Review: Arsenic and Adobo (Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mysteries #1) by Mia P. Manansala

Arsenic and Adobo (Tita Rosie's Kitchen Mystery, #1)Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Arsenic and Adobo is a great start to a new Cozy Mystery series. After reading this, I can confidently say, I’m here for the long haul.

Keep ’em coming, please, Mia P. Manansala!!!

Following a bad breakup, Lila Macapagal moves back home to lick her wounds and try to put the pieces of her life back together.

Additionally, her family needs some help. Her Aunt’s restaurant is floundering. Even though the food is incredible, the business-side is tanking. Her Auntie never focuses on those details. Lila knows she can turn it around.

When Lila’s ex-boyfriend, Derek, a local food critic with a terrible reputation, shows up for dinner with their landlord, who also happens to be Derek’s step-father, Lila knows stuff is about to hit the fan.

However, she would never expect Derek to fall face first into his dessert. Dead, apparently poisoned. Now the police consider Lila to be their number one suspect.

As it seems all local law enforcement are wasting their time investigating Lila and her family, Lila knows she needs to get to the bottom of what happened to Derek herself. Her family had nothing to do with it, which means a killer is still out there.

Thus begins a super fun and witty amateur sleuthing trope. It’s no secret that I love Cozy Mysteries. I’ve read a few Culinary Cozy books in the past and this one definitely fits right in!

It’s silly, it’s over the top, fast-paced, funny and there’s a lot of delicious food on page.

I thought this was an excellent start to a new series. Manansala made me care for Lila and her loved ones. Cozy Mystery series tend to get better and better with time, as each one builds out the characters you come to adore. Trust me when I say, you can become quite attached.

I’m invested and already anticipating the next release in this series. That makes me a happy girl!

If you are Cozy fan, especially Culinary Cozies, you should absolutely give this one a shot. I’m so interested to see what crazy hijinks the Macapagal family gets up to next!!

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Review: Murder, She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond (MSW #53) by Jessica Fletcher and Terrie Farley Moran

Murder, She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond (Murder She Wrote Book 53)Murder, She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond by Jessica Fletcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Following a Literary Conference in Bethesda, Maryland, Jessica decides to travel further South to visit with her dear friend, Dolores, in South Carolina.

Dolores has recently married her third husband, Willis Nickens, a wealthy businessman. Jess is eager to meet him.

After Jessica reaches the Nickens’ South Carolina home, she discovers she isn’t the couple’s only current house guest.

There’s staff, of course, as well as Willis’ son-in-law, adorable niece and business partner. Through observing Willis’ interactions with these other guests, Jessica quickly determines Dolores’ new husband is a bit of a jerk.

He seems to bully everyone he comes into contact with. Lording his money and power over them. When Jessica discovers his body, facedown in the koi pond, on her early morning run, she immediately suspects foul play.

The local law enforcement doesn’t seemed as convinced, however, and they brush off her initial attempts at assistance. Clearly, Jessica’s reputation did not proceed her.

Eventually, they come around to her side of things. Willis was in fact murdered. Their number one suspect: Dolores.

Jessica knows Dolores could never commit murder. Thus, she is forced to begin an investigation of her own, to clear her friend’s name and help to capture the real killer.

Killing in a Koi Pond was an absolute delight. Although the 53rd-installment of this beloved series, it’s the first penned by veteran Cozy author, Terrie Farley Moran.

She did a fantastic job channeling the original tone of the series. I really hope she continues on!!

This story held to the classic format, read quickly and will definitely keep Cozy fans engaged.

There were a couple of moments where the narrative fell into a bit of a lull, but overall, a real treat!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

This is the 37th-book in this series that I have read. I am huge fan and will keep on coming back for more as long as they are published!

Reviewer’s Note: If you are new to this series, you can jump in anywhere, you do not need to read them in order. Especially if you have ever watched the television program and have that background on Jessica’s character.

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Review: Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Dial A for AuntiesDial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars**

Meddy Chan works as a photographer for her family’s up-and-coming wedding planning business.

After completing college, where she did study photography, Meddy couldn’t seem to extract herself from her loving, though overly-involved, mother and aunties.

Since the men in the family, and all her cousins, have left, Meddy is the sole focus of Ma’s and the Aunties’ attention. Her family is cursed. That’s all there is to it.

When her mother fixes her up on a blind date, she agrees good-naturedly to go. How bad can it possibly be?

As it turns out, bad. Really, really bad.

Her date ends up dead. Meddy freaks, as you would, and in her panicked state transports his body back to her house in the truck of her car.

Fortunately, one of the best things about her Ma and Aunties is, they’re always there when Meddy needs them and right now, she REALLY needs them and right now, she REALLY needs them.

From there hijinks ensue, as the body of her dead date ends up being accidentally transported to the island where the over-the-top billionaire’s wedding they are working that weekend is being held.

Dial A for Aunties drew me in from the very start. Meddy, as a protagonist, is sharp and super relatable.

I loved her relationship with her Ma, as well as the relationships among all the Aunties. There is such a fun family dynamic throughout this entire story.

I think it could best be described as Weekend at Bernie’s with a Romantic Comedy twist, so if that sounds interesting to you, pick it up. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!

I had an absolute blast reading this and am so happy books like this exist in the world!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I truly appreciate it!

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Review: Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

Finlay Donovan Is Killing ItFinlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finlay Donovan Is Killing It is a hilarious, modern-day Cozy Mystery, that will leave you simultaneously at the edge-of-your-seat and clutching your sides with laughter.

As a start to a series, this story succeeded in making me fall in love with these characters. I cannot wait for more!

Finlay Donovan is a struggling novelist. She is also currently single-moming two small children, as her jerk ex-husband left her for the hot, blonde, real estate agent he had been having an affair with.

Making matters worse, on the morning of a very important meeting with her agent, to discuss her barely existent new novel, Finlay discovers her ex-hubby has also fired their nanny. Without giving her any advanced notice!

Not a great start to the day. As single-moms are known to do, however, Finlay figures it out, all whilst barely holding herself together on the inside.

She makes her meeting with her agent, at a Panera, of all places, and they have a great, albeit slightly stressful discussion about Finlay’s career.

Unbeknownst to Finlay, another patron was listening in on the conversation.

Not understanding they were discussing the plot of Finlay’s floundering novel, this woman now mistakenly believes Finlay to be a successful contract killer.

She then proceeds to try to hire Finlay to kill her husband. He’s a scoundrel, she says; he won’t be missed and she is willing to pay a hefty sum. While Finlay is intrigued, she obviously sees the problems with this plan.

However, somehow, as turns out to be common in Finlay’s life, she ends up in over her head. Before she knows it, she is embroiled in the dark underbelly of her community, where murder abounds.

This novel is fun from the first chapter. You are immediately thrown into the chaos of Finlay’s life and into her hilarious inner musings.

Not long after the Panera incident, Finlay is able to rekindle her relationship with their fabulous nanny, Vero and the two become, quite literally, partners in crime.

The relationship between Finlay and Vero gave me life. They played off each others personalities so well. I loved how they worked together and became like family.

There were great side characters, red herrings, action and drama. It is just pure fun to read; light, funny and full of over-the-top hijinks.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Minotaur Books, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I really appreciate it!

I cannot wait to see what Finlay and Vero get up to next!

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Review: Murder, She Wrote: Murder in Season by Jessica Fletcher and Jon Land

Murder in Season (murder, she wrote #52)Murder in Season by Jessica Fletcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

Murder, She Wrote: Murder in Season is the 52nd-installment of this beloved series starring famous author and amateur sleuth, Jessica Fletcher.

This is the 5th-book written in the series by Jon Land, who took the reins after the passing of the series original, and long-standing author, Donald Bain. This is the 35th-book that I have read in the series.

Sometimes it feels like I have been reading this series my whole life. Honestly, I hope it continues that way.

There’s something about settling in with a new Jessica Fletcher mystery in front of me. The epitome of cozy.

As with many Adult Mystery series, you do not need to read these in order. You can really start anywhere.

You’ll learn the characters as you go along and before you know it, it will be like reuniting with old friends every time you start a new story.

If you are interested in starting this series, I would recommend just reading the synopsis for a bunch and picking whichever one sounds most interesting to you.

Jessica travels a lot, so there are mysteries set all over the world, in addition to her hometown of Cabot Cove, Maine.

In this installment, Jessica has recently moved back into her home on Candlewood Lane after a lengthy reconstruction project following a house fire.

The Christmas holiday is approaching and Jessica is looking forward to having her nephew, Grady, and his wife, Donna, and son, Frank, stay with her for the occasion. It seems like a long time since they have all been together.

Unfortunately, as luck would have it, or as Jessica’s luck would have it, one of the final bits of reconstruction includes some trenching in her back yard, where not one, but two bodies are discovered.

The corpses appear to have been moved there, along with a trunk of old documents, from another location. Making it even more mysterious, one set of remains looks to be over a hundred years old, while the other is much more recent. How are they connected?

Now instead of focusing on the holiday, all of Jessica’s focus is on the remains.

Adding to the stress of the investigation, a tabloid reporter, Tad Hollenbeck, known for his overly sensationalized reporting, suddenly arrives in town claiming to be doing a story on how Cabot Cove is the “murder capital of the country”.

Tad’s headline seems to be coming true when he is found dead in his local hotel room.

What’s one more mystery for Jessica, Mort and Seth to solve?

I had so much fun reading this; learning more about the history of Cabot Cove and having Jessica back home.

This holiday is going to be tough, not being able to be with my family like I regularly would. I really needed something nostalgic like this to help with the 2020 blues.

Jon Land is settling in nicely as the author of this series. In the beginning, I’ll admit, I was worried, but he really nailed the tone on the last two.

I will continue to pick up the books in this series for as long as they are published. I am hoping with Jon Land now at the helm, that will be for a very long time to come.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Books, for providing me with a copy of this to read and I review. I truly appreciate the opportunity!

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Review: In a Midnight Wood (Jane Lawless #27) by Ellen Hart

In a Midnight WoodIn a Midnight Wood by Ellen Hart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a Midnight Wood is the 27th installment of Ellen Hart’s beloved, Jane Lawless mystery series.

Y’all, I discovered this series on a whim back in 2018, when I requested a copy of A Whisper of Bones. The cover was gorgeous and I was so blinded by it, I failed to notice it was the 25th book in the series.

I decided to give it a go anyway, and I’m so glad that I did!

Like many other long-standing Adult Mystery series, these don’t necessarily need to be read in order. I also feel they make great standalones.

However, once you meet Jane and her best friend, Cordelia, you’ll definitely be back for more!

In this installment, Jane and Cordelia are heading to the quaint town of Castle Rock, in their home state of Minnesota, to visit a friend and participate in a local Arts Festival.

The Festival coincides with Homecoming Weekend and the friend they are staying with, Emma, just so happens to be planning her 20th-class reunion for the occasion.

In a completely unrelated turn of events, the body of Emma’s high school sweetheart, Sam, is discovered. When Sam went missing 20-years ago, it was assumed he ran away, clearly not the case.

Jane, a private investigator, who also happens to be involved in a Podcast that covers Minnesota cold cases is very intrigued with Castle Rock’s discovery.

So begins the investigation of what happened to Sam all those years ago.

I had a ton of fun reading this. I absolutely love Jane and Cordelia. Their friendship and banter, it cracks me up all the time.

At first, I had a little difficulty differentiating between some of the characters we meet in Castle Rock, but once the ball got rolling, that was no longer an issue.

I am really looking forward to picking up more books in this series. I missed the 2019 release, Twisted at the Root, so I will probably start there.

I would highly recommend this if you are looking for an Adult Mystery series with LGBTQIA+ representation. I feel like finding that rep in this space can be a challenge.

Jane, the protagonist in this series, is a lesbian and there have been queer side characters in both of the installments I have read.

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review.

I am definitely looking forward to solving more mysteries with Jane Lawless!!!

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Review: One of Our Own (Gregor Demarkian #30) by Jane Haddam

One of Our Own (Gregor Demarkian, #30)One of Our Own by Jane Haddam
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I received my ARC copy of One of Our Own, by Jane Haddam, I was elated, but it was also bittersweet.

This is the 30th, and final book, of her beloved, Gregor Demarkian series. The author, Orania Papazoglou, writing under the pen name of Jane Haddam, unfortunately lost her battle with cancer in July of 2019.

Prior to this novel, I have read nine other books in this series; the first eight, and then I read Bleeding Hearts, number eleven in the series, because it sounded so interesting.

I really enjoyed them all. A lot of the earlier books in the series were holiday-themed, which I always love in my Cozies.

The main protagonist of this series is, Gregor Demarkian, an Armenian-American, ex-FBI Agent, who consults with local police departments on bizarre and compelling cases.

Gregor lives on Cavanaugh Street in Philadelphia, which is essentially an Armenian-American enclave. Over the course of the series you get to know the various characters in his community and it’s really a lot of fun!

With this novel, from the start, it felt a little different. I commented early on that it felt choppy. The author did not have the chance to finish this one herself, it was actually completed by her sons; seriously, what an honor.

I wonder, however, if perhaps she didn’t have the chance to go through final edits on this if that was the case. The Prologue in particular, for me, felt like she wrote a framework of how she wanted it to go and planned to go in and smooth it out at a later time, but never had the chance?

Obviously, I have no way of knowing what the exact process of getting this novel ready for print was, but it did feel different than her earlier work.

Additionally, there was some content in here that made me uncomfortable. There’s a big focus on immigrants and immigrant populations throughout the novel.

Basically, you have a neighborhood that is shifting. For example, one building that might have once been filled with German immigrants is now filled with Spanish immigrants. So, you have characters that are feeling affected by those shifts. As a reader, you get a lot of their thinking, or even ranting, about these new communities.

For me, I felt like while that is a valid topic to examine if your setting is a vibrant city like, Philadelphia, and that I understand you will have community members who will feel very passionately about the topic, I still felt like the content could have been handled with a bit more care.

There was a lot of stereotypes being thrown about and not until the very end did I feel like they were challenged at all.

The narrative did come full circle on that topic; I am happy with how it ended up, but there were a few characters getting there that were downright vile. I just wish at least Gregor would have put up a challenge to what they were saying.

The mystery itself was interesting, although it did wrap up rather quickly. I love Gregor, and his now wife, novelist, Bennis Hannaford.

Overall, this is a good novel, but I would definitely recommend starting with the earlier books in the series. In fact, the first book in the series is Christmas themed, so perfect timing!

I am really going to miss Gregor, Bennis, Tibor and the rest of Cavanaugh Street, but luckily, I still have twenty more books in the series I can pick up!

Thank you so much to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, for providing me with a copy of this to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity.

My deepest condolences to her sons. Their Afterword brought me to tears. Orania sounds like an amazing woman, she certainly left a legacy with her work and will be missed.

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Review: Dying for Dominoes (A Cardboard Cottage Mystery) by Jane Elzey

Dying for DominoesDying for Dominoes by Jane Elzey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

A vibrant start to an all-new Cozy Mystery series!

Dying for Dominoes is part Designing Women, part Murder, She Wrote and was just as fun as the cover would have you believe.

At one of their regular game nights, best friends, Amy, Genna, Zelda and Rian, chat it up and air grievances as any friends would.

Zelda has been having a hard time with her husband, Zack. And by hard time, I mean he is driving her crazy.

She expresses to her friends that she wants him gone. The talk from there gets quite morbid indeed.

When Zack ends up dead, the victim of a hit-and-run in a parking garage at a hotel where he was going to be meeting Zelda for a romantic evening, all of the friends secretly suspect one another.

Unfortunately for the ladies, the police suspect them too!

Determined not to see any of her friends go down for Zack’s untimely death, Amy vows to find out the truth, no matter the cost.

She then sets out on some fantastic amateur sleuthing and gets herself in a whole host of additional trouble.

This was so much fun, y’all. It gave me pretty much everything I am looking for in a cozy: good humor, strong friendship group, over-the-top crimes and amateur sleuthing.

With this being said, there were a few minor details that didn’t quite work for me, but I know as the series progresses, they will get stronger and stronger.

I feel like a lot of Cozy Mystery series are that way. As you get deeper into them, you get more attached to the characters and everything just seems to have a better flow.

I am definitely planning to continue on with this series. I loved all of the characters and their friendship dynamics made me miss my own friends.

Thank you so much to the author, Jane Elzey, for providing me with a copy of this book to read and review.

I had so much fun with it and look forward to being back with Amy and the rest of the girls!

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Review: Murder, She Wrote: The Murder of Twelve by Jessica Fletcher and Jon Land

The Murder of Twelve (Murder She Wrote #51)The Murder of Twelve by Jessica Fletcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Channeling heavy, And Then There Were None vibes, The Murder of Twelve, the 51st book in the beloved Murder, She Wrote series, brings almost everything I love in a Cozy Mystery to the table.

This was ridiculously good fun and kept me glued to the pages well into the night!

In this installment, we find Jessica Fletcher calling the Hill House Hotel in Cabot Cover her home.

Her house is currently under repairs and she has been making due at the ritzy local hotel.

On the eve of the blizzard of a century, guests begin to check in for a destination wedding weekend.

Jessica has her doubts that the wedding will even be able to happen, what with the massive storm front blowing in. Nonetheless, she ends up befriending some of the guests and even gets invited to attend.

The first night includes the rehearsal dinner and even though the bride and groom have yet to show, the dinner will go on.

Jessica dutifully attends and as with many events she has attended before, an attempted murder occurs.

As the storm rages outside, bodies start dropping as fast as snowflakes and Jessica needs to put her crime solving abilities to the test!

This was an absolute blast to read. As you begin to learn about the guests for the wedding, you just know it is going to be a juicy conclusion. It did not disappoint.

While I could still tell that this wasn’t written by the late and great, Donald Bain, I felt that the new author for the series, Jon Land, is starting to get into a groove with these characters and setting.

Land is an experienced author and I know the more he contributes with this series, the more it will continue to grow with him.

I know that long-time fans of this series will absolutely enjoy this installment.

If you have never read a book in this series, just know, you can start anywhere. These books can be read out of order and this is as good a place to start as any!

Also, if you like a good old-fashioned, locked-room mystery, you should absolutely check this one out.

Bonus points, if you love stories where the characters become stranded somewhere due to inclement weather. Oddly specific, but it is a trope I gravitate towards often!

Thank you so much to the publisher, Berkley Publishing, for providing me with a copy to read and review.

I have been a fan of this series for decades and will continue to read them as long as they are printed. A special thank you as well, to the author, Jon Land, for continuing on the tradition and investigatory prowess of Ms. Jessica Fletcher!

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Review: A Forgotten Murder (Medlar Mystery #3) by Jude Deveraux

A Forgotten MurderA Forgotten Murder by Jude Deveraux
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

When romance novelist, Sara Medlar, arranges a trip to the UK for herself, her niece, Kate and their friend, Jack, she has more in mind than a relaxing family vacation.

They are headed to Oxley Manor, a stately British home, that her friend Stella has recently converted, with generous funding from Sara herself, into a luxury hotel.

The Manor house has quite a history, including the disappearance of two young people a couple decades before. Assumed to have run off together, that fact was never confirmed and their whereabouts never discovered.

Sara feels inspired by the mystery and her plan is to go to the house, inviting all the folks who were there the night of the disappearance, to finally weed out the truth.

Then, obviously, she will write a book about it.

This book was such a delight to read. It has a classic cozy mystery format with a fun group of main characters.

I loved Sara, Kate and Jack. Their chemistry is engaging and definitely a hoot to read. Together they bring some serious amateur sleuthing skills and y’all know I eat that stuff up!!

This is actually the third book in the Medlar Mystery series. I haven’t read any of the other books and had no problem jumping right into this and enjoying the heck out of it. It was fast paced, with plenty of twists and red herrings.

Since reading this, I have added the first two books in the series to my ‘to be read’ list and definitely plan to get to them. I think with these three solving mysteries, my attention could be held for years to come.

Although the ending got truly wild, I am so happy to have a new go-to cozy mystery series.

Thank you so much to the publisher, MIRA, for reaching out and bringing this book to my attention. Also, a hearty thank you to them for providing me with a copy to read and review. I appreciate the opportunity and it is clear y’all know my tastes!

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