Christmas Cocoa Murder review

This is a fun compilation of three short Christmas-themed mysteries written by some of my favorite authors. I admit I’m not as familiar with Carlene O’Connor’s works having only read the first of her new series, but I am very familiar with the Country Store series by Maddie Day and the Bookstore Cafe series by Alex Erickson (I do need to read some of the books in between in this one to catch up).

I think someone who had never read the books could read these and still have them make sense as far as the characters go. Obviously in a short story there’s no time to give tons of backstory, but these guys did a good job. See my review below for more details.

My Goodreads review:

Christmas Cocoa MurderChristmas Cocoa Murder by Carlene O’Connor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed reading these Christmas-themed short mysteries by authors that I knew I already read and liked. I wasn’t familiar with the series that the first story belongs with, but I had read the author’s newest series. Even though I didn’t know anyone, it didn’t take long to warm up to Siobhan’s character and her siblings. That and her possible love interest made me want to read this series. The ending of this story was so sweet and I hadn’t guessed the killer.

In the second story, I loved how Ms. Day tied in the “cocoa” theme by having a Lab puppy by that name. A nasty man was killed, and it almost could have appeared as if the pup caused his accident…or was it an accident? Robbie and her hopefully future mother-in-law Freddy made a good investigative team for this case. I kind of had a feeling I knew who it was, but it was interesting to see how they caught the person. The dinner at Abe’s parents on Christmas Eve was really fun and festive, since it ended in singing Christmas carols.

The last book was a locked room type mystery set in Christmas-themed escape room where the host had been killed, which wasn’t part of the game at all. All eight of the game players were strangers, except for Rita and Krissy. Rita, of course had talked Krissy into doing this. Since she’d helped with a lot of local murders, Krissy naturally took the lead as investigator and questioned everyone. It was pretty cool how they did all work together, but they used their brains not their tech just like in the old days. I was totally surprised by the killer. I guess I had something or someone else in mind for what had happened, but it all worked out, they got out eventually and the killer was taken away.

This book publishes on September 24, and I voluntarily read and reviewed a paperback ARC of the book provided by the publisher. My opinions are my own and do not reflect on having received the book for no charge.

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Christmas Cow Bells review

Here’s another new series releasing September 24, the Buttermilk Farm Mysteries by Mollie Cox Bryan who writes the Cora Crafts cozy mysteries. I love to read about Christmas any time of the year, and it wasn’t hard to get into the spirit with reading about the snow they were getting in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia in this book as well as going to the Christmas tree farm. Brynn had three very docile dairy cows for cheese making and ended up adopting a dog (that seemed to prefer the barn) along with eventually her neighbor’s cat. She ended up with a sweet deal of a cheese making student who would live on premises, so I can’t wait to read the next book and see how her business progresses.

My Goodreads review:

Christmas Cow Bells (A Buttermilk Creek Mystery #1)Christmas Cow Bells by Mollie Cox Bryan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is going to be such a fun new series! Even though Brynn hadn’t lived in her house for too long, she’d already made some friends in Willow and Schuyler. I liked how those three worked together, sort of a Nancy-Bess-George type of friendship. I enjoyed her neighbor’s family especially the college guys and thought it was a great idea to have them stay in her guest cottage, especially with some weird things that had been happening on Brynn’s little farm. Someone wanted to drive her away, and someone had set a fire that ended up killing her neighbor. Brynn wasn’t going to back down, and for the most part, she was fairly sensible about calling the police or keeping the fire marshal in the loop if she found things. I didn’t like the sheriff very well, as he came off as condescending, but Mike the fire marshal was nice. I don’t think I caught if he was near Brynn’s age or not but it seemed as if he liked her or could like her. It seemed best and more real to keep any romance out of this first story though. Brynn had enough on her plate!

I loved how Brynn adopted a sweet dog that had been making rounds with the local vet. Brynn had this attitude of Christmas just being another day since she’d had a relationship end badly, but I could tell that she was really lonely and loved Christmas. I had to hand it to her for decorating and making her place as cozy and Christmasy as she could. Having her neighbor’s grandsons around helped with that. A side mystery with another neighbor’s teen tied in with the main one, so I won’t say anything about that, but for the most part, I was satisfied with the wrap-up and very Hallmark-like Christmas ending. Brynn ended up having a good family Christmas after all in her new home.

This releases in a week, but I have several more ARCs to get through, so I’m letting the review out now. I voluntarily read and reviewed an ARC of this book provided by the publisher via NetGalley, and my opinions are my own.

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Last Pen Standing review

This is the first book in a brand new series called Stationery Shop Mysteries by established author Vivian Conroy.  It releases on September 24, 2019, but I have so many others to read by then, that I’m letting this post go through a little early.

Her other series that come to mind are the Country Gift Shop and Cornish Castle Mysteries (there’s a dachshund in that one, I. need. to. read!) as well as a couple of others I saw on her Amazon page. I really enjoyed the author’s style and character development–see my review below for specifics. By the end of the book, I was anxious to spend more time with Hazel, Delta and Jonas…oh and Mrs. Cassidy too. I definitely recommend preordering a copy today! (I did, then saw that I could read it early on NetGalley–couldn’t resist.)

My Goodreads review:

Last Pen Standing (Stationery Shop Mystery Book 1)Last Pen Standing by Vivian Conroy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh this was really good! I’d never read anything by this author before, but now I’d like to explore her other cozy series. These characters really grew on me! Hazel and Delta were such good friends and fell right back into how easily they got along in college. Mrs. C of the Paper Posse was a real character, and even though we only met some of the others via text, I could tell that they were fun too. I loved how Delta and Jonas just connected when it came to sleuthing. Even though he was a former police officer, he didn’t try to discourage her, and they really worked well together. There wasn’t anything romantic whatsoever, but I kinda hope that eventually they’ll become a little more than just friends! The idea of Jonas and his former K-9 officer Spud getting other retired K-9 officers acclimated to life as a pet or family dog was just awesome! I kept hoping that Delta would want to adopt a dog like Spud, but maybe given time I’ll get my wish. I hope so! I’d like to hear Jonas’ story (as I think Delta would too) about how he decided to quit the police force or what made him do that. I’m sure there’s something interesting there.

There were quite a few possible suspects, and I didn’t really figure it out until Jonas and Delta did. I really enjoyed the trap they set and Spud’s role in the take down too. The wrap-up party which was really Wanted’s grand opening party was a nice touch that took care of any loose ends and told what the other characters like Hazel’s brother would be doing.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an ARC of this book provided by the publisher via NetGalley, and my opinions are my own.

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Fatal Cajun Festival review

This is the fifth book in the Cajun Country series by Ellen Byron, and it didn’t take long for it to become one of my favorite series. I feel like these characters are old friends and reading another book in the series is like a long-awaited reunion with them. Even Ru and Vanessa have tamed down and are actually pretty decent characters now (compared to what they were like in the first couple of books!) The books can easily stand alone, but to get the most out of Maggie’s backstory and her journey with dating Bo, it’s advisable to start at the beginning. Enjoy and laissez-les bons temps roulez!

My Goodreads review:

Fatal Cajun Festival: A Cajun Country MysteryFatal Cajun Festival: A Cajun Country Mystery by Ellen Byron

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just like all my book trips to Pelican, LA, I didn’t want this one to end! I love that Bo and Maggie have been planning their wedding (even though they’ve failed at coming up with a date). Vanessa was still able to be snarky, but now she was Maggie’s friend, and she came in handy at giving advice on handling a bully seeing how she was one herself not so very long ago. I like the new and improved Rufus too. He’s been a dad for a few books now and even though he’s not with little Charli’s mom, he is crazy about his baby girl. Maggie’s friend Gaynell got a chance to shine with her Gator Girls band but she was worried about a high school bully named Tammy coming to the music festival. Tammy was a very rich and successful singer, and when she got there, she proved just how mean she could still be by suggesting that Gaynell was the one who killed her manager.

There was a really good twist in the plot which created another little mystery, and just when the killer was taken care of and the murder was solved, there were still more surprises coming. It was an enjoyable roller coaster ride to the finish and I absolutely can’t wait for the next book!

I voluntarily read and reviewed an ARC of this book provided by the publisher via NetGalley, and my opinions are my own.

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Buried in the Stacks review

This is the third book in the Haunted Library series by Allison Brook, the pen name of author Marilyn Levinson. I just love the library ghost, Evelyn! She’s not a scary ghost at all, just a sweet older lady who was killed before her time. In this book, it’s possible that Evelyn might get to find out what really happened to her and if she was murdered by the same person who killed her niece.

My Goodreads review:

Buried in the Stacks (The Haunted Library Mysteries, #3)Buried in the Stacks by Allison Brook

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Murder hit very close to the library ghost Evelyn’s heart in this story. Since it was her own relative that was killed, Evelyn promised Carrie that this time she’d be more willing to share things that she knew or could overhear. The side story of a daytime homeless facility was mixed up in the case as well, and Carrie couldn’t help getting involved, especially when her very sad ghost friend asked her to investigate. Evelyn had a soft spot for all her relatives.

I liked hearing from some of the previous characters like Ken Talbot and Gillian. I’ve really grown to like Carrie’s dad a lot, and she had a few good conversations with him, plus he was working for the same agency now as Dylan her boyfriend was. Dylan was coming home for good with a slight change in the original plan. I loved how little Smoky Joe, Carrie’s beloved cat that she shares with the library as their daytime cat, got to have a part in taking down the killer. I had a suspicion as to who the killer would be, but it was still really good seeing when Carrie would catch on and how the killer would get caught. Carrie got a surprise phone call from another relative who would be coming to see her in April, someone that she wasn’t really looking forward to seeing. The next book should be very interesting!

I voluntarily read and reviewed an ARC of this book provided by the publisher via NetGalley, and my opinions are my own.

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A Curio Killing review

This this the third book in the Keepsake Cove series by Mary Ellen Hughes, and it’s quickly becoming another favorite series. I thought the addition of author Lyssa Hammond last time as a character was a great move and had hoped she’d return, so I was happy to see that she was around for some sleuthing. Being a mystery writer, she’s pretty well cut out for that job! I’m anxious now for the next book in this series.

My Goodreads review:

A Curio Killing (Keepsake Cove Mystery #3)A Curio Killing by Mary Ellen Hughes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Once I got really into the first few chapters of this book, I couldn’t put it down. I had enjoyed the first two books a lot, but I loved this one even more. I kept waiting for Aunt Mel to make her presence known by chiming Grandpa Reed’s music box like in the other books. It came but was definitely not what I would have expected, but it was so sweet. I liked that one part of the last book was explained in this book. I can’t go into detail or it would give away something major. It seemed like all the loose ends were neatly finished off.

I hadn’t guessed who the killer was. I knew it couldn’t be Hank, Callie’s formerly not-much-good-for anything ex-boyfriend. He was tossed into jail for killing the band’s manager and I enjoyed that Callie had her author friend Lyssa from the last book there to help her investigate, at least for awhile. Callie and Brian seem to be in a good place with their relationship. Brian has the patience of a saint. What other man would be so gracious when the girl he likes was trying to prove her ex-boyfriend’s innocence. But Callie has proved that she only has eyes for Brian more times than once, so I guess it’s that mutual trust thing that’s so important.

I’m really anxious to read the next book and will need to snoop around to see if it’s available for pre-order yet.

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Out of the Picture review

This is the very first book in a brand new cozy mystery series called the Shepherd Sisters. It’s being published by Hallmark Publishing and written by Tracy Gardner. If you love a good Hallmark mystery with a budding romance, you will love this book too. I just have to mention that I love the name of Savanna’s little Boston Terrier: it’s Fonzie.

My Goodreads review:

Out of the Picture: A Shepherd Sisters MysteryOut of the Picture: A Shepherd Sisters Mystery by Tracy Gardner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh this was so good! True to being a Hallmark product, the characters were amazing, the town was cute and things worked out great in the end with a few conflicts, scares and bumps along the way. I just loved the character of Caroline, a sweet but feisty lady who was getting ready to turn 90. The Shepherd sisters were so cool–anyone would love to be friends with them. And what kid wouldn’t love to have Savanna as their art teacher?

I was so sure that I knew who the perp was, but it turned out to be someone completely different. It was a good mystery too and allowed Savanna to use her art authenticator knowledge to help the police. It was so sweet that Savanna and Aidan found each other, and I’m anxious now for the next book to see that progress, as well as see these sisters in detective mode again.

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