Jessica’s Cranky Corner: Fourth of July Fizzles

I’m seriously striking out on beach reads this year.  Not one—but two—of the Fourth of July-themed books I selected on Audible turned out to be major turkeys.  You know that feeling when you light up a cheap sparkler expecting to see a glorious nimbus of glittery light, only to find that you got a big fat, fizzled-out dud? Well that pretty much sums up my disappointment with these cozy mysteries. Here’s hoping that my bad luck streak is over and that my next post will be filled with some fabulous summertime reads!

Dead White and Blue by Carolyn Hart

15808349In a word, this book is tedious. The constant questioning, the massive list of suspects, the never-ending red herrings—everything about this book exhausted me. I don’t understand what happened here. I have always loved the Death on Demand mystery series. I love that the amateur sleuth runs a mystery book store in a quaint little tourist town, and that she’s married to a handsome private eye. Her old biddy sidekicks are always a little annoying, but in this book they’re downright intolerable. Thankfully they were on a cruise and only popped up here and there via Skype. The Agatha Christie-esque plots always keep me guessing, but there were WAY too many pieces in this jigsaw puzzle.  There were SO many characters and they were all equally despicable. Lock them all up in jail for all I care!  Seriously, the author should’ve drawn up a character map so I could keep up with the tangled web of twisted townies.  Aside from the jumbled mess of suspects, the story is all work and no play. I found myself constantly pleading with Annie and Max to take a breather from their quest here and there. Go build a sandcastle, host a book signing party, drink some wine and watch the sunset—just take a break for Pete’s sake and let the reader come up for air! Keeping up with the herky jerky lines of inquiry just felt like work, work, work. At the end of the day, I just want to kick up my feet and enjoy a light mystery with cute kitties and hot detectives. But hey, if you enjoy formulaic math problems with factors and square roots coming out of the yin yang, this might be your cup of tea.

All Fudged Up by Nancy Coco

17381897This review might be just a little unfair on account of the fact that I returned this sucker after suffering through the first few chapters. It was just way too slapstick silly for my taste, which is really a shame considering that Mackinac Island the perfect setting for a cozy fudge-filled mystery. So why did I hit the return button so early in the game? Well you might think I’m a sourpuss, but I just can’t deal with over-the-top silly hijinks. My funny bone was not tickled when the mentally-challenged police dispatcher could not comprehend the words: “I found a dead body in my house.” When the hilarity of the dispatcher’s stupidity caused the caller to shake uncontrollably in laughter, I realized that there was no way I could ever connect with the story or the ridiculous characters. If I want a corkscrew comedy, I’ll watch Blazing Saddles. But when it comes to mysteries, there needs to be some sort of grounding in reality. Scooby Doo is a rare exception. What happened after the inept dispatcher eventually connected the dots and sent out a unit to inspect the crime scene? I’ll never know. Nor will I care. Thankfully, Audible immediately restores my precious monthly credits when I accidentally buy a book without doing some homework. A word to the wise: Always read the first chapter before taking the plunge.

Gizzy’s pick: Neighing with Fire by Kathryn O’Sullivan

10982781_681149715347165_297454266350883030_nIt isn’t summertime without a new installment from the Colleen McCabe mystery series! Set in a tranquil coastal town where wild horses run free and dead bodies pop up from underneath the sand, how could I ask for a better beach read?

23014755In this much-anticipated third installment, the mystery begins when a hurricane swoops into town, unearthing a carefully buried dead man from underneath a boardwalk. Turns out, it’s just some random dude with no personal connections to anyone in town. When an arsonist starts running amok, Colleen—the local fire chief—must piece together the clues before the whole town goes up in smoke.

Can we just pause for a moment and reflect on how awesome it is that our leading lady is the head honcho of a firehouse? She’s not the queen of a quilting bee, or an owner of a scrapbook shop. Nope, this red-headed sleuth is out there saving lives and delegating orders to an all-male team of firefighters. You go girl!

With some help from her trusty sidekicks, she pieces together the clues that all seem to lead to the town’s wealthy developer, Pinky Salvatore.  In true Murder She Wrote fashion, Pinky becomes the prime suspect after he has a heated confrontation with a soon-to-be dead man. But why would Pinky—the town’s beloved benefactor—burn a man to death in one of his own properties? What motive would he have for killing a virtual stranger?

Nope, I don’t buy it. Neither does Colleen, who may or may not be crushing on Pinky. You see, despite her budding romance with the town sheriff, Bill Dorman, there seems to be a spark –pun intended—between those two. As her romance fires up with Bill, she’s also feeling a pull toward the flirtatious Italian stallion. Don’t get me wrong, I think Bill is sweet and all, but I’m really rooting for the dark horse waiting in the wings. I’m hoping that in the near future, wild horses won’t keep those two from giving into their desires. Oh how I love a good pun!

I did some goggling and decided that this will be my beach house in Corolla.

I did some goggling and decided that this will be my beach house in Corolla.

As I write this with my little gray cat in my lap, I should note that this book is a surefire (oops, another pun!) hit for animal rescue enthusiasts. There’s a slew of loveable characters who are putting their lives at risk to save endangered birds and horses.  And, of course, Colleen has a couple four-legged partners in crime: a border collie named Sparky, and a feisty kitty named Smoky. Notice a theme here with the names?

Pea_Island-Corolla_10-2-08_0240 If you love a good light-hearted mystery with romantic tension, beautiful scenery and eccentric, animal-loving characters, this mystery series is for you! With so many suspects to choose from, I enjoyed playing the guessing game until the very last chapter. I always get fooled by those darn red herrings!

CeeCee’s Roundup of Murder, Mayhem and Four-Legged Sleuths

UntitledLast night we had the mother of all thunderstorms—the perfect setting for a riveting whodunit! While the shingles were blowing off the roof and my poor doggie was shivering in the closet, I was busy wrapping up the last final chapters of my Chet and Bernie mystery. If you’re in the mood for a good mystery that’s light on the mind-numbing procedural stuff and heavy on cute animals and sassy amateur sleuths, this reading roundup is for you!

Real Murders by Charlaine Harris

teagarden_book_a_pAfter watching the Hallmark channel movie—starring none other than Candace Cameron as Aurora (aka Ro) Teagarden—I had to check out this series to see how it compares to the made-for-TV train wreck. I mean, how can the mastermind behind the True Blood series have anything to do with such a snore fest filled with cardboard cutout characters and inane dialogue? Sadly, the literary version is just as disappointing. It has all the annoying tropes that run rampant in the cozy genre: the overbearing, meddling mother, the bossy best friend, the fashionably-challenged leading lady. Seriously, why do so many cozy mystery characters have to dress like lunch ladies? Is this a way to make them more likeable and relatable to the readers? What does that say about cozy mystery fans? What really bothered me about Candace Cameron’s role is that she looked like she stepped right out of the pages of an Anthropologie catalogue, yet people kept nagging her to dress better. And what’s up with those crazy long hair extensions? In the book, the drab librarian has a head of frizzy brown hair. It made no sense that the TV version looks like a freakin Pantene commercial. Although I do have to hand it to Candace, that girl sure has come a long way since Full House. I would love to get her beauty secrets!

The Sound and the Furry by Spencer Quinn

16130393Oh my gawsh! How can I even articulate my complete and total adoration for this detective series? It’s told through the eyes of a big, goofy dog named Chet (aka “Chet the Jet”) who chases down perps and solves crimes with his human partner. I know what you’re thinking. A dog narrating the whole book? That’s got to get old real quick. Well think again! The story moves along at a rapid pace through Chet’s narrative. You see, dogs pick up on a lot of things that human can’t see, smell or hear. With his acute senses, Chet can give the readers some clues that Bernie won’t pick up on until the bad guys start closing in on them. This time, they’re solving a mystery in the Louisiana swamplands—my favorite kind of setting! What starts out as a simple missing persons case soon leads to a tangled web of drug dealers, biker gangs, Big Oil, and one mean-ass alligator named Iko. I love this series for two reasons: the top-notch mystery, and Chet’s unwavering love for Bernie. He is 100 percent devoted to his disheveled Hawaiian shirt-wearing human. In Chet’s eyes, Bernie is pure perfection…well except for when a woman crosses his path. I’d like to think this is how dogs really perceive their humans. The way they look up at us with those adoring eyes, how could they not?

A Nip of Murder by Carol Miller

20575402As with the first book in this new series, the story begins with a most peculiar catastrophe. A gang of masked bandits raid a bakery and make off with 90 pounds of cream cheese. What in the world?! The plot thickens when Daisy’s emotionally fragile employee stabs one of the robbers to death in self-defense. Turns out, he’s just some random dude with no connection to the town whatsoever. In a rural Virginia hamlet devoid of useful law enforcement, Daisy has no other choice but to solve the mystery of the stolen cream cheese on her own. When she’s not piecing together clues, she’s busy at the bakery attending to a big crowd of strangers who’re in town for a geocacher hunt. With so many strangers thrown into the mix, how will she ever narrow down the suspects list? What would a bunch of nerdy geocacher’s want with a mountain of cream cheese? With some help from a rather handsome geocacher, who’s also a hot history professor, she hunts down some leads that all seem to point to an underground moonshine ring. And as the romance heats up between her and the professor, she also starts to feel a gravitational pull toward Rick Balsam, the local moonshine-brewing bad boy. Uh oh, I smell trouble!

As I expected, this mystery series just keep getting better and better. If you’re a sucker for an atmospheric whodunit with feisty female sleuths and steamy romantic tension, this one’s for you! Oh and did I mention that there’s also a crime-solving kitty named Blot? Now that’s the cream cheese icing on the cake!

Murder on the Hoof: A Mystery by Kathryn O’Sullivan

18404182It’s summertime and you know what that means. Lots and lots of easy breezy beach reads filled with murder, mayhem, furry four-legged sidekicks and sizzling romance! This is the time of year when people travel the world and experience idyllic touristy towns for themselves. But to be honest with you, I’d much rather spend my summer doing absolutely nothing but reading on my back porch with my fur babies and a pitcher of sangria. No need to suffer the indignities of air travel, or shell out hundreds of dollars on overpriced hotels. For the mere price of a paperback, I can choose my own destination without ever having to wrestle with my luggage. Oh how I love reading!

For my first summer getaway, I traveled to North Carolina’s Corolla Island, where wild horses roam free and eccentric townsfolk run amok. There are also plenty of hunky firefighters who put their lives on the line to save their beloved beach town from going up in smoke. Seeing as how this is a sleepy little tourist town, you’d think that firefighters would have a pretty cushy job. Well think again! Dead bodies have a way of popping up in the most unexpected places. As for the suspects, it’s pretty much fair game. Even the old bitties seem to be stashing some skeletons in their closets. Oh yes, Corolla has a seedy underbelly filled with murder, blackmail, lies and deceit. It’s like Cabot Cove, only there’s a lot more eye candy for the ladies!

The mystery begins when Fire Chief Colleen McCabe stumbles upon a dead body after a rather elaborate training exercise on the beach. As part of the mock fire emergency, the community’s acting troupe posed as bloodied victims. Even the town mortician pitched in by painting their bodies with fake gore. It all seemed to be running smoothly until one of the “victims” stopped moving…and breathing altogether.SpanishMustangsOfCorolla

As Colleen investigates the crime, she discovers that the 60-something murder victim had some dark secrets of her own, and quite a few of the townies had some pretty valid reasons for wanting her dead. Considering that practically the entire town was at the murder scene, Colleen has her work cut out for her.  With some help from the town sheriff (and potential boyfriend!) Bill Dorman and her trusty four-legged sidekicks, she pieces together clues and narrows down the slew of suspects.

The plot thickens when a hotshot movie starlet starts following Colleen all around town to research her next movie role. Not only is she interfering with the investigation, she’s also Bill’s ex fiancé! If that’s not bad enough, another member of the acting troupe turns up dead—and it’s only a matter of time until the killer strikes again.

I’ll stop right here before I reveal any spoilers, but I will say that the killer was way far down on my suspect list. This is a fun jigsaw-puzzle of a mystery that will keep you guessing until the climactic town theater production. What really makes this mystery series special is the protagonist. I love that she’s defying gender roles by heading up a fire department. She’s strong, fearless, and respected by all her employees. Yet she’s also dealing with insecurities and boy troubles that resonate with women readers. I should also mention that her sleuthing sidekick, Myrtle Crepe, is a real kick in the pants. Her antics are amusing, yet she doesn’t go over the top with the trash talking and zany shenanigans…that can get old really fast.  I’m excited to see what lies in store for their next adventure. And I’m really looking forward to seeing how Bill and Colleen’s romance develops. It looks as though a dark horse named Pinky might be waiting in the wings—and I can’t wait to see how this fledgling love triangle collides!

If you’re new to this mystery series, you’re in for a real treat. Check out my review of the first installment, Foal Play.

Chick Lit Cafe’s Book of the Month: Murder and Moonshine by Carol Miller

murder-and-moonshine-a-mystery-416948-3d2bd95f279b0f78a91eI must confess, I totally bought this book based on its cover. It looks like a Sookie Stackhouse story—sans the bad boys with pointy fangs. I just love mysteries set in the rural South, so when I saw this gorgeous cover on the new release shelf at BookPeople, it was a done deal. Was it worth the hardback price? Keep on reading my review to find out!

The mystery begins one fateful morning at the H & P Diner, a greasy spoon known for Daisy’s prize-winning pastries. It’s the kind of place you see in the movies where all the local yokels stop and stare at any strange interloper who walks through the door.  Daisy’s busy going about her morning routine when an old hermit, Hank Dickerson, staggers up to the counter, mutters the word “burger” and drops dead.

Soon, people start talking about death-by-poison, and the possibility of H&P closing down for good. This doesn’t bode well for Daisy, who has been left penniless after her no-good husband skipped town. She depends on her meager paycheck to pay for her ailing mother’s medical bills and hopes to save up enough money to open her own bakery. But without a steady job, how will she ever scrape by? Little did she know, that was the least of her problems.

Things go from bad to worse when she makes connections between her boss, Hank Fitz, and the dead man. Still grieving over her father’s tragic death at her former family homestead, she’s unwilling to believe that a longtime friend could be capable of cold-blooded murder. Why would he have any reason to poison the town recluse?

Hank’s stories aren’t adding up, but Daisy just can’t find a motive. The local bad boys, however, certainly seem capable of murder. Somehow, the tobacco-chewing Balsam brothers managed to buy her family property, acres upon acres of valuable rolling green hills and cornfields. According to local gossip, they’ve been doing some dirty dealings with some city folk. There sure seems to be a lot of interest in her childhood stomping grounds, and somehow old man Dickerson got in the way of their money-making schemes.

The plot thickens when a handsome stranger from the city walks into the H&P. When Daisy finds out that he’s an ATF agent, she immediately regrets flirting with him over a hot plate of peach cobbler. You see, she has some bad history with the ATF and refuses to have anything to do with a member of a federal agency that ripped her family apart.

But as the mystery intensifies, she reluctantly enlists his help in hunting down clues, which all seem to lead straight to her old family homestead. How did the Balsam brothers manage to buy such an expensive piece of land? And why would a dying man order a burger in his final moments on earth? You’re going to have to read the book to find out!

Aside from the murder mystery, Daisy sure has a lot to figure out. She’s got a sexy bad boy on one side and an irresistibly handsome federal agent on the other. They’re both hers for the taking, but she’s too mixed up with bad memories to make a move. Plus she’s got to look after an invalid mother and a zany, gun-toting aunt. To say that she has a lot on her blue plate special is an understatement!

What I love about Daisy is that she puts family first and is willing to stop at nothing to clear her beloved boss’ name. I was rooting for her every step of the way. Hopefully we’ll get to see her open up a bakery in the next book. As for the love triangle, the jury’s still out on those guys. If she ends up with the Balsam brother, I hope he changes his redneck ways. I may live in Texas, but I’m sorry, there’s nothing sexy about a wisecracking good ol’ boy who whores around with the town tramps and makes unwanted advances toward hard-working waitresses. No thank you!

All in all, I must say that this is a mighty fine mystery that is sure to win over fans of authors like Jana Deleon, Cathy Pickens and Riley Adams. There’s romantic tension, small town mystique, and downhome Southern cooking. Who could ask for anything more?

Gizzy’s Christmas Reading Roundup!

gizchristmas3_zpsf679dc40Christmas is s almost here and I’m scrambling to get all of my holiday reading done before the fat man in red drops down my chimney with a bag full of more books! I love the holidays, I really do, but December is becoming a dizzying month of nonstop rush, rush, rushing.  Can you believe I haven’t even had time to get a stinking tree? But don’t fret, my dear readers. I do have  priorities, and I vow to never let the holiday chaos interfere with precious reading time. If you’re looking for something Christmassy to read by the fire after battling it out at the mall, here are some hits and misses.

The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen

13542533I scored this on Audible for a mere five bucks, and it’s worth every penny and more! The narrator is top notch, and the characters are highly amusing.  This is my first venture into the the Royal Spyness mystery series, and I assure you it won’t be my last! Set in the Great Gatsby era, the irrepressible Lady Georgiana is stuck in Scotland with her bumbling brother and his odious family. Seriously, these creatons could give the Dursleys a run for their money.  As luck would have it, she gets hired as a holiday party hostess at stately old manor in a picturesque English village. It all seems too perfect, until the dead bodies start stacking up. From the moment she arrives, people drop off like flies in a series of “accidental deaths.” Do these freak accidents have something to do with a long-standing witchy curse? Or are escaped prisoners to blame? You’ll have to read the book to find out!  If you like jigsaw puzzle mysteries with a dash of humor and romance, this book’s for you.

13586680Elvis and the Blue Christmas Corpse by Peggy Webb

I must confess, the cover is the reason why I bought this book. How can you go wrong with a dog detective who might just be the reincarnation of Elvis Pressley? The slapstick humor is front and center of the mystery, so this should appeal to those who like their whodunits loaded down with zany hijinks and slapstick banter.  Amidst the silly shenanigans, there’s a mystery involving a murderous Ebenezer Scrooge with a vendetta against mall Santas. The mystery begins when Callie’s beloved uncle Charlie almost dies in an “electrical accident” while sitting in Santa’s throne.  The hijinks ensue when she teams up with her binge-eating cousin/BFF to ferret out the killer. Complete with a cast of eccentric Southern women, this series is somewhat of a mashup of Steal Magnolias and Janet Evonovich’s Stephanie Plum series. The off-the-wall antics got a little tiresome, but I’d be lying if I said that some of the girls’ ill-fated escapades weren’t amusing. Plus there’s some romantic intrigue going on between Callie and her soon-to-be ex hubby.

Call Me Mrs. Miracle by Debbie Macomber

7957814I don’t typically read Debbie Macomber books because they tend to be a little too sugary sweet. I also shy away from any story that revolves around a struggling mother with needy little children. Sorry to be a total grump, but I don’t like whiney kiddos muddling up a romantic moment. But when Christmas rolls around, I turn into a softy and end up reading one of her cozy little romance novels. To be honest, the Lifetime movie version of this book was more entertaining, mostly because the kid was a lot less annoying. Yes, the movie was contrived and somewhat silly, but Lauren Holly really stole the show as the over-the-top dragon lady boss. She was HILARIOUS!  Oh and Doris Roberts is just the perfect master manipulator/guardian angel. I loved how she seamlessly moved things in the right direction while completely befuddling people in the process. In the book, however, the stoic Mrs. Miracle takes more of a backseat to the paint-by-the-numbers love story. My advice: skip the book and watch the movie. I know that seems very backwards, but I’m just being honest!

Short & Sweet Sundays: Death of a Neighborhood Witch by Laura Levine

Sundays are a day of rest. So in honor of this one day of the week when I can legitimately loaf around in my Garfield jammies in front of the DVR, I bring you this new feature that I like to call “Short and Sweet Sundays.” This is a fun way for me to write up a quick and dirty book blog without getting too overambitious.

13498001The gist (from the publisher): When Jaine Austen’s beloved cat Prozac unwittingly scares to death a parakeet belonging to the neighborhood’s resident curmudgeon, Jaine finds herself knee-deep in toil and trouble. The cantankerous Hollywood has-been once played Cryptessa Muldoon, television’s fourth most famous monster mom. Now she spends her days making enemies with everyone on the block. So when the ornery D-lister is murdered with her own Do Not Trespass sign on Halloween night, the neighborhood fills with relief–and possible culprits.

With a killer on the loose, Jaine hardly has time to fall under the spell of her yummy new neighbor, Peter. As the prime suspect, she summons her sleuthing skills to clear her name and soon discovers that everyone has a few skeletons in their closets. . .

The pros: If you’re having a bad day, week – or in my case – month, this book will turn that frown upside down! It’s a fun, fluffy, fast read filled with zany hijinks, quirky characters and slapstick humor. There’s a smidge of a mystery somewhere in between Jaine’s clumsy shenanigans, but really it’s all about the comedy. Toward the end, I was preparing myself for disappointment, but the author managed to surprise me with an unexpected plot twist. All in all, not too shabby!

The cons: I was hoping this would be an atmospheric Halloween mystery, but not so much. Don’t let the cute witchy kitty and jack-o-lantern on the cover fool you. Aside from an ill-fated costume party and couple trips to the store for fun-sized Halloween candy, this book is not Halloweenie at all.

I should also add that I was really annoyed by the wonky subplot involving sporadic email messages from Jaine’s kooky parents. Their kooky antics were a little too over the top, and I just flat-out didn’t care about their silly neighborhood drama. I’m sure loyal fans of this book series find this kind of thing to be cute and endearing, but I thought it was lame and distracting.

Thoughts on character development:  Jaine Austen really is the star of the show. She’s cute, spunky and riddled with all sorts of bad habits. Unlike a lot of main characters in chick lit books, she’s fashionably challenged and a little on the pudgy side. She wears her elastic-waist jeans with pride and has a weakness for all things sugary and deep fried. How can you not love a girl like that? We could totally hang out! Although, she can leave her freinemie at home. Her next-door neighbor, Lance, is a real tool. I was really hoping he was the killer just so he’d get pushed off a cliff or locked up in prison for life.

Why I chose this book: The cover was too hard to resist! I’m a sucker for jack-o-lanterns and cute kitties.

This book is best paired with: A furry, four-legged lap-monger and a handful of “homemade” brownies.

Would I read another book by this author? Oh sure. Next time I need a little pick-me-up, I’ll grab another book in this series.

The Friday Five: A Killer Maize by Paige Shelton

In honor of my favorite day of the week, I bring you The Friday Five. Every Friday I will ask the same five questions to myself, or any other willing participant! All my fellow book lovers are welcome to join in on the fun.

killer_maizeFrom the publisher: Becca Robbins is selling her farm-made jams and preserves at a county fair where business is not the only thing that’s dead…

The last person Becca expects to run into at the Swayton County Fall Festival is her ex-husband, Scott Triplett, who’s operating a shooting gallery. Honesty was not always Scott’s policy, and their unexpected reunion is further complicated when the festival becomes a crime scene. On Becca’s second day there, Ferris wheel operator Virgil Morrison is found hanging from his rickety ride, dead from a gunshot.

As Becca starts to notice Scott suspiciously sneaking around the fairgrounds, she begins to worry her ex may be involved in the murder. Then there’s the shadow she sees in the creepy corn maze and rumors of a gypsy curse—not to mention Virgil’s mysterious spider tattoo. Now Becca must search through a labyrinth of lies, secrets, and superstition to find a kernel of truth…before the killer starts stalking her.

Why did you choose this book? The hubster bought me this book for Christmas, probably because he knows that I’m a sucker for cozy mysteries with pumpkins on the cover. He knows me well!

Where did the author go right? Or if it’s a turkey, what went wrong? I like cozies that are heavy on the mystery with a light dash of romance.  I’m in it for the quaint setting, the quirky characters and the cute little furry sidekicks. And that’s exactly what I got with this atmospheric farmers market mystery. The fall festival setting swept me away to my favorite time of year when the air is crisp and apple pies are plentiful. The author did a fine job spinning a tight web of plot threads and red herrings. As I pieced together the clues and hit a few dead ends, I felt like I was navigating my way through an elaborate corn maze. And speaking of those creepy, claustrophobic corn contraptions, there is indeed a  corn maze scene that will give even the most jaded mystery fans the shivers! Oh and there’s a dash of “gypsy magic” thrown in to the mix, adding to the delicious Halloweenie atmosphere.

Did anything bug you about the book? My only minor complaint is that there are a bunch of characters to keep up with. If you aren’t paying close attention, you could easily get lost in the maze of possible suspects.

Would you read another book by this author? Most definitely! I look forward to stumbling upon another dead body at Becca’s small town farmer’s market in South Carolina.  Mmmm…I sure would like some of her famous pumpkin preserves right about now.

How would you sum up the book in three words? Spooky, puzzling, delicious.

Short & Sweet Sundays: Foal Play by Kathryn O’Sullivan

Sundays are a day of rest. So in honor of this one day of the week when I can legitimately loaf around in my Garfield jammies in front of the DVR, I bring you “Short and Sweet Sundays.” This is a fun way for me to write up a quick and dirty book blog without getting too wordy.

16049609From the publisher: Colleen McCabe is enjoying an uneventful summer in North Carolina’s Outer Banks supervising her firefighters, making rounds with her Border collie, Sparky, and keeping an eye on the wild horses escaped from the local sanctuary. But when a dead body washes up on shore, she knows trouble has arrived in Corolla.

Colleen is ready to start work on the investigation, but much to her irritation, her best friend, Sheriff Bill Dorman, makes it clear he doesn’t want her butting her nose in or poking around. The stubborn Colleen, however, is not so easily deterred. When a man with a gun is spotted lurking around the lighthouse and her former school teacher’s house explodes, she adds arson and a second suspicious death to her informal investigation.  Colleen soon finds herself juggling her job, amorous advances from the town’s developer, and intrusions from the local press, all while keeping information from Bill. Her secret sleuthing quickly comes to an end, however, when a bigger threat enters the picture.

The biggest selling point: It’s a tossup between an eclectic cast of loveable characters and the gorgeous coastal setting. If I had to choose, I’d say the characters really stole the show.  Colleen embodies everything I love in a female protagonist. She’s fearless, strong-willed, witty – and an animal lover to boot. Plus she’s a firehouse chief, which is quite impressive all in itself! Her colorful sidekicks were all very amusing, especially the flirtatious real estate developer, Pinky Salvatore, who habitually summoned her to his bachelor pad with smoke signals.  But most of all – I enjoyed Colleen’s horse-herding border collie, Sparky.

What irked me: I can’t go into details because I’d give the whole thing away, so I’ll just say that a major component of the story requires a suspension of disbelief. To be honest, it didn’t really bother me because I was too busy zipping through the pages to find out whodunit!

This book is best paired with: A tequila sunrise and the Endless Summer soundtrack.

Overall assessment:  If you love animals, charming small-town settings and entertaining characters, this book’s for you. The mystery unfolds at a steady pace, and even the most seasoned mystery buffs are likely to be surprised by the ending.  All in all, this is one heck of a debut, and I’m looking forward to reading the next installment. Want to know more about this talented new author? Check out her Q&A on Melissa’s Mochas, Mysteries and More.

Short & Sweet Sundays: The Ghost and the Dead Man’s Library by Alice Kimberly

Sundays are a day of rest. So in honor of this one day of the week when I can legitimately loaf around in my Garfield jammies in front of the DVR, I bring you this new feature that I like to call “Short and Sweet Sundays.” This is a fun way for me to write up a quick and dirty book blog without getting too overambitious.

1332918Summary (from the publisher): Bookshop owner Penelope Thornton-McClure has just received a rare collection of Poe’s complete works. Rumor has it a secret code, trapped within the pages, leads to buried treasure. But it seems everyone who buys…dies. Now Pen will need resident ghost P.I. Jack Shepard to help crack the case.

Why I picked it up: I found this book at a haunted used book store in a small little college town outside of Dallas, which used to be a grand old opera house. When I came across this fun little mystery series among the rubble of old paperbacks, I knew it had to be mine!  How could I go wrong with a whodunit set in a haunted bookstore?

Why I liked it: Do you remember that old series on the Hallmark channel called Mystery Woman? Well, I’m obsessed with that show, probably because I’ve always fantasized about owning a cute little bookstore while solving mysteries on the side. This series, along with Carolyn Hart’s Death on Demand mysteries, is tailor-made for book nerds, such as myself, who love the quaint, cozy setting of a mystery bookstore.

Favorite scene: I just loved the opening chapter, where Penelope and her quirky Aunt Sadie drove through a thunderstorm to old Mr. Chesley’s haunted mansion on the hill.  I kind of wish I saved this book for Halloween because it’s super campy and atmospheric. Scooby Doo fans, eat your heart out!

Need a Mystery Woman fix? Look no further than the Haunted Bookshop Mystery series!

Need a Mystery Woman fix? Look no further than the Haunted Bookshop Mystery series!

The mystery:  Since I’m a fan of Alice Kimberly’s works, I knew this would be a quality read. And, of course, I was right. I had a lot of fun solving the “Poe Code” and tearing through the pages until the fearless protagonist found the hidden treasure. With a wealth of eclectic characters and fascinating trivia facts about Edgar Allen Poe, it’s a real winner for fans of jigsaw puzzle mysteries.

In addition to solving the “Poe Code” murder mystery, readers are also taken back in time to the events leading up to Jack Shepard’s death. Of course, we only get a little glimpses here and there, and we probably won’t find out whodunit until the end of the series.

Favorite character: This series is full of loveable characters, but I have to say that Jack is the most intriguing. For some inexplicable reason, he’s bound to Penelope and the bookshop. I got a lot of chuckles out of his old-timey wisecracks and detective banter. It’s a mystery to me how he and Penelope are ever going to make something out of their budding romance. What’s going to happen when he crosses over into the white light? Will he and Pen ever find each other again? The suspense is killing me!

This book is best pared with: A frothy vanilla latte, a pudgy cat and a plush wingback chair.

If you like this book, you’ll also enjoy titles by: Carolyn Hart, Jen McKinlay, Carolyn Haines – and last but not least – Agatha Christie.