Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Review: Something's Cooking by Joanne Pence (Angie Amalfi Mystery #1)

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I'm always on the lookout for new mystery series, especially when there are already a bunch out in that series before I discover it! This was one such discovery. Something's Cooking by Joanne Pence is the first in the Angie Amalfi mysteries. I would definitely consider this to be more of a cozy than a hard-boiled mystery, although honestly I personally would classify it more as romantic suspense, with romance being the primary genre and the suspense/mystery being secondary. 

It started off really well and got me hooked quickly. Angelina Amalfi is the youngest daughter in a very wealthy and well-known family. One day she receives a package that turns out to be a bomb. The package was addressed simply to "occupant" so in the beginning she has no idea if it was even meant for her or if it was, who would have sent it or why. She then meets inspector Paavo Smith, who is assigned to investigate her case, as well as a murder case that happened in the same neighborhood on the same day. 

Throughout the rest of the book, there are a bunch of twists and turns and the cases end up being linked. Also throughout the rest of the book, a romance develops between Angie and Paavo, and in my opinion, takes over the book a bit too much. Don't get me wrong, the writing was very good and the plot and characters were solid and relatable.  I was pleasantly surprised that Angie was such an easy to relate to character, even though she was from a very privileged background.

However, I like a little romance with my mystery, not a little mystery with my romance. In a book that is categorized primarily in the mystery category, I expected more mystery and less romance. Now I personally don't really care for the romance genre, but I know a lot of people do. So I can see where people who really enjoy both mystery and romance genres would probably love this book. Alas, that's just not me. BUT that is a personal preference and like I said the writing was solid. 

Another factor is that it is the first in the series, so I am going to give book two a try and see if it is more mystery focused now that the introductory stuff is out of the way. I have very high hopes that this series could be really great if the focus is adjusted a bit. So I will definitely update after I've read book two and hopefully that will be the case. 

So with all of that being said, I would give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars. I would recommend this book, but I would caution the reader to just be aware that it's really more romantic suspense versus actual full on mystery. 

To find out more about the author and/or her books, you can visit her website, http://www.joannepence.com. Something's Cooking is available on Amazon, for $4.99 for the Kindle edition.

Edited to add that I did read the second book in this series just to see if it continued to be mainly romance or if it got more mystery-like. I'm sad to report that in the second book as well, there aren't as many romantic scenes since Angie and Paavo are having some relationship problems in the second book, but their relationship is still focus #1 and the actual mystery is still on the back burner :( So that's it for me for this series, but if you like romance books, then you'd probably love it.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Review: Deadly Advice (An Advice Column Mystery) by Roberta Isleib

I was lucky enough to win an (autographed!!!) copy of this book directly from the author in a giveaway from the Facebook group Delicious Mysteries. If you love mysteries, it's an awesome group to join and has some amazing authors as the admins, including Roberta Isleib (aka Lucy Burdette) ;) There are frequent discussions, giveaways, contests, and all sorts of fun stuff. But I digress...

Deadly Advice is the first book in the advice column mystery series. The main character (and sleuth) is Dr. Rebecca Butterman, who also writes an advice column under the name Dr. Aster. Dr. Butterman is a practicing psychologist and is shocked to learn that a neighbor of hers has committed suicide. Like I'm sure most psychologists would, she questions herself and whether or not there were any signs that she overlooked. The victim's mother then asks her to look into the death because she does not believe it was suicide after all.

Rebecca then begins to probe further into the case and begins to have her own doubts about whether it was suicide or murder. While digging into Madeleine's (the victim) background, she finds that she had used a particular dating service and attended an event shortly before her death. When Rebecca is then asked by her publisher to do a column about dating, she figures she can kill two birds with one stone and attend a similar event to the one Madeleine attended and discreetly question the men there about who she may have connected with. This starts her on an investigation that she delves deeper and deeper into as the book goes on. 

I really enjoyed this book and found it very different and interesting. For one thing, the book includes some Dr. Aster columns in it so it's kind of like a story within a story type thing, which I like. Psychology is also a subject that I myself have been interested in for years, so I'm sure that contributed to my enjoyment as well. In addition, even though the subject matter was very serious, the author still managed to interject some humor into it. My favorite line in the book, which made me laugh perhaps more than was really necessary, was when Dr. Butterman meets the detective working the case for the first time and he mistakenly calls her "Dr. Butterball." 

There were some parts that were slower than others, but it is the first in the series and there were a particularly large number of characters (i.e. suspects) in this book that had to be introduced. I admit, I did not figure out who the murderer actually was until just before it was revealed in the book. There were so many suspects and so many possible motives; it was very well done. 

Overall, I'd give this book a 4.5 out of 5 and would definitely recommend it. 

To learn more about Roberta Isleib, you can visit her website at http://www.robertaisleib.com/.  She's also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/roberta.isleib?fref=nf. This book and her other books can be purchased via Amazon, in multiple formats.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Review: Chef Maurice and a Spot of Truffle by J.A. Lang

I received a copy of Chef Maurice and a Spot of Truffle through a giveaway from another awesome blog called A Cozy Girl Reads. This book basically has everything that I'd want out of a cozy. It's a nice, light, fun read with characters that really jump off the page and come to life and it wasn't hard at all for me to imagine myself inside the book right along with them.

It's written in UK English, so there are a few phrases that some US people may not recognize. However, I personally enjoyed that about it and I found it pretty easy to figure out what the word or saying meant, even if I had never heard it before.

Chef Maurice is a highly enjoyable character. He's basically always doing something to get himself into trouble and that's how he ends up in the middle of the murder investigation. His friend Arthur often gets dragged along for the ride and tries to keep him out of trouble, but doesn't always succeed. Some of their adventures are quite humorous and I found myself literally laughing out loud in certain parts. Patrick and PC Lucy are also great characters with very clearly defined personalities.

This book was not horribly long, but the author did an amazing job of thorough plot, character, and scenery development without having a lot of "fluff" or having to take up 400 pages, which is impressive. Another thing that I was surprised and delighted by was the fact that I truly had no idea who the murderer was until it was announced in the book. I read almost exclusively murder mysteries and a lot of the time I am able to guess whodunnit at least a bit before the characters in the book figure it out, but in this case I was truly stumped!

One last thing I found highly enjoyable was the fact that certain sections of the book are actually told from Hamilton's (a pig) point of view, which made me smile and is rarely seen in books. The cover art is really cute too.

In my review policy I state I very rarely give a 5 star review and that is true, but honestly I can't find a darn thing wrong with this book so it really doesn't deserve any less than 5 stars. Kudos J.A. Lang and I look forward to the next book!

To learn more about this author or her books, you can visit her website which is http://www.jalang.net. She's also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JALangAuthor. Chef Maurice and a Spot of Truffle can be purchased via iTunes, Kobo, B&N, Amazon, and/or Google Play.