event at the town’s fanciest hotel, one of the hotel guests is murdered.  Hazel’s brother, Finn, is accused and everything kind of spirals from there.  Delta didn’t expect to be using her creative skills to help solve a murder, but things don’t always go the way you want.  With the help of her new friend, Jonas (an ex-cop), his dog, Spud, and the Paper Posse (the local gossips and crafters), Delta tries her best to figure out what’s going on.

I have to admit that I didn’t pinpoint the correct suspect right away.  I had the person in my list of probable suspects, but I wasn’t positive until I got closer to the end.  That made the story all the more fun, because I was able to eliminate suspects right alongside Delta and the others.  The plot was full of twists and turns.  I really liked the slow build of tension and the subtle clues sprinkled throughout.  It was just paced really nicely.  I wasn’t absorbed enough that I had trouble putting it down in order to eat and sleep and work, but I also looked forward to picking it back up again.  That’s the kind of balance I enjoy with cozies.

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Works with writing.

As far as the characters go, I loved them.  Delta was an interesting and likeable lead.  She rarely came across as pushy or bratty like some cozy leads can.  She left a lot of the snooping to the town gossips and only pried into things when she was relatively sure there was something useful to be discovered.  The love interest, Jonas, was a nice foil.  He helped Delta proceed with her investigation and made sure everything she did was above board.  Being an ex-cop gave him access to more information than usual, so I suppose that’s why Delta didn’t have to pry as much as some cozy leads.  Even the rich people came across as mostly human.  It was nice.

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Because people talk weird.

The writing was done well for the most part.  My only complaint would be that a lot of the dialogue was stilted.  “People don’t talk like that” was my mantra as I went through this book.  It was like the author wanted to give the reader a bunch of information and couldn’t find a better way of doing it than having people say it.  But people don’t say things like that, especially if they think their listener knows what they’re talking about.  Like, the stationery shop is across the street from the diner.  She works at the shop, so she knows where the diner is.  Don’t have the woman she’s talking to say to meet her at *insert name of diner*, the diner across the street from where you’ve been every day this week.  It’s not realistic.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed Last Pen Standing.  I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for future books and maybe even try something else by Vivian Conroy.

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Overall, I gave it 4 out of 5 stars.  The dialogue is annoying enough that I took a star off, but if you like cozies and stationery and western type stuff, you should pick this book up.