I was so glad that Olivia from Sprinkle with Murder, the previous novel, continued on in Buttercream Bump Off as Mel and Angie's humorous rival bakery...moreI was so glad that Olivia from Sprinkle with Murder, the previous novel, continued on in Buttercream Bump Off as Mel and Angie's humorous rival bakery owner. I hadn't expected her to return after how the last book turned out so it was a pleasant surprise when this book opened with her shenanigans. I love it when there's a 'nemesis' that continues on throughout a series; they're like beloved superhero villains to me and few things are more fun than seeing them come back for more comeuppances.
"Oh, thank God, you answered,” Joyce said breathlessly. “My dress did it again.” “What? What do you mean?” “My dress,” Joyce said. “It caused another heart attack, and this time I think I killed him.”
Mel's mom annoyed me a little bit in Sprinkle with Murder with her insistence that Mel was in love with Tate. She was pretty amusing in this book though now that she was in Mel's shoes as a suspect. Thankfully she couldn't go on about Tate anymore since Joe, one of Angie's many brothers, was in the picture.
She gave him a pained look. “Apparently Detective Martinez asked my mother if Baxter was into eroto-asphyxiation, and Uncle Stan almost punched him in the face.” Both Tate and Angie cringed. “Then, of course, Uncle Stan had to explain what that is to Mom, which gave her a fit of hysterics.”
If you've ever watched CSI or a similar crime show with an 'older' person you'll enjoy laughing at Uncle Stan's expense. I also enjoyed all of the poking fun at Mel's mom McKinlay included in Buttercream Bump Off. 'Playing shoe salesman', the killer dress, etc. Joyce's naivety wasn't overplayed and their teasing came off exactly the way loving families manage it. I was pleased that this was believable and not overdone.
"I'm not giving up on us, Cupcake, and neither should you. I'll call you tomorrow.”
Where have I heard something similar to the above quote before... Oh, I know! Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series has has a Joe that calls her cupcake too. Joe Morelli works in law enforcement and this Joe is a DA. They're both Italian... and the similarities don't stop there. But this was too many things in common for me with both being from cozy mysteries. It felt uncomfortable to read and made me dislike Buttercream Bump Off's Joe.
"Well, that stinks." "Agreed," Mel said. She didn't like the idea of Marty and Tate going off on their own. What if they blew it? This was her idea after all. She should be in charge. "Come on," she said to Angie. "I'm sure we can blend in with the furniture, and they'll never know we're there."
Over the course of two books, I've come to find Mel charming and amusing but she's a touch more harebrained than I'd like. Tate is taking Marty (an elderly gentleman who is trying to win a contest that their bakery is holding by doing favors for entries) to meet a possible suspect where he is going to pose as a wealthy businessman. Tate specifically tells Mel and Angie that they'll stand out and ruin everything. Mel ignores him and does whatever she wants. She does this time and time again and occasionally it's funny (when it's something involving Olivia) but most of the time I want to wring her neck.
The beginning of Burning Blue was a little rough for me. I really liked Jay as a narrator – he was interesting and I loved his voice - but the way he...moreThe beginning of Burning Blue was a little rough for me. I really liked Jay as a narrator – he was interesting and I loved his voice - but the way he told the first events as if he were there was distracting. He starts off by saying "From what I heard..." then goes on to say students were drenching Nicole in water after the incident, what the exact words she said were etc. I'm glad we got a clear picture of that huge moment considering acid being thrown in Nicole's face is the jumpstart to Burning Blue but it didn't make logical sense to me and it put a wedge between Jay and I. To be honest it made me suspect that he attacked Nicole which might have been Griffin's intention. I also wasn't a fan of Jay's 'future narrating' either. To me it's like giving spoilers away, it does nothing for me in the sense of heightening the anticipation since I find it so annoying.
"I had the opportunity to see him in action—see him by proxy rather, but I’ll get to that, to him, later."
"I should have figured it out right there. Nicole’s secret. Looking back, maybe I knew."
I really enjoyed that the attacker was communicating through email and that Jay was an adept hacker. Despite my slight narrating misgiving when it came to suspecting Jay, I liked that he seemed to be piling evidence against himself to start with (tech savviness, borderline obsession with Nicole, black outs, etc). Definitely enough to make you wonder if Jay is a lying narrator... haven't had one of those in a long time.
I absolutely loved how Griffin flawed and built his characters. A lot of the time, especially in YA novels, I find myself put off by the more flawed characters because they're often harsh stereotypes (for example a goth girl who no one understands with stringy dyed hair, loads of piecing, combat boots etc.) or just generally obnoxious. Griffin amazed me with his ability to skirt those stereotypes and actually create unique, flawed, believable teens.
Nicole's journals provided wonderful insight into her mind. It was really interesting to see her from Jay's point of view and then get into her own mind. I'm actually not crazy about multi-point of view books when there's a mystery involved but choosing to show Nicole's thoughts via her diary entries kept me in Jay's presence while giving me Nicole as well. I really liked that.
I'll admit that I picked this up after seeing a few people label it as romance. I'm a huge sucker for YA (non-angst) romance. I'm not sure I would haven given Burning Blue that label but the between friendship and romance relationship shared between Jay and Nicole was immensity satisfying and beautiful to follow.
The mystery... I loved how Griffin ended Burning Blue. The mystery was wrapped up beautifully with the perfect culprit. I never expected it but it made so much sense and I couldn't have been happier with how it ended. I feel a little guilty saying that but as a mystery lover it was just so great.
It took me quite a while to warm up to Mel, Angie and Tate. I love the silly lighthearted nature of cozy mysteries but it can be harder to connect to...moreIt took me quite a while to warm up to Mel, Angie and Tate. I love the silly lighthearted nature of cozy mysteries but it can be harder to connect to their characters. My life certainly isn't velvet cupcakes, pink frosting and murder. That said, I typically enjoy cozy mystery characters from the outside. In the case of Sprinkle with Murder's trio though, I warmed up to them only after they took on a more fleshed out feeling than I was expecting. Christie, Tate's horrific fiance, tore into him during their friends' movie night and he takes back that the girls are his best friends and says she is. Mel is left feeling like soon what they’ve had for years really will be over. I'm glad that serious interlude was included. I can definitely appreciate the characters and their story more.
Stereotypes and cozy mysteries... I expect them and honestly don't mind them since often times they're used for humor. Christie, for instance, has blonde extensions, carries a dog in her purse, is vapid, designs clothes and cares too much about her nails. She was amusing to watch in action. For the most part I enjoyed McKinlay's use of them (Alma the gothic assistant was great) but was a little disappointed that the main characters seemed to be bordering on the stereotype edge too. I would rather the characters that stick with me be unique.
I thought the mystery was well done after the initial internet can solve anything phase. I'm still looking for that hidden gem cozy where the main character's involvement in solving the mystery is believable though.
Overall Sprinkle with Murder was a cute story with a satisfying, surprising conclusion.
Review originally posted on Bitten Books and given 2½ stars.
I trapped myself when I read Frost. I went in knowing that I dislike boarding school atmos...moreReview originally posted on Bitten Books and given 2½ stars.
I trapped myself when I read Frost. I went in knowing that I dislike boarding school atmospheres and overly dramatic characters/plots but the idea of a YA psychological mystery that is possibly paranormal made me throw caution to the wind. Sadly, my frustration with aspects that I knew were going to bother me overshadowed everything else. I believe that readers who enjoy cattiness, drama and angst will love every page of Frost. Every little bit of it had me tearing hair out though which isn't fair to the author at all. Baer is a wonderful writer and had Frost not included everyday teenage behavior, I would have loved the book. I completely recognize that I'm putting the author in an impossible situation: no drama makes it not a believable boarding school and including drama drives me batty.
Celeste was an engaging character. I've definitely never encountered another quite like her. Some things about her were just so far out there, like the cockroaches, that I'd consider her ridiculous for a moment. Then Baer would do a complete turn about making Celeste completely believable and real like when her father is mentioned. I enjoyed that not only was Frost a psychological book on Leena's end, but psychology, illness and just plain eccentricity were included as well.
I thought it was amazing how well written each character was, especially Leena. None of the characters were similar to me or made choices that I would have in their situation but I could still sympathize with each of them. There were several times where I wanted to shake Leena for doing or saying something but after it was said and done, I felt sad, frustrated, upset etc. right along with her instead of my previous annoyance at her decision. A few times I even wished I had been there to defend her because her hurt was so palpable.
I wish Baer had chosen something else to make the spooky, haunted place other than the closet of Leena and Celeste's room. Every time something odd or frightening happened I would just eye roll away because, come on, it's a closet. Smelling like death, the door randomly shutting or it seemingly whispering to you would have been eery occurrences if not for it being a closet. They're cliche but I would have preferred a basement, attic or hidden trapdoor or room. Some of the things Leena did, like how she would just stand in there, made the closet even more silly.(less)
Sally Sin traded in her life as a spy for the United States Agency for Weapons of Mass Dest...moreReview originally posted on Bitten Books and given 4 stars.
Sally Sin traded in her life as a spy for the United States Agency for Weapons of Mass Destruction after nine years for the life of a stay at home mom to her three year old son as Lucy Parks. Sally faced some of the worst criminals in existence, all of whom wanted her dead, as well as regular kidnappings from her very own nemesis. Sally eventually met a man and finally wanted out of her life of danger, however, one of the conditions was the possibility of being called on for a mission should her expertise be needed. Caring for her son has been her mission for the past several years and it's been no less troublesome and difficult. How is Lucy going to come out on top when her old boss shows up unexpected and unwanted claiming that Ian Blackford, the nemesis, isn't as dead as they thought and that he is looking for her?
There are lots of wonderful things I can say about Original Sin but only one thing really matters. It was hilarious. Laugh out loud in public and not even care that people are looking at you like you're crazy, hilarious. Many books are meant to be humorous but either it's not my kind of humor or it just isn't funny. I was expecting Original Sin to be lighthearted and cute, both of which it was at certain points, but I wasn't expecting to be giggling to myself every page I flipped. My favorite humorous aspect of the book was that there were so many simple everyday mom truths that normally you never think twice about, but Sally makes them hilarious with her sarcastic, witty inner monologue.
The book didn't really have that much in common with the USA show Covert Affairs but I often found myself comparing it to that tv show. Both have a fabulous female main character who is clever, witty and a little bit sarcastic. They both have the same tone and while both have an enjoyable story, it's really more about the more subtle aspects; relationships, character growth, dialogue etc. Maybe it's because both characters were picked up by 'the agency' for their language skills and ulterior mysterious motives... anyway, couldn't get the similarities, however little they were, out of my head.
I fell completely in love with Sally's character. Not only was she so much fun to read about but she was a competent agent. I've read about so many wonderful, hilarious incompetent characters (think Stephanie Plum) but I don't think I've read about a single competent one. McMullen manages to keep the humor despite this which I think is a spectacular achievement. Yes, it's funny witnessing the struggles of a character who is probably making the same mistakes you might, but I love that Sally is skilled yet still human with her own struggles and flaws.
While I loved seeing Sally's life before she quit the agency, there were a few flashbacks too many for my tastes (probably half the book). I enjoyed everything we saw and it flowed pretty well but there were basically two stories going on which was a little distracting.
I am already eagerly awaiting the next installment in Sally Sin's adventures. McMullen has me enthralled in Sally's story of espionage and humor. Original Sin is a must read for anyone looking to laugh but will be especially appreciated by mothers and those who have experienced the terrors that are small children.(less)
Review originally posted on Bitten Books and given 3½ stars.
Becca Robins, preserve maker extraordinaire, arrives at Bailey's Farmers' Market to sell h...moreReview originally posted on Bitten Books and given 3½ stars.
Becca Robins, preserve maker extraordinaire, arrives at Bailey's Farmers' Market to sell her goods one morning only to discover that customers might be a little put off by the atmosphere. A dead body and a bunch of police will do that though. Becca needs this murder solved quickly so that her sister doesn't lose her job, a close friend doesn't end up going to jail and she doesn't end up as the next victim.
It was very difficult for me to rate this book. What I enjoyed, I loved, and what I didn't care for, drove me absolutely crazy (expect some ranting but keep in mind these parts in the book were usually very short). I loved the farmers' market setting, it was a lot of fun and I loved everything it entailed (gardening, cooking etc). Some of my favorite parts of the book were simply reading about Becca getting her inventory ready or other ordinary occurrences. I felt that this was a great place to have a murder happen in.
Becca was a wonderful cozy mystery personality with an interesting voice. She was a lot funnier than I had been expecting. For the most part, I loved Becca... except when she was 'crime solving'. Whenever Becca attempted sleuthing I couldn't stand her. The writing in these parts became very repetitive too, to the point where it was distracting from the story. Becca would discover something and then we'd learn it all over again as she made note cards then again as she talked to herself then again when she shared her suspicions with other characters. At one point I honestly thought I might have accidentally been rereading pages. I like that Becca was a normal person and reacted like a normal person would to a murder. However, her reactions to 'tense' situations were too exaggerated and almost childlike. Becca at one point locks herself in her sister's office as she's sleuthing. Someone knocks on the door, who Becca assumes is just a customer, and Becca completely loses it in anxiety. You would have thought that she was instead locked in the office with the killer from the way she was acting. Becca is very independent, easy going, loves animals etc and if I ever met her, I'd probably want her as a best friend. My first order of business though would be to teach her that the 'sleuthing' solution to every unknown fact isn't blurting out the question to the suspect or just asking Officer Brion. There's a big difference between incompetence and whatever Becca was doing. Incompetent sleuthing can be amusing or used as a tool for character growth. Whatever Becca was doing was neither. Anyway, my point is that Becca was a perfect character until moments where the plot moved forward.
Because this book was primarily a cozy mystery, there wasn't much of what I loved most about that book. My absolutely favorite aspect of this book was the beginnings of an older woman and younger man relationship (Becca/Ian). It was glorious and perfectly written. Even if the last 75 pages of the book hadn't completely made up for my previous ranting, I would read the next book in the series just to see more of their budding relationship. The last 75 pages really did fix all of my complaints though. Literally not a single complaint I just ranted about appeared in those pages. I'm so glad that the murderer was a complete surprise too but also not so far out there that it would have been impossible to guess.
Despite my complaints that make this book sound worse than it really was, I did enjoy this book. I think if you know about its flaws before going into it, that you'll be able to enjoy the book more. I'm looking forward to the next book as well as trying out some yummy looking recipes from this one.(less)
This book was a quick, fun, and light read. It didn't have much substance but I wasn't hopi...moreReview originally posted on Bitten Books and given 4 stars.
This book was a quick, fun, and light read. It didn't have much substance but I wasn't hoping for any. Laurie had me laughing out loud at certain parts and commending her on many of her witty and sarcastic remarks. I really enjoyed the writing style and feel of this book. It was fast paced without being overwhelming and the subject of a psychic detective never felt contrived or unrealistic.
I enjoyed all of Laurie's characters. Abby grew on me quite quickly. She was funny, caring and in a little over her head, which I always find fun when paired with humor. She had a great voice that kept me interested and chowing down chapters. I especially loved Abby's interactions with other characters. Her budding relationship with Dutch was the highlight but I also really enjoyed the interactions she had with her sister, Cat. I can't wait to see the Abby/Dutch relationship furthered in future books. Getting to know and trust one another was funny in this book but I can't wait to see a true partnership form between them (both professionally and personally).
Usually I don't mention any author information in my reviews but I felt this was too relevant not too. Victoria Laurie is a real life police psychic. While my personal opinion is that that's a load of hoo-ha, I couldn't help but think how how cool it was that she made a cozy mystery out of her life. I think she did a great job touching on preconceptions people have and treating them with humor and levity. I think if more psychics had her attitude and approach, my image of a psychic wouldn't be Professor Trelawney.(less)
Review originally posted on Bitten Books and given 3½ stars.
As much as I adore these detectives, this book definitely wasn't one of my favorites. I lo...moreReview originally posted on Bitten Books and given 3½ stars.
As much as I adore these detectives, this book definitely wasn't one of my favorites. I love the new ND and HB series (Nancy Drew Girl Detective and Undercover Brothers) but this book was a tough read for me. The interactions between the two groups seemed forced so I didn't care for the dialogue. Then the actual case solving frustrated me as well. I don't think there was a single instance where Nancy or Frank/Joe didn't get caught snooping and some famous musician would come to their rescue. While this book wasn't on par with many of the others I've read, I did still enjoy it. I especially liked reading their impressions of one another ("Tall, Dark and Studly" Ned, haha. Poor Joe doesn't stand a chance).(less)
This series is freakin' wonderful. I have to admit that I don't read it not for the clever and intense cases, but instead for the character interactio...moreThis series is freakin' wonderful. I have to admit that I don't read it not for the clever and intense cases, but instead for the character interactions. This was a great book for those since Mavis was so involved. While I love Peabody, Feeney, Dr. Mira etc... it is Eve and Roarke's romance that makes this book deserve five stars. We really got to see them progress in this book and I loved every minute of it.
Can't wait to continue my reread journey through these books! They're just as wonderful the second time and I find myself still giggling out loud at certain parts.
Click 'see review' to read my reading progress updates which have some of my favorite quotes from the book.