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review 2019-02-23 06:57
To Catch a Witch (Wishcraft Mystery, #8)
To Catch a Witch: A Wishcraft Mystery - Heather Blake

Everything about the books in this series shouts "TWEE!" - from the cover, to the series name, the setting, and premise, but they aren't at all twee.  Even though I know this, they still sit on my TBR for too long because ... twee.


In spite of the facade, these mysteries are well written and almost always go quite a bit deeper than your average cozy; this one was no different.  To Catch a Witch confronts the alarming dysfunction that sometimes exists behind the doors of the healthiest looking families, as well as the ones that advertise their dysfunction for all and sundry.


The mystery plot here revolves around a woman who was universally loved (aren't they all?) who is killed during a running through Salem village.  Abbey truly had no enemies, was actually loved by everyone, and had a moral compass that pointed true north and didn't waver.  So how did she end up dead at the bottom of a gorge, killed by a branch to the back of her head?


This is why I love Heather Webber/Blake; she can write about love and heartbreak and redemption without making me roll my eyes or want to gag.  She somehow manages to do it without the emotional melodrama ... and she writes a cleverly plotted mystery to boot.  Was it fiendishly clever? No. Did I ever suspect the murderer? No.  Yet it was entirely plausible and had me thinking, of course.


It wasn't perfect; the plot twist was transparent to me early on - at least most of it was.  She did get me with the bit about ... never mind.


I'll never rave madly about these books, but they're solidly written and always make me feel a little better for having read them.  The characters are wonderfully likeable, and for those that look for books with strong female friendships, they're bountiful between these pages.  I'll happily read the next one, no matter how twee it looks.

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review 2019-01-04 06:58
Bells, Spells, and Murders (Witch City Mystery, #7)
Bells, Spells, and Murders - Carol J. Perry

The book suffered on two fronts for me:  the story failed to capture my interest as much as previous books in the series, and the editing was so negligent that it fundamentally affected the plotting.


There's not really much I can say about the story itself; it was average.  A man who runs a vast charitable organisation in Salem Massachusetts is murdered in his office just before Christmas and Lee discovers his body when she arrives for a scheduled interview.  It wasn't the worst I've read, and it wasn't the best.  There never really was any question as to who was behind the crime, although the reveal at the end did have its own surprising twist.


The first indication that the editing was not up to professional standards was the repetition of comments made by the MC:  she tells the reader several times, for example, in almost identical words, that she knew her Corvette was impractical but she just loved it so much. (There was also a lot of brand-name mentions that felt gratuitous that I don't remember from previous books.)  


The repetition wasn't so bad, but then the story continuity started breaking indicating, perhaps, major re-writes that didn't get followed up with another thorough proof-reading.  There's a whole scene about Lee writing out her Christmas cards that's specific down to the number of cards: 49 which is followed up by a scene the next day where she stands in line at the post office to mail them, along with her Christmas packages.  Approximately 50 pages later, Lee is telling her Aunt that she hasn't done her Christmas cards yet, and a scene follows where she goes through the whole process again.  


Again, annoying but it wasn't until one of the suspects was an electrician, then suddenly he's a plumber, and then he was an electrician and a plumber, and the company names he works for keep getting swapped around.  At that point, I lost any and all faith that the book could recover and just finished it because I was trapped in a salon chair for the last bit of the book. 


I might have one more of this series in the pile, and if so, I'll get around to it eventually, but unless it drastically improves on this one, I may take my leave of this series.

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review 2018-12-12 08:40
A Gift of Bones (Sarah Booth Delaney, #19)
A Gift of Bones - Carolyn Haines

My first Christmas mystery of the season, and it's from one of my favorite series.  It was pretty good.


My personal observation about long-lasting series is that authors have a tendency to go bigger and bigger with each book.  Usually it's the plots that try to outdo each other, but sometimes, as in this case, it's a certain theme, or themes.  The Sarah Booth Delaney series has a very strong underlying theme centered on the power of love, family and friendship, and these themes have become more ... urgent?  as the series has progressed.


I'm not complaining - I love this series - but while I enjoyed the book thoroughly as I was reading it, it felt a tiny bit saccharide afterwards.  


Oh, and in this one the plot was definitely out there.  And way too overly labyrinthine.  I'm not sure it really worked, to be honest.


But I love the characters whole heartedly, and Zinnia Mississippi comes alive.  It might have been a 3.5 star read, but I've been quietly stewing for years about the Coleman story line, and it's finally come good in this book - that bumped it 1/2 star.  Overall, a solid read, that went by fast.

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review 2018-09-25 09:28
Marigolds for Malice (Enchanted Garden, #3)
Marigolds for Malice - Bailey Cattrell

The series name implies a cutesy factor in these stories, but thankfully, there isn't.  Even the brief mentions of fairy houses the MC has throughout the garden have a more mysterious, spooky edge to them.


While getting ready to open their town's historical museum, the Greenstockings (women's business organisation) finds a sealed up butter churn they believe is a time capsule.  During the opening ceremony, they find a number of items from the gold rush days, including a rather sizeable nugget.  Later the night, the local historian is murdered in the museum with all the items stolen - except for the nugget, which had been taken by the police to the bank.


While the mystery goes in unexpected and interesting directions, the murderer was telegraphed by the author from their first appearance, so the ending held no surprises for me.  It didn't keep the story from being interesting though; the plant lore sprinkled throughout, and the solid female friendships, as well as the low key romance, all held my attention and kept me reading.  There were some bits that didn't work so well here and there; parts that felt awkward, as if the editor added them to 'zest' the story up, but they were mercifully brief.


An enjoyable read by a reliable author; I always look forward to the new release notices for these books.


I read this one for the Murder Most Foul square in Halloween Bingo

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review 2018-07-14 23:49
It Takes a Coven (Witch City Mystery, #6)
It Takes a Coven - Carol J. Perry

I generally enjoy the books in this series, and I should have enjoyed this one more; it had elements designed to appeal to me, like a murder of crows (collective noun not crime), an old spell book that won't burn, whose 17th century owner's ghost wants back, a current string of crimes that may or may not be connected to modern day Wiccans.  Stolen art.  


For the most part, I did enjoy it, but there was just a little something missing.  It could very well be my mood; I'm still displaying shades of slump now and again.  This may have affected my engagement with the book.  It could also be the wedding planning bit that's tangentially a part of the plot.  Or the egregious number of continuity errors the editor didn't catch; something I don't remember this series suffering from before.  


Mostly, I think, that MC just wasn't quite focused enough to really involve the reader in the story.  She had all of these intriguing things happening to/around her but for the most part, never involved her.  The exception are the visions she had throughout the story, usually whenever she looked at a reflective surface.  Her acceptance of them in this book was a relief, and I enjoyed these scenes a lot, as they imparted information about the mysteries.


It was a good story though, even though I keep rambling on about the nit-picky stuff.  It held my attention while I was reading it and I was interested in seeing the mystery solved. 

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