Summer is busy season for Mackenzie “Mac” Almeida’s bicycle shop, nestled in the quaint, seaside hamlet of Westham, Massachusetts. She’s expecting an influx of tourists at Mac’s Bikes; instead she discovers the body of Jake Lacey. Mac can’t imagine anyone stabbing the down-on-his-luck handyman. However, the authorities seem to think Mac is a strong suspect after she was spotted arguing with Jake just hours before his death. Mac knows she didn’t do it, but she does recognize the weapon–her brother Derrick’s fishing knife.
Mac’s only experience with murder investigations is limited to the cozy mysteries she reads with her local book group, the Cozy Capers. So to clear her name–and maybe her brother’s too–Mac will have to summon help from her Cozy Capers co-investigators and a library’s worth of detectives’ tips and tricks. For a small town, Westham is teeming with possible killers, and this is one mystery where Mac is hoping for anything but a surprise ending…
Source: Purchase Rating: 3½/5 stars
Mac Almeida has a life she truly enjoys. She owns a thriving bicycle business, she has a fabulous boyfriend, her family is close by, and her tiny home is just perfect for Mac and her pet African Grey parrot. With everything in her life going swimmingly, Mac doesn’t suspect her life is about to turn upside down.
One of Mac’s favorite hobbies is her weekly book club meeting. She and her friends read nothing, but cozy mysteries and it is on the way home from one of these weekly meetings that Mac literally stumble upon a dead body. Finding a real body is nothing like her beloved cozy mysteries and Mac is horrified to note, not only does she know the victim, but he seems to have died with a custom fish knife owned by her brother. In the blink of an eye, Mac’s perfect life has turned upside down.
Knowing her brother isn’t the slightest bit capable of such a violent act, Mac sets about trying to prove his innocence. That task would be easier by leaps and bounds if Mac knew where her brother has skittered off to. His absence is not only alarming but the impression it leaves the police is that he has something to hide. Until she can find her brother and get some straight answers out of him, Mac turns to the only group of people she trusts to help her work out the murder, her cozy mystery reading group.
Every member of the cozy mystery group lives and works in the area and if anyone is going to put this mystery to bed, it’s going to be them. With a list made and divided among the members, all set out to collect clues, talk to potential suspects, and share their notes with the rest of the group. Of course, as with most serious crimes, the actual culprit has no interest in being caught and the police have no interest in a group of amateur sleuths messing about in their investigation. Unfortunately, for both the culprit and the police, Mac and her crew have intention of giving up on clearing the name of one of their own.
The Bottom Line: I rather enjoyed this little cozy mystery. The author has done a fine job of setting the scene for this series and the scene certainly enhances the overall read. The lazy little beach town vibe is perfect for the cast of characters and the story. Mac’s bike shop is centrally located making it a great location to revolve the story around. The bike shop also gives the reader the opportunity to meet more of the community/people who play a part in the mystery. In all, I was happy with this read and eager to dive into book two following the completion of this book.
The Palazzo Colombina is home to the Uccello family: three generations of men, trapped together in the dusty palace on Venice’s Grand Canal. Awkward fifteen-year-old Nico. His distant, business-focused father. And his beloved grandfather, Paolo. Paolo is dying. But before he passes, he has secrets he’s waited his whole life to share.
When a Jewish classmate is attacked by bullies, Nico just watches – earning him a week’s suspension and a typed, yellowing manuscript from his frail Nonno Paolo. A history lesson, his grandfather says. A secret he must keep from his father. A tale of blood and madness . . .
Nico is transported back to the Venice of 1943, an occupied city seething under its Nazi overlords, and to the defining moment of his grandfather’s life: when Paolo’s support for a murdered Jewish woman brings him into the sights of the city’s underground resistance. Hooked and unsettled, Nico can’t stop reading – but he soon wonders if he ever knew his beloved grandfather at all.
Source: NetGalley, Severn House Publishers, and Purchase Rating: 5 stars
I have spent a great deal of time reading this summer and I believe this is the first five-star read I have come across. This one was certainly worth the wait!
Written in a past meets present format, The Garden of Angels follows the lives of grandfather and grandson, Paolo and Nico Uccello. Nico has spent his entire life with his grandfather by his side and now, at the end of his beloved grandfather’s life, Nico finds Paolo may not be the man Nico has known and loved. With strict orders to share his secrets with no one, Paolo sets Nico on a journey through history that deeply alters everything Nico has ever known and believed about the Uccello family.
With just over fifty years separating the past and the present, Nico is astounded to read the words written by his grandfather. Though the place is the same, the times are vastly different. Nico’s home, Venice is “run” by Mussolini and Hitler’s henchmen occupy the city. Though Paolo is only 18 years old at the time, he is virtually alone thanks to one of Hitler’s bombs. With only a loyal family friend to help him, Paolo finds himself adrift in a world he can’t possibly navigate.
With a business to keep afloat and a home he rambles around in alone, young Paolo clings to the things that remain. Life in Venice under Nazi occupation is often a deadly affair and Paolo would do well to keep his down, complete the commissions he has, and cause no trouble. Unfortunately, trouble finds Paolo in the form of a brother and sister on the run from Hitler’s men. Though Paolo has never imagined himself a hero, he can’t see not helping these two souls.
As events begin to unfold all around him, Paolo discovers many truths about himself and the world around him. The war has changed everyone, and Paolo is no exception. Living life beyond the war is not something most can imagine and many in Paolo’s city won’t outlive the war to see a better tomorrow. Death surrounds Paolo at all times and helping, even in his own small way is more than enough to see him killed along with the other undesirables.
As Nico reads his grandfather’s account of life during the last days of World War II, he begins to his home and his family from a very different perspective. Though Paolo never meant for Nico to have to grow up so quickly, life is often too short, and time is of the essence. With his newfound knowledge, Nico must now decide who he is and how he is going to process the rest of his life moving forward. With a weighty history behind him, life has become far more challenging than he ever expected.
The Bottom Line: What a wonderful generational story this turned out to be. As always, I enjoyed the chapters from the past the most as they so clearly informed the people of the present. With that said, my absolute favorite part of the book was the last few chapters the delved into the years between Nico reading about the past and working out his own life with that knowledge following him. The last several chapters serve as a sort of extended epilogue, and I really enjoyed the expanded information about Nico and his life. For me, these last chapters really brought the entire book together into a most satisfactory conclusion. Finally, The Garden of Angels really checks all the boxes for me: historical fiction, the Holocaust (even in only tangentially here), generational/family saga, and past meets present.
Halloween is the biggest holiday of the year in Salem, Massachusetts–but when B&B owner Charlene Morris finds the dead body of a witch, it spells trouble…
Charlene, recently widowed, has renovated her historic mansion just in time to greet guests arriving for the town’s annual Halloween festivities. She’s lucky to have a helpful staff to provide support–as well as a handsome ghost named Jack standing invisibly by her side.
Unfortunately, while the revelers head out on haunted tours, have their fortunes told, or grab a drink at Brews and Broomsticks, a killer walks among them. When Charlene discovers Morganna, a local Wiccan, dead in her shop, she starts getting cozy with the local coven, looking for clues to locate the crafty culprit. Salem may be famous for the false accusations of witchery in centuries past, but this time someone is genuinely guilty–of murder…
Unfortunately, while the revelers head out on haunted tours, have their fortunes told, or grab a drink at Brews and Broomsticks, a killer walks among them. When Charlene discovers Morganna, a local Wiccan, dead in her shop, she starts getting cozy with the local coven, looking for clues to locate the crafty culprit. Salem may be famous for the false accusations of witchery in centuries past, but this time someone is genuinely guilty–of murder . . .
Source: Purchase Rating: 4/5stars
The Bottom Line: Yet again, Charlene Morris finds herself drawn into a mystery that she feels compelled to solve. This time, a local witch is killed, and Charlene must figure out what happened before others suffer. This case takes Charlene into a deeper history of Salem and the men and women who have practiced witchcraft there since the founding of the town. Charlene gets a crash course in Wicca and a reminder that not every person is what they initially appear to be. With the help of some very unlikely sources, Charlene plugs away at the case until she finally comes to some very scary conclusions. One thing I particularly liked about this book (and the others) is Charlene’s ability to discern when her guests can help and when she needs to protect them. Her guests come with their own set of skills and knowledge and sometimes those skill sets can be quite useful. This type of involvement also expands the character base which is always fun.
A grieving young widow, Charlene needed a new start–so she bought a historic mansion, sight unseen, and drove from Chicago to New England to start turning it into a bed-and-breakfast. On her first night in the house, she awakens to find a handsome man with startling blue eyes in her bedroom. Terror turns to utter disbelief when he politely introduces himself as Jack Strathmore–and explains that he used to live here–when he was alive. He firmly believes that someone pushed him down the stairs three years ago, and he won’t be able to leave until someone figures out who. If Charlene wants to get her business up and running in time for the Halloween tourist rush, and get this haunting houseguest out of the way, she’ll have to investigate. Though truth be told, this ghost is starting to grow on her . . .
Source: Purchase Rating: 3½/5stars
The Bottom Line: As with all new series, there is a lot of information and ground laying going on in this book. Charlene Morris has uprooted her life in Chicago, bought a haunted mansion in Salem, and is about to embark on an entirely new chapter in her life, B&B owner/operator. Being successful is vital to Charlene’s future and that success is being badly hindered by the presence of a ghost who can’t seem to figure out why he can’t move on. Unless Charlene can solve the mystery of his murder, she may never be able to open her B&B. Being new to town means Charlene not only has to begin building her own reputation but also risk it by dredging up the past and asking some uncomfortable questions. Along the way, she makes some promising new contacts, a few new friends, and a possible enemy or two. With so much going on, I sometimes felt a bit put out with this read, but I stuck with it and feel satisfied with the book overall.
Josie Way loved working among the Library of Congress’s leather-scented stacks—until she uncovered corruption and made herself a target. As Wilfred, Oregon’s new librarian, Josie can stay undercover until the case goes to court. But life in this little town isn’t as subdued as she expected. The library, housed in a a Victorian mansion, is slated to be bulldozed. Still digesting the news that her safe haven is about to become scrap lumber, Josie discovers a body in the woods . . .
Almost as shocking, Josie learns that she’s descended from a long line of witches—and her powers have suddenly sprung to life. With help from a spoiled alley cat who just may be her familiar, Josie’s thumbing through a catalog of suspects, hoping she can conjure a way to save her library—and her life. . .
Source: NetGally and Purchase Rating: 4½/5 stars
Some people go their whole lives without every seeing the kind of trouble Josie Way has found herself in. Thanks to an ill-timed lunch in her secret place, Josie is now on the run from a powerful corporation with a very long reach. She’s landed herself in a very small town in Oregon heading up a small library that is apparently on the verge of being shut down. With no real job prospects, no confidence in returning home, and some weird new sensations going on, Josie isn’t at all sure what her future looks like.
Wilfred, Oregon isn’t at all what Josie expected. They library is in a beautifully constructed old family home with a load of history, the town is small and relatively tight-knit, and the landscape surrounding the town is unlike anything Josie has ever seen. What’s more, since she arrived in Wilfred, Josie seems to be able to communicate with the books in the library, a skill she certainly has never had before.
Though settling into any new location is awkward, Josie’s is particularly awkward given the uncertain future of the library she was hired to run. In short order, Josie decides to fight for her new library even if it means going up against some of the town’s heavy hitters. With the books on her side and a group of loyal patrons, Josie is sure they can save the library. Of course, she’s only going to get to enjoy the saving if she survives the fixers that have been sent to shut her up.
In this midst of all the other turmoil, Josie must also try to understand why she can suddenly hear books talk, why everything around here appears, smells, and tastes better than anything every has before, and why the local “stray” cat seems to have attached himself to her. There’s got to be an explanation, but none of the books seem to have the answers. To find the information she needs and wants, Josie is going to have to rattle some family cages.
The Bottom Line: Oh! This is a book I am so excited to have read and sad I put it off for so long. I was into this book from the very beginning and didn’t give up until I finished the whole thing. I found every aspect of this book – plot, characters, setting, etc. – to be wonderfully fun, suitably quirky, and just the right level of everything for a proper cozy mystery. Mixing a bit of the paranormal with a cozy mystery is always a fine idea and I can’t wait for rounds two, three, four, five . . . . well, you get the idea 😊
When Eva de Courtney kidnaps Godric Fleming, her only plan is to stop the irritating earl from persecuting her beloved brother. But once she has the intriguing rogue in the confines of her carriage, she longs to taste the passion she senses simmering beneath his rugged exterior. Her forbidden plan is foiled, however, when Godric turns the tables, taking her hostage instead—and demanding they marry at once…
The last thing Godric wants to do is make the fiery, impulsive Eva his wife, despite her delectable mouth and alluring innocence. He knows from experience that nothing is forever, not even love. But honor demands he do right by the lady, no matter how stubbornly Eva tries to hold on to her independence. And while the road to the Scottish border is beset with danger, Godric’s greatest challenge is to keep his hands—and his heart—from his captivating bride-to-be…
Source: NetGalley and Kensingtion Rating: 4½/5 stars
Eva de Courtney has gotten herself to a heap of trouble in the past, but her current situation might be the crowning glory of her young life. With every intention of saving her brother and new sister-in-law from a true fiend, Eva kidnaps a high-ranking member of society with no real thought to the consequences of her actions.
Eva de Courtney has long known she isn’t truly cut out for the life she leads. She’s beautiful beyond compare, she’s titled, and she’s wealthy, but she’s also the daughter of a notoriously insane woman. Eva long ago accepted she’ll likely never marry and that is just fine with her. Given the acceptance of her future, Eva uses her title and position in society to outspokenly defend her own beliefs and the lives and reputations of those she loves.
Thinking her plan would be relatively simple to execute and be done with, Eva doesn’t count on all the dangers along the way. From brigands to the sexually suggestive innkeeper to Godric himself, Eva quickly finds herself in way over head. Godric is not at all what Eva expected and finding herself attracted to him is a most disconcerting state. What’s more, the arrogant fool is now insisting he “do the right thing” and marry Eva, a consequence of her own ill-conceived plan. To get herself out of the mess she’s in, Eva will have to use all her wits, courage, and intellect all while protecting her heart.
The Bottom Line: I’ve said it a thousand times before and I’m saying it again, I will always love a book with a woman ahead of her time and place. I like the women who make an effort to stand apart from the crowd, who use their knowledge rather than hide it, and don’t rely on their beauty to advance their goals in life. Eva may be a bit impulsive, but her heart is in the right place, and she certainly doesn’t lack the courage or conviction to see her schemes through to the end. Once again, the author has created a man perfect for the heroine, a man with no interest in snuffing out her character and/or personality but helping Eva to become all she is capable of being. It will be interesting to see the dynamics between Eva and Godric grow and strengthen as this series (hopefully) continues!
When Ooh La La regular Mel Haverstock left the hair salon that morning, no one expected it would be her final parting. But when Daisy closes shop Saturday night, she finds her client dead as the mullet cut. Homicide is back in style in the quiet village of Edgemead in Surrey, England. But who would want to harm a hair on poor Mel’s head?
Suspicions higher than a beehive pile on Daisy when it’s revealed that she and Mel had tangled back in high school, and DNA evidence seems to color her guilty. Handsome DCI Paul McGuinness gives the hairstylist new accessories—a lovely pair of silver handcuffs. To clear her name, Daisy must highlight the real backstabber, or she’ll end up shaving heads in the prison barbershop.
Source: NetGalley, Kensington, and Purchase Rating: 3/5 stars
The Bottom Line: As I sat down to write this review, my initial star rating was a 4, but as I began to consider what justified that number, I realized there isn’t a lot that takes this series above a mid-level read. I liked the book, I liked the characters and the setting, but I didn’t love it and I certainly wasn’t blown away. Given the breadth and depth of the cozy mystery genre, a book/series really has to have something about it which sets it apart from the pack. In truth, the characters and the setting are really normal/plain, and I need a bit of quirky to keep me truly interested and coming back for more. I certainly wouldn’t say ignore this book, but I also can’t in good faith tell my followers to bump this one to the top of your TBR list.
It’s Valentine’s Day in Notchey Creek, Tennessee, and whiskey distiller Harley Henrickson is volunteering at the Reading is Love Festival. Books line the streets, snowflakes dapple the air, and paper hearts adorn storefront windows. Even Harley’s pet pig, Matilda, feels festive, gracing the sidewalks in her Cupid costume. But no sooner have the festivities begun, when Harley finds the charred remains of a car and a body outside Briarwood Park.
While Sheriff Jeff Turner is initially convinced the fire was an accident, Harley suspects something more sinister. When a much-disliked editor of the town’s newspaper is murdered, and Harley’s best friend, Tina Rizchek, is framed for the crime, Harley decides to investigate. A trail of poison-pen letters, car fires, lethal cupcakes, secret affairs, and blackmail leads Harley to the town’s new bookstore and a handsome graduate student who has come to Notchey Creek under mysterious circumstances.
In the meantime, Harley has her hands full in other areas: She’s pet sitting Beau Arson’s rescue dog, Ozzy, while Beau is in L.A.. Aunt Wilma and Opha Mae are determined to get her a date for Valentine’s Day. Uncle Tater and Floyd have entered the bachelor auction. Jed is in an especially foul mood. Grandma Ziegler and Petie are philosophising about the finer points of Pride and Prejudice. And Harley feels the pull of her heartstrings when she learns Eric Winston is single again.
Source: NetGalley and Little Forest Press Rating: 4/5 stars
The Bottom Line: I am finding that any time I get to return to Notchey Creek and Harley Henrickson’s world, I am quite delighted. Andrews has created a wonderfully quirky little town with unique and strong characters that keep wanting more. IN just three books, Harley has evolved so much, and I quite demand that kind of growth out of my characters. Harley’s involvement in each new crime has allowed her to spread her social wings, stretch her considerable intellect, and help a community she dearly loves. When you add in a pig, her ridiculous best friend, her own family, and the various other characters around town, you get a recipe for success. I am also still enjoying the one step above cozy mystery vibe to each plot. The plots are a bit darker and just a smidge more intense than your average cozy and that allows this series to stand apart from the hundreds of others in the genre.
Suzy Medley is having a bad day…
… when a shabby terrier turns up at her door. Just like Suzy, Scout has been abandoned, although only Suzy has been left with a financial mess and a business in tatters thanks to her ex.
Suzy takes Scout in and her chaotic world changes in unexpected ways: strangers have never been more welcoming and her teenage kids can’t wait to come home to visit.
Then a chance encounter on a windy Hebridean beach makes things more complicated, because Suzy isn’t the only one who needs a friend.
Scout has plenty of love to go round… but does Suzy?
Source: NetGalley and Avon Rating: 4/5 stars
When Suzy Medley’s life gets turned upside down, inside, out, and sideways, she has no idea what she’s going to do. Her worthless boyfriend is gone, she’s stuck with a business that is on life support, and a dog she doesn’t want has wandered into her rental.
Sometimes in life, a person can only deal with one catastrophe at a time. First up for Suzie is the wandering canine. Suzie has never wanted a dog, but she’s also not cruel. When the mutt wanders in on a cold, rainy night, Suzie swears it’s a one night only arrangement. The trouble is dogs have a way of working into your heart and doing so quickly. In no time flat, Suzie is committed to her new companion and with Scout by her side a whole host of new opportunities open up.
Next up on Suzie’s to do list is figuring out what to do about her ex’s disastrous attempt at running a distillery. Knowing nothing about running anything, especially a once top-notch distillery, but looking for a new adventure, Suzie decides to make a go of the business. Trouble is, no one at the distillery wants anything to do with Suzie and if she’s going to make a go of this venture, she’s got to learn the business from the ground up and prove to the employees she is nothing like her rat-bastard ex.
Suzie’s time on the small island that is home to the distillery is both a wonderful and somewhat perplexing experience. Suzie loves the environment, Scout loves all the walks along the beach, but Suzie is making little headway with the distillery staff. As if the universe is once again looking out for her, Suzie meets, thanks to Scout a lovely yet very lonely woman, and a handsome man and his delightful son. Suzie comes to relish the time she spends with these new friends and with their help, she is able to slowly begin working her way towards a successful relationship with the distillery staff.
The Bottom Line: This was an easy read for me and that is in large part because of the dog. I am always drawn to books with animals that play a prominent role in the story, and Scout certainly does so in the Dog Share. In fact, I found Scout to really be the central character of this read as it is he who brings Suzie into the orbit of the various other characters. Without Scout, Suzie may never have found her HEA. Through is own rescue, a very happy Scout helps so many others find their own sort of rescue, healing, and happiness. Without being obnoxious or unrealistic in his role, Scout really brings the whole story together in a most delightful manner.
It’s the holiday season in Notchey Creek, and Harley Henrickson is busy mixing yuletide cocktails at her store, Smoky Mountain Spirits. There is snow on the ground, holiday music in the air, and wreathes on every lamppost. Everything seems perfect for the town’s biggest event of the year, the Small Town Christmas Festival. Even Harley’s pet pig, Matilda, is feeling festive, wearing the Elf on the Shelf costume Aunt Wilma bought for her. But not all is merry and bright in this little mountain town. Harley senses something eerie in the air, and it all points to Notchey Creek’s oldest and most beautiful home—Briarcliffe.
No sooner has rock star Beau Arson settled into Briarcliffe Mansion, than a self-righteous ghost hunter arrives in town, telling macabre tales about Beau’s new home. According to legend, a young woman by the name of Margaret Reed hanged herself in the woods behind Briarcliffe on Christmas Day, over a century ago. To make matters worse, Beau has been experiencing ghostly encounters at night, seeking to drive him from his family’s home.
When Harley finds the body of a mysterious woman in the woods near Briarcliffe, and then a wealthy antiques dealer is murdered, she decides to investigate. Can Harley intervene before a century of lies, greed, and passion destroy Beau Arson’s new life—the past he’s just only come to know?
In the meantime, other issues are causing problems for Harley. Aunt Wilma and Opha Mae Shaw are designing a Christmas dress of epic proportions for Harley (and one for Matilda, of course). Uncle Tater and Floyd have been devising top-secret plans in The Shed that might have to do with the upcoming Christmas Parade. And Harley’s best friend, Tina Rizchek, is at her wit’s end when her colorful grandmother and pet parrot visit from Pittsburgh for the holidays.
Source: Purchase Rating: 4½/5 stars
Until recently, Notchey Creek has been a relatively quiet place to live. Of course, there are the occasional squabbles and bouts of hurt feelings, but nothing on the level of murder and mayhem. Not until famed rocker Beau Arson came to town was there a spate of murders. Now there’s been not one, not two, but three and Beau is, once again considered a suspect.
Harley Henrickson doesn’t believe in ghosts, but of late, a ghost hunter and several “sightings” have seriously made Harley rethink her position on the topic. Beau Arson is certain there is something amiss in his vast and expansive home and when a dead woman appears in the forest, all the clues lead right back to Beau. If Harley doesn’t do something, her friend is either going to lose his mind, his freedom, or both.
The ghost hunter is a serious pain in the butt and his stories of a Hatfield and McCoy’s-esque feud between Beau’s family and another once-prominent family aren’t earning him any friends. According to the legends, Beau’s family stole the land their beautiful home now sits on and drove the previous owners to despair, poverty, and even suicide. Furthermore, the current ghost sightings and the dead woman in the woods are the players from the past coming back to seek their revenge.
As Harley begins diving into the mystery – much to the sheriff’s great displeasure – she finds there are many mysteries afoot and none of them include actual ghosts. Someone is “haunting” Beau’s home and his life, a local antiques dealer has been killed, and it all ties together in some convoluted manner. When you add in Harley’s growing feelings for the handsome local coroner, her best-friend’s outspoken grandmother and parrot (yes, there’s a foul-mouthed parrot!), and trying to run her own business, Harley is up to her butt in crazy and longing for the days of quiet and tedium.
The Bottom Line: What a wild ride this one turned out to be! Between the pig, the parrot, and Tina’s grandmother, I found myself laughing aloud on several occasions. Harley is growing in self-confidence and I am loving that evolution in her character. Adding to self-confidence is the fact Harley is expanding her social circle and allowing others, especially Beau to know the real Harley, the one her family and best friend have love for years. Finally, I love how the mysteries in these books are just a shade above cozy; these stories are just a bit darker, just a bit more complex than the average cozy. I am fully committed to this series and it has everything to do with the setting, the characters, and the excellent plots that keep me involved and completely entertained from start to finish.