Review: MURDER AT AN IRISH WEDDING by Carlene O’Connor

I enjoy reading cozy mysteries set in faraway places, so I didn’t hesitate to download Murder at an Irish Wedding, the latest release in the Irish Village Mystery series by Carlene O’Conner.

IrishWeddingDescription (from Amazon)

The O’Sullivan clan of Country Cork, Ireland, are thrilled to be catering the matrimonial affairs of a celebrity couple — until a cunning killer turns an Irish wedding into an Irish wake…

Any wedding is a big deal in the small village of Kilbane—even more so when the bride is a famous fashion model. It’s also good for business. Not only has customer traffic picked up at Naomi’s Bistro, Siobhán O’Sullivan and her five siblings have a full plate catering for the three-day affair. And Siobhán’s own beau, local garda Macdara Flannery, gladly steps in as best man after the groom’s first choice makes a drunken arse out of himself.

Even if he hadn’t been disinvited to the wedding, the original best man wouldn’t have been able to show. He’s been found murdered in the woods, casting a pall over the nuptials. And when a second member of the wedding party is poisoned by a champagne flute engraved with Macdara’s name, the garda goes from being best man to prime suspect.

With a killer at large and a string of robberies plaguing Kilbane, Siobhán feels more than a little protective of her village. She vows to clear Macdara’s name, but the suspect list is as long as the guest list. Like the bride walking down the aisle, Siobhán needs to watch her step. For as she gets closer to unveiling the truth, the murderer is planning a very chilly reception for her . . .

My Review

Having read the first book in this series, Murder in an Irish Village, I  looked forward to getting reacquainted with Siobhán and her siblings, and getting another glimpse into the fictional Irish village, its people and customs. Siobhán is a strong-minded young woman who is not easily deterred in her efforts to prove Macdara’s innocence and find out who killed the best man, and why. The members of the wedding party are a diverse crowd, with complex relationships between them.  At times, Siobhan’s actions seem a bit ill-advised and far-fetched, but are in keeping with her character’s sometimes impulsive and pushy nature. It was also interesting to watch her relationship with Macdara develop. The story moved along at a steady pace, with bits of suspense and romance mixed in. Unfortunately, the writing was not as polished as in the first in series. Nonetheless, it made for an enjoyable weekend read.

FTC Disclosure:   I received an advance review copy of this book through NetGalley.  This has not affected the content of my review in any way. 

Note: My review of Murder in an Irish Village appeared on this blog last year.

Review: THE CUTAWAY by Christina Kovac

Change of pace today.  I recently had the pleasure of reading an ARC of The Cutaway by Christina Kovac – a very well written novel set in one of my favorite cities – Washington, D.C.

Description (from Amazon)

51aosxjiyulWhen brilliant TV news producer Virginia Knightly receives a disturbing “MISSING” notice on her desk related to the disappearance of a beautiful young attorney, she can’t seem to shake the image from her head. Despite skepticism from her colleagues, Knightly suspects this ambitious young lawyer may be at the heart of something far more sinister, especially since she was last seen leaving an upscale restaurant after a domestic dispute. Yet, as the only woman of power at her station, Knightly quickly finds herself investigating on her own.

Risking her career, her life, and perhaps even her own sanity, Knightly dives deep into the dark underbelly of Washington, DC business and politics in an investigation that will drag her mercilessly through the inextricable webs of corruption that bind the press, the police, and politics in our nation’s capital.

My Review

Wow. I really enjoyed this book. Virginia is a journalist and her curiosity and  determination to seek the truth are natural responses when faced with the perplexing circumstances of a young woman’s death. With an eye for detail, her first-person descriptions of scenes and atmosphere are vivid. You are there with her. Virginia  is idealistic; she wants to find the truth and see the guilty brought to justice.  She gains access to all the right people but their stories don’t mesh, leaving her uncertain whom she can trust. The plot was intricate and well developed, with an abundance of twists. Every time I thought I knew who the culprit was, some new tidbit of information came along casting doubt on my suspicions. And, another big plus, the storyline and its resolution were believable.  I’ll definitely be on the lookout for future books from this author.

FTC Disclosure:   I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley.  This has not affected the content of my review in any way.

Review: WHO WE ARE INSTEAD by Kyla Stone

As some people may have noticed I’ve been expanding my reading horizons lately.  Today’s book is neither mystery or romance. Who We are Instead is a coming of age novel about two sisters, difficult family relationships, and emotional scars.

Description (from Amazon)

whoinsteadTwenty-one-year-old Lena McKenna thought she escaped her past when she earned a photography scholarship to a top university. It’s been two years since she’s been home. Two years since she’s seen her troubled younger sister Lux or set foot in the house haunted by the memories of her dead mother.

Everything changes the day her father suffers a massive heart attack. Lena rushes home, only to discover that Lux has disappeared. Lena has no choice but to put her dreams on hold to find her sister and care for her dying father. Immersed in the memories of her childhood, she begins to uncover the long-buried secrets that broke her family. 

Eighteen-year-old Lux doesn’t want to remember. Nothing keeps the dark at bay, not her new drug-dealing boyfriend or her descent into reckless self-destruction. She’ll do anything to forget. Anything.

As their father’s condition worsens, Lux leaves a trail of devastation in her wake. Lena must choose: escape her past and leave her sister behind, or turn and face the demons threatening to destroy them both.

Who We Are Instead explores the volatile relationship between sisters and the way we blur the lines between loyalty and obligation, truth and deception, honor and betrayal.

My Review

This is a well-written, moving tale that provides a candid look at troubled family relationships.  The first-person narrative alternates between Lina and Lux’s point of view, providing insight into the differences in how they see things. Both Lena and Lux are struggling in their own ways as they face their father’s imminent death. They each remember different things from their childhood and have secrets they share with no0ne – not even each other. Lux uses substance abuse and ‘hook-ups’ to escape, she swears a lot, and lashes out at friends. Her stream of conscious style narrative highlights her mood swings and growing dependence on drugs. Lena wants to help her, but has no idea how to heal their relationship. As the story progresses, both characters learn about themselves and strive to heal their emotional scars.

The author takes on tough issues in this book – dysfunctional families, betrayal, drug abuse, and suicide. For this reason, although this book might be suitable for some mature YA readers, I am not sure I would recommend it for most teens.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the author. This has not affected the content of my review in any way.

News FlashWho We Are Instead is on sale for $0.99 for limited time only!

Review: TELL ME NO LIES by Lynn Chandler Willis

I recently read  Tell Me No Lies – the first book in the Ava Logan mystery series by Lynn Chandler Willis.  As followers of this blog already know, I read a lot of mysteries and enjoy trying books by new authors (or who are at least new to me).  This was a great choice.

tellnoliesDescription (from Amazon)

Ava Logan, single mother and small business owner, lives deep in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains, where poverty and pride reign. As publisher of the town newspaper, she’s busy balancing election season stories and a rash of ginseng thieves. And then the story gets personal. After her friend is murdered, Ava digs for the truth all the while juggling her two teenage children, her friend’s orphaned toddler, and her own muddied past. Faced with threats against those closest to her, Ava must find the killer before she, or someone she loves, ends up dead.

Review

An extremely enjoyable and well-written read. The first-person, conversational tone made me feel as if Ava was a friend of mine – telling me her story.  She is easy to identify with – a caring mother with a complicated past of her own that shapes her decision making.  You can feel her attachment to Ivy growing, and know she would do whatever she can help ensure the child’s safety and future well-being.  At the same time, her feelings of guilt over something in her past keep her from truly giving her heart to either of her love interests in the story. This mystery was well crafted; its intricate plot held lots of surprises and kept me guessing right to the end. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for future books in this series.

FTC Disclosure:   I received an advance review copy from NetGalley.  This has not affected the content of my review in any way. 

Review: THE BLUE HOUSE IN BISHOP by Sunanda J. Chatterjee

I was looking for something “different” to read and The Blue House in Bishop by Sunanda  J. Chatterjee caught my eye.  It promised elements of mystery and romantic suspense,  a unique storyline and a taste of a different culture.  And it delivered.

Description (from Amazon)

bluehousecoverA broken soldier with a past, a doctor with a secret, an ex-cop with a mission, and a mysterious woman must fight a drug lord and the FBI to find justice.

After an accident, ex-Special Forces Capt. Duke Wilcox is forced to recover in the house of his old college roommate, Dr. Sunil Samant. Haunted by his failed mission and failed marriage, Duke has lost his trust in women and yearns for a chance to redeem himself.

Indian Police Inspector Alisha Raj has a passion for bringing criminals to justice. After leaving the police force with a broken heart, she agrees to an “arranged marriage” with Sunil. But it is an unusual proposal; Sunil asks Alisha to pretend to be his fiancée to please his dying mother.

Alisha comes to Bishop to leave her past behind, only to fall hopelessly in love with Duke. But she is engaged to Sunil, whose mother is expected to visit any day. The attraction seems mutual, but Duke’s troubled past prevents him from opening his heart.

Everything changes when a mysterious woman shows up with a baby, seeking Sunil’s help. But is this woman who she claims to be? Why is the FBI after her? And how is she involved with a Colombian Drug lord?

A story of loyalty, camaraderie, and love, The Blue House in Bishop brings four strangers together in a fight for survival.

My Review

I enjoyed this book.  Its intricate plot crosses over between genres –  the result is romantic suspense with the undertones of an intriguing crime thriller.  Somehow the author managed to weave together the stories of four very different characters, each carrying their own emotional burdens and/or memories from the past. Both Sunil and Alisha are strong and likeable characters – they live in the modern world, yet retain respect for their cultural heritage and traditions.  Strangers when they first arrive at the Blue House, the relationships between Sunil, Duke, Alisha and the mystery woman are complicated and sort themselves out as the secrets are divulged and the mystery is resolved.  This fast-paced story held my attention from start to finish.

Note:  If you are easily offended by strong language or graphic sex, this book might not be your cup of tea.

Review: COLOR ME DEAD by Teresa Trent

color-me-dead-large-banner331
As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Free Virtual Book Tours, today I’m happy to tell you about Color Me Dead (Henry Park Book 1), a new cozy mystery by Teresa Trent.

colormedeadcoverDescription

Artist Gabby Wolfe has the ability to see not only the beauty of the living, but the despair of the dead. When she returns to her childhood home in Henry Park, Colorado, she is forced to bring along her younger brother Mitch. He is on a “break” from college where he was majoring in wine, women and song. If that isn’t enough they also have Mitch’s rambunctious beagle Luigi along who prefers to spend his days wallowing in junk food. When Gabby draws the death of a young woman before it happens, she knows she must tell someone and risk a new job and her professional credibility. Will she reveal her secret in time to save the woman in the water or will it be too late?

Note: For the duration of this blog tour (Jan. 23-27), Color Me Dead is free on Amazon !

My Review

Like most cozy mysteries, this was a light read. Actually, I enjoyed it more than I expected. Not usually a fan of paranormal tales, the author had this reader almost suspending disbelief and accepting Gabby and her psychic powers at face value. The mystery surrounding her vision is intricate, and the motivation and identity of the killer were far from obvious. It is easy to relate to Gabby as she rediscovers Henry Park, establishes new friendships, and embarks on a new stage in her career.  A fast-paced read, I stayed up way past my bedtime to finish it.

About the Author

teresatrentTeresa Trent lives in Houston, Texas and is an award-winning mystery writer.  She writes the Pecan Bayou Mystery Series, is a regular contributor to the Happy Homicides Anthologies. Teresa is happy to add her Henry Park Mystery Series to her publishing credits with Color Me Dead, the first book in the series. Teresa has also won awards for her work in short stories where she loves to dabble in tales that are closer to the Twilight Zone than small town cozies. When Teresa isn’t writing, she is a full-time caregiver for her son and teaches preschoolers music part-time. Her favorite things include spending time with family and friends, waiting for brownies to come out of the oven, and of course, a good mystery.

Author Links:

Purchase Link  – Amazon 

Review: BOOMER’S BUCKET LIST by Sue Pethick

I don’t quite know why but dogs on the cover seem to be tugging on my heartstrings and calling out to me lately.  Alright, I admit it. They always do. But lately even more than usual.  And the cover definitely factored into my decision to read Boomer’s Bucket List.

boomerDescription (from Amazon)

When her cuddly canine companion Boomer is diagnosed with a rare heart condition, Jennifer Westbrook decides to take a leave of absence from her busy PR job—and take Boomer on the greatest road trip of his life.

Charting a course from Chicago to California, Jennifer plans some pet-friendly pit stops for her four-legged friend, including a dog show, a fire hydrant museum, and a factory full of squeaky toys. But when she tries to sneak Boomer into a NASCAR press box—disguised as her seeing-eye dog—Jennifer’s cover is blown by a curious, but very cute reporter named Nathan Koslow.

Boomer takes an instant shine to Nathan, unlike the other men in Jennifer’s life. When the charming journalist asks to join them on their journey, she can’t say no. But when she learns that someone has created a website called “Boomer’s Bucket List”—and it’s gone totally viral—the trip takes a wildly unexpected turn for Jennifer, Nathan, and the dog who brought them together.

It almost seems as if Boomer’s last wish is that his two favorite humans fall madly, deeply, in love . . .

My Review

An enjoyable light romance featuring a loveable and furry matchmaker. Boomer is delightful. You can almost visualize his antics and expressions, and his antics will make you laugh. And Jennifer is truly devoted to her dog – not many dog owners would take time off from work to spend time with their dog. Nathan, the man Boomer seems to have chosen for Jennifer, is a good guy who is at a crossroads in his career. The road trip and budding relationship with Caroline cause him to reflect on his past actions and future goals.  Although the outcome is foreseeable, unlike most romance novels, the ending is bittersweet. Make sure you have a tissue on hand.

FTC Disclosure:   I received an advance review copy of this book via NetGalley.  This has not affected the content of my review in any way. 

Boomer’s Bucket List is available from Amazon.

Review: SEEING RED – A Polly Parrett Pet-Sitter Cozy Murder Mystery by Liz Dodwell

I recently discovered another cute cozy mystery series while browsing on Amazon. Seeing Red is the fourth book in the Polly Parrett Pet-Sitter Cozy Murder Mystery series by Liz Dodwell.  

51nh3mf2b5ylDescription (from Amazon)

Polly Parrett, Mallowapple’s most famous pet-sitter is in the thick of it again. She can’t seem to get away from dead bodies. It’s as if murder – or murderers – follow her around.

There’s a dog, of course. But what connection does he have to a little girl who disappeared years before? Things at Welcome Home, the home Polly and her mom run for military veterans, are not going as swimmingly as they would like, and Polly may have messed up her relationship with Tyler, the smart, sexy and wonderful love of her life. Oh! And there are chickens. Let’s not forget the chickens.

My Review

Polly runs a successful pet-sitting business so the abundance of quirky animals in this story is no surprise. She’s not exactly a dog whisperer but she is attuned to their behavior and is fast to pick up on Red’s distress when his owner is at risk. A dead body and unlikely coincidences start her off investigating what she (correctly) believes to be a murder.  I enjoyed watching events unfold as she discovers the culprit and solves both the mystery at hand and a mystery from the past.  The characters are interesting and diverse,  from the veterans and their dogs, to Tyler and  Polly’s other friends.  I particularly liked the way the author highlighted the plight of veterans, and Polly and her mom’s dedication to maintaining Welcome Home.  All in all, an enjoyable cozy mystery.

Note: Although this is the fourth book in a series, it can definitely be enjoyed as a standalone (I hadn’t read any of the previous books).

Seeing Red is available on Amazon.

Review: MAGGIE DOVE’S DETECTIVE AGENCY by Susan Breen

maggie-dove-detective-agency-large-banner-640

As part of a Blog Tour organized by Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, I am happy to tell you about Maggie Dove’s Detective Agency by Susan Breen.

Description

maggie-doves-detective-agency.jpgAfter catching the killer who shook her small Hudson River town, former Sunday School teacher Maggie Dove stumbled onto an exciting new career and found a way to take her mind off her own tragic past. Now, despite her best efforts to promote the agency, Maggie can’t seem to land any new cases—until Racine Stern, one of the village’s wealthiest residents, offers her a thousand dollars to convince her “evil” sister, Domino, to stay out of town.

While Maggie’s business partner thinks she’s crazy for turning down a potential client, she doesn’t want her agency to get a reputation for accommodating bizarre requests. However, Maggie is soon caught up in the family drama anyway. Racine may fear for her life—and her inheritance—but it’s Domino who takes the fall when she plunges to her death from a tower at Stern Manor. Was it an accident or something more sinister? Maggie’s investigation will test her faith—and her ability to survive.

My Review

In this enjoyable mystery, Maggie – a likeable 62 year old widow – takes her first case as a private detective. She is joined in her new venture by two not-so-silent, well meaning partners – although basically she is the one who does all the investigating. Her client’s family is a decidedly  unusual bunch, ranging from recluse to flamboyant.  Maggie is also a Sunday school teacher with a deep-rooted belief in Christianity, a faith that clearly colors the author’s treatment of the question of whether or not evil exists and the nature of witchcraft.  Although not clearly indicated in the book description, in my opinion,  this mystery with its religious undertones clearly falls under the category of Christian fiction. Nonetheless, the plot was unusual with a few nice twists, and the identify of the murderer surprised me.

FTC Disclosure:   I received an advance review copy of this book as part of this blog tour.  This has not affected the content of my review in any way. 

About the Author

susan-breenSusan Breen is the author of The Fiction Classher debut novel that won the Washington Irving Book Award. Her stories and articles have appeared in many magazines, among them The Best American Nonrequired Reading, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Compose, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer. She teaches at Gotham Writers in Manhattan; is on the faculty of the New York Pitch Conference, South Carolina Writers Workshop, and the Women’s National Book Association; and is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters-in-Crime. Breen lives in a small village on the Hudson River with her husband, two dogs, and one cat. Her three children are flourishing elsewhere.

Webpagehttp://www.susanjbreen.com/about.htm

Purchase Links:   Amazon     B&N

Review & Giveaway: LOVE LITERARY STYLE by Karin Gillespie

love-literary-style-large-banner333
Time for a change of pace. Today’s post is about a recently released romantic comedy – Love  Literary Style – by Karin Gillespie.

Description

image004-2They say opposites attract, and what could be more opposite than a stuffy literary writer falling in love with a self-published romance writer?

Meet novelist Aaron Mite. He lives in a flea-infested rented alcove, and his girlfriend Emma, a combative bookstore owner, has just dumped him. He meets Laurie Lee at a writers’ colony and mistakenly believes her to be a renowned writer of important fiction. When he discovers she’s a self-published romance author, he’s already fallen in love with her.

Aaron thinks genre fiction is an affront to the fiction-writing craft. He likes to quote the essayist, Arthur Krystal, who claims literary fiction “melts the frozen sea inside of us.” Ironically Aaron doesn’t seem to realize that, despite his lofty literary aspirations, he’s emotionally frozen, due, in part, to a childhood tragedy. The vivacious Laurie, lover of flamingo-patterned attire and all things hot pink, is the one person who might be capable of melting him. In the tradition of the Rosie Project, Love Literary Style is a sparkling romantic comedy which pokes fun at the divide between so-called low and high brow fiction.

My Review

This was a fun read. Both main characters were well-developed and quirky  – but in extremely different ways. Their meeting is founded in a case of mistaken identity. The attraction between them is  immediate and strong, with humorous ups and downs as the story progresses.

I enjoyed the writer’s treatment of the issue of genre fiction vs. literature and the preconceived notions some people have about the different types of work and their authors.  Laurie’s enthusiasm for writing and her determination to become a published author shines through, making her an appealing character.  Aaron is not as likeable, at least not at first. He kind of grows on you. His backstory is the root behind many of his hang-ups and is only gradually revealed to Laurie and the reader as the plot progresses and reaches its satisfying finish.

I expect that readers who enjoy romance novels with a bit of humor will enjoy this book.

FTC Disclosure:   I received an advance review copy of this book.  This has not affected the content of my review in any way. 

Giveaway

Enter this Rafflecopter for a chance to win one of three signed copies of Love Literary Style.

About The Author

gillespie.pngKarin Gillespie is the national-bestselling novelist and has also written for the New York Times, Washington Post and Writer Magazine. She has an MFA from Converse College and lives in Augusta, Georgia and was recently awarded a Georgia Author of the Year award.  Visit her on her web site, her FB page or on Twitter. She is also on Good Reads. A book excerpt can be found here.

Purchase Links

AmazonB&N
goodreads-badge-add-plus