Tail of the Dragon by Connie di Marco

Julia Bonatti makes her living as a professional astrologer but sometimes the unreliable income makes her budget a bit tight. Her former boss and current astrological client, attorney David Meyers, has begged her to fill in for a week at his firm while his secretary is on vacation. Julia agrees,  only to become embroiled in a murder mystery her very first day. However, the first murder won’t be the last and Julia will need to utilize every skill to solve this murder mystery.

TAIL OF THE DRAGON is the third book in the Zodiac Mystery series and wow, this series only keeps getting better and better! Connie di Marco’s unique approach to the cozy mystery genre continues to intrigue me as I love how astrology plays a crucial role in the series. I also appreciate that Connie di Marco explains the more complex aspects of her astrological reasoning so that people like me who aren’t familiar with astrology are able to both comprehend and enjoy it.

Julia is a great heroine! I love her loyalty to her friends, even when murder is thrown into the mix. Her bravery coupled with her quick intelligence make her the perfect amateur sleuth. I look forward to visiting with her in future books to see what troubles find her next!

Connie de Marco integrates Julia’s love for astrology with her amateur sleuthing skills to craft one heck of a good mystery. TAIL OF THE DRAGON is another stunningly good tale in a series that only gets better with each installment. If you like unique cozy mysteries with lots of twists and turns, then TAIL OF THE DRAGON is just your cup of tea. Easily recommended!

Advertisements

Review: Disorderly Conduct by Mary Feliz

A wildfire is threatening Professional Organizer Maggie McDonald’s home and the family is preparing for the possible upcoming evacuation. Plan A is to evacuate to the home of her friend, Tess Olmos. Unfortunately, that plan takes an unexpected turn when Tess’ husband is found dead. Worse yet, Tess is the primary suspect in his murder. Can Maggie and her family stay safe from the wildfire while uncovering who killed Patrick?

DISORDERLY CONDUCT is the fourth book in the Maggie McDonald Mystery series. It can be read on its own merits, but I suspect readers will enjoy Maggie and her family so much that they’ll want to read all three of the earlier books in the series!

Mary Feliz tackles some disturbing but all too realistic issues in DISORDERLY CONDUCT. I can’t say more as I don’t want to reveal spoilers, but I like that she doesn’t gloss over some of the darker aspects of life. The motivation for the murder is a bit convoluted but Mary Feliz does a good job at breaking it down for the reader.

I didn’t think I would like a professional organizer as the heroine as much as I do! Maggie’s tips at the beginning of each chapter are very helpful, not just for fires but for hurricanes or other natural disasters. I like that DISORDERLY CONDUCT shows us that even the most well-organized plans can go astray and that taking time to mentally refocus is just as important as having an excellent checklist to follow. The Maggie McDonald Mystery series is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Easily recommended!

Review: Pre-Meditated Murder by Tracy Weber

PreMeditatedMurder

PRE-MEDITATED MURDER is the fifth book in Tracy Weber’s Downward Dog Mystery series. I haven’t read the earlier books but suggest that you read it in order if spoilers are an issue. In fact, the entire plot of PRE-MEDITATED MURDER hinges around a huge spoiler for the relationship between the main character, Kate Davidson, and her boyfriend, Michael.

Kate is expecting Michael to pop the marriage question to her at the expensive birthday dinner he has arranged for her. After all, her best friend, Rene, saw him exiting a jewelry store with a purchase in hand shortly before the big night. Unfortunately, their entire relationship is about to come into question as Kate will have to use all of her yoga calming skills once she finds out Michael has a secret… he’s already married and his estranged wife is demanding a huge sum of money for the divorce! Things only worsen when Kate and Michael try to work things out with Gabriella and she turns up dead, murdered with Michael being the primary suspect. Can Kate uncover who Gabriella’s murderer is? And will their relationship survive?

Admittedly, it’s hard to get thrown into the middle of a crisis in a relationship with characters you haven’t met previously and appreciate the emotional struggle they are undergoing. Tracy Weber, however, does a marvelous job at drawing readers into the heart of the dilemma.  Kate’s emotional anguish is palpable from the opening pages as we watch her excitement turn into horror when she realizes Michael has been lying to her.

And oh, how can I not mention Bella, the slightly neurotic German Shephard with separation anxiety? I loved her antics, from her hatred of beards to her protectiveness of the overexuberant toddler she meets. I want to read more of the Downward Dog Mystery series if only to see more of Bella!

PRE-MEDITATED MURDER is easily recommended for cozy mystery readers, particularly if you love animals.

Review: All Signs Point to Murder by Connie di Marco

A wedding is supposed to be a time of joy and Julia Bonatti hoped the wedding would be all that and more for her best friend from college, Geneva Leary, despite the Moon-Mars-Pluto connection. Little did any of the wedding participants expect the evening would end in murder. When Geneva begs Julia to help her uncover the truth about the murder, Julia can’t refuse- but will the murderer come after her in the process?

The Zodiac Mystery series offers readers an unusual approach to solving mysteries. The heroine, Julia, is an astrologer and uses astrological charts to help guide her as she tries to solve the mysteries. Connie di Marco does a great job at providing readers unfamiliar with astrology enough details so that we can understand Julia’s reasoning based on the various conjunctions and signs she sees in the astrological charts.

Conni di Marco does a great job at creating a whole plethora of characters without overwhelming the reader. Julia is a fun heroine, despite her penchant for wandering into sticky situations. I love her quick thinking and her willingness to help her friends, even at her own peril. One of the things that makes ALL SIGNS POINT TO MURDER so much more fun than the first book is that the potential villains are much better fleshed out.

ALL SIGNS POINT TO MURDER is the second book in the Zodiac Mystery series but readers can jump right in and enjoy the characters.  In fact, Connie di Marco is really hitting her stride with ALL SIGNS POINT TO MURDER as I enjoyed it even more than the first book, THE MADNESS OF MERCURY. ALL SIGNS POINT TO MURDER is hard to put down as there was nary a dull moment and plenty of red herrings to keep readers guessing who was behind the murder. Easily recommended!

Review: The Dead Inside by Cyndy Etler

Cyndy Etler was just a teenager when her world was turned upside down. She voluntarily entered the foster care system to avoid the difficulties and potential dangers in her own home, only to find herself thrown into a residential drug program called Straight, Incorporated. Unfortunately, what went on behind the doors of Straight, Incorporated reads like something out of a brainwashing manual. Step inside her world and see what she faced in this stunning memoir of her time inside the drug rehabilitation program.

I remember reading about Straight, Incorporated when I was younger. Substance abuse and its treatment is what drew me into the mental health profession initially and so I followed any information on it (as well as other programs and treatments) back then. Straight, Incorporated was highly touted by some very prominent people, including Nancy Reagan. I couldn’t resist reading THE DEAD INSIDE when I saw it was a story about what really went on behind those doors.

Cyndy Etler tells a gut-wrenching story about drug rehabilitation and what happens when “tough love” goes seriously wrong. As a social worker, I’m horrified by the abuses that occurred in this facility as well as the fact that her drug use even warranted residential treatment. THE DEAD INSIDE is not an easy story to read, and I had to put it aside on numerous occasions due to the graphic and horrifying depictions of emotional and physical abuse conducted at Straight, Incorporated. However, it is a very important story that needs to be told. I look forward to seeing Cyndy Etler’s upcoming book about how she reintegrated into society after the events of THE DEAD INSIDE. Highly recommended!

*copy received from Netgalley*

Review: The Darkest Corner by Liliana Hart

Tess Sherman had her life planned, intending to take over ownership of the local funeral home once the prior owner retired. Instead, he sold it to a mysterious stranger and now Tess has five sexy men working in the funeral home with her. She knows there’s something else going on as Last Stop, Texas is too small to need this much help at the funeral home. Unfortunately, she also can’t resist Deacon Tucker especially when he sets his sites on her. Deacon has secrets he can’t share with Tess, including the fact that his own country thinks he’s legally dead. However, a dangerous terrorist plot may pull Tess into Deacon’s world as she’s about to uncover all his secrets….

THE DARKEST CORNER is the first book in The Gravediggers series and I’m hooked already! Who can’t resist a story about men considered dead by their own countries and yet still willing to sacrifice their lives for the greater good? Liliana Hart gives us pieces of the puzzle as we start to see more about these five mysterious and dangerous men.

I really like Tess and hope we see more of her in future books in The Gravediggers series. Tess is down to earth despite a scattered and unscrupulous upbringing by her mother, the infamous Theodora Sherman, and I love how she has risen past her family name to be her own person. My only wish is that we had delved a little more into her family’s history with Russia as we get hints at a bigger storyline.

Liliana Hart does a great job at weaving together a small-town romance with a deadly terrorist plot in THE DARKEST CORNER. The storyline and concept are intriguing and I hope we see more of Tess’ “merry band of death men” (as her friend Miller dubs them) soon. Highly recommended!

Review: Mulch Ado About Murder by Edith Maxwell

Cam Flaherty is embarrassed to see her mother, Deb, protesting outside of Westbury’s newest hydroponics greenhouse. After all, Cam has contracted with Nicole Kingsbury, the owner of the greenhouse, to start some of the seedlings Nicole will use.  Unfortunately, Cam’s irritation soon turns to dismay when she finds Nicole dead. Even worse, the death isn’t accidental and now Deb is hiding secrets. Cam knows her mother isn’t guilty of murder… but can she prove it?

MULCH ADO ABOUT MURDER is the fifth book in A Local Foods Mystery series but can easily be read as a standalone. Edith Maxwell does a great job at providing readers with enough background information to jump right in and thoroughly enjoy the story. However, each and every book in A Local Foods Mystery series is enjoyable so I suspect readers will find themselves wanting to read the rest of the series after getting a taste.

MULCH ADO ABOUT MURDER provides us with some insight into Cam’s childhood as we get to know Cam’s parents, Deb and William. It took me a while to warm up to Cam’s parents, as Deb especially is quite secretive and almost cold at times. It’s easy to see why Cam’s Great-Uncle Albert and the farm are so important to Cam. Edith Maxwell does a wonderful job at bringing the storyline full circle, however, as Deb and William grew on me. In fact, I hope we see more of them in future books.

Edith Maxwell is quickly becoming one of my favorite cozy mystery authors. I love the insight she gives into the ups and downs of an organic farmer’s life almost as much as I enjoy the mysteries themselves. However, it’s the wonderful characters and relationships that make A Local Foods Mystery series such a hit. MULCH ADO ABOUT MURDER is yet another great entry into the series and I look forward to what the next installment has in store for us!

Review: Blade Bound by Chloe Neill

Ethan Sullivan and Merit are preparing for the upcoming wedding when an infiltrator to Cadogan House attacks Merit. Initially, they suspect the attacker has mental health issues but later events show them that dark magic is at work in Chicago. Will the rise of a dark sorcerer destroy Chicago?

BLADE BOUND is the 13th and final book in the Chicagoland Vampires series and boy am I sad to see this series end! BLADE BOUND is best appreciated in the context of the series as a whole, particularly since it concludes several ongoing story threads (including the wedding).

One of the things I love about Chloe Neill’s books is the action. Chloe Neill doesn’t waste any time kicking things into gear as the action heats up almost immediately. However, this doesn’t detract from the wedding, which goes about how you would expect a wedding between Ethan and Merit to go. Needless to say, they didn’t need a trash the dress party afterwards!

And what can I say about the characters except that I love them? From the Ombuddies to the Cadogan House vampires to the Red Guards, each faction we’ve met throughout the series has earned a special place in my heart. Yes, Ethan and Merit are the heart and soul of the Chicagoland Vampires but all the supporting characters and factions are just as essential to Chloe Neill’s world. I love that BLADE BOUND truly showcases the diversity of the Chicagoland Vampires population and how working together is the only way to save the town from the sorcerer and her deadly weapon (and just wait till you meet her weapon!).

Finishing BLOOD BOUND is bittersweet as I really am not reading to say goodbye to these characters or the Chicagoland Vampires series as a whole. Thankfully, Chloe Neill’s website indicates a spin-off series is in the works so hopefully we’ll get to see glimpses of Ethan and Merit in those books. Highly recommended!

*copy of book provided through Netgalley

Review: Magic for Nothing by Seanan McGuire

MAGIC FOR NOTHING is the sixth book in the InCryptid series. Readers can jump right into the storyline although spoilers for the previous book, CHAOS CHOREOGRAPHY, are given. MAGIC FOR NOTHING switches narrators as we start to see the life of Antimony “Annie” Price, the younger sister of Verity Price who was featured in CHAOS CHOREOGRAPHY.

Annie is forced to go undercover in the very organization her family has spent generations avoiding- the Covenant of St. George. Fortunately, her stint with a circus gives her an edge and Annie soon finds herself in the midst of a diabolical Covenant plot, with no help immediately available. Can Annie find a way to save herself and the lives of the people she’s grown to love?

I didn’t expect to like Annie. Prior books featuring her older siblings have painted her in a less than appealing manner and Annie initially does nothing in MAGIC FOR NOTHING to dispel that impression. However, Seanan McGuire isn’t a master in the urban fantasy genre for nothing as a different view of Annie starts to emerge. By the concluding chapters, I was cheering for Annie and hoping against hope that Seanan McGuire was not going to leave me hanging.

And oh, does Seanan McGuire leave us hanging! The cliffhanger in MAGIC FOR NOTHING is perhaps one of the most heart breaking ones I’ve ever read. Why, oh why, must I wait for the next installment rather than digging right in and seeing what happens next? Seanan McGuire, please hurry with the next book as I must know what happens!

MAGIC FOR NOTHING introduces us to a whole new aspect of the InCryptid world and I’m eager to see what ensues with Sam, Leo, and the Covenant. Even better, we learn more about the Aeslin mice. Seanan McGuire never fails to deliver a phenomenal tale and MAGIC FOR NOTHING is yet another example of her stunning talent.  Highly recommended!