Lil’ Pingwing’s Cozy Corner: Death of a Cookbook Author

Lil’ Pingwing’s Cozy Corner: Death of a Cookbook Author

By Lee Hollis

Source: Received from the publisher

Series: Hayley Powell Food and Cocktails Mystery #10

Received from the publisher, for free, for review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Publication Date: April 24, 2018

Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation

My Rating: four-half-stars

Cover image and synopsis from Goodreads:

When Hayley’s idol, cookbook author and TV personality Penelope Janice, invites her to participate in a Fourth of July celebrity cook-off at her seaside estate in Seal Harbor, Maine, Hayley couldn’t be more flattered. She just hopes she can measure up. With a who’s who of famous chefs whipping up their signature dishes, this holiday weekend has all the ingredients for a once-in-a-lifetime culinary experience.

Instead, Hayley gets food poisoning her first night and thinks she overhears two people cooking up a murder plot. The next morning, a body is found at the bottom of a cliff. Tragic accident or foul play? To solve a real cliffhanger, Hayley will need to uncover some simmering secrets–before a killer boils over again . . .

Welcome to the Cozy Corner! I am Lil’ Pingwing, Kimmy’s little sister. Once a week I will review a cozy mystery for the blog!

This is the 10th book in the Hailey Powell series, and I must say that it was the best in a while (not to say that any are bad!).

Hailey is invited to participate in a baking competition at the vacation house of Penelope Janice, a celebrity chef, alongside other celebrity chefs. When Hailey overhears a conversation plotting the murder of Penelope, whose husband Conrad subsequently dies after falling over a rocky cliff, Hailey knows she must investigate.

I’ve always been a fan of the Hailey Powell book series. I like how smart and quick she is and I love the relationship she has with her brother and best friends, Mona and Liza. Hailey’s day job is to write a food and drink column in her local newspaper, and I love how the books have her own column at the start of many chapters (along with great food and drink recipes). Because of this, I was incredibly excited when I was given the opportunity to review the most recent in the Hailey Powell series. I’ll admit that I was concerned that I may have too high of hopes for this book, as it is the 10th in the series and sometimes long-running series can run out of ideas, but I quickly discovered this was an unfounded fear and thoroughly enjoyed reading the book.

I really enjoyed how many twists and turns this book took in its main plot. The murder mystery always had me guessing, and had a few major surprises at the end that I wasn’t expecting! I don’t want to spoil anything, but the cast of characters made it very difficult to guess who was the guilty party.

(Slight spoiler here) And I was so excited to see Lex back in the book — of all the love interests in Hailey’s life I always had a soft spot for him, so when Hailey discovers he is the caretaker at Penelope’s estate, I was happy to see what would happen between them. Would they get back together? Where had he been? Why was he working for Penelope?

The book also works to further develop the relationship between Hailey and Bruce, her co-worker at the newspaper who covers the crime beat. When he hears about the suspected murder of Conrad during Hailey’s weekend away, he comes up with a cover story as Hailey’s boyfriend to become a guest at the party and help investigate. While this story could be seen as a bit of a trope, I thought it worked really well between these two always-bickering characters and I found that Bruce coming to the estate was when the book really picked up in excitement for me.

The only downside to the book is that the secondary characters I enjoy so much, like her brother Randy and Mona and Liddy, were not terribly present. But I imagine (hope?) that is only a one-off issue, and I look forward to seeing them again in the next book!

In all, this was a really fun book to read in a long-running series I enjoy. I liked the new relationship developments between characters and the murder plot kept me on toes until the very end. This book has reinvigorated an already enjoyable series. I should note that this book also indicated that Lee Hollis is working on another new series. I can’t wait to hear more about it!

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

By Becky Albertalli

Source: Received from the publisher

Series: Creekwood #1

Received from the publisher, for free, for review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Publication Date: April 7, 2015

Published by Balzer & Bray

My Rating: four-stars

Cover image and synopsis from Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

I feel like one of the last people to read this book! It came out in 2015 and the movie adaptation came out this year. I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to reading this, because it was so good!

This was such a fun, charming book. I loved Simon. He had such a great voice, and he was funny and intelligent. He was also a typical teenager, dealing with self-discovery, family drama, and friend drama, which was super relatable. On top of that, he was being blackmailed by someone at school who has read Simon’s emails and knows he’s gay.

There’s a little mystery to the story too, because Blue, the boy Simon is emailing with (the emails that are discovered by the classmate who blackmails him), is someone who goes to his school but they are keeping their identities a secret from each other. I was trying to guess who Blue really was throughout the book. Their emails are flirtatious and then as they start to open up more to each other and write honestly about things they are both going through, they started to really fall for each other.

I was really excited to learn that Becky Albertalli has written another story set in this world, about Simon’s friend Leah. It’s called Leah on the Offbeat and comes out this month, and I can’t wait to read it!

Week In Review

April 16 – 22

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What a week! We’ve gone from a wild ice storm on Monday to sunny and temperatures above double digits this weekend. I got out in the fresh air yesterday and walked around for a bit enjoying the weather, then got home and promptly spent the rest of the day reading and watching New Girl on Netflix.

And what was I reading on? My new Kindle Paperwhite! It arrived yesterday and I love it!

I love this case too, which my husband surprised me with, because I can stand the Kindle up at three different angles, and when it opens and closes it automatically wakes up / puts the Kindle to sleep, which is cool.

New books:

I bought a few e-books this past week that I’m really looking forward to reading:

Sunburn, Laura Lippmann (I tried this on audio but I think I can only do audiobook versions of books I have already read);

One of Us is Lying, Karen M. McManus (my next book club read); and

Hex, Thomas Olde Heuvelt (I’ve heard this is really creepy).

I also pre-ordered two books for my Kobo:

The Witch Elm, Tana French; and

Any Man, Amber Tamblyn.

I LOVE Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series, and even though this upcoming book is not part of that series, a new Tana French book is cause for excitement. It isn’t out until October, but I couldn’t resist pre-ordering.

The Amber Tamblyn book comes out in June I believe, so I don’t have to wait as long to read that one.

Books read:

I finished two books this week! I read a romance called Sweet Filthy Boy by Christina Lauren which was definitely steamy but also really sweet and funny. My friend Emilie has recommended the two Christina Lauren books I’ve read this year and I liked both of them!

I also finished reading an ARC of Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson and I loved it! It’s out in May and I definitely recommend checking it out. It was funny, kind of creepy, and super focused on female friendships. It was sooo good.

Current reads:

I’m still reading Josh Malerman’s Unbury Carol. It took me a little time to get into it but now I’m loving it and I will be trying to finish it today.

I also started reading an a-ARC of Erin Bowman’s Contagion on my new Kindle!

Reviews:

I posted three reviews on the blog this week: Dread Nation by Justina Ireland and Gunslinger Girl by Lyndsay Ely, and in the Cozy Corner, I posted my sister’s review of Victoria Gilbert’s A Murder for the Books.

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I really want to get back to Unbury Carol so I can finish it, and then I’ll probably be spending some time with Netflix (New Girl or Brooklyn 99).

Happy Sunday!

Gunslinger Girl

Gunslinger Girl

By Lyndsay Ely

Source: Purchased

Series: n/a

Publication Date: January 2, 2018

Published by Jimmy Patterson

My Rating: three-stars

Cover image and synopsis from Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Serendipity “Pity” Jones inherited two things from her mother: a pair of six shooters and perfect aim. She’s been offered a life of fame and fortune in Cessation, a glittering city where lawlessness is a way of life. But the price she pays for her freedom may be too great….

In this extraordinary debut from Lyndsay Ely, the West is once again wild after a Second Civil War fractures the U.S. into a broken, dangerous land. Pity’s struggle against the dark and twisted underbelly of a corrupt city will haunt you long after the final bullet is shot.

After I finished watching Justified, I was really into the idea of reading another YA western, preferably with a female protagonist (I’ve read a couple of good ones lately). I thought that’s what Gunslinger Girl would be, so I was really excited to pick it up and read it.

I liked this book, and while it started out as what I was hoping it would be, it turned into something else. Much of the story takes place in the city of Cessation, and the Theatre Vespertine, a show featuring death-defying performances and in which Pity winds up performing as a sharpshooter.

I really liked Pity and I liked the beginning of the story, but I didn’t care for the romance and my interest waned as the book went on. I was not super interested in Cessation or Vespertine and the politics of it all. So I have mixed feelings about this book but if there’s a sequel I might pick it up.

Lil’ Pingwing’s Cozy Corner: A Murder for the Books

Lil’ Pingwing’s Cozy Corner: A Murder for the Books

By Victoria Gilbert

Source: Purchased

Series: Blue Ridge Library Mysteries #1

Publication Date: December 12, 2017

Published by Crooked Lane Books

My Rating: four-stars

Cover image and synopsis from Goodreads:

Fleeing a disastrous love affair, university librarian Amy Webber moves in with her aunt in a quiet, historic mountain town in Virginia. She quickly busies herself with managing a charming public library that requires all her attention with its severe lack of funds and overabundance of eccentric patrons. The last thing she needs is a new, available neighbor whose charm lures her into trouble.

Dancer-turned-teacher and choreographer Richard Muir inherited the farmhouse next door from his great-uncle, Paul Dassin. But town folklore claims the house’s original owner was poisoned by his wife, who was an outsider. It quickly became water under the bridge, until she vanished after her sensational 1925 murder trial. Determined to clear the name of the woman his great-uncle loved, Richard implores Amy to help him investigate the case. Amy is skeptical until their research raises questions about the culpability of the town’s leading families… including her own.

When inexplicable murders plunge the quiet town into chaos, Amy and Richard must crack open the books to reveal a cruel conspiracy and lay a turbulent past to rest in A Murder for the Books, the first installment of Victoria Gilbert’s Blue Ridge Library mysteries.

Welcome to the Cozy Corner! I am Lil’ Pingwing, Kimmy’s little sister. Once a week I will review a cozy mystery for the blog!

It seems that I am in the mood for reading books about librarians! I will admit that I have a far-fetched dream of owning a bookstore (isn’t that what every book lover dreams of?) and so reading cozy mysteries about librarians in small towns seems to be helping to sate my bookstore-owning desires.

This is a first book in a new series about a university librarian who moves home and takes over running the public library. After a local woman is found murdered in the archives section of the library, Amy and her neighbour investigate and uncover a historic murder mystery that took place in their own backyards.

I will say that this book was exciting from the get-go — I thought the murder scene of finding a body in the archives section to be pretty interesting and creepy (in a good way) and set off some fun questions. How did they get into the locked archives? Who followed them in? What were they looking for?

In her attempts to solve the murder, Amy works closely with her neighbour Richard, whose family members are mired in their own murder mystery, mixed with small-town politics. As they research their shared historical connection, more murders begin to pile up around them and they must work to solve both the current and past mysteries.

I like how this book mixed historical crimes with current ones — when small towns have long memories it’s fun to think about how events that transpired decades ago can impact how families and neighbours treat each other, and may even cause some people to commit crimes in the current day.

The book also mixed local politics into Amy’s attempt to uncover the truth about the murder. The secondary story for this book had some interesting tensions between maintaining the small-town, quaint character of a town and encouraging development which would in turn bring more people and more money to the area.

Amy is a great character and I really enjoyed her backstory. She transferred to the Taylorsford Public Library from a previous role as an academic librarian. As someone who has also left academia, it was fun to read about a character doing the same (though my reasons weren’t the same as Amy’s, who left after finding her partner, who was a faculty member at the same university, cheating on her at an event). She has a nice relationship with both her assistant, Sunny, who is heavily involved in protests against overdevelopment in Taylorsford, and her Aunt Lydia who she lives with.

I liked Richard as a love interest — I thought it was pretty fun that he was a dancer/choreographer. It’s a very different profession from the typical cop found in cozies and I thought that he and Amy worked well together. I prefer romantic partners in these books to work encouragingly with the protagonist rather than against them, and Richard fit that bill (I don’t care for when the protagonist’s love interest comes off as condescending or patronizing).

I’ll admit that I sometimes got confused with the historical details of the books — when there are so many characters and so many different timelines I sometimes find myself needing to reread sections in order to ensure that I am following, but I’ll admit that’s more on me than on the author.

In all, I enjoyed reading this book. It had an interesting backstory for the main character, lots of mystery and a small-town with historical tensions and difficult politics mixed together. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

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