COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Absence of Alice by Sherry Harris

The Sarah Winston Garage Sale mysteries have quite a few books already, but this was my first experience with this particular series. I wasn’t expecting it to be as dark and gritty as it was! Honestly, once I let go of my expectations, I ended up really enjoying this.

When Sarah Winston’s landlady, Stella, is kidnapped, Sarah finds herself in a heart-pounding race against time to save Stella’s life (and she makes some questionable decisions along the way). The stakes felt really high in this one, moreso than your typical cozy. I think if you go into it knowing that it is lighter on the charm and heavier on the “OMG!” moments, you’ll like it too.

Thank you Kensington Books for the ARC!

REVIEW – Watch Her by Edwin Hill

Okay, i’m convinced. I need to go back and read the first two Hester Thursby novels because I am hooked! Watch Her is a sleepier contemporary mystery that really picks up after 1. A character is murdered and 2. Some family secrets all come to light in a heart-pounding final few chapters.

I really enjoyed Hester as a protagonist – she’s feisty and smart, but she doesn’t feel like a stereotype or charicature.

We get multiple perspectives in this book and that really worked to push the story along. Each character was different enough that I felt like I was getting a relatively comprehensive overview of the events of the book.

Content warnings: sexual harassment, death of a child, brief use of ableist language

Thank you Kensington Books and Books Forward PR for the ARC!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Mrs. Claus and the Santaland Slayings by Liz Ireland

April is spending her first Christmas in Santaland after marrying Nick Claus, who has taken over the title of Santa after the tragic death of his brother months ago. When an elf is found dead a week or so before the big day, April can’t help but do some investigating of her own.

This is a delightful start to a new cozy series – it’s like a grown-up version of The Santa Clause. Santaland is magical and lovely, but there’s a darker side, too. April’s in-laws aren’t exactly the most welcoming (dealing with her new mother-in-law, the dowager Mrs. Claus, can be tough!), there’s a lot of animosity and infighting amongst the different elf families, and reindeer can be horribly mean! Quasar is my absolute favorite, though (Rudolph who? Get ready for a new favorite reindeer!)

I’m interested to see where Ireland takes this series – April still owns an inn in Oregon, and she’s intending on spending summers there with Mr. Claus. It could be really fun to have a series set in two different locations!

Content warning: very brief mention of death of a spouse, infertility and infidelity.

Thank you Kensington Books for the finished copy!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Murder Can Haunt Your Handiwork by Rose Pressey

I loved following painter Celeste and her pup, Van, for another Haunted Craft Fair Mystery! Celeste is attending a craft fair taking place at the Biltmore Estate and, surprise surprise, she finds a dead body. She ends up meeting a ghost with ties to the estate and he helps her solve the case.

I have to say – the ghost was my FAVORITE part of this story! He was an absolute delight. He’s super polite and funny, and at one point tags along with Celeste on a date (I was cracking up). Murder Can Haunt Your Handiwork is only the third book in the series, so you have time to get caught up before book four comes out.

Thank you Kensington Books for the ARC!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Death at a Country Mansion by Louise R. Innes

What a great start to a new series! Death at a Country Mansion is just delightful. Set in a small village in Surrey, England, we follow Daisy Thorne, salon owner by day and forensic psychology student during her downtime. When her best friend’s mother, Dame Serena Levante, is found dead in her palatial home, Daisy quickly gets involved in the murder investigation.

This book was so fun! The mystery was interesting and there are a lot of little twists and turns that will keep you guessing. Daisy and her best friend, Floria, are charming, likable characters, and Detective Inspector Paul McGuinness is a perfect potential love interest.

I’m already excited for book two!

Thank you Kensington Books for the ARC!

REVIEW – Murder in the Lincoln White House by CM Gleason

I bought this book last fall because I was intrigued by the premise, but it took me a year (and some change…) before I actually picked it up. I regret not reading this sooner! I was pleasantly surprised by just how much I loved this.

We follow Adam Quinn, who is part of President Lincoln’s security team. At Lincoln’s inaugural ball, a dead body is found (just a few yards from the POTUS, might I add). President Lincoln tasks Adam with investigating the murder, which takes him on a journey across DC where he meets some eccentric, fun and suspicious characters.

When a second dead body turns up inside the White House, Adam has to race against time to find the culprit before they reach the president himself. He ends up putting himself in harm’s way because someone REALLY does not want these murders solved…

There are clever little clues throughout the book, and Gleason does a great job of placing the reader directly in 1860s Washington. There are some hilarious scenes in this book (and some pretty gruesome ones, too). Overall it features a great balance of humor and mystery and suspense, and I look forward to reading the next book in the series!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Finished Off in Fondant by Rosemarie Ross

Finished Off in Fondant is the second book in the Courtney Archer Mystery Series, which I am really enjoying!

Inspired by everyone’s favorite, cozy baking competition (you know the one!), this series follows Courtney Archer, known as The Farmer’s Daughter (except her parents were definitely not farmers…) We open book two as Courtney comes clean about her background to a live audience during a taping of her show.

She’s also getting ready to start filming season two of The American Baking Battle. The first season was overshadowed by the murder of one of the contestants, but the odds of a murder happening twice during the filming of the same show are low, right? ….right? Unfortunately, a body shows up in the suite of one of the show’s co-hosts, and Courtney can’t help but get involved with yet another murder investigation.

I’m excited to see where the series goes…the supporting characters are a lot of fun, and there’s a potential love triangle in the works (I have my favorite guy but we shall see what actually happens!)

Thank you Kensington Books for the NetGalley ARC!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – The Malt in Our Stars by Sarah Fox

“Ever since moving to Shady Creek, I’d developed a habit of getting wrapped up in murder investigations.”

Oh, how I love this series! We meet back up with Sadie, owner of The Inkwell, who is getting ready to host one of her favorite authors for a book event. Shockingly (or not…) the author’s assistant ends up dead at Shady Creek Manor (a local inn with a storied past), and Sadie can’t help but get involved in trying to solve the murder.

Shady Creek is also welcoming a TV crew to town, who will be doing a feature on the local brewery (and including The Inkwell briefly as well!) AND they’re trying to get ready for their annual May Day festivities, which culminate in an elegant masquerade ball that’s set to take place at, you guessed it, the scene of the murder.

This book has it all – a hidden treasure that may or may not exist, precocious townspeople who can’t help but stick their nose in other people’s business, a dreamy love interest (swoon!) and, of course, drinks and food items that have bookish pun names.

Thank you Sarah Fox for sending me an ARC of this book!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Meet Isabel Puddles by M.V. Byrne

Meet Isabel Puddles was a little bit of a bumpy ride, but I did end up enjoying it. Isabel is a very interesting and well-developed character – it’s hard not to love her. Isabel is a widow “of a certain age” who has her hand in pretty much every aspect of her small town in northern-ish Michigan.

This is definitely a cozy mystery, but it does read a bit more like a contemporary mystery – it’s a bit more in-depth and lacks that “cutesy” factor that’s so common in cozies (not a bad thing, just not a sugary sweet kind of novel).

There’s a lot of extra fluff in this book and Isabel will often go off on tangents talking about stories from decades past, or giving more background into the lives of minor characters. These tangents definitely give you a feel of small-town Michigan (if you aren’t already familiar with it) but they can be long-winded and tedious at times.

That all being said, I am definitely looking forward to the next book in the series, and I can’t wait to see what sort of trouble Isabel gets herself into!

Thank you Kensington Books for the ARC.

REVIEW – The Bakeshop at Pumpkin and Spice by Donna Kauffman, Kate Angell and Allyson Charles

What a lovely little fall book! This was right book, right time for me. I was looking for something cozy and lovely to read in the midst of horrific and thrilling October books, and this fit the bill.

The Bakeshop at Pumpkin and Spice includes three shorter stories: Sweet Magic, Love Spells Disaster and Sweet On You. These all tie in together in some way – they all take place during the same relative time span, leading up to the town’s annual Halloween parade. And in each story, we get to visit Bellaluna’s Bakeshop – a cozy spot in Moonlight, Maine, that has a reputation for helping people fall in love.

There’s a touch of magic at work here (magic cookies? Sign me up!) and, honestly, a bit more steam than I anticipated (this was a pleasant surprise). If you’re more interested in closed-door/fade-to-black romance reads, worry not – this is steamy but relatively tame.

Thank you Kensington Books and Goodreads for the giveaway win!