COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Proof of Murder by Lauren Elliott

Bookshop owner Addie finds herself helping appraise rare and old books for a local estate sale, in a rumored-to-be-haunted house. When a dead body turns up in a seemingly locked room, Addie has to clear her name and try to track down the killer.

This was such a fun read! Addie’s a great character and I loved how well the murder mystery was tied in with books and literature. There’s a little bit of a ghost element here too, which made it extra fun (and chilling at times!)

Feeling a little like Sherlock Holmes himself, I figured out who the culprit was a bit before the reveal – which, to me, can be the mark of a good mystery. The author gives enough clues that you might be able to solve the mystery along with the main character, but nothing was so obvious that I felt like it was a “no duh.” I had my suspicions, but I wasn’t totally sure until the end.

Thank you Kensington Books for the NetGalley ARC!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Murder in the Storybook Cottage by Ellery Adams

Murder in the Storybook Cottage begins as Storyton Hall resort owner Jane is preparing to host a children’s book conference. When a dead body turns up in the new storybook village on her property, Jane has to work to keep her guests safe (and unaware) and help solve a murder.

This was the first book I’ve read in the Book Retreat series – it was a cute, cozy read. I’m considering going back to the beginning to read the first five books.

EVERYTHING in this town is book-themed. EVERYTHING. It’s a book for book lovers – there are so many cute little literary references and it feels like a bookish Stars Hollow. There’s somewhat of a fantasy-ish element to this book – it’s revealed early on that Jane is the Guardian of a secret library. It seems like many people (both good and bad) have shown interest in what the secret library holds, with some dangerous consequences. Many of Jane’s staff at Storyton Hall serve dual purposes – they might run something at the resort, but they also might be one of her team of security to help protect and defend the secret library.

The murder in this book is pretty dark (for a cozy) and there is an underlying feeling of unease throughout the book – the danger that Jane and her friends and family could be in seems very real.

Thank you Kensington Books for the NetGalley ARC!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Murder Can Confuse Your Chihuahua by Rose Pressey

{Available April 28, 2020} I found myself in need of a quick, light cozy and this fit the bill! Murder Can Confuse Your Chihuahua had me laughing from the opening of chapter one.

As Celeste is prepping for a weeklong craft fair, she comes across a dead body by the river. What unfolds throughout the next few days is a twisty whodunnit, filled with suspicious characters. There’s also a slight supernatural element in this story.

There were a few repetitive parts – one plot point in particular was revealed twice, but I assume that will be fixed in the final copy.

Thank you Kensington Books for the ARC!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Here Comes the Body by Maria DiRico

Mia has just moved back to Queens to work for her mobster father’s new catering hall. After a woman is found dead in a giant cardboard birthday cake the police turn their focus to Mia’s dad (and his “associates.”)

What a fun book! I loved the cast of characters. Mia’s Family (yes, with a capital “F”) is hilarious and delightful. Her nonna (and nonna’s Army of Italian and Greek grandmothers) is an absolute joy.

This book is set in the spring, which made my decision to pick it up perfect timing! Although it’s set in New York, this didn’t lose the main feeling of a typical cozy mystery.

Here Comes the Body is the first in a series, and I look forward to what comes next for Mia and her Family!

Thank you Kensington Books for sending me an ARC!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Pulp Friction by Julie Anne Lindsey

{Available April 28, 2020} Pulp Friction is the second book in the new Cider Shop Mystery series (which I am loving, by the way). Winnie’s newly opened cider shop is doing well, and the book opens with a wedding in the orchard’s barn. The wedding atmosphere is super cozy and dreamy and makes me miss summer…until the groom ends up dead and foul play is suspected.

This book solidifies my desire to live in Blossom Valley with Winnie, Granny, Dot and Colton (yes, of course, Colton. So handsome!) This series hits all of the points that make a cozy series great – an adorable small town, a sweet little shop (I want apple cider and delicious pastries all of the time now), a wonderful cast of characters and murder mysteries that are just chilling enough to feel serious without ruining the overall lighthearted vibe of the book.

I had my theories about who the murdered could be in this book and I was spot on in some aspects and WAY OFF in others – which just made the entire experience more fun! This book ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger and sets the series up for a larger story – which I’m guessing will be explored more in-depth in the next book.

Thank you Kensington Books for providing me with the NetGalley ARC!

REVIEW – Have You Seen Me? by Kate White

This has such a great premise – Ally shows up at work one morning, only to be told she hasn’t been employed there for five years. She spends the entire book piecing together the bits of her lost memory. There’s a cold case from her childhood that plays a role here, and overall I was interested to see where the story ended up.

However…it didn’t really end up anywhere. Do we figure out where she was? Yes. Do we find out what triggered her memory loss? Also, yes. (I don’t see these as spoilers, as it’s pretty much explained in the synopsis.) However, the tone of the book shifts in the last 100 or so pages and I found myself going “seriously?” during a few parts.

I think there’s an audience for this book – those who are new to the thriller genre or those who want to read a thriller without too much complexity or gore.

Thank you Harper/Harper Perennial for sending me a copy of this book!

REVIEW – Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

Eight Perfect Murders starts off with a plot that aligns perfectly with the current era – it seems that a murderer is following a blog post that Mal wrote some years ago, detailing the “eight perfect murders” from classic thriller and mystery books.

The book is written somewhat as a memoir – we experience everything through Mal’s perspective. From his present-day investigation of the murders, to past memories featuring his deceased wife.

I was intrigued by the overall storyline – I was curious to see who the murderer was, and I definitely had my suspicions. However, although the reveal was surprising, I still found it a bit lackluster.

Regardless of my issues with this book, this was still a decent read. It’s slower than your typical thriller and has a bit of a noir feel to it, if that’s your cup of tea.

I won an ARC of this book through a Goodreads giveaway.

REVIEW – Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer

{Available April 14, 2020} Presented in dual timelines (the early to mid-1950s and a few weeks in 1996) The Truths I Never Told You is somewhat presented as a mystery, with maybe a thriller edge, but is really a story about family secrets, the seemingly mysterious death of our main character’s mother, and the surrounding events. This book is sad, but it’s also filled with love and hope.

The family’s strength really shines through in this one – both the present-day situation with the four siblings and the sacrifices made in the past.

I think this story will resonate most with mothers – women who have experienced the ups and downs of pregnancy, childbirth and the early months and years of parenting. As someone without children, I could still understand the anxiety, fear and depression that both Grace and Beth faced, but only on the surface level.

Content warning: mentions of abortion and suicide.

Thank you Graydon House for sending me an ARC of this book!

REVIEW – The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel

{Available March 31, 2020} Less than a thriller and more of an examination of familial relationships (primarily mother/daughter and brother/sister), The Familiar Dark is a gritty story with an of-the-moment setting. Anyone who has watched Ozark on Netflix will easily be able to picture Eve’s tiny, poor town in Missouri. The book gives off the same gray, unsettling vibe as the show, too.

After Eve’s daughter and her best friend are murdered on a run-down playground, Eve takes it upon herself to investigate the murders and exact revenge on the killer. What she uncovers is more horrific than she could have ever imagined.

There are some heartbreaking twists/reveals in this story, and the entire thing feels very desolate and hopeless. I wasn’t impressed with the ending when I first read it – some of it seems very out of character and almost like a stretch. But the more I think about it, and the more I think about the setting and the personal background of each character…i’m not ENTIRELY convinced that it’s plausible, but i’m starting to come around that maybe it was an inevitable conclusion for these characters. Just be forewarned: it’s dark and it’s sad and there are no winners in this book.

Thank you Dutton Books for the NetGalley ARC!

REVIEW – The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

{Available March 24, 2020} There are eleven million undocumented immigrants in our country. In our communities. They could be our neighbors, coworkers or classmates. We interact with them at restaurants and stores. They give everything they have to our country and receive so little in return. This is the legacy of our country and it’s infuriating. This is also nothing new, but it’s an especially hot political topic at the current moment.

From a writing standpoint, this book is good. Villavicencio is a solid writer with a knack for getting straight to the point. This book meanders at times, but everything is important and supportive of the overarching narrative.

Villavicencio isn’t just a writer, she’s a storyteller. She talks a lot about how she basically adopts the people she talks to – she pours her heart and soul into these relationships and tells their stories with such care. She doesn’t gloss over anything. The people portrayed in this book are REAL (of course) and their personalities leap off of the page. They’re angry. They’re grateful. They’re hurt and hurting. They’re funny and fun and loving. They’re weird and they’re interesting. They’re people (yeah, duh). They aren’t a “faceless brown mass” (to borrow words from a recently controversial author…)

They’re all different, with different lives and different experiences. Some have had more luck than others. Some have faced more hardships or heartbreak than others. But they do share the trauma of being undocumented in the United States. The fear of deportation. The lack of legal support when they are taken advantage of. Each section of this book focuses on a different city in the United States and I thought the chapters on Cleveland and Flint to be the most impactful (keep in mind I am from Ohio, in a city that’s about a 20-minute drive to the Michigan border, so these chapters were bound to feel more tangible to me).

Ultimately, my words and thoughts aren’t what matters here. It boils down to this – read this book. Read other books like this book. Gain some perspective from people who are not like you. Learn about the experiences of others (especially of marginalized groups). LEARN. GROW. Be better. Do better. Most importantly – LISTEN. Don’t listen (or read) to respond or discuss. Listen (and read) to learn. To hear. To bear witness to their lives and their stories.

Thank you Random House/One World for the NetGalley ARC.