Review: The Dragon’s Promise (Six Crimson Cranes #2) by Elizabeth Lim

The Dragonโ€™s Promise (Six Crimson Cranes, #2)The Dragonโ€™s Promise by Elizabeth Lim
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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The Dragon’s Promise is the follow-up to Elizabeth Lim’s fabulous YA-Fantasy novel, Six Crimson Cranes.

I have had this on my shelves since its release, but couldn’t read it, because I hadn’t gotten around to reading the 1st-book yet. Also, a long-time veteran of my shelves.

Earlier this month, I finally decided to pick up Six Crimson Cranes and I absolutely adored it. I fell in love with the world, as well as the characters. I had to have more.

After the heart-breaking conclusion to SCC, I needed to know immediately what was going to be next for our protagonist, Shiori. There were a lot of possibilities.

This story begins with Shiori now in possession of the powerful dragon’s pearl. Her goal is to return it to its original owner, but that is not to be an easy task.

At its heart this is a quest, which works well for me as that’s one of my favorite Fantasy tropes. It also features most of the characters that I grew to love in the first installment.

We travel to places such as the dragon realm and to Shiori’s step-mother’s homeland. The brothers are back supporting Shiori and offering her guidance when she needs it.

Her love interest, Takkan, also played a role here and I ended up loving him even more after this. They have the cutest relationship. The way it developed over the course of the two books just feels so natural. They’re easy to root for.

While I still loved the writing, the characters and the world, I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as the first book.

I know this doesn’t get said a lot, but I actually wish this had been longer. By that, what I really mean, is that I wish it had been broken into two books.

This feels, in a way, like two distinct stories. We have the first part, where Shiori gets to travel to the dragon realm. In the second part, she returns to the mortal realm and travels around there and does what she needs to do.

Personally, I loved the dragon realm and wish we could have spent more time there. There was a lot of political happenings and interesting new characters that I wanted to know more about.

Then in the same vein, the mortal realm section was just as interesting, but I also wanted to know more. It just felt rushed and like the two halves were smooshed together, when Lim’s fantastic writing could easily have carried this into two separate books.

With this being said, I still really enjoyed this story. It’s actually a compliment to say I wanted more.

I loved how quickly this kicked off. Having read the two books pretty much back-to-back made this a seamless experience for me. I love the lore behind the dragon pearl and learning more about that along with Shiori was so fun.

I can’t wait to the get to the prequel, Her Radiant Curse, which tells the story of Shiori’s step-mother, Raikama.

She is actually one of the most intriguing characters in this series for me, so I am so happy that prequel exists. She needs her time to shine!

I would recommend this series to anyone who loves YA Fantasy, particularly stories that incorporate fairy tale elements, or quests. Elizabeth Lim’s writing never disappoints. It’s always engaging and fast-paced.

Thank you to the publisher, Knopf Books for Young Readers, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I’m sorry it took me so long to get to it. This is a fabulous series!!

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Review: Her Lost Soul (Detective Maria Miller #2) by Helen Phifer

Her Lost Soul (Detective Maria Miller #2)Her Lost Soul by Helen Phifer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**3.5-stars rounded up**

Her Lost Soul is the 2nd-installment to Helen Phifer’s Paranormal Mystery series, Detective Maria Miller.

As the name suggests, this series follows Detective Maria Miller and her partner, Frankie Conroy, as they investigate possible paranormal cases, in and around NYC.

I really enjoyed the first book in the series, The Haunting on West 10th Street, so was looking forward to being reunited with Maria and Frankie.

Just to be clear, this is actually a Paranormal Mystery series. I know a lot of Readers enjoy the feel of, is it paranormal, is it not, but then when it comes right down to it, they don’t actually enjoy a paranormal conclusion, or explanation.

This isn’t a Scooby-Doo situation, where the mask is pulled off at the end to reveal the old librarian, who has been tricking everyone with mirrors and lighting effects.

The case in this novel is the disappearance of 17-year old, Riley Holt, daughter of a local Sheriff, who went missing while exploring an abandoned asylum with some friends.

Inspired by media such as Ghost Adventures, the four teens entered the asylum to explore and have some fun. Things start getting creepy though and in a sudden panic, they all flee, only noticing once they are outside that Riley is no longer with them.

Since the asylum is believed to be haunted, and after vigorous searching, no signs of Riley are found, Maria and Frankie are called in to take over the case.

As known experts in all things unexplainable, they seem like the right people for the job.

Maria and Frankie are forced to dig into the dark history of the asylum, leaving no stone unturned in their desperate search for Riley.

As with the first book in the series, this one also contains a historic perspective that is in some way connected with the current investigation.

In this case, we follow a patient at the asylum in 1960. We go back and forth between her experiences at the asylum, including the people she interacts with, and Maria and Frankie’s investigation.

I did really enjoy this. It didn’t hit as hard for me as the first book, I think because I didn’t find the mystery as creepy as that first one.

Also, it almost felt too short. I would have enjoyed a longer build-up to the final showdown and some more explanation as to how this was all resolved. I know what the results of the resolution are, but am unclear how we got there really.

With that being said though, I still found the back-and-forth perspectives intriguing and loved learning more about Maria. She’s a fun protagonist. I feel like I can relate to her and I enjoy the chemistry that she has with Frankie.

I am absolutely planning to continue on with this series. I hope there are a lot more future installments. They’re fun, light reads, that can help you forget about life for a while. Finally, two thumbs up for the audiobook format.

Thank so to the publisher, Storm Publishing and Dreamscape Select, for providing me with copies to read and review. I am looking forward to more Maria Miller!

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Review: Murder, She Wrote: Fit for Murder (Murder, She Wrote #57) by Terrie Farley Moran

Murder, She Wrote: Fit for MurderMurder, She Wrote: Fit for Murder by Jessica Fletcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fit for Murder is the 57th, and latest installment, in the long-running and beloved Cozy Mystery series, Murder, She Wrote.

If I am counting correctly, this is the 36th-book that I have read in the series. I absolutely adore Jessica Fletcher. These are my go-to, number one, comfort reads.

They’re nostalgic, relaxing and always entertaining. I just love MSW and its intrepid amateur sleuth.

This mystery is entirely set in Jessica’s hometown of Cabot Cove, Maine. As much as I love when Jessica travels, getting to learn about different places and being dazzled by new settings, I do always love a story set in Cabot Cove.

I enjoy the comfort of being with Jessica at home, surrounded by her very best friends, and often nosy neighbors. This installment was no exception to that.

This mystery involves a new-to-town fitness instructor, Martin Terranova, who causes quite the stir by paying a little too much attention to some of his older clientele.

One woman in particular, Bertha Mae Cormier, whose property abuts Terranova’s gym, appears to be of particular interest to the trainer, decades her junior.

When one-time Cabot Cove Gazette editor, Evelyn Phillips, points out the startlingly-unbalanced relationship to Jessica, she can’t help but agree.

The optics aren’t great, but what could Terranova stand to gain from a relationship with Bertha Mae?

Shortly after Terranova comes to Jessica’s attention, he is found dead in his weight room. Before you even say it, no, Jessica didn’t do it. We all know that, but someone did.

We go along with Jessica as she digs into Terranova’s past and tries to suss out the killer.

With Jessica’s friend Evelyn as the leading suspect, the clock is ticking. Jessica needs to get to the bottom of this and quickly, before Evelyn takes the fall.

This was a fun one. I love how in a tither the whole town got about this guy’s presence. It was like they had never seen a personal trainer before. People flocked to him, but were also highly suspicious of everything he did.

There were a lot of interactions amongst the townspeople during Jessica’s investigation and I really enjoyed that. Many of the characters, most actually, we’ve met before in previous installments, so it was fun seeing them again.

I also enjoyed Evelyn being back and she and Jessica working together. Evelyn is bullheaded and has a tendency to steamroll through anything in her path, but Jessica seems to be a calming force for her. That worked well here.

There was some drama included involving the town Budget Office, which I wasn’t expecting and frankly, I’m not sure why was included. The book was exciting enough just following the mystery surrounding Terranova’s murder.

With that being said though, that was really the only thing I felt was a little wonky. Overall, I have been so delighted with Terrie Farley Moran being at the helm of this series.

Since the passing of the series original author, Donald Bain, Farley Moran has done the best job of capturing the original tone and feel of the series. I am so happy this long-running series is still going strong and I will continue to pick them up for as long as they are published.

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

Another great installment from Terrie Farley Moran. These books are the epitome of Cozy to me, and I’ll continue reading them until the end of time. Keep ’em coming!!!

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Review: Rolling in the Deep (Rolling in the Deep #0.5 by Mira Grant

Rolling in the Deep (Rolling in the Deep, #0.5)Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rolling in the Deep is the prequel to Mira Grant’s sensational killer mermaid story, Into the Drowning Deep.

I read Into the Drowning Deep in February of 2020 and absolutely LOVED it. There’s something about Aquatic Horror that I find so disturbing. Maybe it’s the fact that I live on a island…

Regardless, in that book we follow a ship crew sent out on a mission to investigate the mysterious disappearance of the crew of the Atargatis. The events of the Atargatis had occurred 7-years prior and one of the main characters had a sister who was part of the Atargatis crew.

You hear a lot in that story about the Atargatis, of course, but this novella covers the full story of that crew, their goals, actions and interactions leading up to their disappearance.

I love Grant’s use of mixed media to tell both of these stories. It makes it feel surprisingly realistic. I also feel like Grant excels at including science-based content in her stories. Both of these books are so well written.

I wish this would have been a full length novel. I know that wasn’t the point, but I just love these stories so much, I wanted more!

I definitely recommend these books to any Horror fan who hasn’t had the chance to get to them yet. You’ll never think of mermaids the same way again.

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Review: All the Dark Places (Detective Rita Myers #1) by Terri Parlato

All the Dark PlacesAll the Dark Places by Terri Parlato
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**4.5-stars rounded up**

All the Dark Places is the start of Terri Parlato’s Detective Rita Myers Mystery series. There are 2-books released thus far, with the 2nd-book having just come out this past December.

I actually read them out of order, starting with What Waits in the Woods. I really enjoyed it and knew immediately that I needed to read this 1st-book ASAP.

I loved Rita and needed more of her in my life!

This is a dual perspective story following Detective Rita Myers, our MC, and Molly Bradley, the woman most closely linked to the mystery tackled in this book.

This story is set during the first week of January, which incidentally is when I read it. This tickled me for some reason. This has no bearing on my review, I just thought it was a funny coincidence.

So, it’s the first week of January and Molly has planned a dinner party for her husband, Jay’s, 40th-birthday. They have their tight-knit group of friends, which consists of three other local couples, over to the house.

It’s a great time. There’s plenty of drinks, laughs, food and even a beautiful cake. At the end of the night, the wine has definitely gone to Molly’s head. She heads upstairs to bed while Jay sees the other couples out.

The next morning when Molly wakes, Jay isn’t in the bedroom. He isn’t in the house at all and no coffee has been made. Fearing something is wrong, Molly rushes out to his office, housed in an outbuilding on their property. It’s there that she finds his dead body.

Detective Rita Myers is assigned to Jay Bradley’s case. An experienced detective, Rita is convinced that Jay’s murder isn’t some random act of violence. She believes someone in their circle is responsible for his death.

The investigation leaves no stone unturned as Rita digs into Molly and Jay’s life. It turns out, their group, like most, is hiding a lot deep dark secrets, including Molly herself.

It’s really hard for me to not 5-star a book that keeps me invested for an entire day. I flew through this and loved it. It wasn’t totally perfect, but pretty damn close.

I am well and truly invested in Detective Rita Myers now. I can’t wait for more books in this series, but I have a feeling, since the second one just released, that I’m in for quite a wait before book three.

I listened to the audiobook for both and loved them so much. It’s dual narrators, to fit the dual perspective and the narrators truly captured the spirit of these characters.

I definitely recommend this series to any Reader who enjoys Police Procedural Mysteries, or Crime Thrillers. Parlato’s mysteries are engaging and hard to put down once you start.

Detective Myers is such a compelling MC as well. She’s someone you can really get behind. She’s strong, smart, determined and always looking to do what’s right.

When I say I read this straight through, I’m not joking. I was on a journey with these characters. I didn’t even have time to make status updates. That’s how invested I was. I’m actually hoping for a paycheck from Rita’s department for my efforts.

If you’re looking for a strong new Mystery series to start, look no further. This is where it’s at. While you’re reading it, I’ll just be over here patiently waiting for more!!

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Review: What Waits in the Woods (Detective Rita Myers #2) by Terri Parlato

What Waits in the WoodsWhat Waits in the Woods by Terri Parlato
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What Waits in the Woods is the 2nd-book in Terri Parlato’s Detective Rita Myers series. This is an Adult Police Procedural Mystery following, you guessed it, Detective Rita Myers.

I actually didn’t read the 1st-book, All the Dark Places, prior to reading this one, but I enjoyed this so much, I started the 1st-book immediately after and have already finished it.

It’s fair to say, I will continue to pick up each book in this series as they’re released. Keep ’em coming, Parlato!

This is a dual perspective story following Detective Myers and Esmรฉ Foster, a young woman directly connected to the mystery investigated in this book.

I listened to the audiobook and the dual narrators truly brought these two perspectives to life.

Esmรฉ left her small hometown of Graybridge, 11-years ago to pursue her ballet career. After an injury and a recent break-up though, she decides it’s finally time to return after she gets a call from her brother stating their father isn’t well.

The day that Esmรฉ returns, a body is discovered on her family property. She arrives home to police cars and questions, not exactly the homecoming she was expecting.

Making matters worse is the fact that the dead body isn’t just some stranger, it’s Kara Cunningham, one of Esmรฉ’s closest childhood friends.

Esmรฉ is devastated by the loss of her friend, but there’s something else needling her as well. Esmรฉ and Kara looked a lot alike, what if she was actually the intended target?

Esmรฉ has her reasons for believing this could be the case, but it’s going to take her processing a lot of old baggage to actually figure it out.

Detective Rita Myers gets called to the Foster property after the discovery of Kara’s body and immediately digs in to her investigation. Detective Myers has a lot of experience and genuine care in her work.

There’s no doubt she is going to get to the bottom of this grisly crime, no matter what it takes.

I had so much fun reading this. The mystery was intriguing, the plot was fast-paced and the reveals were exciting and more often than not, unexpected.

I think Detective Myers is a fabulous main character and I know I am just going to become more and more attached to her as the series continues.

She’s a seasoned detective, no-nonsense and smart. She works with a lot of younger detectives and cops and you can tell that they look up to her as a leader.

I also enjoyed getting to know her more on a personal side outside of work. She has some interesting neighbors and even a potential love interest that I am hoping to learn more about in subsequent books.

As with many Mystery series, I don’t feel like you need to necessarily read these books in order. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything going into this because I hadn’t read the 1st-book yet. It’s a complete story unto itself.

I do feel, though, that this is the type of series where the longer you stay involved with this group of characters, the more attached you become, and the higher your enjoyment level will ultimately be.

I knew right away that I would continue on with this series. The writing is compelling, the mystery is well-formatted and the characters are likable.

This is a very solid Police Procedural Mystery. I would recommend it for fans of Caz Frear’s Cat Kinsella series, or Gytha Lodge’s DCI Jonah Sheens series, as I feel like the tone here and quality of the mystery are very similar to those.

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

I’m so excited to have a new Mystery author to follow. I hope this series keeps going for a long, long time!

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Review: Murder Most Antique (Stamford Mysteries #2) by E.C. Bateman

Murder Most Antique (The Stamford Mysteries #2)Murder Most Antique by E.C. Bateman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Murder Most Antique is the 2nd-book in E.C. Bateman’s Stamford Mysteries series.

I really enjoyed the 1st-book in the series, Death at the Auction, and have been eagerly anticipating this follow-up.

This Cozy Mystery series follows Felicia Grant, whose has returned to her home village of Stamford to help her Dad run their family-owned Auction House.

In this installment, Felicia has been convinced by her best friend, Cassie, Stamford’s Mayor, to assist with the town’s annual Georgian Fair. Felicia is mildly put out, but she tries her best to grin and bear it. She’s hoping the lavish period costumes will be the worst she’ll have to endure.

When the headline speaker is found dead though, it’s clear this isn’t going to your average fair. As more bodies drop, Felicia finds herself trying to track down another killer.

Who says small town life is boring?

I enjoyed this. It’s a good book, but I didn’t have as much fun with it as the installment. It seemed to drag for me for some reason. It just felt overly-long and I wasn’t super intrigued by the mystery.

It does kick-off quickly, with a person missing before you are even 10% in, but after that, I don’t know, it just never really took off for me.

Yeah, I don’t really know what else to say. Sadly, it just wasn’t a gripping read for me. At the end of the day, I’m still proper attached to these characters and hope that the series continues.

I really enjoy Felicia so much, but I hope if there is another installment that it brings back a bit more of her humor. This one almost felt too serious for her. It sort of lost some of the dynamic magic amongst the characters from the 1st-one.

I would recommend this series for anyone who enjoys Cozy Mysteries that feature small town, or village, life. The amateur sleuthing vibes are on point and I am looking forward to seeing more of Felicia and friends.

Thank you to the publisher, One More Chapter, for providing me with a copy to read and review. Even though this wasn’t a new favorite, I am really hoping we get more books in the series.

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Review: Goosebumps: Attack of the Graveyard Ghouls (Classic Goosebumps #31) by R.L. Stine

Attack of the Graveyard Ghouls (Classic Goosebumps #31)Attack of the Graveyard Ghouls by R.L. Stine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Attack of the Graveyard Ghouls is the 31st-book in the Classic Goosebumps reprint series. I read this one in a couple hours after receiving it for Christmas.

I am happy to report it’s definitely one of the fun ones. It’s not perfect, but as Goosebumps go, it’s pretty darn good. A great way to pass a relaxing afternoon.

In this story we meet Spencer and he’s a little awkward, not necessarily one of the popular boys. He gets picked on a bit, made worse when he is forced to read an essay he had written aloud to the class and his teacher has nothing but praise for him.

How dare she!? But when the teacher notices the kids turning on Spencer, she doubles down. Spencer’s story involved the local graveyard and the teacher comes up with the idea to take a field trip there the very next day.

In absolute Goosebumps logic, that’s exactly what they do, pre-planning and permission slips be damned!!

Her idea is for the kids to do some grave rubbings and she’ll ultimately turn it into a local history lesson, if nothing else.

As the kids are exploring the graveyard, Spencer accidentally knocks over an eerie-looking tombstone. After that, all heck hits the fan for poor Spencer.

This story involves graveyard ghouls inhabiting bodies and wrecking havoc on the town. Spencer does have one good friend, Audra, and she’s fairly involved in the action as well.

I fully expected this to be one of the stories where Stine strings you along, all to discover at the end that it was a dream, or prank. I’m not saying that that didn’t happen, but I did give it 4-stars, so…

There were a couple details that progressed the plot that I wasn’t necessarily crazy about; mostly involving animals. Overall though, that didn’t affect my enjoyment too much.

I did think that the ending was super fun. It left a sinister little smirk on my face. OMG, Stine, you tricky bugger.

I would recommend this one to Goosebumps fans. It definitely has that classic formula that made me nostalgic for the horror stories of younger years. I’ll never stop reading these books. It’s just part of who I am. Well done by Stine!

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Review: Never a Hero (Monsters #2) by Vanessa Len

Never a Hero (Only a Monster #2)Never a Hero by Vanessa Len
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Never a Hero is the 2nd-book in Vanessa Len’s Monsters series, a high-stakes YA SFF series featuring time travel.

I really enjoyed the first book, Only a Monster, when I read it last year and have been looking forward to this sequel ever since. I’m so happy to report that it was just as exciting as I expected it to be.

In this installment, we continue to follow Joan, our incredibly strong teenage protagonist. Since the first book, Joan is starting to see the repercussions of her earlier actions. She’s reset the timeline, but that doesn’t ensure peace and happiness. Not by a long shot.

Only Joan remembers what happened, meaning those closest to her, such as Aaron and Nick, do not remember how close she was to them both. It crushes Joan’s heart many times over interacting with them now.

After a deadly attack, Joan finds herself back in the monster world as a fugitive. It’s clear someone is after her. She’s on the run, but she’s not alone, Nick is with her and Aaron is closing in.

First, let’s be clear, I am Team Nick, so the two of them being on the run together, even if he didn’t remember their previous relationship, made my heart happy. I know they were in serious danger, like really serious, so perhaps I shouldn’t have been so happy about it, but I was.

We do get a lot more world-development in this one. This isn’t to say the world wasn’t built out incredibly in the first book, because trust me, it was. That was one of the things that drew me in actually, but we just find out so much more about Joan, her family and the history of the monsters.

If you aren’t aware, this series does involve time travel. In fact, that’s the coolest thing the monsters can do. They travel in time by stealing time from humans in a bit of a vampiric way.

One thing I did feel in this one that I either didn’t notice with the first book, or maybe it didn’t happen in the first book, is this was giving me serious Infernal Devices vibes. I’m not even sure quite what it was, maybe some of the time jumps felt very period piece, or maybe it was the antagonist, but I wasn’t mad about it.

By this comment, I do not mean to say this is copy-catting in anyway, because it’s not. This is 100% it’s own unique story, it is just more of a vibe. A vibe that I’m addicted to.

It read so fast and some of the reveals had me gagging. I can’t wait to get to the 3rd-book. I think this is set to be a trilogy and I can’t even imagine how it’s going to wrap up.

I definitely recommend this series to Readers who enjoy fast-paced, intriguing SFF. This story is filled with secrets, dangers and angsty love interests. Bonus points for well-plotted time travel.

The third book cannot release fast enough! Bring it on!!

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Review: Murder and Mamon (Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery #4) by Mia P. Manansala

Murder and Mamon (A Tita Rosie's Kitchen Mystery Book 4)Murder and Mamon by Mia P. Manansala
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Murder and Mamon is the 4th-book in Mia P. Manansala’s Culinary Cozy Mystery series, Tita Rosie’s Kitchen.

This series, set in the town of Shady Palms, follows Lila Macapagal and is full of food, friends and family drama. I have vibed with every book in this series so far and have really enjoyed getting to know Lila, her family and friends.

In this installment, Lila’s godmothers, April, Mae and June, lovingly known as the Calendar Crew, are embarking on a fresh business venture; a new laundromat.

Also new is that Ninang April’s niece, a recent art school graduate, gets sent from the Philippines to Shady Palms by her family. She’ll be staying with Ninang April and the plan is for her to help out at the laundromat.

Instead of the Macapagals celebrating their grand opening though, they find their building vandalized and April’s niece lying dead with a threatening message scrawled beside her.

Devastated by all that’s occurred, the Aunties are beside themselves with grief and fear. Who would target them like this? According to the threatening message, it appears that perhaps their well-known meddling and gossip may have finally pushed someone over the edge.

With the local police making little progress, Lila feels compelled to begin her own investigation. She’ll do whatever she can to protect her family.

With one family member dead, Lila isn’t willing to just sit back and risk more.

I really enjoyed this. It was exactly the fun-spirited story that I needed right now. There’s just something about returning to a beloved Cozy Mystery series, reuniting with characters that feel like friends and solving oftentimes OTT-cases with them, that I will never grow tired of.

I’m a true sucker for this series. I will never stop reading them. As long as they’re published, I’ll be picking them up. It’s just my kind of Cozy.

While this wasn’t my favorite in the series, I do think it is a super strong installment. I liked getting to know even more about the Aunties, as Lila is forced to dig a little more into their personal lives in this one.

I also found the conversations regarding why the victim came to the United States in the first place rather interesting. It involved a bit of a scandal and Lila had to try to figure out the ins-and-outs of that as well.

The mystery had me stumped. I had a lot of suspects, everyone seemed suspicious and I even questioned if the victim was who the killer intended to take out. At the end of the day, it was just a lot of fun. Pure entertainment.

I would recommend this series to any Cozy Mystery fan, particularly if you enjoy Culinary Cozies. There’s a lot of food talk in these books, with vivid, mouth-watering descriptions. If you don’t walk away hungry, you may not have a soul.

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

I’m such a fan of this series and am already anticipating the 5th-installment. I cannot even begin to imagine what sort of craziness the Macapagal family is going to get involved in next, but you better believe I want a front row seat!

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