Monday, February 26, 2024

The Summer Skies


The Summer Skies is a "comfort read" romance from prolific and talented author Jenny Colgan. Released 11th July 2023 by HarperCollins on their Avon Books imprint, it's 352 pages and is available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. 

The protagonist is appealing and relatable, and the descriptions (especially food, as always) are superlative. There's an incredible amount of detail on aviation and aircraft in general included, so it's a bonus for flying interested readers (and, honestly, a bit of a slog in places for readers who don't care much about aviation). It's -about- an aviator, so they should be willing to go along for the ride, as it were. 

The author really shines with the settings... and the descriptions of Scotland's archipelago islands and inhabitants are vibrant and engaging. The books pacing is very (very) slow in places, and readers will probably need some patience to get through the first third of the book. 

There's a trope-y romantic triangle, which she handles surprisingly well. It's open ended, so there's potential for the author to revisit the characters in a sequel, though it's not explicitly foreshadowed anywhere.

Three and a half stars. Well written descriptions. It's one for the author's fans, although this book seems to be something of a departure from her regular style. It would also be a good choice for public library acquisition. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Birding to Change the World: A Memoir

 

Birding to Change the World is a beautifully written memoir of birding and a naturalist's experiences and musings in conservation, awareness, and education by Dr. Trish O'Kane. Due out 27th Feb 2024 from HarperCollins on their Ecco imprint, it's 368 pages and will be available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. 

This is an inspiring and accessible read about the author's experiences in education, conservation, and grass roots organizing and activism. She writes so well and so eloquently about the places she's lived and helping build up and advocate locally for wildlife and natural resources. It was a joy to read about her lived experiences.

It's inspirational and readers will likely come away with a strong desire to do *something* to help their local wildlife. There's inspiration, and information in the form of some basic ecology, but there's also pathos, drama, and joy in her interaction with the small animals she and her colleagues were protecting and trying to help. 

Five stars. It would be a wonderful selection for public or school library acquisition, home use, for gift giving, and for readers of natural history and popular science.

 Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Village in the Dark - Rate this book Cara Kennedy #2

 

Village in the Dark is the second Cara Kennedy mystery thriller by Iris Yamashita. Released 13th Feb 2024 by Penguin Random House on their Berkley imprint, it's 288 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and paperback formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout.

Just as the first book in the series, this book is *full* of creepy atmosphere with a dark gothic vibe and some paranormal overtones. Set in an isolated tiny hamlet in rural Alaska in what had been an army base, the 200+ residents all live in the same building with outlying (mostly subterranean) buildings used as functional business sites and entertainment venues (such as they are). It's very much an island/isolation setting with most of the dramatic tension coming from the gradual exposure of secrets and crimes for each of the primary characters. At the end of the first book, MC Cara has learned that there is more to the disappearance and deaths of her husband and son than she had been led to believe.

Chapters are told in third person, rotating through characters who are well delineated and diverse: Cara herself, a former investigator with the Anchorage police department, a curmudgeonly apartment building super who might have been a bank robber in her former life, and several others. Despite the quirky characters there's very little humor to be found. The book's tension arc is mostly unrelieved, ratcheting up throughout to an oddly over-the-top denouement and resolution. 

The writing is competent and *very* cinematic. The scenery and descriptions are three dimensional and complete. I expect the movie rights are already hashed out, and the author (an Academy Award nominated screenwriter) will be able to knock the script out in a long weekend with some energy drinks and local takeaway restaurant on speed-dial.

Four stars, mostly for the descriptions. I like "island" mysteries. This one was better than ok; and better than the first book in the series. It will be interesting to see how it develops. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

The Backyard Beekeeper, 5th Edition

 

The Backyard Beekeeper, 5th Edition is a well written easy to understand reference for beekeeping by Kim Flottum. Due out 27th Feb 2024 from Quarto on their Quarry imprint, it's 256 pages (paperback) and will be available in paperback and ebook formats. Material originally published in 2005, this is an updated and reformatted re-release.

The author is an experienced beekeeper and USDA researcher and this book is full of well thought out and sensible advice for sustainable and successful beekeeping from starting to more advanced techniques. The book is divided into chapters: an introduction with the main concepts and anatomical features of honeybees, along with the tools & supplies in the apiarist's toolbox, detailed housing needs, lots of info on honey, troubleshooting and problems, beeswax, and a lot of good info on best practice. 

The photography throughout is in color and is very clear and professionally rendered. The photo captions are easy to understand and relevant. The information here -could- be used to get started with beekeeping in the absence of a tutor or more experienced beekeeper friend, however, it's always recommended to cultivate resources and friends in the beekeeping community (we *love* bees and "newbees") and beekeepers are generally the most helpful people to be found and love sharing the hobby with others.

The author/publisher have also included a short resources and links lists aimed mostly at readers located in North America, as well as a cross-referenced index.

Beekeeping is such a rewarding and fascinating hobby and improving the health of our own biodiverse environment aids everyone from locally to globally. This is an information dense and layman accessible guide. It would make a good selection for public or school library use, home/smallhold library, makers groups, allotment and community garden groups, and similar.

Four and a half stars. Very well done.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Once a Rogue - Roaring Twenties Magic #2

 

Once a Rogue is the second book in a spinoff mystery/paranormal romance series by Allie Therin. Released 22nd Aug 2023 by Harlequin on their Carina Press imprint, it's 336 pages and is available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

This is a very well written, spicy, M/M historical paranormal romance set in the 1920s. The setup is admittedly a trifle trope-y: curmudgeonly (but secretly passionate and soft on the inside) "perpetual bachelor" aristocrat meets/pines for handsome dangerous, sad, and complex magic user. Add some really nasty villains and stir well.

This is a spinoff series, and there are loads of world building and background to be read through before the action really gets going. For that reason, a short binge of the original series (Magic in Manhattan) might make this series more enjoyable and accessible. It's not absolutely necessary, but it will be a better fit for current fan of her other work.

It's a romance, and readers should be aware that there are some explicit scenes in the book. They're well written, but probably NSFW. Readers who enjoy historical romance with M/M characters will find a lot to like here.

Four stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

 

Death at St Jude’s - The Isle of Wight Killings #2

 

Death at St Jude’s is the second Isle of Wight cozy mystery by Mary Grand. Released 10th Feb 2024 by Boldwood Books, it's 347 (e-format) pages and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book is currently included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free. The first book in the series, Death at Castle Cove, is also currently available on KU. 

This is a well written and engaging story with an appealing and intelligent protagonist, set in a vividly beautiful location. The author has a gift with descriptive prose, and does a good job of "showing" and not "telling" in the story. The mystery itself is well constructed and self contained in this volume. All necessary backstory is included for the characters, so it works well as a standalone. 

With two books published in the ongoing series, it would be a good choice for a weekend binge / buddy read. The author wasn't previously on my radar, but fans of Faith Martin and Frances Evesham will find a lot to like here. 

Four stars. Competent writing and a well constructed mystery.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

 

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Thornhedge


Thornhedge is a beautifully written and engaging fractured fairy tale mashup by T. Kingfisher. Released 15th Aug 2023 by Macmillan on their Tor imprint, it's 128 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout.

The author is prolific, readable, engaging, and has some really really good and perceptive observations to relate. She does a wonderful job here of helping the reader examine their own ideas about what it means to be a monster and what lies in the notion of true beauty. 

It's a fairy tale, and as such, there's a dreamlike quality and form to much of the prose. It's so amazingly well written that readers will encounter passages which require a pause to reflect on the writing. Just breathtaking. 

Five stars. This is a must-have for library acquisition and a must-read for fairy tale and classic fantasy fans. For readers who love Katherine Arden, Naomi Novik, and Alix E. Harrow, the author will undoubted already be on the radar.. but for the lucky few who haven't stumbled across her work yet, you're in for a real treat.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Friday, February 23, 2024

How to Win Friends and Influence Fungi: Collected Quirks of Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math from Nerd Nite


How to Win Friends and Influence Fungi is a fun, engaging, and yes, nerdy collection of trivia curated and collected by Dr. Chris Balakrishnan and Matt Wasowski. Released 20th Feb 2024 by Macmillan on their St. Martin's imprint, it's 296 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links.

Nerd nite is an informal collection of fun/funny/engaging mini talks, sort of TED-lite, or Baker Street Irregulars with more self-awareness. It's illustrated throughout with catchy simple line drawings by Kristen Orr. 

The entries are arranged somewhat thematically: zoology and natural science, neurobiology, bodily fluids (yep), sex and attraction, health (lots of really cool info about gut microbiomes and other squishy stuff in this chapter), pathogens, death, space, tech, math, and jobs in STEM and related fields. 

Four stars. This would be an excellent choice for public or school library acquisition, home use, gift giving, and reference. It's not set up like most trivia catalogs and will have limited applicability to trivia team reference. It's just a collection of cool, widely varying, STEM info with a lot of humor which is layman accessible. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes 

Thursday, February 22, 2024

The Brewery Murders - Yorkshire Murder Mysteries #9

 

The Brewery Murders is the 9th book in the Yorkshire murder mystery series by J. R. Ellis. Released 28th Sept 2023 on Amazon's Thomas & Mercer imprint, it's 267 pages and available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book and the rest of the series are currently included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free.

These books are well written engaging procedurals which are tightly plotted, set against the Yorkshire countryside: hills, moors, and fells. Although it's part of a series, it works quite well as a standalone. There are references to occurrences from previous books in the series, but they don't play a central role in the action and readers new to the series won't have any troubles keeping up. Although most of them are straight procedurals out of the local police department, this one sees Oldroyd and his team in nearby Markham trying to sort out murder and mayhem between competing breweries with a long ago lost ale recipe cold case in the mix. There are some themes of homophobia, sexism, and misogyny included, but not to a degree or handled in a way to offend or shock sensitive readers.
 
I enjoyed the writing and I really liked Oldroyd's relationship with his family and colleagues. He's an honest and compassionate officer and the development of the plot and denouement were satisfying and well written. Looking forward to more in this series which compares quite favourably with P.D. James' wonderful Adam Dalgleish books. This would be a fine selection for public library acquisition, and for fans of English procedurals. With 10 books now extant in the ongoing series, it would also be a great choice for a long binge or buddy reading project.

Four stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

 

The Cut Flower Handbook: Select, Plant, Grow, and Harvest Gorgeous Blooms

 

The Cut Flower Handbook is a very well written, layman accessible, well curated guide to selecting, growing, and using cut flowers written by Lisa Mason Ziegler. Due out 27th Feb 2024 from Quarto on their Cool Springs Press imprint, it's a generous 240 pages (hardcover) and will be available in hardcover and ebook formats. 

One of the highlights of this book (and why it's suited for hobbyist/nonprofessional gardeners) is the author's emphasis on non-exotic, less formal flowering plants which will be familiar to many gardeners, and more attainable in general than the orchids, roses, and anthuriums which many associate with typical cut flower arrangements. 

The author is rightly fond of beautiful flowers such as sunflowers, poppies, cornflowers, and even "wildflowers" such as Bupleurum (hound's ear), and rudbeckia. She shows how to succeed with planning, incorporating, and succeeding with a garden area which will produce well over three seasons. The planning and introduction chapters (including a fascinating read on her personal biography as a commercial cut flower supplier) lead to chapters listing good performing species and varieties for both cool season and warm season hardy and tender annuals respectively. There are selections to satisfy even the most uncompromising palate. 

There's a very short resources and links list along with a cross referenced index. The book is maybe not a one-stop-shop for advice for gardening, but it is a fully up to date resource for cut flower gardening, which includes new and classic varieties. It's very well photographed in color throughout the volume. 

Five stars. This would be a superlative selection for public library acquisition, for gardening and allotment groups, for smallholders, and home gardeners. It's impressive that the author originally started with -and succeeded- with a half acre suburban plot of land. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Lady Avely's Guide to Truth and Magic - Matronly Misadventures #1


Lady Avely's Guide to Truth and Magic is a delightfully engaging historical fantasy mystery series starter by Rosalie Oaks. Released 16th Feb 2024, it's 370 pages and is available in paperback and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book is currently included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free.

It's always a joy to find a fresh, engaging, clear voice in a favorite genre. This indie author was not previously on my radar (and should've been). It's set in the late Regency period with a fantasy/paranormal world element. Lady Avely is gifted with a "lie detector" ability which makes her quite useful at unraveling mysteries. There are a number of restrictions and social and legal mores bound up in the use of magical abilities, and she's still coming to grips with a recently recognized change in social status. She's been a widow for more than a decade, with two adult children (not featured in this book), as well as entanglements from her long ago past history.

There -is- a strong romance element, but it delightfully doesn't overpower either the mystery or magical elements in the very well told story. The sequel is due out in 4th quarter 2024. Definitely one to pick up. It's an indie pub and likely not on most library acquisition lists. It's available independently from retailers as well as the author and would be a great addition for public library acquisition, home use, or a buddy read. 

Four and a half stars. A true delight. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

 

Murder at the Leaning Tower - Armstrong and Oscar Cozy Mysteries #6

 

Murder at the Leaning Tower is the sixth Armstrong and Oscar cozy destination mystery by T.A. Williams. Released 6th Feb 2024 by Boldwood books, it's 234 pages and is available in hardcover, paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book is currently included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free. The other books in the series are also currently available on KU. 

This is a beautifully descriptive and well written destination mystery set in Tuscany. Expat former policeman Dan Armstrong and his trusty canine sidekick Oscar are assisting with security at a stately home in a picture perfect setting near Pisa (what could possibly go wrong?). He's soon drawn into investigating a murder and at definite loggerheads with the local police who are determined to be obstructive and unhelpful. 

The plotting is solid and the dialogue and characterizations are three dimensional and believable. The mystery, denouement, and resolution are self contained in this volume, so it works well enough as a standalone, but the writing is so well planned and executed, that it would make an excellent long weekend binge or buddy read. It would also fit really well in a longer term project for a mystery book club "destination mystery" type project. The overall quality of the entire series remains entertaining and engaging throughout.

It's not derivative at all, but it reminded me in a lot of good ways of Leon's exceptional Brunetti books as well as Walker's lovely Bruno, chief of police books. Fans of those authors will find a lot to enjoy here.

Four and a half stars. Highly recommended.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

 

A Grave for a Thief - Company of Rogues #3


A Grave for a Thief is the third book in a compelling historical mystery series by Douglas Skelton. Released 8th Feb 2024 by Canelo, it's 320 pages and is available in ebook format. Unclear from publisher info, but it may also be available in other formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. 

This is a very high quality, excellently written and precisely researched historical series set in the very early Georgian period. This is the third book, and while it certainly can be read and understood as a standalone, there are some earlier occurrences referenced which will be spoiled if read out of order. The main protagonist is a complex and intelligent anti-hero who is forced by circumstance into high stakes skullduggery in the service of a spymaster.

The story is woven around a framework of real historical people and events (including Sir Isaac Newton), and is done so skillfully that it's not always apparent where truth becomes fiction. The plotting is quite taut and there are some moderately graphic descriptions included (not egregiously so, and not inserted gratuitously). 

In style, it reminds me of C. S. Harris and Andrea Penrose. It's not derivative at all, and it's set in a different time period, but fans of the former will find a lot to like here.

Four and a half stars. Well written and engaging.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

The Detective Up Late - Detective Sean Duffy #7


The Detective Up Late is the 7th Sean Duffy procedural mystery by Adrian McKinty. Released 8th Aug 2023 by Blackstone, it's 317 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. Paperback due out in May 2024 from the same publisher. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links throughout.

This is a consistently top notch procedural series from a perceptive and immensely talented author. From the beginning, it's been nuanced, perceptive, and tension filled. The characters, especially the titular series character Sean Duffy, have evolved over the course of the books and are fully three dimensional with believable (sometimes regrettable) moral senses and internal motivations. It's set in the 1980s-90s and the author manages to really capture the time period and culture.

This is an engaging book from the start. Sean's got a lot more to live for than when he started as an RC constable in the mostly Protestant RUC during "the troubles". Trouble soon finds him however, when he starts to look into the disappearance of a 15 year old traveller girl and he winds up neck deep in it, trying to solve her disappearance and bring evildoers to justice, without getting himself, his colleagues, or his family killed in the process. 

As with all the books in the series, it's very well told, and the author has a masterful style of storytelling, well engineered, precise, and tension filled. The denouement and resolution are (as always) satisfying. The subject matter is often gritty, and there are descriptions of violence, racism, xenophobia, etc which might be distressing for some readers (and should be). In point of fact, it's an ongoing linchpin of the entire series set up, since Duffy's a Roman Catholic often derided by his mostly Protestant colleagues, living in Northern Ireland in the 80s. 

Five stars. VERY well written. Highly recommended for public library acquisition, home reading, and for book club discussion. The series would be a good candidate for a long binge / buddy read. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes

Monday, February 19, 2024

Nine Lives and Alibis - Cat Cafe Mystery #7

 

Nine Lives and Alibis is the 7th book in Cate Conte's cozy Cat Cafe mystery series. Released 22nd Aug 2023 by Macmillan on their St. Martin's imprint, it's 336 pages and is available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links which make navigation easy.

This is a lighthearted small-town cozy full of whimsy, a haunted inn, and eccentric small-town characters set on a fictive island off the coast of Massachusetts, near Salem. A famous psychic is coming to town to do readings in the local inn for Halloween, and main character Maddie (and her cat JJ) are soon drawn into sleuthing yet again when Balfour the psychic is found at the bottom of the treacherous cliffs and his famous black cat has gone missing.

The pacing and narrative are competent and readable, and although this is the 7th book in the series, it works well enough as a standalone. There are some relationships and developments which will slightly spoil earlier books in the series if read out of order, but not egregiously so. The dialogue is glib and slightly unnatural occasionally but nothing which will yank readers out of the story (much). The resolution and denouement are complete and mostly satisfying albeit outlandish.

Four stars. This is a very light and easy cozy and is both entertaining and diverting, and that's pretty much the point of small town cozies. With 7 books extant and an 8th due out in Aug 2024, it would make a great binge or buddy read.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.  

Saevus Corax Gets Away with Murder - Corax Trilogy #3


Saevus Corax Gets Away with Murder is a bonkers comedic romp and the third book in the Corax trilogy by K.J. Parker (Tom Holt). Released 5th Dec. 2023 by Orbit, it's 352 pages and is available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. 

Tom Holt, aka Parker, is undeniably quite gifted at drawing humo(u)r from the juxtaposition of elements which would otherwise shock and/or horrify. From accidentally running over a badger and unwillingly becoming the owner of the ring of the Nibelung to this heist caper featuring a battlefield scavenger trying to retire from the business of stripping corpses, the sheer capacity of -imagining- these what if's is mind-boggling. Happily, throughout his oeuvre, he generally manages to fall on the funny side, and is occasionally really funny. 

As it's the 3rd book in a trilogy with a fair bit of continuity, this one doesn't work well at all as a standalone and it's strongly recommended to read the books in order. The author -does- provide the necessary backstory for readers who jump in at the end, but it won't be the same experience or nearly as immersive. 

This book is more cynical and less funny/witty than the previous books and there was a definite wistfulness to the story here (more than expected for an admittedly grim setup: to wit, a battlefield scavenger who's had everyone from governments to his family trying to kill him or otherwise put him out of commission for years). 

That being said, the author's a gifted wordsmith, and it was impressively well written. 

Four and a half stars. Recommended for library acquisition (adult fantasy/speculative fiction section), home use, and would make a nice binge/buddy read with the sister volumes. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Threads from the Tapestry: Stories of Mortals and Gods

Book cover for Threads from the Tapestry

Threads from the Tapestry is a collection of four interconnected novella length stories aimed at tween/YA reader by R. A. Casias. Released 30th Jan 2024, it's 174 pages and is available in paperback and ebook formats. 

The stories are interconnected loosely and all are engagingly well written. The author is gifted with setting and world building, and has created an immersive world full of magic and drama called Etherea. All of the stories are part of the same fantasy world setting as the author's God Slayer Chronicles (first volume of the series was released 4th quarter 2023 and is available now). 

There is an amazing amount of rich detail in these 4 stories. Each character has engagement and believability and even where not specified, it's clear that each of them exists as a whole, with their own internal motivations and beliefs. The stories are well crafted, evenly plotted and just generally very readable and enjoyable. The actual writing/vocabulary is more simple than highbrow; but it's intended for a younger tween/YA audience.

Four stars. Well written and engaging. This is an indie-pub release, and will likely not be on trad.pub. library lists. It's well worth seeking out and highly recommended for public and secondary school library acquisition, for fantasy readers, and would make a nice buddy read. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Backseat Driver


Backseat Driver is an erudite and well curated collection of commentary and observation on art, writing, and more generally on the art world written over a long period of time by James Croak. Released 3rd Dec 2023, it's 158 pages and is available in paperback and ebook formats. 

There is such an excess of gatekeeping in higher art. The vast majority of people (sadly) see art as unnecessary or somehow out of reach of their daily existences. Nothing could be further from the truth and Mr. Croak gets it. This is an eminently layman accessible, solid book full of real commentary and analysis from an artist. The subjects are wide ranging, and clearly written and collected over a longer period of time.

He's insightful, explaining things without sneering or lecturing. There are moments of lighter humor, without "aw shucks" deprecation. He is just a really insightful commentator, surprisingly sharply relevant.

Five stars. This is a definite must-read for art fans, but also quite apropos to readers of culture, sociology, and general nonfiction. 

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

A Body in a Cornish Village - Kate Palmer #7

 

 

A Body in a Cornish Village is the seventh Kate Palmer village cozy mystery by Dee MacDonald. Released 17th Aug 2023, it's 258 pages and is available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout. For Kindle Unlimited subscribers, this book is currently included in the KU subscription library to borrow and read for free, along with the rest of books in the series.

Readers who enjoy British village cozy mysteries are in for a treat. Series protagonist Kate is a village nurse who is involved with a local expat American retired inspector. She keeps finding herself in the middle of village mysteries from poisoned pen letters to murder and the crimes show no signs of stopping. This time, a cookery show is in town and the show's unlamented writer / producer inconveniently drops dead leaving a plethora of credible suspects for being responsible for his demise..

The author is quite adept at characterization and setting. The characters live and breathe and the dialogue was never clunky. There were several seemingly disparate plot threads which intertwined into a satisfying denouement and resolution. Despite being the seventh book in the series, it worked well as a standalone, though there are some spoilers for earlier books if read out of order.

Four stars. This is definitely one for British village cozy readers. Very well written and constructed. Clean language and mostly off-page violence. The clues and plotting are "fair play" and readers are invited to figure out the puzzle alongside Kate.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

A Smoking Bun - A Bakeshop Mystery #18

 

A Smoking Bun is the is the eighteenth Bakeshop cozy mystery by prolific author Ellie Alexander. Due out 20th Feb 2024 from Macmillan on their St. Martin's imprint, it's 320 pages and will be available in mass market paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout.

This installment sees the crew at Torte heading into the mountains for snowshoe tours and a local fun ski event, "downhill dummy" with effigies strapped to skis and sent flying downhill. It's all fun and games until a local non-lamented mountain guide get squished by one of the flying dummies. Who killed Fitz Baskin? Jules and co. are soon unearthing clues and motives alongside baking and pastry making.

The plotting, characterization, and dialogue are representative of the genre; lighthearted, somewhat over-the-top, and used to move the narrative along. It's not a realistic procedural. There's no gritty unpleasantness, no brutality (even the violence is mostly off-scene), no blatant sexual aspects, and the language is squeaky clean and used appropriately. Although this is the 18th book in the series, it works fine as a standalone.

For fans of the genre, it's a well written and very pleasant diversion. For readers who enjoy this Bakeshop series, I can heartily recommend the author's Sloan Krause brewing mysteries. She has either a truly impressive grasp of baking, brewing, and coffee culture or she's got experts on tap to consult for her background research. Lots of "foodie" fun to be found in both series. With so many books, it's a great candidate for a binge / buddy read, or possibly for a mystery book club long-term project.

Four stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.