COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Murder at First Pitch by Nicole Asselin + a GIVEAWAY!

TITLE: Murder at First Pitch
AUTHOR: Nicole Asselin
PUBLISHER: Pandamoon Publishing
RELEASE DATE: September 4th, 2019
GENRE(S): ADULT FICTION–Mystery > Cozy Mystery
BUY LINK: https://bookshop.org/a/11727/9781950627219

Murder at First Pitch is a promising start to a new cozy mystery series. I’m almost as much of a baseball fan as I am a bookworm, and this premise had my attention from the start.

Madeline is a 30-something living just outside of Boston. After losing her corporate job, she starts working for the minor league baseball team owned by her family. When a dead body turns up in the dugout right before Opening Day, the police turn their attention to Madeline’s brother. Madeline works to clear her brother’s name, and gets herself into a bit of trouble in the process.

I loved the ballpark atmosphere (I live very close to a minor league park so it was easy to picture every single scene in this book!) However, Asselin is a Red Sox fan – we might have to agree to disagree on that one.

Up for grabs during this blog tour are three digital copies! This giveaway is open to US + INTL and will close on September 9th at 11:59 PM CST. Enter to win via rafflecopter!
https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1e4a114d4/?

Thank you Turn the Page Tours for the digital review copy of Murder at First Pitch!

FULL SYNOPSIS:

32-year-old Madeline Boucher’s Grandfather instilled a love in the Boston Red Sox into her from an early age and increased that love by purchasing a local Independent League Baseball team, the Abington Armadillos.

After losing her corporate job in Boston, Madeline realizes her best option is to join the family baseball business. As the new “Social Media Director” for the team, Madeline attends her first business function and witnesses an argument between her brother Ben, and a strange man.

A few days later when walking the ballpark during her early morning hours, she finds the body of a man beaten to death with a baseball bat in the Visitor’s Dugout. It was the man her brother was arguing with at the party. Madeline is concerned that her brother would be considered a suspect. Through the local Detectives and Davis – the head of security for the ballpark she learns the victim is Christopher Dailey, a local baseball scout and prior felon.

When her brother is arrested and taken to the police station, she realizes she needs to figure out who the real culprit is, so her brother doesn’t take the fall for something she knows he didn’t do.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nicole Asselin grew up a Navy Brat, and spent her formative high school years in the middle of Pennsylvania but always identified with her New England roots. Nicole’s family is originally from Connecticut, and her Grandpa Asselin introduced her into the Red Sox nation where she has been a member for her whole life and her Grandma Asselin introduced her to the world of mystery novels. Now those two loves are combined into her new Ballpark Mystery series.

Nicole graduated from Curry College in Milton Mass with a degree in English/Creative Writing, minoring in Dance in 2004. She also attended George Mason University and received a Master’s in Arts Management. She worked in the Government sector for over ten years before transitioning to Healthcare. Now working in just outside of Boston as a Technical Writer, she lives on the South Shore of Massachusetts with her three cats Julia, Jacques, and Madeline (no relation to the main character of her book).

Nicole is a current member of Sisters in Crime (National and New England) and the Mystery Writers of America. She sits on the Board of Directors for the NE branches of both groups as Social Media Liaison. MURDER AT FIRST PITCH is her debut cozy mystery from Pandamoon Publishing. Book two of the Ballpark Mystery series is scheduled for late in 2020.

TOUR SCHEDULE:
September 1st
Turn the Page Tours – Welcome Post

September 2nd
WhatAfiReads

September 3rd
Avni Reads

September 4th
Hallelujah Hill

September 5th
Meli’s Book Reviews

September 6th
Bri’s Book Nook

September 7th
Read with Aimee
For The Love of Fictional Worlds

REVIEW – Lily Rose by Deborah Robinson

Lily Rose is a debut novel based loosely on the author’s real life experiences. The premise intrigued me and while this book is pretty interesting, it might be a little too matter of fact for the story presented.

We start with Jeff, a teenage girl living in Kentucky. She’s very naive and VERY materialistic. I’m not sure if we’re meant to dislike her from the start, but it’s hard to sympathize with her.

We skip ahead to meet Lily Rose, a young girl that’s been adopted by very loving parents. Tragedy strikes Lily Rose at a young age, and she spends her teen and adult years coping.

What I found difficult about this book: the time period is VERY hard to nail down. We know that our “present” day is 30-some years before the chronological beginning of this event (meeting Jeff as a teen) but we don’t have a concrete decade to refer to when it comes to attitudes about…well, everything. The pacing is also a little inconsistent, until you realize that the story has jumped ahead a few years at some points.

There are a lot of “rich people problems” in this book. One character comes from a relatively privileged background, ends up inheriting a fortune and marries rich. The other acquires a substantial amount of money prior to graduating high school and, surprise surprise, marries rich.

And maybe the toughest part: Lily Rose doesn’t really seem to have her own voice. She seems naive, even as an adult. When someone tells her something is right or something is wrong, she just shrugs and believes them. She’s a little bit like a cardboard cutout that’s becoming sentient.

There’s a great story at the heart of Lily Rose, but the execution is a little off.

Content warnings: mention of suicidal thoughts, brief mention of abortion, parental death, toxic relationship/marriage, infertility, domestic abuse.

Thank you Emi Battaglia PR and Skyhorse Publishing for sending me a finished copy of this book.

REVIEW – I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb

Oh, boy. This book is full of unlikeable men that we’re, for some reason, supposed to be rooting for? Bad thing after bad thing piles on, until the book (after almost 900! pages) wraps up everything hunky-dory with a neat little bow.

There’s so much potential in this story – Thomas and Dominick are fascinating (at first). Thomas, although being such a key part of the story, doesn’t really get much page time. You know who does? Thomas and Dominick’s arrogant, sexist, horrible grandfather – via his haphazardly constructed memoir. The memoir eats up almost 200 pages of the book (at least that’s what other reviewers have said, I didn’t count). And we aren’t even introduced to the memoir until more than 500 pages in.

Content warnings abound in this one, and pretty much zero good things happen to anyone until the last 20 or so pages. We have multiple mentions of rape (one of which we’re apparently supposed to ignore because the perpetrator is MISUNDERSTOOD and CONFUSED and DIDN’T MEAN IT). We have an abusive husband and stepfather that is somehow kind of redeemed towards the end of the book? We have some pretty severe self-harm. Multiple suicides (definitely two but probably three?) Horrific accidents. AIDS! SIDS! What else am I missing? Oh, a child is murdered but it’s briefly mentioned and really more of a plot device than anything. And that child’s twin is also sexually abused.

Needless to say, I have a hard time rating this below three stars because it did hold my interest enough to want to finish. And I did enjoy some parts. I just thought it would be more about the relationship between two brothers (one neurotypical, one severely mentally ill). I thought i’d get something a bit more cohesive.

REVIEW – Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

I had such high hopes for this book (despite the mixed reviews I was seeing). What would have happened if Hillary never married Bill? According to this book, Hillary’s life still would have pretty much revolved around Bill Clinton anyway.

What worked in Sittenfeld’s American Wife is exactly why this one fell flat for me. American Wife is based on real people, but the characters themselves are fictional. You know it’s about “that First Lady” but they have different names, slightly different histories and it’s all very much “based on” without being an attempt to rewrite history. Maybe explicitly naming Hillary was the point, here. Maybe this book would not have captured attention without it.

What should have been a book championing Hillary’s accomplishments (and those that “could have been” in an alternate universe) really just becomes a book where Hillary’s life is propelled and hindered by the men around her. And the inclusion of the-orange-one-who-must-not-be-named and the subsequent plot around THAT character was just unforgivable.

If you’re looking for an empowering book about Hillary, skip this one and read something by the woman herself.

REVIEW – All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

“We are not as different as you think, and all our stories matter and deserve to be celebrated and told.”

All Boys Aren’t Blue is a deeply personal memoir that should be required reading. George Johnson just has an impeccable way with words – we follow their story from childhood to high school to college and beyond. Johnson and I are around the same age, and I loved some of their stories about growing up – it was so easy for me to picture those moments in time.

“Symbolism gives folks hope. But I’ve come to learn that symbolism is a threat to actual change – it’s a chance for those in power to say, “Look how far you’ve come” rather than admitting, “Look how long we’ve stopped you from getting here.””

Johnson touches on the importance of representation – from teachers to politicians alike. A lot of Black kids (and kids of all races) don’t have Black teachers. (I mean, think about it – when did you have your first Black teacher? I don’t recall having a Black teacher/professor until I was in college.) Queer representation is important too – especially with LGBTQ+ youth being high-risk for suicidal thoughts, homelessness and abuse.

Johnson often mentions the dual struggles of being both Black and queer – and how lucky they are to have a family who supports them as they are. I think Johnson’s story would be much different without the support of their family. Johnson’s grandmother, Nanny, is a strong presence in this book – what an incredible woman! She is the embodiment of pure, unconditional love for her family.

All Boys Aren’t Blue deals with some incredibly heavy topics but the book never feels weighed down – there’s always hope, always growth, always forgiveness.

Note: When this book was released, Johnson used he/him pronouns and has recently switched to using they/them pronouns (just something to keep in mind if/when you write a review for this book).

REVIEW – Salvation Station by Kathryn Schleich

When three bodies (two small children and their father) are found buried in the backyard of a church parsonage, Captain Linda Turner vows to track down their killer. The crime is one of the worst she’s ever seen and Linda ends up on a chase unlike anything she’s dealt with before. We also meet Ray Williams, a televangelist with a struggling TV show – that is, until one of his regular attendees approaches him with ideas to ensure the show’s growth and success.

I’ll tell you this much: you’ll know where this book is going pretty early on. You’ll spend most of your time just wanting to know how it all plays out. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I think it’s important to know before you read. This isn’t really a twisty thriller, it’s a sleepy investigative novel that picks up considerably in the final third of the book.

This is one of those books that would make a great episode of Criminal Minds or another investigative crime show. (America’s Most Wanted, maybe?!) Our villain is truly despicable and readers will surely be anxiously waiting for justice. There’s also a strong theme of religion in this book, and using faith to manipulate others. The book is also set in the early 2000s and features some brief mentions of 9/11 and the Enron situation. The choice to have the events in the book take place nearly 20 years ago is an interesting one, but it makes sense given the general MO of the villain and the plausibility of their actions.

Content warning: murder/death of small children, brief mention of animal cruelty, narcissism, manipulation within a romantic/marital relationship.

Thank you Book Publicity Services for sending me a finished copy of Salvation Station!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Three Widows and a Corpse by Debra Sennefelder

Food blogger Hope Early is settled back into her hometown of Jefferson, Connecticut, except for the fact that she keeps finding dead bodies…

When a local real estate developer is found dead during the annual scavenger hunt, Hope inserts herself into the investigation (despite the warnings of her sister…and boyfriend…and best friend…and everyone else in town). The best part? Three women claim to be married to the murder victim, and they all had the means, motive and opportunity to take him out.

I really liked the mystery in this one! It kept me guessing and although I had a hunch early on, Sennefelder did a good job of throwing me off the trail. I also loved the secondary characters and the town in general. This book hits all of the quintessential cozy mystery elements, and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Thank you Kensington Books for sending me a copy of Three Widows and a Corpse!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Dough or Die by Winnie Archer

{Available August 25, 2020} Dough or Die was my first exposure to the Bread Shop Mystery series. Ivy Culpepper works at Yeast of Eden, a Mexican bakery in her beachy hometown of Santa Sofia.

Yeast of Eden has the opportunity to be on a new TV series showcasing bakeries across the country (think Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, but with pastries…) Except the on-air personalities don’t get along. At all. And when one crew member is hit by a car and another is found dead near the bakery, Ivy decides to help find out if the attempted murder and, uh, actual murder are connected.

This is a well thought out mystery – the clues are there, pointing to the culprit, but my dumb brain didn’t pick up on them until later in the book. As per usual in a cozy mystery, the bakery sounds lovely. Yeast of Eden owner Olaya is a great character, although I wish she would have been featured more prominently in this story.

{SLIGHTLY SPOILERY COMMENTS AHEAD}

I wasn’t sure how I felt about the use of a women’s shelter as a plot point here. It made sense (and made for a great mystery) but some of Ivy’s behavior had me cringing. She violates the privacy of some of the residents and seems to focus more on solving the crimes in the book rather than protecting the women who stay at the shelter. I wish the same conclusion could have been reached in a slightly different manner.

Thank you Kensington Books for sending me a NetGalley ARC of this book!

REVIEW – My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

“The promise of liberty is not written in blood or engraved in stone; it’s embroidered into the fabric of our nation. And so is Alexander Hamilton. My husband. My hero. My betrayer.”

I’ll admit – I was saving this book until after I had seen Hamilton. As someone who actively avoided listening to the soundtrack (I wanted to experience it in context!) I basically went from zero to 100. We watched the show when it was added to Disney+. I downloaded the soundtrack (and I listen to at least a few songs pretty much every single day…). And I finally read this book!

My Dear Hamilton is a great companion to the Hamilton musical, especially for fans who want more of Eliza’s story after Hamilton’s death. We get a better idea of how Eliza was a complete person before she met Alexander (I know, right? Wild…) and how much she accomplished once he was gone.

“Silence is often the only weapon available to ladies. And I wield mine expertly.”

This is also a great read for fans of historical fiction in general. For my fellow 90s kids who read (and loved) the Dear America series, this is the first book i’ve found that really hits the same notes. The book is told from Eliza’s perspective as she reflects on her life and the chapters read very much like diary entries.

“The revolution. It is unfinished. Maybe liberty must always be fought for.”

Is this probably a somewhat romanticized account with historical inaccuracies? Of course. But it’s a good choice for anyone who wants a bit more Hamilton beyond the musical.

Content warning: miscarriage, death of a child, death of a spouse, slavery.

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – 15 Minutes of Flame by Christin Brecher

{Available August 25, 2020} Someday i’ll get to visit Nantucket for real. For now, i’ll settle for “visiting” the island via Christin Brecher’s Nantucket Candle Maker Mystery Series!

15 Minutes of Flame is the third book in the series (and my second read – I still need to read the first book…). I was so excited to pick this up because it’s set near Halloween. You see, it’s been incredibly hot here in my state for a few weeks, and i’m aching for a cool fall breeze, pumpkin everything and spooky vibes. This fit the bill – complete with 150-year-old skeletons, ghosts (!?), a spooky old house and a murder to top it off.

There were some laugh out loud moments in this book (just get to the part where our heroine starts doing shots to get information from a suspect…) and the historical aspect of the story was a fun little touch.

Thank you Kensington Books for providing me with a NetGalley ARC of 15 Minutes of Flame!