Book Review – Creative Woman Mysteries Series

Book: Creative Woman Mysteries (series) – Author: Multiple

Genre: Fiction, Cozy Mystery

Description of Book 1 from the website:

Strands of Fate will introduce you to Shannon McClain, who has been in mourning since the tragic death of her husband three years ago. With two children to raise and her money running out, she receives a mysterious letter from the United States, informing her she has just two weeks to claim a large inheritance — part of which is a fortune in jewels that can only be found by solving cryptic clues stitched in a needlepoint by her late grandmother. But she is blindsided when she meets an aunt and uncle she never knew existed, who are most unhappy she has arrived.

Stay away from Apple Grove ... or else.

You’ll share Shannon’s fear and excitement as she uses the last of her late husband’s insurance money to travel with her best friend Coleen from their small village in Scotland to a quaint town in the northwestern United States. But right before they are to leave, she finds a threatening note nailed to her door — written in red ink, dripping like blood.

“Stay away from Apple Grove… or else,” it warns.

My Review:

I’ve read the first seven books so far and this is a fun little series. The books are well written, easy to read, and easy to follow. Each of the mysteries has been unique and complex, but not TOO complex. 😉 They are also short, which can be pretty nice when you aren’t feeling up to a long, mind-bending novel.

I really enjoy the characters. Shannon, the protagonist, is very likable and caring. The “Purls”, her group of friends, all seem like very nice people, the sort I’d like to hang out with myself. Really complicated and woeful characters are interesting and all, but sometimes you just want to escape into something fun and easy, with characters you relate to and enjoy.

The main romantic interest is also a nice guy; no angsting over the baddy in this series, (at least not so far, they DID just introduce a possible second love interest, so we’ll see what happens on that front). I will say, I liked the pacing on the romance in this series. None of that “I MUST HAVE HIM NOW” crap that you usually get in cozy mysteries. Shannon is still grieving her husband and wants to take things slow, but isn’t opposed to opening herself up for a new relationship; I admire her for that.

Now for the cons. 😉

I get a little tired of all of these cozy mysteries taking the mickey out of law enforcement. Why is the cop always completely focused on a single (usually incorrect) suspect? Why do the protagonists ALWAYS think they can figure things out better than the professionals? I know, I know, we wouldn’t have a story otherwise, but it gets a little old. And these books are not exempt. Regardless of the fact that Shannon is repeatedly told that she doesn’t know all the aspects of the investigation, she still believes that Officer Grayson is completely wrong in his suspects and decides she has to investigate herself in order for justice to win the day. To be fair, she usually DOES figure out who the bad guy is…while they are trying to kill her.

Which leads us into the second con. Why on earth don’t these cozy mystery protagonists EVER take death threats seriously?!? Shannon at least (usually) has the smarts to tell Grayson when she receives a threatening note (which is virtually always the modus operandi for threats in this series, haven’t these people ever heard of telephones?), but she still races after suspects in the dark and insists on confronting people she thinks are murderers. Sigh.

Regardless of my venting, I actually AM enjoying this series. The mysteries are interesting. In just the first few books, we’ve had a scavenger hunt for a lost necklace, a murdered ex-husband, poisoned cupcakes, a dog show, and long-lost relatives. And I usually don’t have a clue who the culprit is until they try to murder Shannon at the end of the book! 😉

It’s been an interesting run so far and I’m curious to see where it will go. I’ve still got 5 more books in the series, so fingers crossed!

Similar Book(s):

Crewel World – Monica Ferris

Shadows At The Fair – Lea Wait

Night Of The Living Deed – E.J. Copperman

 

 

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Book Review – Shadows At The Fair

Book: Shadows At The Fair (Book 1 – Antique Print Mysteries) – Author: Lea Wait

Genre: Fiction, Cozy Mysteries

Description from Goodreads:

Ignorance is bliss for Maggie Summer, proprietor of Shadow Antiques, when she arrives at the prestigious Rensselaer County Spring Antiques Fair. She won’t remain ignorant of the suspicious mortality rate among fellow antiques dealers. With its riveting behind-the-scenes glimpse of antiques shows and revealing data on antique-print values, “Shadows At The Fair” introduces a captivating new series that unveils the powerful mysteries of antique prints, as it entertains.

My Review:

If you’ve read my blog before, then you are likely aware of my favorite guilty reading pleasure: Cozy Mysteries. I don’t know why I like them. Sure, I’m a huge fan of mysteries in general, but the heroines of cozy mysteries tend to really annoy me. They often hide evidence from the police, flat out lie to protect people they aren’t even sure are innocent, put themselves in REALLY stupid situations, and fall in love at the drop of the hat (usually with the murderer). Like I said, most of them drive me nuts…but I love them anyway. ::shrugs::

Shadows at the Fair was an impulse grab at the library that turned out to be a great read. I really enjoyed this one, mostly because I actually really liked the main character, Maggie. She almost reminded me of myself; probably because we are close in age and both like antiques, but she seemed to have a similar mindset to me as well.

None of the characters were super well fleshed out, but considering the length and genre of the book, the author did a nice job giving the reader enough information to work with without being overwhelming. The relationships were a little confusing, but exactly the right amount of complicated for a mystery. We learn about them as Maggie learns about them, a bit here and a bit there, so we ourselves are piecing together the puzzle alongside our heroine.

The mystery turned out really interesting too. I didn’t actually guess who the murder was until close to the end and I had no idea WHY they were killing people until they explained it to Maggie. I always love it when the author can surprise me!

The romance (because there is ALWAYS a romance) was rather downplayed in this book. I liked that. It was nice that Maggie didn’t just jump into a romance, especially with a suspect. Considering her backstory, it made perfect sense that she would want to get to know a man before deciding he was the one for her. Logic isn’t usually close at hand for cozy mystery romances, so it was a nice change. 😉

The only thing that bothered me about this book was the repeated use of the word “retarded” and the complete dismissal most of the characters had about mentally challenged people. I can get what the author was trying to do (when you read it in context, it KIND of makes sense) but the fact that everyone except Maggie just shrugged and said “you know those kind of people are unpredictable” really, REALLY bugged me. Considering the book isn’t that old (published in 2002), I would have expected a few more open-minded people.

Overall, this was a nice, quick read. I’d recommend it for anyone looking for a fun, easy mystery. I’ll likely pick up the next in the series the next time I’m at the library. 🙂

Similar Book(s):

Night of the Living Deed – E.J. Copperman

Crewel World – Monica Ferris

Like Cozy Mysteries? Want more suggestions? Check out this Cozy Mysteries Group on Goodreads!

 

Mini Reviews – Cozy Mysteries & Spies

Well, I’ve been on a cozy mysteries kick again. They seem to be my go-to for when I’m not feeling my greatest; kind of like a comfort novel. 🙂

Crewel World (Monica Ferris)
Series: A Needlepoint Mystery #1

Description from Goodreads: When Betsy’s sister is murdered in her own needlecraft store, Betsy takes over the shop and the investigation. But to find the murderer, she’ll have to put together a list of motives and suspects to figure out this killer’s pattern of crime…

367063Review: Being a fan of cozy mysteries, but not a fan of romance, I decided to appeal to my Cozy Mysteries group on Goodreads and see if they had any suggestions. This was one of the series they came up with.

What a perfect recommendation for a crafter-at-heart! As you can see in the description above, most of the story takes place in a needlecraft store. As a crocheter & sometimes cross-stitcher, the craft store is one of my favorite places, so that really appealed to me. They even include a cross-stitch pattern in the back of the book! 🙂

The characters in this series (or at least this first book) are all fairly likable. There’s only one person who is kind of rude, but even she doesn’t seem to be that way on purpose. The mystery was decent too, though I admit to figuring out the bad guy pretty quickly. But even then the story didn’t seem to drag at all. I’m curious to see how this series goes, so I’m definitely going to try the next one.

Dead Cold (Louise Penny) — Alternate Title: A Fatal Grace
Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #2

Description from Goodreads: No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter—and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death. When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Québec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he’s dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. With his trademark compassion and courage, Gamache digs beneath the idyllic surface of village life to find the dangerous secrets long buried there. For a Quebec winter is not only staggeringly beautiful but deadly, and the people of Three Pines know better than to reveal too much of themselves. 

10783250Review: I fell in love with this series during the first novel and this second one didn’t let me down. CI Gamache is the type of detective I would want solving my murder–calm, collected, clever, and not inclined to push people around to get what he needs. (I mean, yes, solve my murder, but don’t torture my Mom and friends to find out who did it.) He seems like the type of person I’d like to know in real life, which makes everything that happens in a book take on a much more personal meaning.

The mystery in this novel was pretty good. I did figure out who the killer was, but that’s mostly because I like taking wild guesses really early on that sometimes end up being correct. 😉 They mystery of HOW the person murdered CC, though, that was a toughy. I really enjoyed putting all the clues together along with the police.

I also loved the interactions between all the characters. Three Pines feels like a real town with real people. It’s just the sort of place I would love to live in…if only people would stop being murdered there. 😉

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax (Dorothy Gillman)
Series: Mrs. Pollifax #1

Description from Goodreads: Mrs. Virgil (Emily) Pollifax of New Brunswick, New Jersey, was a widow with grown children. She was tired of attending her Garden Club meetings. She wanted to do something good for her country. So, naturally, she became a CIA agent. This time, the assignment sounds as tasty as a taco. A quick trip to Mexico City is on her agenda. Unfortunately, something goes wrong, and our dear Mrs. Pollifax finds herself embroiled in quite a hot Cold War—and her country’s enemies find themselves entangled with one unbelievably feisty lady.

149340Review: Is there such a thing as a ‘cozy spy novel’ or have I just made that up? Well, if there is, this book fits the bill. Mrs. Pollifax, a sixty-something grandmother, randomly decides one day that she is sick of this ‘retirement’ gig and wants to fulfill her childhood dream of becoming a spy…so she pops down to the CIA offices and volunteers. Imagine “Murder She Wrote” as an espionage thriller and you’ll be kind of close. 😉

This book was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the character of Mrs. Pollifax. She was fiesty, witty, and never gave up. The side characters were also great, matching her wit-for-wit and showing that, even in the darkest places, you can meet great people.

I highly recommend this series for someone looking for a light-hearted spy novel (they can be so hard to find!) or anyone just looking for a fun read.


What’s your go-to genre for when you aren’t at your greatest?

Mini Reviews – Cozy Mysteries

Today I’m going to focus on my current guilty pleasure: Cozy Mysteries. Now, my definition of cozy mysteries is slightly different than the norm, in that I include any small-ish mystery book where the sleuth is fairly likable, the mystery isn’t too difficult, and the plot isn’t too gory or vulgar (think more ‘Monk’ than ‘Criminal Minds’). Basically, a nice little mystery that you can curl up with on a rainy afternoon and know that it will leave you with a sense of enjoyment, rather than nausea or paranoia. 😉

The Excalibur Murders (J.M.C. Blair)

Description from Goodreads: Merlin is no magician, merely a scholar and advisor to King Arthur. But after the supposedly magical Stone of Bran is stolen along with the legendary sword Excalibur and one of Arthur’s squires is brutally murdered during the theft, Merlin must use the power of reason to conjure up a miracle and catch a murderer.

3312838Review: Ok, this one was fun. I admit to having a BIT of difficulty trying to take the book seriously, because I kept picturing Colin Morgan as Merlin (BBC, I blame you! ::shakes fist::), but it was a still a nice, quirky little mystery.

The characters were all believable, which can be tricky when dealing with medieval, legendary characters. The author kept the thees and thous to a minimum, which made the characters a lot more relatable for the modern reader, but also kept the mindset of the age which helped properly date the piece. The mystery was really interesting too, especially once you were told exactly who the victim was. The murderer really could have been anyone and I honestly had no clue who did it until the very end of the book.

As an aside, I liked that Merlin & Nimue had to travel to all the suspects’ castles. It dragged the mystery out a bit, but then it WOULD really have taken that long to get anywhere back then, so I can’t complain too much. The nice part, though, was that it gave you a small view of England in the middle ages, which I always find interesting.

Night of the Living Deed (E.J. Copperman)

Description from Goodreads: Newly divorced Alison Kerby wants a second chance for herself and her nine-year-old daughter. She’s returned to her hometown on the Jersey Shore to transform a Victorian fixer-upper into a charming-and profitable-guest house. One small problem: the house is haunted, and the two ghosts insist Alison must find out who killed them.

7507902Review: This one is a true ‘cozy mystery’, right down to the punny title. 😉 I actually really enjoyed this book. The main character, Alison, was spunky, humorous, and realistic…as in, she kept asking herself “why am I doing this?!?” when she did dangerous things. She also, oddly, actually turned evidence into the police! Shocker! I get so irritated when these amateur sleuths actually hide evidence from the cops.

Also, though she does have a ‘love interest’, she doesn’t immediately fall head over heels or spend the whole book quarreling with him, which was a refreshing change. For some reason, it’s almost impossible for authors to allow their female main characters to be autonomous, especially in cozy mysteries. They almost always end up spending more time worried about their love lives than actually staying alive.

The mystery here was pretty good. It took me a bit to figure out the bad guy and then it took me even longer to figure out how they did it. It was one where you actually seem to solve things at generally the same pace as the sleuth instead of spending half the book going “READ THE STUPID LETTER!!!” or anything like that. Which is great because, as I stated earlier, these books are supposed to be fun, not aggravating! 😉

I ended up making this my “first book in a new-to-you series” for my reading challenge, because I liked it so much that I decided to buy the next one. That doesn’t actually happen all that often with cozy mysteries for me, so you know it’s got to be good!

Still Life (Louise Penny) 

Description from Goodreads: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec and his team of investigators are called in to the scene of a suspicious death in a rural village south of Montréal and yet a world away. Jane Neal, a long-time resident of Three Pines, has been found dead in the woods. The locals are certain it’s a tragic hunting accident and nothing more but Gamache smells something foul this holiday season…and is soon certain that Jane died at the hands of someone much more sinister than a careless bowhunter.

338691Review: This was a really enjoyable mystery. I ended up really liking the main character; he seemed like a nice guy who honestly wanted to help and protect the people of the village. He actually listened to people when they spoke, including his subordinates, and wasn’t above taking advice.

And I’ll admit, it was nice that he was happily married, so I didn’t have to spend half the book reading things like “her eyes were beautiful seas” or anything like that (can you tell I’m really not fond of romances? 😉 ), though that DOES happen far less with male main characters than with women, so it wasn’t TOO surprising.

The mystery here was really interesting as well. It took me a long time to figure out who the murderer was, which is always nice. I liked this one well enough to invest in the second book, so we’ll see how the series goes.

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Well, that’s it for now. How about you? What is your reading ‘guilty pleasure’? Do you like cozy mysteries? If you have any suggestions for goods ones, please share in the comments! 😀