Book Review: Bodies and Bows (Apron Shop #3) by Elizabeth Penney

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: March 30th, 2021
Pages: 288, mass market paperback
Source: NetGalley

Bodies & Bows is the third in the charming cozy Iris Buckley mystery series set in an apron shop in Maine–Elizabeth Penney will have you on pins and needles

Iris Buckley is hoping for a bit of rest and relaxation now that the summertime rush is winding down in Blueberry Cove, Maine. Her apron shop Ruffles & Bows has been a huge success, her friendships are stronger than ever, and now she’s ready for all of the end of summer cookouts on the beach that she can handle.

But before Iris can even turn on the grill, Bella’s latest fling, former Olympian sailor and gorgeous bad boy Lance Pederson is killed in a hit and run while jogging at dawn–and all the evidence points to Bella herself.

Suddenly the month of August isn’t looking so restful, since now Iris has been roped into the Lighthouse Rehabilitation Committee, helping her friend Sophie plan a wedding, and–most importantly of all–tracking down a killer and clearing Bella’s good name before everything unravels. 

Lighthouse restoration, a long-lost love, and a bustling apron shop are keeping Iris and Grammie busy in Bodies and Bows, the third book in Elizabeth Penney’s series. Iris and her grandmother want to expand their business, but they’ll need help. 

Iris’s friend Bella also needs help, after her boyfriend is killed and she is arrested. Iris and her group of girlfriends hop on the case to free Bella while they also work on opening the old lighthouse as a tourist attraction. The daughter of the last lighthouse keeper lends some mementos, and Iris finds an old love letter. Can she reunite the pair?

I love the interaction between Iris and grandmother, and how Iris’s friends are all supportive of each other. The warmth of all the characters makes these books like chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven. The plot is solid, even if the reader might figure out the murderer a bit sooner than they’d like.

A lot of cozies have niche shops that probably wouldn’t make it in the real world, but Iris and Grammie have a solid game plan, and they even need to take on help so they can increase their product lines and fulfill more custom orders. 

Highly recommended.

Book Review: Murder at Wedgefield Manor (A Jane Wunderly Mystery #2) by Erica Ruth Neubauer

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre: Historical mystery
Publisher: Kensington
Publication Date: March 31st, 2021
Pages: 304, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

In the wake of World War I, Jane Wunderly–a thoroughly modern young American widow–is traveling abroad, enjoying the hospitality of an English lord and a perfectly proper manor house, until murder makes an unwelcome appearance…

England, 1926: Wedgefield Manor, deep in the tranquil Essex countryside, provides a welcome rest stop for Jane and her matchmaking Aunt Millie before their return to America. While Millie spends time with her long-lost daughter, Lillian, and their host, Lord Hughes, Jane fills the hours devouring mystery novels and taking flying lessons–much to Millie’s disapproval. But any danger in the air is eclipsed by tragedy on the ground when one of the estate’s mechanics, Air Force veteran Simon Marshall, is killed in a motorcar collision.

The sliced brake cables prove this was no accident, yet was the intended victim someone other than Simon? The house is full of suspects–visiting relations, secretive servants, strangers prowling the grounds at night–and also full of targets. The enigmatic Mr. Redvers, who helped Jane solve a murder in Egypt, arrives on the scene to once more offer his assistance. It seems that everyone at Wedgefield wants Jane to help protect the Hughes family. But while she searches for answers, is she overlooking a killer hiding in plain sight?

Murder at Wedgefield Manor is the sequel to Murder at the Mena House, by Erica Ruth Neubauer. Jane and her aunt, Millie, are in England, at the country house of Millie’s former (and possibly current) lover, Lord Hughes. Tragedy strikes when one of the estate’s workers is killed in an auto accident that turns out to be murder. Redvers shows up, and he and Jane must solve the case.

The series is off to a great start. Jane is a likeable heroine, and Aunt Millie isn’t quite as intolerable and overbearing in this book. Jane picks up another potential love interest, and shows that she isn’t bound by her abusive past or by all the conventions society placed upon women of that time. Jane is taking flying lessons in addition to her sleuthing.

While there are lots of suspects and potential motives, the mystery is not terribly complex, and readers may guess the culprit well before the end of the book. Don’t let that deter you. This is an engaging cozy mystery and I recommend this series.

Book Review: Checking Out Crime (A Bookmobile Cat Mystery #9) by Laurie Cass

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publication Date: March 30th, 2021
Pages: 352, mass market paperback
Source: NetGalley

Librarian Minnie Hamilton and her clever cat Eddie solve a purr-fect murder, in the newest installment of the delightful Bookmobile Cat Mystery series.

Minnie and her rescue cat Eddie can often be found out and about in their bookmobile near Chilson, Michigan, delivering great reads to grateful patrons all over the county. But they always brake for trouble, and when Minnie sees a car speeding away down the road, and soon comes upon a dead bicyclist, she assumes she just missed seeing a hit-and-run.

Minnie is determined to discover who was behind the wheel, but it soon turns out that things are far more complicated than they seem and there’s more to this case than meets the eye. Luckily, this librarian is ready to read the killer his rights.

Hard to believe we’ve been on the bookmobile with librarian Minnie and Eddie nine times already. Checking Out Crime is the latest Bookmobile Cat mystery by Laurie Cass. This time out, they run into, almost literally, a member of the local biking club, who is dead in the road. Minnie starts to sleuth, and soon has a second biker’s death to investigate. She also has her hands full trying to get her future home in order so that she and her fiancé can get married before the snow flies. Since it’s October, and she’s in Michigan, time’s running out.

Eddie, as usual, helps her find clues, and steers her down the right (bike) path. Minnie also has a new sleuthing buddy, who I hope will be in future installments, as she’s a great addition to the series.

I’ll frankly admit that Minnie’s emotional outbursts in the last couple of books had begun to grate a bit. She’s still gets a bit feisty in this one, and excuses it by saying it’s “normal” behavior, but it was much toned down in this story.

The story itself was good, and I enjoy how Minnie interacts with her friends, family, and the community. She’s very much an integral part of the town of Chilson’s fabric, and is more of a liaison than a busybody.

The plot? Well, the motive for the murders was a bit far-fetched, and unsatisfying, but the characters balanced out the story and this was an enjoyable read.

Book Review: The Lost Girls of Foxfield Hall by Jessica Thorne

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: March 26th, 2021
Pages: 347, Kindle
Source: NetGalley

September, 1939. The moon shines silver on the looming yew trees. Thinking of her fiancé, fighting for his life and country in the war, breaks Eleanor’s heart, but also gives her courage. She takes a deep breath, picks up her camera, and follows the dancing lights into the maze.

Present day. With her little brother Missing in Action, gardener Megan Taylor runs from her grief to take a job at Foxfield Hall – a centuries-old place full of myths and folklore – restoring the wild maze in the overgrown gardens. Throwing herself into shaping the tangled ivy, Megan soon becomes drawn into the mystery of Lady Eleanor Fairfax, the Hall’s most famous resident… the villagers say she disappeared without trace at the Harvest Festival in 1939, leaving behind a grieving father and a heartbroken fiancé.

Leafing through delicate old newspaper cuttings and gazing at an ornately framed portrait of the missing woman, Megan is full of questions. Although no body was ever found, could Eleanor have been murdered? Did she run away, unwilling to marry the man who loved her? Or, with her father working at the War Office, did Eleanor stumble upon a secret she shouldn’t have?

Then, one night under a full moon, a mesmerising light inexplicably draws her to the entrance of the maze. Megan is filled with a strange certainty that, if she follows it into the shadows, it will lead to the truth about Eleanor… but could Megan herself be the next occupant of Foxfield Hall to be lost forever?

A spellbinding, magical and addictive tale about the mysterious and ancient legends at the heart of the English countryside, and how to find those who are lost. Perfect for fans of Outlander, Susanna Kearsley and The Binding.

In The Lost Girls of Foxfield Hall, Jessica Thorne has created a time-travel, alternate history/alternate future, Arthurian-inspired mystery and LGBTQTIA+ romance. What might have been, and what is, are unsettled, and garden restoration expert Megan Taylor must work her way through a literal maze to find the truth about the past.

Megan takes a job restoring the gardens at a luxury hotel and spa run by her friend from university. Her soldier brother has been declared MIA, and she wants a place to get away from her present. She literally finds that as she wanders through a garden maze and ends up in 1939, meeting Ellie Fairfax, the daughter of Foxfield Hall, which is the site of the present-day hotel. Megan makes it back to the present, and begins to research the estate. Ellie disappeared not long after their meeting, and Megan is determined to discover why. She discovers a curse, a witch, and how the past is not always immutable.

Megan and Ellie are strong and compelling characters, and readers will be heavily invested in their stories.

Book Review: What Abigail Did That Summer by Ben Aaronovitch

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Genre: Juvenile fantasy
Publisher: Subterranen Press
Publication Date: March 18th, 2021
Pages: 231, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

Ghost hunter, fox whisperer, troublemaker.

It is the summer of 2013 and Abigail Kamara has been left to her own devices. This might, by those who know her, be considered a mistake. While her cousin, police constable and apprentice wizard Peter Grant, is off in the sticks, chasing unicorns, Abigail is chasing her own mystery. Teenagers around Hampstead Heath have been going missing but before the police can get fully engaged, the teens return home – unharmed but vague about where they’ve been.

Aided only by her new friend Simon, her knowledge that magic is real, and a posse of talking foxes that think they’re spies, Abigail must venture into the wilds of Hampstead to discover who is luring the teenagers and more importantly – why?

What Abigail Did That Summer is the latest in the Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch. This outing doesn’t star police detective Peter Grant. Instead, we spend time with Abigail, Peter’s precocious cousin, some talking foxes, and some ghosts from the past.

When one of her schoolmates tries to get her to visit an abandoned house, Abigail is suspicious, and realizes that there could be a connection to some recent disappearances of local teens. With the help of the local river goddess, and some talking foxes, she investigates. 

While Peter is not in this book, Nightingale is, but only as story editor and ultimately to help Abigail tie up some loose ends.

Abigail has a strong voice, and is a snarky, but endearing character. There are glimpses into her family life, and into some folk history for both humans and the foxes.

Wishlist Wednesday (1)

Welcome to Wishlist Wednesday, where I share what books I’m excited to buy and read!

The Bone Maker by Sarah Beth Durst

Sarah Beth Durst is one of my favorite authors. Her concepts are always really cool and interesting, and her adult fantasy is great. I loved The Queens of Renthia series and I can’t wait to see what she does in The Bone Maker.

From award-winning author Sarah Beth Durst, a standalone epic fantasy set in a brand-new world of towering mountains and sparkling cities, in which a band of aging warriors have a second chance to defeat dark magic and avenge a haunting loss.

Twenty-five years ago, five heroes risked their lives to defeat the bone maker Eklor—a corrupt magician who created an inhuman army using animal bones. But victory came at a tragic price. Only four of the heroes survived. 

Since then, Kreya, the group’s leader, has exiled herself to a remote tower and devoted herself to one purpose: resurrecting her dead husband. But such a task requires both a cache of human bones and a sacrifice—for each day he lives, she will live one less.

She’d rather live one year with her husband than a hundred without him, but using human bones for magic is illegal in Vos. The dead are burned—as are any bone workers who violate the law. Yet Kreya knows where she can find the bones she needs: the battlefield where her husband and countless others lost their lives.

But defying the laws of the land exposes a terrible possibility. Maybe the dead don’t rest in peace after all.  

Five warriors—one broken, one gone soft, one pursuing a simple life, one stuck in the past, and one who should be dead. Their story should have been finished. But evil doesn’t stop just because someone once said, “the end.”

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

Like a good number of people, I loved McQuiston’s first novel Red, White and Royal Blue. If One Last Stop is anywhere near as good as that novel, this will be a treat.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Red, White & Royal Blue comes a new romantic comedy that puts a queer spin on Kate & Leopold.

A 23-year-old realises her subway crush is displaced from 1970’s Brooklyn, and she must do everything in her power to help her – and try not to fall in love with the girl lost in time – before it’s too late . . . 

The Witness for the Dead by Katherine Addison

The Goblin Emperor is still one of my favorite fantasy novels ever, and I can’t wait to return to the world Addison has created.

Katherine Addison returns at last to the world of The Goblin Emperor with this stand-alone sequel.

When the young half-goblin emperor Maia sought to learn who had killed his father and half-brothers, he turned to an obscure resident of his Court, a Prelate of Ulis and a Witness for the Dead. Thara Celehar found the truth, though it did him no good to discover it.

Now Celehar lives in the city of Amalo, far from the Court though not exactly in exile. He has not escaped from politics, but his position gives him the ability to serve the common people of the city, which is his preference. He lives modestly, but his decency and fundamental honesty will not permit him to live quietly. 

That’s it from me! What books are you looking forward to reading?

Book Review: Simply Quantum Physics by D.K. Publishing

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre: Non-fiction
Publisher: D.K. Publishing
Publication Date: February 23rd, 2021
Pages: 160, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

A clear, simple, graphic-led introduction to quantum physics.

Are you short of time but hungry for knowledge? This beginner’s quantum physics book proves that sometimes less is more. Bold graphics and easy-to-understand explanations make it the most accessible guide to quantum physics on the market.

This smart but powerful guide cuts through the jargon and gives you the facts in a clear, visual way. Step inside the strange and fascinating world of subatomic physics that at times seems to conflict with common sense. Unlock the mysteries of more than 100 key ideas, from quantum mechanics basics to the uncertainty principle and quantum tunneling.

Each pared-back, single-page entry demystifies the groundbreaking ideas in modern science. From Schroedinger’s Cat and quantum teleportation to atoms and gravity, Simply Quantum Physics is the ultimate jargon-free overview of the subject.

It’s hard to go wrong with a DK book. They’re always informative and wonderfully illustrated. In Simply Quantum Physics, DK give us bite-sized (quark-sized?) bits about a complex subject. Most of the easily-grasped concepts take only a page, and build on each other, in a very readable format.

The only quibble I have, and it’s a minor one, is the ordering of some of the snippets. For example, they state a couple of times that you can’t know momentum and direction both with accuracy, but don’t discuss the Uncertainty Principle until several pages later. 

This book serves as a great refresher for anyone who has taken some advanced science courses, or for someone who wants a taste of what’s out there after getting some basic science classes under their belt. It’s also a nice reference for someone who runs into a concept while reading, say, a SF novel, and wants just a brief blurb about it.

A Trio of Picture Book Reviews

Since I work at a library, a lot of picture books come my way every day. Sometimes I take a few minutes to read them and occasionally review them. However, those reviews tend to be pretty short, so instead of devoting an entire post to a review that’s not even a paragraph long, I’ll bundle them together!

Stella’s Stellar Hair by Yesenia Moises

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Published: January 5th, 2021
Publisher: Imprint
Pages: 40, hardcover

Stella’s Stellar Hair is a fun exploration not only of various Black hairstyles, but of the planets as well. I loved the art style and the vibrant but still soft colors; Moises’ use of color is truly stunning. I also especially loved how deep thought was obviously put into how to tie the Black hairstyles to the planets themselves — so for Black people living very close to the sun, Moises says that the extreme heat would make it easiest to have dreads. For Black people living on Neptune, long waves to match the planet’s oceans would make sense. This is a creative, fun book that children–especially Black girls–will love.

Outside, Inside by LeUyen Pham

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Published: January 5th, 2021
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Pages: 48, hardcover

The art style was cute and the prose was nice, and I appreciated reading a book that explained things in a way a child could understand. It was maybe a little oversimplified but that’s probably to be expected. 

But I noticed one big flaw: In all the families and people Pham includes, all of them are hetero and able-bodied. When you’ve given yourself a goal to talk about how everyone had to stay inside, you give yourself the responsibility of making sure it shows through in the art. I only noticed because there is a pretty good representation of different groups so the lack of certain ones stood out.

I don’t think it was intentional; I think Pham and her team just didn’t notice. It happens. 

Macca the Alpaca by Matt Cosgrove

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Published: February 4th, 2021
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pages: 24, hardcover

The art was cute, and I loved Macca’s personality and how it showed through the art style. But I’m not sure about the message — it seems to suggest forgiving bullies even when they do nothing to earn that forgiveness, which I think is a much more nuanced lesson than a picture book can tackle, and not one of which I personally approve.

I also heavily question the use of the word “thug” to describe a big brown llama who bullies the smaller white alpaca. I think perhaps the author should have examined their unconscious biases.

That’s it from me! Have you read any children’s picture books that you loved lately?

Book Review: Onyx: The Wolf Who Found a New Way to be a Leader (True Stories of Animal Heroes #1) by Vita Murrow

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre: Juvenile non-fiction picture book
Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Publication Date: March 2nd, 2021
Pages: 32, hardcover
Source: NetGalley

​In this new series, based on real-life animal stories, discover that not all heroes wear capes. Some have four legs, a wet nose, and a wild heart. 

When Onyx was a young pup in Yellowstone National Park, he was the runt of the litter. Although he was bullied by his siblings for being the smallest, Onyx knew that he could lead a pack better than anyone. As he grew up, he learned to resolve conflict, becoming a step-dad to another family of wolves who had lost their alpha. But it all changed when the toughest pup of the family partnered with a rival pack. One day, the elder wolf and his wild-card stepson met on a ridge. Normally, this would lead to violence, but instead, they met in a graceful and powerful bow. The wolves of Yellowstone flourished. With moving illustrations that make you want to hug the page, from Anneli Bray. 

A picture book story based on the real-life antics and behaviors of the Wolves of Yellowstone National Park. 

The story of Onyx, an alpha wolf in Yellowstone Park, is part of the True Stories of Animal Heroes line of books. Onyx is a wolf who’s always been a bit different. As he grows and leads his own pack, he finds new ways to be a leader and coexist with other wolves.

The story is told simply by Vita Murrow and the illustrations by Anneli Bray are soft, appealing watercolors that capture all of Nature’s shades. Children will learn about how animals cooperate and live together in a small community. This book will make them want to read the others in the series.

Book Review: Fatal Fried Rice (A Noodle Shop Mystery #7) by Vivien Chien

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: March 9th, 2021
Pages: 320, mass market paperback
Source: NetGalley

Lana Lee returns for another delectable cozy set in a Chinese restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio in Vivien Chien’s Fatal Fried Rice

Lana Lee runs her family’s Chinese restaurant in Cleveland’s Asia Village like nobody’s business. When it comes to actual cooking, however, she’s known to be about a step up from boiling rice. So Lana decides to go to culinary school on the sly―and prove that she has what it takes in the kitchen after all. But when course instructor Margo Chan turns up dead after class, Lana suddenly finds herself on the case, frying pan in hand.

Since she was the one who discovered the body, Lana must do double duty in finding the killer and clearing her name. Now, with or without the help of her boyfriend Detective Adam
Trudeau, Lana launches her own investigation into Margo’s life and mysterious death. Doing so leads her on a wild goose chase to and from the culinary school―and all the way back to the Ho-Lee noodle shop, where the guilty party may be closer than Lana thinks.

Fatal Fried Rice is the seventh installment in the Noodle House mystery series featuring Lana Lee. Lana has signed up for Asian cooking classes in order to surprise her coworkers and family. She discovers the body of her teacher and becomes one of the prime suspects after butting heads with the lead detective.

This is a stronger novel than Killer Kung Pao, the sixth in the series. Lana flails around much less in this book, and doesn’t jump to as many conclusions. In fact, she may jump to too few conclusions, leading her to land in trouble once again.

The plot in this one is a bit weaker than in other books, too, as is the killer’s motive. Lana once again disregards the advice of several of her friends, relying on her somewhat questionable instincts and luck to serve up the killer. Lana is a lot of fun to read about, though, as are her relationships with her friends, family, and Asian Village community. This may not be the life and career she chose, but she’s made it work for her.


I was given a free copy by NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.