Reading Fanatic Reviews

Cozy Mysteries

Treble with the Law by Jessa Archer

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Treble with the Law*

Mystery Fell Flat

I have read quite a few books by this author. She has put out quite a few series, and as I love cozy mysteries, I snap them up as soon as I see them at my favorite book review site. What I have found, unfortunately, is that Ms. Archer’s style is uneven. Some of her books, and some of her series, are spectacular. For instance, I love the series about hand lettering; if you haven’t read any of that series, you should check it out. However, this series isn’t quite doing it for me, and this particular installment of the series fell flat. I felt there was too much emphasis on the cozy and not enough on the mystery. That is definitely a problem with so many cozy mysteries. There does need to be a balance. The mystery in this one seemed underdeveloped and the resolution too obvious.

In general, I do like Ms. Archer’s books. I just don’t like this particular one. Obviously, I am not a reviewer who likes every book an author puts out just because I’ve liked a couple previously. Each book has to stand on its own merit. But I have enjoyed so many of this author’s books, that I am willing to give new ones a try.

Death in Dalkinchie by Carly Reid

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Not with Kindle Unlimited

Death in Dalkinchie*

Tale of Death in Small Scottish Town Delights

Another delightful, but slightly murdery, trip to Dalkinchie, Scotland! I read the first book in the series, Murder In Bloom, and enjoyed it thoroughly. So it was fun to revisit characters that I had enjoyed and have a new mystery to solve! American Jessica is becoming more firmly entrenched in small-town life in Dalkinchie. She’s not only helping her aunt, but she is also doing some reporting for the local paper. One of her first big stories is about a big annual craft show. I actually quite enjoyed visiting this craft show through Jessica’s eyes; I’ve lived in a small town in northern California, and this was definitely reminiscent of what that can be like. Up until one of the judges is murdered, of course. I did receive an ARC copy of this book, and unfortunately, it is full of problems with grammar, punctuation, and usage. I hope this will be cleared up before publication, as it did detract somewhat from my enjoyment of the story. The book is well written in terms of plot and characterization. The author kept me guessing, which I love in a mystery. Even though the murder happened a little later than I like in a mystery, the author supplied such charming details about the show and was still able to develop the mystery well—that I’ll forgive her. 😉  I love this little quirky community that this author has created. Everybody seems to know everything about everyone, which makes it a lot of fun. The author has created the community of unique individuals that are fun to watch. If you love small-town mysteries, you will most likely enjoy this book.

Movies, Moonlight, and Magic by January Bain

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Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Scribd, 24 Symbols, Thalia, Mondadori, Angus & Robertson, Indigo (Chapters), and Bol.de

Movies, Moonlight, and Magic*

Heavy on the Cozy, Light on the Mystery

This is the second book in the Manitoba Tea and Tarot series, and the second book that I have read in it. I will admit that I love the concept of this series because tea and tarot are two of my favorite things! I would love to frequent that little shop. I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, so I was looking forward to the next. The series revolves around three sisters who have magical powers, each different. Charm, the heroine in this book, is only just coming to understand and work with what she can do. She has an interest in the new Mountie, but a gorgeous friend of his family has shown up, making Charm a little jealous. A film crew comes to town, and their accountant turns up dead. Other issues come up as well, and someone close to Charm is one of the suspects, leading her to want to investigate to clear their name.

As in the first book, the characters and the relationships between them are a delight. The paranormal aspect is fun. Unfortunately, as can happen in cozy mysteries, the mysteries themselves seemed to take a back seat to the quirky characterization and magical worldbuilding. For instance, the dead body wasn’t found until about the 21% mark. As that is the inciting incident for a murder mystery, not a lot of room was left for the mystery to be fully explored. This is already a short book, so not much space is given to the mystery. The other “mystery” shows up quite a bit later. All in all, I like the world and the characters that the author has created; I just wish that the mystery itself was more emphasized.

Magic and Mystery Box Set by Lily Webb

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Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Google Play, Mondadori, and Angus & Robertson

Magic and Mystery Box Set*

The First Books of the Series

I was a latecomer to the Magic and Mystery series, so I was delighted to be able to pick up the first three books in the series as a single box set. Zoe is a witch who has only just coming to realize the extent of her powers, and I liked watching her evolution. It is sure a bumpy ride for her. I enjoyed seeing, too, more of the backstory and interactions between her and the other characters. These books are relatively light and are easy reads. The author does a good job setting up a paranormal world, make it seem completely logical that magic is an everyday happenstance because, in the world of the books, it is. So the author has managed to make the paranormal aspect seem integral and not fantastical, which I don’t think is always an easy thing to do. Well balanced, nice set of books.

Beyond the Gravy by Mandy Morton

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Available at Amazon, iBooks, Google Play, Thalia, and Bol.de

Beyond the Gravy*

Cat Mysteries . . . Who Knew?

I was looking at books to choose to review at a book review site that I sometimes use, and I was in a mood for mysteries. I mostly read romance, but I do love a good cozy mystery now and then. So I just grab anything that looked like a cozy mystery. I didn’t realize that this particular one had cats as the detectives and a psychic cat! I knew that such a thing as cat cozy mysteries existed but had never read one out in the wild. I found the cat aspect to be quite silly but more charming than I would have imagined. It was definitely an unusual and interesting read than I would have imagined. The main detective cats had such personalities. And there was actually a mystery, too! An enjoyable read.

Listen to Your Art by Wendy Meadows

Listen to Your Art*

Enjoyable Characters but Mystery Lacked

I typically enjoy cozy mysteries by Wendy Meadows. This book does have the quirky community that one needs to have in a good cozy, and I do like the characterization for the most part. I felt this book lacked a little in the mystery department, and I found the end somewhat disappointing. For a paranormal cozy, it didn’t feel it was “paranormal” enough. I know that Mimi is grappling with accepting that she has any sort of witchy powers, but I would have loved to see that aspect of the book explored a little more. All in all, I still found it an enjoyable read because Ms. Meadows is a good storyteller and has a way with words.

Murder in Bloom by Carly Reid

Murder in Bloom*

Murder in Small-Town Scotland

Having visited Scotland last September, I could just about the picture what the author and the heroine described. A small town in Scotland just seems to be a perfect place for a cozy mystery. Lots of quirky characters in town, which you have to have for a solid cozy mystery. The heroine’s aunt is moving out of Edinborough to a small town to open up a small flower shop, and Jessica is going to help her out. (She’s been looking forward to a holiday since graduating from college and breaking up with her boyfriend.) But this being a cozy mystery, a dead body is found in the cellar of the flower shop, and who would be the prime suspect? The aunt, of course. So now Jessica has something more challenging to handle than just renovating a small shop and helping her aunt with it; now she wants to make sure that her aunt doesn’t end up imprisoned for murder. I enjoyed this cozy mystery and all of its delightful characters. I sincerely hope the author continues with this series and these characters. There is definitely some potential here. I am sure there is much more than this small town has to offer cozy mystery fans!

Apple Crumble Assault by Diana Dumont

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Free with Kindle Unlimited

Apple Crumble Assault*

Another Enjoyable Trip to Sunshine Springs

I have read all the books in this series, and while I have enjoyed them all, I found this one to be a particular delight. I think it is because I have read the previous ones and gotten to know the community and the characters, so it was like putting on a pair of comfortable slippers to reenter the world in this novel. I enjoy Izzy’s relationship with her grandmother, who always does have her interest at heart (even if Izzy doesn’t want to listen). Seriously, what’s up with Izzy and Theo? I loved how Izzy got involved with the murder in this particular book. She does have some skills, and they’re not all in the baking department!

Basket Delivery by Wendy Meadows

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Free with Kindle Unlimited

Basket Delivery*

Cozy Mystery Novella Delivers the Goods

This delivers a wonderful mystery even though it is so short. Often, mystery novellas lack the key elements that are needed for good cozy mystery, like red herrings, quirky characters, and plenty of possible suspects. This book delivers in so many ways. I love Hillary as the amateur sleuth in this series. She has such an empathetic way about her that she is able to elicit stories and even confessions from people. I love her interactions with her group of friends and her daughter. The group of friends provides excellent humor, and they seem to act like real groups of female friends do. Hillary’s relationship with her daughter isn’t always simple, again like real life. In this book, Hillary does not approve of Annabelle’s relationship with the first prime suspect for the murder in this book. He’s a womanizer who lacks a moral compass according to Hillary. But the mother of a grown woman can only say so much to her daughter in the area of romance. Speaking of romance, things are slowly heating up with Hillary and Preston, which is a delight to see as this has been a slow burn for them in the previous books of this series. A well-done, character-driven quick read.

Arsenic and Ole by Jessa Archer

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Free with Kindle Unlimited

Arsenic and Ole*

Problem of First in Series Plagues Second

I have read books from several different series by this author, and I find myself somewhat amazed that I don’t have a single opinion about her as a writer. When I read a lot of books by one author, I tend to develop an impression that covers all the books I’ve read. With Ms. Archer, it changes for each series I read, it would seem. For instance, I absolutely adore the hand lettering series. This is now the second book I have read of this Coastal Playhouse series, and it isn’t sitting well with me. This book suffers from the same problem that the first one did. Namely, the book has far too many chunks of straight-out backstory about a variety of characters and circumstances littered throughout the first half of the book. I just do not like information dumps. With her skill, the author could definitely have spread this information around more evenly throughout and only when needed; I don’t think all the background itself was necessary. I do like the world she has created in this quirky little community. I like Tig (even if I still can’t stand her name) and her relationships with those around her, especially with her daughter and her former high school boyfriend (now local law enforcement). All in all, I would say that this series is not the author’s best work, but if you don’t mind data dumps, it is actually a very serviceable and enjoyable cozy mystery.

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The asterisks (*) by the book title denote the source of the book copy.

One star = I received it as a free advance/review copy or directly from the author.

Two stars = I borrowed it through my Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Three stars = I purchased the book outright (sometimes for free).

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