Friday, April 15, 2011

Dru's Cozy Report: April Reading List

Welcome to Dru's Cozy Report. This month we have two new series featuring a cookie shop owner and a Southern baker; the other six are returning series featuring a guesthouse owner, an herbalist, a landscape designer, a decoupage instructor, a new mom, and a dog walker. Enjoy!

Cookie Dough or Die by Virginia Lowell is the first book in the new "Cookie Cutter Shop" mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, April 2011

Olivia Greyson is the proud owner of The Gingerbread House—a quaint shop that specializes in all things cookie—and her best friend, Maddie, is he sidekick, baking up scrumptious treats for their cookie-themed parties. But now they must take a break from baking and turn their attention to re-creating a recipe for murder. No one is more shocked than Olivia when prominent business owner Clarisse Chamberlain is found dead. It was Clarisse who encouraged Olivia to open The Gingerbread House—and she was one of her best customers. The sheriff is ready to call the case an accident, but Olivia's convinced there's a murder to solve. Then word spreads that Clarisse left Olivia a large sum of money, along with a collection of valuable antique cookie cutters. Suddenly, Olivia is the prime suspect, and when the local postman falls ill after sampling one of their cookies, all eyes are on The Gingerbread House. If the cookie-loving duo doesn't find the real killer, their reputation—and quite possibly their lives—will be battered for good.

In this debut series, we are introduced to Olivia and her best friend Maddie who are partners in a shop that sells cookie cutters and cookies. Livvie has become good friends with Clarisse, one of her customers and when Clarisse suddenly dies, the police deem it an accidental death. Having known Clarisse, Livvie thinks there’s more to her death and begins to question recent incidents in Clarisse’ life and believes that someone may have murdered her friend. With help from Maddie, this crime-solving duo searches for answers by leaving cookie crumbs that only the killer will pick up. This was a great read. With a wonderful cast of characters and a great setting, this story will have you craving for one more cookie. The tone was very comfortable and the witty and entertaining dialogue kept me engaged as I quickly turned the pages. The mystery was good and the author kept me guessing while I got to know more about the two protagonists. This is a welcome addition to the cozy genre and I hope this enjoyable series continues.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of this book

Gone With A Handsomer Man by Michael Lee West is the first book in a new trilogy featuring Charleston "cake lady" named Teeny. Publisher: Minotaur Books, April 2011

Teeny Templeton believes that her life is finally on track. She’s getting married, she’s baking her own wedding cake, and she’s leaving her troubled past behind. And then? She finds her fiancé playing naked badminton with a couple of gorgeous, skanky chicks. Needless to say, the wedding is off. Adding insult to injury, her fiancé slaps a restraining order on her. When he’s found dead a few days later, all fingers point to Teeny. Her only hope is through an old boyfriend-turned-lawyer, the guy who broke her heart a decade ago. But dredging up the past brings more than skeletons out of the closet, and Teeny doesn’t know who she can trust. With evidence mounting and the heat turning up, Teeny must also figure out where to live, how to support herself, how to clear her name, and how to protect her heart.

What a fun book. Christine (Teeny) Templeton is one happy bride-to-be that is, until she finds her naked fiancé romping with not one, but two naked women. Handing out her own brand of justice, Teeny gets into trouble with the law. I could not stop reading this mystery filled with quirky and lovable characters in a down-home southern atmosphere. This fast-paced, action-packed story will tickle your funny bone as Teeny does everything she can to survive and claim her innocence. There were so many twists and turns that kept me guessing, right till the end and boy was I surprised. This was an enjoyable read and I can’t wait to read the next book in this charming and delectable series.

Visit Michael’s website at

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me an ARC of this book

An Uninvited Ghost by E.J. Copperman is the second book in the "Haunted Guesthouse" mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, April 2011

In exchange for help entertaining her guests on "spooky" vacations, Alison Kerby told her resident gumshoe ghost that she'd help him on the occasional case. But she didn't think she'd have to go through with it—after all, who goes to a dead private eye? The answer: other ghosts. The deceased Scott McFarlane got roped into a prank that may have killed a prominent local resident. With some snooping, it turns out the woman is alive—that is, of course, until she's murdered in Alison's house. Now, between the demands of the guests at her Jersey Shore guesthouse and the arrival of a reality TV crew, Alison must find the killer—before she sees reality from the other side.

No one ever thinks that the living wouldn’t stay living at a séance, but at Alison’s guesthouse, that is exactly what happens when her guest drops dead. With news that her death was murder, Alison, with a brand new PI license, tackles her first case and she’ll need all the help she can get from her family and spirited friends if she stands a ghost of a chance of solving this puzzle. This was a fun and entertaining read that I could not put down. It was that good. With a solid mystery plot, wonderful characters and great dialogue, this crafty-written prose kept my attention from beginning to end. I just adore the relationship between Alison, Paul, Maxie and her daughter Melissa who makes a great sidekick. There were enough suspects to keep me guessing and when the killer’s identity was revealed, it just blew me away because I did not see that coming. I couldn’t help but smile with the satisfying finish to this charming and fabulous series.

Visit E.J. Copperman's website at

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of this book

Mourning Gloria by Susan Wittig Albert is the 19th book in the “China Bayles” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley, April 2011

China is relishing the scents, produce, and even the showers of spring. She's also buys manning her booth at the Pecan Springs Farmer's Market. It brings additional customers to her herb shop, Thyme and Seasons, and residents find rare ingredients they wouldn't otherwise find in the supermarket. Everybody wins. But as the town bustles back to life in the warmth of the season, one woman's life is tragically bought to an end. China happens upon a burning house trailer and hears a woman screaming for help. The evidence leaves no doubt that it's an arson homicide—but who would commit such a ghastly crime? Jessica Nelson, an intern-reporter at the local paper, is assigned to cover the story. Drawn to the case by its similarity to her own tragic loss—Jessica's family died in a fire—she soon finds herself deeply involved. And when Jessica disappears, China is determined to find her before she becomes headlines herself.

China happens upon a house trailer in flames and hears the cries of help from within but arrived too late to help. Intrepid reporter Jessica, who lost family in a fire long ago, vows to search for the truth for the victim of this heinous crime. When China gets a troubling call from Jessica who has disappeared, this puts China on the trail of Jessica and a killer who’ll do anything to protect their identity. What a great read. From beginning to end, I was emotionally invested in all aspects of this well-written story. This enjoyable story made me feel like a member of China’s circle of friends as she divides her time between her daily life and her pursuit of justice. With an easy tone and calming voice, this story is full of action as China takes all possible roads to find her missing friend. The closer China gets, the more frantic the search becomes to find Jessica before her deadline become final. Recipes are included in this charming series which salivates with flavor.

Visit Susan's website at

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of this book

Slugfest by Rosemary Harris is the fourth book in the "Dirty Business" mystery series. Publisher: Minotaur Books, April 2011

When Paula Holliday agrees to act as exhibit manager for a reclusive artist she’s expecting a laidback weekend picking up gardening tips. She doesn’t expect to be knee-deep in horticultural sabotage, beheaded gnomes, homicide, and something called The Javits Curse. Then an overeager attendee is found floating in the river and Paula realizes she accidentally holds a clue to his murder—that’s when the garden gloves come off and this flower show turns into a real Slugfest! This time out Paula is joined by a colorful cast that includes Rolanda “Fort” Knox, a no-nonsense security guard; Guy Anzalone, Brooklyn's Tumbled Stone King; Jamal Harrington, a high school kid with a black belt and a green thumb; JC Kaufman, a feisty lady who hates leaving home without her weapon of choice; and a slick marketing guy hawking the hottest new product at the show, a foolproof pest repellent that people are dying to get their hands on. With limited means and her ragtag crew, Paula must solve her toughest mystery yet and root out a killer before she finds herself pushing up daisies.

They always say the first line is the hook and boy did the first line hook me. “Rolanda Knox was formidable.” This cleverly-written and light-hearted story kept my attention from that first line. Paula is in the city working the Big Apple Flower Show when a young man approaches her looking to get into the show without a badge. Having been stalled by Rolanda, Paula agrees to hold his backpack. Little does Paula know that that accidental meeting will have her searching for clues when a body is found in the river. Working with security guard Rolanda and bouncing off thoughts with downstairs neighbor JC, Paula will unearth clues to bring this evenly-paced story to a justifiable conclusion. The author had me stumped throughout most of the book and every time I thought I knew who the killer was, the author veered towards a different direction. This is my first book by the author and it certainly won’t be my last and I can’t wait to read the next book in this terrific series.

Visit Rosemary’s website at

FTC Full Disclosure - The author sent me an ARC of this book

Reads from the previous month…
Sealed With A Kill by Lucy Lawrence is the third and final book in the "Decoupage" mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, March 2011

When Brenna Miller gets stuck as the tour guide for a group of leaf peepers, she tries to make the best of it. They can collect leaves for Brenna's decoupage class, and it'll be a great draw for the shop she runs with her boss and best friend, Tenley Morse. But it's hard to stay enthusiastic after the trail leads them straight to a dead body. At least Brenna has nothing to do with the investigation this time around—until she learns that the victim was Tenley's father's business partner. Now it's up to Brenna to ensure that Morse Point's namesake family doesn't take the fall before the crafty killer puts the finishing touches on the perfect crime.

Brenna is helping out a friend when she stumbled upon another body. What is it with her? Bodies seem to find her. When the body is identified as the business partner of her best friend’s father, Brenna and Tenley begins an investigation to prove that her father had nothing to do with his demise. This was a good story that kept my attention from the first page to the last sentence. There are so many new people in town who could have been the killer and the author played it well, because I did not guess until it became clear to both me and Brenna at the same time. This was a fast and easy read with good conversation and a great New England setting. This was the best book in the series and I am sorry to see this series end. I will miss the gang but I’m so glad the finale ended as I hoped.

Lucy Lawrence is the pseudonym for Jenn McKinlay and you can visit her website at

Jenn also writes the “Cupcake Bakery” mystery series and the new “Library Lover's” mystery series, debuting July 2011.

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of this book

Formula For Murder by Diana Orgain is the third book in the “Maternal Instincts” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime, March 2011

Kate and little Laurie are on their way to take baby's-first-holiday photos when they become the victims of a hit-and-run. Luckily, they escape unharmed, and a witness identifies the car's French diplomatic license plates. When Kate and her hubby, Jim, try to get some answers at the consulate, they get le cold shoulders—but not before noticing a pair of television reporters exiting the building. A few days later, the dead body of one of the reporters is found in Golden Gate Park. Kate wonders if there's a connection to the consulate, and is hired by the dead reporter's husband to get some answers. And she'll have to uncover a plot that's dirtier—and far deadlier—than any diaper.

This is such a fun read. Kate and baby Laurie becomes a victim of a hit-and-run and within a couple of days, Kate has a case of murder reporter involved with the French consulate where the hit-and-run driver happens to work. Are the two incidents connected? Kate believes so and immediately tackles her case with gusto with help from her family and friends. Kate is like the engine that could and I just love it. The closer Kate gets, the dangerous it becomes and Kate will have to find a way to rattle the cage to catch this killer. The best part of this story is Kate’s internal dialogue, her anxiety of being the perfect mom and the support she gets from her husband and mother. This is by far the best book in the series with great characters and a charming setting in San Francisco. Reading this was a delight and I can’t wait to be a part of Kate’s next adventure.

Visit Diana's website at

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of this book

Begging For Trouble by Judi McCoy is the fourth book in the “Dog Walker” mystery series. Publisher: Obsidian, March 2011

Rob Chesney has been one of Ellie's favorite clients for some time, but she only recently discovered how he makes hi living: as a famous drag queen. When she gets free tickets to his latest show, she can't resist the opportunity to drag along her tough-guy NYPD boyfriend, Sam to watch Rob strut his stuff and embarrass her man. The screams aren't all for the killer dance numbers, though. Backstage, Rob is discovered, weapon in hand, kneeling over a dead body. Sam is obligated to cuff him then and there, but Ellie knows Rob is innocent, and intends to get the truth out of the one who saw it all: a Poodle-Chihuahua mix name Bitsy. From the streets of Manhattan to the den of a pet psychic, Ellie and Bitsy will go wherever it takes to bone up on the night's troubling events.

A night on the town leads to Ellie’s friend Rob, being arrested by her boyfriend, Sam. When Rob’s “baby”, his pet poodle-chihuahua, is traumatized by what happened, Ellie promises to help them both. I really like how Ellie always finds herself garnering information being at the right place at the wrong time. This was a good mystery that kept me on toes and turning the pages. It was fun spending time with Ellie and her angst at doing what’s right for Rob and for Sam. It’s good to see their relationship become stronger as they both learn to accept each other for the person that they are. This was the best book thus far and I can’t wait to read the next one in this entertaining series.

Visit Judi's website at

FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of this book

Click here to see my other reads.