Book Review: One Taste Too Many by Debra H. Goldstein

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“One Taste Too Many” is the first book in the new Sarah Blair series by Debra H. Goldstein. I have to say that I am thrilled to have discovered it! Goldstein has scored a home run with main character Sarah, who is a caring woman with common sense who approaches cooking with a philosophy of “the quicker and easier, the better”. If you love those catering queen heroines…fear not! Sarah has a twin sister who is a professional chef, so there’s plenty of good cooking information.

Goldstein also did something pretty unusual in the cozy genre with her (minimal) romance storyline. I won’t say more to avoid spoilers, but if you’re tired of the usual, give this book a try!

Sarah spends most of this book trying to clear her sister’s name of a murder charge, and fighting to keep custody of her beloved Siamese cat. Both twins, as well as certain key supporting characters, have distinct and well-thought-out personalities, with plenty of room to grow as the series progresses. I will be first in line to see what happens next!

I had heard that the reveal of the killer came as a surprise to other readers, so I went in looking for a twist. I got one! Until very near the end (when the clues are becoming much more obvious), I had NO IDEA of who the killer was. (I will refrain from sharing my excellent outside-of-any-cozy-box theory. It was so far off, it would take this review into the realm of comedy.)

Another excellent aspect of this book is that fact that Sarah actually takes pro-active steps to gain information to help her find the killer. Then she takes time to think through what she’s learned before deciding what to do next. Once all is revealed, everything makes perfect sense. Basically, this is everything you could want in a cozy mystery (with a couple of fabulous extras thrown in).

Five out of five big chunks of my favorite sharp cheddar!

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Book Review: The Whispered Word by Ellery Adams

“The Whispered Word” by Ellery Adams is an absolutely wonderful second installment in one of my favorite cozy mystery series! The story is centered upon Nora, a woman with scars both physical and emotional. Nora runs a bookshop and often helps customers heal from emotional trauma by suggesting just the right mix of books. In this course of her life in this book, she encounters a mysterious visitor and (or course) murder.

The mystery is well-plotted, with enough clues and information provided to the reader to keep things interesting, but never enough to make the answer obvious. Nora thinks things through and takes logical steps to solve the mystery, instead of bumbling around and occasionally coming across a clue (like so many cozy heroines are prone to do). This time around, she has the ear (and possible interest) of Detective McCabe, which makes her search for the truth somewhat easier.

The book also shines in the area of characters and their relationships with one another. Nora’s friendships within her inner circle are growing and strengthening, and I enjoy learning more about each woman’s life and story. I especially love the way that these personal journeys are woven into the mystery plotline, and look forward to watching the friendships deepen even more as the group goes on to solve future crimes (which will undoubtedly occur in their cozy town). Nora’s relationship with Jed is explored in more depth this time around, with some wonderful sweet scenes (and one implied steamy one).

Honestly, I can’t say enough good things about “The Whispered Word”. It includes everything a cozy should (including a crew of very oddly-behaving cats), but brings so much more to the table. This is one of those rare cozy series that I would happily read without the mystery. I would enjoy simply reading more about the lives of the characters, and the daily non-murder-related happenings in Nora’s business and town.

Overall, five out of five slices of delectable provolone!

Book Review: The Tiger’s Tale by Kelle Z. Riley

“The Tiger’s Tale” by Kelle Z. Riley is an excellent addition to the series! I loved the first two books, and this one adds a tiger cub and college football to an already winning combination…what more could a reader ask for?

The primary reason this book is so enjoyable is intelligence, both on the part of the author and the main character, Dr. Bree Watson-Mayfield. Both author and character are PhD scientists, as well as smart, witty, women. Bree is able to hold down a serious, demanding job that is actually a front for some undercover spy work, and apply her common sense and research capabilities to solving the murder that takes place while she is working a temporary staffing assignment.

The story itself is interesting and well-paced, with plenty of action interspersed with scenes of Bree actually trying to solve the crime in question using her brain, both alone and with her support team. Unlike many cozy heroines (who often simply go about their lives, ask a few questions here and there, and sometimes stumble over actual clues) Bree tackles her investigation head-on, with a great deal of thought, planning, and organization. She also pro-actively works with the police, comparing notes and discussing theories, which is a welcome change of pace from the typical cozy.

Bree’s spy boss/potential love interest is out of town for most of this book, which causes her to spend more time with (and consider more seriously) her second love interest, Detective James O’Neill. Bree’s dynamic with both men is interesting, and she is attracted to each for different, but valid, reasons. I find this one of the more interesting cozy triangles I’ve come across, as I honestly cannot pick a favorite!

All in all, I really enjoyed the book. I liked all the standard cozy tropes, but appreciated the more intense and serious nature of this mystery. Bree is an entertaining and likable character, and I look forward to her next adventure.

5 out of 5 chunks of the most delectable gouda!

Book Review: An Accidental Corpse by Helen A. Harrison

“An Accidental Corpse” by Helen A. Harrison is a most excellent book. The plot flowed well, the storyline made sense, the mystery was interesting (with a logical outcome, given the preceding clues), the major characters were well drawn and appealing, and the setting (both time and place) was incredibly well portrayed.

The book was also well-written in terms of actual writing style. Ms. Harrison is obviously extremely well-versed in her subject matter, having written non-fiction works on Mr. Pollack, his art, and his time period. She seamlessly weaves her knowledge into a “what if” speculative historical fiction plot. The book is blissfully free of grammatical and other editing errors as well. The author comes across as a true professional, and I hope she continues her forays into this genre.

Five out of five slices of my absolute favorite sharp cheddar!

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Book Review: Not a Creature Was Purring by Krista Davis

“Not a Creature Was Purring” by Krista Davis is an excellent addition to the Paws & Claws Mystery series! As always, the characters are well-drawn and believable; this is especially evident in this book due to the number of new characters/guests at the inn. Had they not all been incredibly distinctive, it could have been tricky keeping everyone straight. The reader is treated to a more in-depth characterization of Aunt Birdie; I’d love to see a future storyline include a side-plot involving Holly helping her aunt write her autobiography. It would be fascinating to learn more of Birdie’s back story.

The murder itself was well-plotted and well-placed, with plenty of red herrings to keep the reader guessing. Once the culprit was revealed, everything made perfect sense based on what the reader (and chief sleuth Holly) had learned throughout the book.

Although I very much enjoyed the mystery storyline, I would have loved this book even without it. As other reviewers have mentioned, I wish Wagtail was a real place. I’d love to visit, stay at the inn, meet all the regular characters, and enjoy everything the town has to offer. “Not a Creature Was Purring” made this feeling even stronger as it details all the wonderful local holiday traditions. I would have been perfectly happy just visiting this delightful pet-friendly place again and spending time with old friends.

Five out of five chunks of Gruyere!

Book Review: That Last Weekend by Laura DiSilverio

Laura DiSilverio may be one of the most versatile writers that I follow. I first met her through her cozy mysteries, then went on to enjoy her YA dystopian trilogy. Now, I can add her newest suspense novel, “That Last Weekend”, to the list.

“That Last Weekend” tells the story of five college friends who got together for a girls’ weekend once a year at a bed and breakfast. When their last weekend together ended in tragedy, the ladies fell out of touch until they received invitations ten years later to revisit their favorite B&B and their old relationships.

The reader meets the five main characters, as well as the key people in each of their lives, in fairly quick succession at the start of the book. It is a tribute to Ms. DiSilverio’s wonderfully rich characterizations that you never feel confused about who is who. Each key figure is well-drawn and unique, and therefore easy to remember.

The plot itself unfolds at a nice pace, alternating between (mostly) the current events at the B&B with occasional flashbacks to what happened the last time. When tragedy strikes anew, the friends vow to work together to prove themselves innocent, as well as to uncover the truth about what happened during their previous visit. The police officer who believed one of them was guilty ten years ago is now the sheriff; the fact that he heads up the current investigation makes for some interesting dynamics between him the and suspects, as well as a wonderful plot development that I won’t share to avoid being spoiler-ish.

About mid-way through the book, I was positive that I knew who had committed each of the crimes. I was both surprised and delighted to learn that I had been completely wrong! The clues are all there, but they aren’t easy to unravel. The reader will enjoy uncovering information (both new and old) about the events that transpired, and trying to figure out who the guilty party is.

I highly recommend “That Last Weekend” to fans of mysteries, group-of-friends stories, and anyone who enjoys an incredibly well-written novel!

Five out of five yummy chunks of cheddar!

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