Book of the Week, cozy crime

Book of the Week: A High-End Finish

New year (yes it’s still a new year even if we’ve hit the middle of the month), new cozy crime series for me and something different to talk about in today’s BotW. And you know I love a cozy crime series. So here we go.

A High-End Finish is the first in a series of cozy crimes featuring Shannon Hammer, a contractor specialising in Victorian homes in her town of Lighthouse Cove on the Northern California coast. In this first book, Shannon finds a dead body in the basement of a house that she’s working on – and becomes a suspect in a murder inquiry as she went on a blind date with the victim a few days earlier – and was heard threatening him after he wouldn’t take no for an answer. The town’s new police chief doesn’t seem inclined to believe that she had nothing to do with the murder, so Shannon starts investigating herself with the help of her friends, her nosy neighbours and a crime writer who has just moved to town.

This is a really nice set up for a new series but because there are a lot of characters to introduce and backstories to set up, the detecting is not quite as well developed as you would like and I thought the solution was a bit, ho hum. BUT I really liked Shannon, her friends and the town itself so I forgive it – because first books in series are often like this – either they don’t do a good enough job of setting up the side characters or the mystery isn’t as good as you want it to be. This usually settles down in book two – especially if it’s an established author starting a new series (which Kate Carlisle is). Luckily I picked up the next book in the series (in fact the whole series so far) second hand last month (as seen in Books Incoming) so it’s a good thing I liked them and I can also go straight on to book two to see if the problems get ironed out.

It is nice to have a home improvement/contractor theme for a cozy series though – as previously mentioned, I’m a bit cookery cozied out, and as I’m not usually into the supernatural sometimes it feels like there aren’t a lot of choices for me beyond that. Still hopefully these will keep me busy for a few weeks (at least).

As previously mentioned, my copy of A High-End Finish came via one of my Facebook book groups, but they’re available on Kindle and Kobo as well as in paperback. As they’re American Mass Market Paperbacks though, you may have trouble finding them in stores in the UK – so your best bet might be ordering from Book Depository or similar.

Happy Reading!

Book of the Week

Book of the Week: Cheats edition

So I don’t really have a book to recommend this week because as I said yesterday it was quite a week and I mostly reread Meg Langslow. So instead have a link to my thoughts on Terns of Endearment in a recommendsday last year and to Gone Gull which I technically finished the week before but was a BotW the first time I read it!

Have a great day everyone!

binge reads, series

Bingeable series: Her Majesty The Queen Investigates

The latest of these came out last week and as I recently binge read the three books I thought it would be a good time to make a post about them.

So the premise – as the series name suggests – is that the (late) Queen subtly helps solve some murders that have occurred in her vicinity. Set a few years back – when she was in her early 90s, she uses her assistant Rozie to do the investigating she can’t do. In the first in the series, The Windsor Knot, the victim is an overnight guest at Windsor and it’s a bit of a closed group sort of thing. In the second, our the victim is a staff member, found dead by the side of the Buckingham Palace swimming pools. And in the third it’s the brother of a neighbouring aristo to the Sandringham estate.

I think the first book and the third book are stronger than the second, but given that I binge read the series I can’t say that the issues with the second book put me off. For me these work best when the problems they are solving seem the most organic – I can’t quite work out why but the second book felt much more contrived and complicated than the first one – and the third one, for all that the third is out and about all over Norfolk.

But they are all easy to read, with nice details about the royal residences involved (there really is a swimming pool at Buckingham palace – who knew?!) and enough real bits and bobs about the Queen’s life and family to feel like the person you think you know through the media. I did wonder what would happen now that Elizabeth II has died, but they are set in the mid 2010s and at the end of book three it says there is a fourth book coming so there will be one more at least, and I will be looking out for it.

As I said earlier, the new book is out now in hardback – in fact as I write this Amazon has the hardback as a Black Friday deal. I do think you need to read them in order though – but the good news is that the first in the series is in Kindle Unlimited at the moment – so if you’re a member you can read it for free. The second one has a different title in the US – so be careful of that because it’s easy to think it might be a fourth one you haven’t spotted, but the actual fourth one isn’t out until early 2024. But if you’ve enjoyed things like the Royal Spyness series, this might be the contemporary cozy crime equivalent you have been looking for.

Happy reading!

book round-ups, Recommendsday

August Quick reviews

There’s definitely not as much to write about this month – because I’ve already written about so many books that I read in August! Still I have scared up three books to tell you about today so, yay me.

Quick Curtain by Alan Melville

I talked about a bunch of theatre-set books of various types in August – and here’s another which was part of my haul from the conference book sales. Alan Melville’s murder mystery is another that sees an actor murdered on stage in front of an audience. Where it differs from the Ngaio Marsh novels with a similar premise is the satirical slant it takes on the detecting. On that front it’s closer to Nancy Spain’s Cinderella Goes to the Morgue, although this does care about solving the crime! A very nice way to spend an afternoon.

Femina by Janina Ramirez*

This is a fascinating look at the Middle Ages via the lives of writings and artifacts left behind by some of the women who lived through the period. Some of the names were people I had heard of, but I knew very little about any of them except for Margery Kempe. This is easy to read, but incredibly well researched and has plenty of pictures of the artifacts being talked about. It also has a huge bibliography at the back if you want to go and read more about any of the women. Well worth a look, even if you don’t usually do books on the Middle Ages. I mentioned this on publication day and it’s taken me a while to finish – but that’s because my brain has been fried and I only had the concentration for small bursts. Luckily it’s broken down into nice bite-sized sections!

Knit to Kill by Anne Canadeo

This is more of a lesson in doing more research than a review, because I picked this up on Kindle Unlimited thinking it was a first in series – because it says it is in the title but when I started reading it it really confused me because it didn’t read like introducing a new set of characters. So off to Goodreads I went where I discovered it was actually the first since a change of publishers – and actually the ninth book about this set of characters. Then things made more sense. Remind me to research the KU stuff the same way I do the rest of the books in future!

And in case you’ve forgotten, here’s all the other books I talked about in August: Piglettes, A Time to Dance, Thank you for Listening, Husband Material, A Twist of the Knife, the Sadler’s Wells Series, Swallows and Amazons series, London Celebrities series, Amory Ames series, books set in theatres, late summer romances and Actor Memoirs.

Happy Wednesday!

historical, mystery, series

Mystery series: Lady Hardcastle

The new Lady Hardcastle book came out last week and I’ve just finished it so it seems like an ideal week to feature the series here!

These are Edwardian-set mysteries, following the widowed Lady Hardcastle and her lady’s maid. Lady Emily is in her forties and spent most of her marriage abroad with her husband who was in the diplomatic service. She moved to the countryside with the faithful Florence hoping for a quiet life – but they keep stumbling across murders! The books are written in the first person from Florence’s point of view and this gives you a fun perspective on the somewhat eccentric and very headstrong Emily. As you go through the series you discover more about what the two women got up to abroad, which explains why they’re good at solving murders. And the core duo get some regular assistants as the books go on too.

The duo live in the Gloucestershire and their village and the surrounding area provides the settings for the various murders so that it doesn’t seem like the Edwardian version of Midsummer! The series are fun, lightly comic, easy to read, very bingeable and the Edwardian setting makes a change from the various Victorian and 1920s series that are more common.

With the latest release, there are eight books in the series, with a ninth already planned for the autumn. As you can see from the picture, I own a couple and then they’re all in Kindle Unlimited at the moment – so perfect for a binge. And if you’re not in KU, they are somewhat of a bargain at the moment: books one and two are 99p (or free in Kindle Unlimited) A Quiet Life in the Country is the first and In the Market for Murder is the second.

Happy weekend!

bingeable series

Binge-able series: Fetherings

We’re in binge reading territory this Friday, because it’s that time of year where people are starting to think about what to read on the sunlounger – and what is better than a series to binge read. And to be fair, basically anything Simon Brett writes is totally bingeable. They’re fun and moreish and won’t make your head explode.

This is a cozy crime series with a sense of humour and at its centre are Jude and Carole, next door neighbours in the seaside town of Fetherings who just keep stumbling across bodies. The two women are unlikely friends – Jude is bohemian and free spirited. Carole is not and more to the fact, Carole doesn’t really know how to be friends with anyone, so as well as trying to solve the mystery the reader has the fun of watching the two of them – Carole desperate to ask questions about her new friend but never quite managing it and Jude, who knows Carole is desperate to know more about her but not volunteering anything unless asked. It’s a hoot.

I’ve written about another Simon Brett series here before, the Charles Paris books, which are great – but written across a large span of time and so if you do binge them then you’ll notice that we’ve gone from the 70s to the now and Charles has not really aged! Fetherings doesn’t have that problem!

There are 20 books in the series – with a 21st due out in the summer. I’ve only read 9 so far, but I have a few more ready to read when I’ve got the NetGalley pile a bit more under control and finished rereading Sookie Stackhouse. Yes I know, I’m easily distracted. Too many books, not enough time – my perennial problem. Still it’s nearly hammock season – so that will help won’t it! Anyway the first one – so probably the best place to start – is The Body on the Beach. In fact the first two are in Kindle Unlimited at time of writing, so if you’re a subscriber to that you can have a read for free.

book round-ups

Recommendsday: February Quick Reviews

This was quite a hard post to write this week because February is a short month, I have already written about so many books and have also done so many rereads. What a problem to have. Anyway, here are a couple of quick reviews to end the February content!

Well Matched by Jen De Luca

This is the third in book in Jen DeLuca’s series about the people who work at a Renaissance fair in Maryland – and yes I know this is the second time this month I’ve mentioned this series. This time our heroine is April – the single mom elder sister of Emily from Well Met and Mitch, the hot guy in the kilt who teaches high school gym during the months of the year when he’s not working the Ren Faire. This is a fake relationship and older woman and younger man romance but also deals with April trying to figure out what she wants her life to look like having spent years focusing on the idea that as soon as her daughter goes to college she’s moving away from their small town. It’s a delight and it was a lot of fun watching the two of them – even if I did sometimes wonder why April was being so stupid!

Death by Intermission by Alexis Morgan

So one of the things that happens when I try to do the fifty states challenge is that I try a lot of different cozy crime series that are available on Kindle Unlimited as they’re set all over the place. Anyway the next two both fall under that. Death by Intermission is the fourth book in the series – and is the first one from the series that I’ve read – as it is the one that was in KU. Anyway our heroine is Abby and our corpse is a local insurance agent who is found dead in his deckchair as Abby is helping tidy up after an open air cinema screening. Her mum’s beau is one of the suspects so of course Abby starts investigating. This is an idea is good, execution is a bit patchy, mostly when it comes to the relationship between Abby and her mum which is very angry and shouty and escalates fast. But the solution to the murder was neat and I liked Abby’s boyfriend Tripp, although there were a few too many ex-special forces soldiers around for my general liking.

Prologue to Murder by Lauren Elliott

Another cozy crime, another good idea with less good execution. Addie runs a bookstore in a seaside town in New England where the locals are bizarrely and incredibly rudely hostile. When the local librarian is found dead, Addie investigates to try and clear her name because the local newspaper gossip column keeps hinting that she is responsible. This is the second in the series and I felt like I’d really missed out because I hadn’t read the first to understand why the whole town hates Addie so much. It’s a little bit high school mean girls and not enough cozy mystery of that makes sense. Which is a shame, because the eight book in the series comes out in April so I could have had a good binge!

Anyway this three is your lot for this month – stats coming up tomorrow and a Series I Love post on Friday.

Happy hump day!

Book of the Week, cozy crime, detective

Book of the Week: Beware False Profits

Pinch, punch, first day of the month, white rabbits etc. Welcome to February everyone. Despite the fact that January is my birthday month, it does always feel like a bit of a slog to get to the end of the month, but we’ve made it through and into Freburary, which always feels like it rattles by at speed. All the usual goodies coming up on the blog this week – monthly stats, mini reviews etc. But first: a book of the week review.

In a week that saw most of my “reading” actually be revisiting audiobooks that I have listened to before, mostly from series that I have already written about so it’s a good thing that this was really good – even if it’s a sort of rule breaker because it’s not a first in series book! This is the third in the Ministry is Murder series, which features a Minister’s wife in small town Ohio. There are five books in the series – the newest of which is from 2010. In Beware False Profits, Aggie and her husband’s trip to New York is disrupted when a member of their congregation goes missing on a work trip there. And when they get back to Emerald Springs, the mayor’s wife is murdered at an event for the local foodbank – which is run by the missing man.

What I really like about Aggie is that she has an excuse for snooping – as a minister’s wife she has an excuse for being involved in the locals lives – especially as you need to keep your congregation happy to keep your job. And that’s another reason I like the series – it’s an insight into a way of life. I nearly wrote a profession, but that felt wrong – even though Aggie isn’t the one with a vocation, it’s her husband. I should add that it’s definitely not a Christian cozy – because I read one of those at the end of last year and this doesn’t have the detail of the sermons or biblical verses to reflect of that that did. Anyway there are a lot of cozy crimes featuring bakers and small businesses and the like and although Aggie also has a side line in house flipping, the ministry side of things gives it a nice twist. And the actual mysteries that need to be solved are good too. All in all a very nice way to spend an afternoon or two on the sofa.

Now because these are an older cozy (and boy does it feel weird to be saying that about something that was published this century!) they’re not available in Kindle – so in the UK you’re likely to be looking at picking them up from Amazon or second hand. I found the first in this series in a second hand bookshop – I think maybe one at a National Trust house, but subsequently I’ve bought from Amazon when the prices have been acceptable – I see that the first two at the moment are insanely expensive there though. So maybe one to add to your list to watch out for the next time you’re mooching around a charity shop!

Happy Reading!

cozy crime, detective, Series I love

Series I Love: Cupcake Bakery Mysteries

Happy Friday everyone! It’s the end of another week and I am back with another series I love post. Yesterday I was talking about my search for a new historical cozy crime series, so today I’m doing one of my reliable favourite contemporary cozy mystery series.

So Jenn McKinlay’s Cupcake Bakery series follows Mel Cooper and her friend Angie DeLaura as they run the Fairytale Cupcake Bakery. Along with their friend Tate, they’ve been stumbling across bodies for thirteen books now, with a fourteenth due this year. I’ve read eleven of them as you can see from the photo, which is – unusually for me – somewhat out of order*. Over the course of the series the cast of secondary regular characters and getting the bakers out and about so that you’re not constantly wondering how a cupcake bakery can stay in business if a bodies keep turning there!

You mostly see the action from Mel’s perspective, but because you have the trio of main characters, you’re able to get personal life developments for each of them – which also helps the series avoid falling into the pitfalls of an endless love triangle for the heroine (see Steph Plum) or an endless on off relationship for the heroine (see Agatha Raisin) or marrying the heroine off very quickly and landing her with kids the author doesn’t know what to do with! The complexity of the murders can vary a little – depending on how much running plot stuff is going on – but they pretty much always manage to avoid the Too Stupid To Live pitfall, although Mel and or Angie do find themselves one on one with the murderer at the denouement with alarming regularity!

But as a calming way to pass a few hours, they are fairly hard to beat. I keep meaning to try out one of the cupcake recipes at the end, but the combination of having to turn the measurements into British (how much *is* a stick of butter in metric?) and the fact there are only two of us in our household and cupcakes need eating quickly means that I’ve never got around to it. They do always sound like they should taste good though – which isn’t a given for cozy crime recipes.

When I started buying these, they were only available in the American mass market paperback editions that you see in the photo. But the good news (for you, not me because now I’ve started in physical copies you know I’ll carry on**) is that you can now get most of them in Kindle!

Happy Reading!

* and yes it does bug me that the spines changed mid series and so they don’t all match.

** yes, I did indeed buy book 12 while I was writing this post!

Book of the Week, cozy crime

Book of the Week: Christmas in Paradise

A short post this week, but a festive -themed one. I read a whole bunch of books last week for my 50 states (and D.C.) challenge but there wasn’t a lot I wanted to write about – except this one which is not the first in a series and is a series I’ve written about before. But hey ho, rules are made to be broken at Christmas aren’t they?

Christmas in Paradise is the fourth book in Kathi Daley’s Tj Jensen series. The series is set at a resort on a lake in a town called Serenity. As you might suspect from the title, this one is set at Christmas and Tj is planning a big celebration but also waiting for the arrival of the man who says he is the real father of one of her sisters. Tj’s mother is dead – and she’s the guardian of her two younger sisters and is worried about what this might mean for their little family unit. When the new boyfriend of one of her neighbours is found dead in the grounds of the resort, Tj can’t help but try and find out who did it – to clear her friends’s husband of suspicion.

This is another Henery Press cozy crime from the period where they were really on good form. This isn’t too gory or thrillers – it’s a good mystery that runs nicely alongside the ongoing story strands for the main characters. I’ve read these wildly out of order, but this is the seventh in the series that I’ve read and they’re a very easy way to pass a few hours. And of course this has the added bonus of being set at Christmastime – and we’re just days away now.

Christmas in Paradise and the rest of the series are in Kindle Unlimited, which means they’re off the other digital platforms at the moment – unless you want the audiobook. But if you’re a KU member, it’s an ideal time to binge!

Happy Reading!