#AmReading

Let’s talk about READING:

Books bring you a whole new world

As the third child in a family of six, my mother didn’t have time to read us all bedtime stories. Fortunately, I was blessed with a vivid imagination. I’d tell myself stories of fairy princesses and mythical creatures until I nodded off to sleep, and eventually moved on to making up new ones for my nieces and nephews as they grew up. You’d think that would mean I took to reading like a fish to water. Nuh-uh! School nearly squashed any desire I might have had to read a book when they put Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Woodlanders’ on our required reading list. It wasn’t until my early teens that I met Agatha Christie (fictionally speaking, of course) and discovered the real joy of reading. I still read mostly cozy mystery and quite enjoy the new-ish subgenre of light paranormal mystery.

Here’s what I #amReading right now:

Reading
Recently Read
Goodreads

When a cover doesn’t show, hover your mouse over the brown placeholder to see a popup with the book title, or click on the browned-out cover to link through to Goodreads. It’s something to do with copyright that limits viewing of the cover design.

Suggested Reading (with my comments):

Writing a review helps other readers to find a good book so I make an effort to write up my thoughts about a story I’ve enjoyed and then post it on GOODREADS – and no, I don’t take author requests or compensation of any kind; I’m strictly being a reader here! If you are also a reader, feel free to add your favourite mysteries in the comments for others to try along with why you enjoyed them.

Following are the latest books that I’ve read and want to recommend to others:
View all my reviews

The Bourbon Kings (The Bourbon Kings, #1)The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is The Godfather Part 2 meets Upstairs/Downstairs, if either was set in Bourbon distillery country! Told from the perspective of the female horticulturist (landscape gardener) who has caught the eye of one of the sons of the super wealthy family who own the distillery. But life begins to unravel when the bodies start to pile up and the money isn’t where it’s supposed to be. Like in The Godfather, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the idealistic younger son to take up the reins of a corrupted empire and rebuild it. But without a slush fund as a foundation, does he have the skill and experience to do it the hard way? Or will he fall into the traps set by his father before he can unravel the mystery of what his father was up to and where all the money went? A fast-paced and intriguing read.

Death of an Outsider (Hamish Macbeth, #3)Death of an Outsider by M.C. Beaton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You would think that a victim being eaten by lobsters would be a silly premise for a mystery but the author pulled it off with polish and aplomb. This was an intriguing story that kept me guessing. I’m getting quite hooked on this series.

Agatha's First Case: An Agatha Raisin Mystery (Agatha Raisin Mysteries)Agatha’s First Case: An Agatha Raisin Mystery by M.C. Beaton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I always enjoy a good origin story and this one doesn’t disappoint. The author doesn’t allow the short length cramp her style in presenting her character or weaving her story magic. Another entertaining read.

Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death (Agatha Raisin, #1)Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death by M.C. Beaton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been reading British style cozy mysteries since my early teens and I never tire of them. Agatha Raisin is the comfortably the same while refreshingly new. Agatha is a media executive who decides to retire early to the English countryside without quite knowing what she’s getting into. This a classic fish-out-of-water setup and watching Agatha clomp her way through rural etiquette is delightfully entertaining. In this debut story, Agatha doesn’t let a little detail like the fact she doesn’t know how to cook stop her from entering a quiche baking competition as a way to introduce herself to her new community. Her urban competitiveness springs to the forefront when she tries to cheat her way to the top by purchasing her entry only to end up as the prime suspect in a murder by poisoning of a judge. The author captures the setting as a character within the story, along with the cast of quirky village folk so necessary to a cozy mystery. The plot is interesting with red herrings, twists and turns along with the entertainment of watching Agatha, joined by her equally urban former employee, who happens to also be gay and a wonderful counterpoint to Agatha’s dry personality, try to untangle Agatha from the hole she’s dug herself into. A great series for any fan of cozy mysteries.

Dashiell Hammett: Five Complete Novels: Red Harvest, The Dain Curse, The Maltese Falcon, The Glass Key, and The Thin ManDashiell Hammett: Five Complete Novels: Red Harvest, The Dain Curse, The Maltese Falcon, The Glass Key, and The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first story in this Dashiell Hammett collection, Red Harvest, has lost nothing in the years since it was first published in the late 1920s! This is a hard-boiled, noir detective novel with a gritty plot, tight prose and classic gangster characters like ‘Whisper’, Mickey, Lew Yard and the femme fatale who falls somewhere between dangerous bombshell and lost soul. The plot is also classic: a town Bigshot brings in gangsters to squash The People and ends up control of his town to those gangsters. The Anti-hero/narrator, an unnamed hardboiled detective is brought in the clean up the town and mayhem ensues.
Hammett is a master and weaves in more double and triple crosses than you can shoot down with a machine gun. The darkness of the theme and tough talk is not created with easy swear words or graphic blood, guts, and gore; and there are no sex scenes. Yet the pace and tension are knuckle gnawing. Bodies drop like Fall leaves, but it’s the dialogue that is to die for…pun intended…although at times it is a little hard to understand; Hammett has created almost a dialect in places. As the story progresses the line between the good guys and the bad guys gets really murky which is what makes this story as current today as it was back in the roaring ’20s.

Death Overdue (The Haunted Library Mysteries, #1)Death Overdue by Allison Brook
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m always on the lookout for good cozy paranormal mysteries and I recently found the first book in the Haunted Library series. Death Overdue introduces a heroine with a troubled past who takes over as Events Manager in a small town library. While adjusting to the quirky staff, both nasty and nice, she meets a resident ghost who is ready to help her when her first guest speaker-a retired detective -keels over dead just as he is about to name a killer in their midst. To save her new job, Carrie digs into the cold case the detective was working.
The story is full of twists and turns and intriguing characters. The author does an excellent job of weaving two cases together, one a fifteen year old cold case and the other in the immediate present. There are a few little points where the behaviour is a bit dated-at a big family Thanksgiving dinner, only the women take care of the dishes while the menfolk sit on their butts and eventually move to the den to watch the game. But generally the writing is strong and the story well constructed.
Death Overdue is a great start to this series and I’m already looking for the next book.

Death of a Perfect Wife (Hamish MacBeth, #4))Death of a Perfect Wife by M.C. Beaton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This series is a typical cozy mystery series set in the Scottish Highlands. The local copper in a small village is considered lazy by many because he doesn’t want to be promoted away from his home town, and in the pursuit of that goal he allows his rather stereotypical idiot superintendent to take the credit for investigations that he solves. Hamish Macbeth is rather like a male and younger version of Miss Marple, solving the crimes mostly by knowing his people and doggedly asking questions. This series isn’t as entertaining as the Agatha Raisin books by the same author but is equally well written and the plots keep you turning pages.

Murder in the Mystery Suite (Book Retreat Mysteries, #1)Murder in the Mystery Suite by Ellery Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you love reading traditional cozy mysteries in the style of Dorothy Sayer or Agatha Christie, you will love this story from Ellery Adams. The setting is a historic inn in an isolated village in rural Western Virginia, complete with quirky characters, a deep family secret, and the formal British style language. Murder is afoot when the inn brings together aficionados of the old-time detectives, from the last century and a beautiful woman dies in mysterious circumstances. More dead bodies quickly follow, as our heroine, a widowed mother of young twins, races to find the killer before her family and guests are put in further peril. The plot is tight with appropriate twists, turns, and suspects. Pacing keeps the reader turning pages to the end. If a beautiful inn offered a retreat that focused on the love of books, I’d be making a reservation in an instant.

Iron and Magic (The Iron Covenant, #1)Iron and Magic by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ilona Andrews does it again with the debut of this spin-off from their bestselling Kate Daniels urban fantasy series. The main character in the Iron Chronicles is Kate’s nemesis Hugh D’Ambray, the surrogate son of immortal villain Roland-an anti-hero if ever there was one for sure and an impossible redemption story in less skilled hands than these authors’. The heroine is a mysterious witch-like creature who is more than a match for our dark hero. Using a classic marriage-of-convenience story device to lock the two in battle forces a fascinating emotional character arc, and the authors then keep the pages turning with wondrous monsters, epic battles, and mounting suspense peppered with tantalizing tidbits and appearance from series favorites Kate, Curran, and, of course, Roland. The authors suggest you read this story before Magic Triumphs from the Kate Daniels Series but promises 2 more books to round out Hugh and Elara’s story.

All By Myself, AloneAll By Myself, Alone by Mary Higgins Clark
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

ALL BY MYSELF, ALONE is a classic closed room style cozy mystery, except the isolated island is a luxury cruise ship. Other than that, the story has all the usual suspects; the professor, the wealthy widow, the strong heroine and the dashing young lawyer, the undercover agent who is hoping to catch the international jewel thief believed to be onboard. The climax is even accompanied by the requisite storm. Yet The author takes these well-known elements and winds them into an entertaining and exciting tale for modern mystery readers. Fans of Agatha Christie love Mary Higgins Clarke because she continues to be a master storyteller and is the reigning Queen of Suspense with good reason.

Stamped Out (A Stamping Sisters Mystery, #1)Stamped Out by Terri Thayer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The author introduces a fresh new series in the crafter style cozy mystery genre. The heroine is likeable and well developed in a story that weaves the craft of rubber stamping into a strong plot set in her small hometown. A skull rolls up to the feet of April Buchert, as she works on a renovation with her contractor father’s company. Updated characters introduce family tensions as the plot unfolds and the reader is swept along as the heroine faces issues from her past entwine with her present circumstances.

A Magical Match (A Witchcraft Mystery #9)A Magical Match by Juliet Blackwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love the Lily Ivory series and have read them in order so I know the characters as if they are friends, but….it took me a while to get into this one. There was certainly lots of story – wedding plans, a Sailor body double, mother issues (who doesn’t have them around a wedding) along with the usual murder and mayhem – but….
The connection between Lily and Sailor still isn’t really working for me and some of Lily’s inner dialogue reinforced my own lack of commitment to their upcoming union. With him in jail throughout the book for a murder he didn’t commit, I was totally with Lily as she worked to get to the bottom of the mystery and see justice done but I didn’t really miss Sailor. The rest of the plot twists and turns kept me turning pages, and the uncovering of more mysteries from Lily’s past made me want to know what her future may yet hold for her. But…the enigmatic Sailor needs to heat things up on the home front or make room for a better hero IMHO.
Of course, that means I have to read Book #10 to see if that is exactly what Juliet Blackwell has in mind! Hummmm….

Wicked Appetite (Lizzy & Diesel, #1)Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m not sure why but I enjoyed this book more the second time I read it- maybe it was my mood, or the time of year-who knows. I am a huge fan of the early Stephanie Plum, books 1-8 being my favourites, so maybe I was expecting this series to be the same thing only different. In some ways it is-snappy dialogue, cooky heroine, mysterious supermanish hero-but it isn’t fair to compare the two series. Think of this as Marvel comics on steroids and you’ll be better prepared for the stories that Evanovich has come up with this time. This one has a light paranormal element that requires the reader to plant tongue firmly in cheek and totally suspend disbelief. If you trust this author enough to do that, then you can thoroughly enjoy the Diesel and Lizzy series. I really did enjoy reading Wicked Appetite this time and I’m going to dive right back into her crazy universe for Book 2. I’m sure it’ll be another wild ride. If you find yourself heading to the beach with nothing to read, give this one a(nother) try. You might also be surprised.

Bookman Dead Style (A Dangerous Type Mystery, #2)Bookman Dead Style by Paige Shelton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second in this series and builds on the strong community of characters introduced in Book 1. The story in Bookman Dead Style revolves around a murder during a celebrity-laden film festival. In this one, the author took the opportunity to turn her quaint mountain setting, Star City, into an integral character in its own right. The reader could feel the bite of frost in the air, near the crunch of snow underfoot, and see the rustic buildings on Bygone Alley. Our heroine, Clare Henry, is again driven by too much curiosity than is good for her, but follows her good intentions to find the important clues and feed them to her best friend, Jody, who is the cop on the case.
Once again, the plot keeps you guessing right until the final resolution, and all the characters, both the main cast, and the ones who will only be in this story, are equally well developed. I can already tell that the mysteries in this series will be well thought out and hope the author will continue to provide her characters with internal and external growth. I can’t wait to dive into Book 3 and would recommend this series to all fans of a good solid cozy mystery.

Suede to Rest (A Material Witness Mystery #1)Suede to Rest by Diane Vallere
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book as a ‘long weekend read’. The heroine was well developed and likable, and the plot had more depth that you usually find in cozies. There were twists and turns that kept me guessing until the end and I’m looking forward to finding the next one in this series.

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