Crime for the Books by Kate Young

Crime for the Books (Jane Doe Book Club Mystery #3)
By Kate Young
October 11, 2022
★★★★ 4 stars

At a murder mystery themed Halloween party, the fictional fun becomes real when a victim is found dead. Lyla and her book club are hosting the party – and become potential victims and sleuths at the same time. Can they find the killer before it’s too late?

This is a gripping cozy mystery with lots of twists and turns.

Young does a fantastic job of demonstrating how impactful a murder and the investigations that follow it can be on a small community, from the witnesses to those accused of the crime. The book also explores the possibility of police misconduct and how it can negatively impact investigations and community trust. These are both serious and dramatic topics that can happen in real life too, which makes the cozy more serious than others I’ve read. However, the book was still cozy at its core. I felt the drama really added to the suspense and realism of the novel.

The suspense builds right away because the book immediately places you into the mystery. However, it’s not a fast-paced book throughout, as some parts of the book can seem slow in contrast, especially if you’re not interested in the other plot line involving Lyla’s love life.

At times, I felt quite frustrated with Lyla and her unwillingness to consider certain possibilities, even if it seems quite clear to us as observers or to other characters. Lyla’s not perfect and I liked that not all of the characters agreed with her. Some actually pushed back against her at several points. I think my frustration points to how talented Young is, because of how strong my frustration was, but I can see others becoming so frustrated with her that they put down the book or begin actively rooting for her to be wrong.

I haven’t read the previous books in the series and I still enjoyed this one, so I think it’d work as a standalone. I’d recommend it for anyone who likes some drama and suspense in their cozies. ★★★★ 4 stars!

Thank you for NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for providing me with an ARC!

I originally reviewed this book in May. As several months have passed between my review and the official release, it’s possible things have changed in the official book. If they have, I’d be interested to know!


The Investigator by Anna Hackett

The Investigator (Norcross Security #1)
By Anna Hackett
September 2020
★★ 2 stars

Haven doesn’t want to be in a relationship, not after she just left a horrible ex and started a new life as a museum curator. But someone catches her eye: Rhys, an investigator at a security firm who’s investigating a robbery at Haven’s museum.

Can Haven and Rhys help capture the robbers and track down the painting? And will their attraction to one another turn into something more?

The Amazon note to readers said that the heroine got kidnapped a lot. It wasn’t kidding.

I was excited by the blurb because I love heist-related stories. But despite the high stakes of the heist (stolen multi-million dollar painting), the way that the heist and recovery went down in the book didn’t feel all that exciting. It felt like Hackett wrote down all the tropes and moments she wanted to hit in the book, outlined where she wanted them to happen, and wrote the rest of the book around those points.

Also, I wouldn’t hire Norcross Security if I lived in this book’s universe because they don’t seem like an effective security firm. Their struggles made the romance less enjoyable for me because they’re painted as this elite security team but they didn’t come across as one at all. For example, they’re supposed to be keeping Haven safe but she keeps on getting kidnapped multiple times in ways that should’ve been preventable if this group was as elite as they were portrayed.

I liked the romance more than the suspense. Rhys and Haven were attracted to each other before the book begins so we don’t get a strong understanding of what it is about the other person that they like, but they seem like a well-suited couple with a lot of chemistry. I do think the weaker suspense let the romance down because Rhys is part of that security team as Norcross’ lead investigator.

It was entertaining enough but I don’t think I’ll seek out other books in this series.

This is a steamy, open door romance. There are multiple scenes of kidnapping and some violence but nothing gory. The book also ends in a cliffhanger that’s probably a lead-in for the next book but the main story between Rhys and Haven is resolved by the end of the book.

★★ 2 stars. This is quite a popular book so maybe your experience might be different than mine, but personally I didn’t enjoy it.

The Half-Orc’s Maiden Bride by Ruby Dixon

The Half-Orc’s Maiden Bride (Aspect and Anchor)
By Ruby Dixon
★★★★ 4 stars

Lady Iolanthe feels like she’s too tall, too poor, and too old for anyone to ever marry her. So, she’s stuck with her awful father for life. Until said awful father claims he’s found a husband for Iolanthe, one who’s good-looking, wealthy, and who actually wants to marry her.

Turns out, this ‘amazing’ husband is an orc. Or, a half-orc to be more precise. Has Iolanthe just gone from one bad situation to another or can she find a promising new life with her new husband?

This is a surprisingly sweet orc romance! I really enjoyed reading it, though also I thought that the book could’ve been more than it was.

I really liked the FMC Iolanthe. She’s girly and strong at the same time, naive about some things but not others. I also liked the world around Iolanthe and the MMC Agakor, from the different wedding traditions the couple has to partake in to their gruff chaperone Turnip.

If I could change one thing about the book, I’d add a bit more of a plot. I felt like some of the non-steamy scenes were just written to get to the steam. Which is an approach that works for romance and I like it sometimes, but with this book, I was expecting the plot to be a bit meatier.

That’s because there’s a lot of opportunities for internal and external conflict. I thought that one (or more) of these pathways might be elaborated on more considering that they were either alluded to or developed to varying extents, but I also felt like the conflict in this book never got to its full potential.

I still enjoyed this book and would read more orc romance from Dixon, I just was hoping for a bit more considering the seeds for an incredibly interesting plot were there.

This is a great read if you’re looking for something steamy with not a lot of conflict, but it’s not great if you’re looking for some more world-building and conflict with your monster/orc romance.

★★★★ 4 stars. A solid and enjoyable orc read.

Frequency of Attraction by Eve Kasey

Frequency of Attraction (All In #3)
By Eve Kasey
February 2021
★★★★ 4 stars

Quinn has a lot going on in her life. She’s the head of PR at her family’s massive company and part of their new space tourism business OrbitAll. She hasn’t had a lot of time for relationships, or to be with anyone, really. Oh, and she’s never had an orgasm.

Vadim dreams of being an astronaut. So, he seizes the opportunity to go to space with OrbitAll as one of their pilots. He soon learns that Quinn has never had an orgasm and thinks he can be the one to change that for her. What’s the problem? It’s not like she’s kind of his boss, and it’s not like they’re going to stay together in the end… right?

If you’re looking for a romance with a lot of character depth I’d definitely recommend this book!

I loved that this book was a twist on a billionaire-type romance by placing the FMC Quinn in the wealthier position. I loved that the book itself played with tropes but wasn’t super trope-y.

Both Quinn and Vadim are well developed through their individuals POVs and surrounded by a world that feels incredibly full. We don’t only see their romance but also their growth as people and their relationships with others which makes the ending all the more satisfying.

If there’s one thing I could change about the book, it’d be the third act conflict. Compared to the rest of the book I thought felt relatively less developed and less believable given everything that had happened before, but that’s saying something because of how full the rest of the book is!

I wanted to point out that while this book is space related (Vadim is an astronaut and both he and Quinn work for a commercial space travel company), it’s not space focused. The space workplace is the backdrop for the romance. So if you’re looking for something that’s super space-themed, this one might not be for you. But if you like space and you like a steamy read I think it’s a lot of fun!

It also works as a standalone if you’re not interested in reading the previous books in the series.

Definitely would recommend this book if you’re looking for a strong contemporary romance! ★★★★ 4 stars

Captured on Camera by Suzanne Bolden

Captured on Camera (A Parker Photography Cozy Mystery #1)
By Suzanne Bolden
September 2020
★★★ 3 stars

Jackie, a well-known photographer, returns to her hometown to shoot a wedding. But when she stumbles across a car accident in town, her photography prowess will be used for more than just a wedding – it’ll be key in investigating the crime.

I liked the idea behind the plot and the characters, but I wasn’t a fan of how the book was executed.

The idea of a photographer using her own pictures to help solve a case was what first drew me to this book and I really liked seeing how this part of the book unfolded. I liked how Jackie used her street smarts and her eye for visual detail to help solve the mystery.

Also, the choice to have the main character be a big-city, well-travelled person who doesn’t have moving to a small town in her cards was refreshing. This is a character choice I rarely see in cozies and one I enjoyed. I’m always looking out for cozies that bring new twists to the genre and this definitely fits what I’m looking for.

However, I found the descriptions a bit too long-winded. It made the book drag in spite of its exciting plot potential. At times, it felt as if the characters were talking about something because it was a convenient way to introduce someone or something to the reader. I think it also led to some of the character voices being diminished, as some of them seemed quite similar in their personality and in the way that they spoke.

Maybe this is a sign that I’ve listened to too many true-crime podcasts, but one part of the mystery – or rather, something the mystery did – really frustrated me. It just seemed like an obvious thing to investigate that wasn’t, and never came up once in the book.

While I enjoyed reading this book, I don’t know if I will seek out future books in the series. ★★★ 3 stars

Love, Laugh, Lich by Kate Prior

Love, Laugh Lich
By Kate Prior
October 2021
★★ 2 stars

Lily is the secretary to a Lich Necromancer Lord who’s taken over society in an evil way… but now runs an office? One day, Lich needs some help beyond just scheduling appointments. He needs a human shiver. Lily volunteers her services, but hopes that one day, he might ask for more.

Is this a romance? Not really. Is this funny? Absolutely.

Even for a novella, there’s not really any depth in the plot or for the main characters, Lily and the Lich. The end of the book also ends incredibly abruptly, like Prior accidentally hit publish before the book was ready and didn’t bother to add the missing chapters.

The only reason why I didn’t give this book 1 star was because it did make me laugh at all the ridiculousness. It reads like a parody of workplace romance monster-style instead of an actual romance novella. The parody was fun and creative! I just wish it had been fleshed out a little more with more thought given to the characters in order for this to be a full-blown romance novella. Some parts (like Janice in HR or poor Randall) have a lot of potential but I don’t think they got the attention they deserved.

If you have Kindle Unlimited I’d recommend you check it out that way first before committing to a full purchase because I think this is going to be a ‘love it or hate it’ kind of novella. I just happened to fall more into the ‘hate it’ category but maybe you’ll be different?

It’s a steamy novella but not super explicitly so (not erotic romance).

★★ 2 stars from me.

Death by Sugar by Helen Goltz

Death by Sugar (Jesse Clarke #1)
By Helen Goltz
July 2021
★★★ 3 stars

Deadly sugar shows up not once, but twice in PI Jesse Clarke’s current cases, in one current attempted murder and an older death (that could be murder?). With these two deadly sweet cases plus all of her other responsibilities, Jesse is in over her head. Can she solve the cases?

There were some parts of this book that I liked and other parts of the book that I didn’t.

I liked that Jesse had a very methodical way of investigating. This made it easy for me to see the case through her eyes. Because she’s a PI, she has a very realistic reason to get involved in both the cases she pursues.

Though the reader doesn’t get the same exposition dump that is often presented in the first book in a cozy series, I thought that the reader got plenty of information about Jesse and the context she’s in, with relatively well-developed main characters.

The cases themselves are compelling and unique and I was very interested in knowing their outcome. They’re cases that I feel like a PI might get in real life, written in an entertaining fashion.

However, I didn’t like how things seemed to always just ‘happen’ to Jesse. Yes, she’s actively investigating the cases, but at the same time, I kind of felt like she was just pulled along on an investigative ride. I feel like this book needed a bit more action and suspense at points considering how high the stakes in some of the

There is also one part of the ending I was not particularly fond of (featuring Jesse being very moralistic), to the point that it made me feel sour even after putting down the book.

Ultimately, I thought the idea behind the cases were great but I wasn’t the biggest fan of how the cases were written.

There are instances of language in this book I personally considered homophobic. Readers who don’t want to read books with such content may want to skip this read. If I had known this going in, I personally wouldn’t have chosen to read this book for that reason alone.

★★★ 3 for what the book was, but it wasn’t really for me.

Die Buying by Laura DiSilverio

Die Buying (A Mall Cop Mystery #1)
By Laura DiSilverio
★★★ 3 stars

For EJ, every day she works at Fernglen Mall as a mall cop brings new (and sometimes weird) challenges. But nothing compares to the day when the pet shop loses a big python and a ‘mannequin’ turns out to be a dead body…

I loved the setting of Fernglen Mall and I loved following the mall cops on their patrols, but I didn’t love the mystery itself.

Even though I’ve never been to Fernglen Mall, I feel like I have before. The mall is a familiar place to me, a place where I used to hang out with my friends to shop, where we’d hang out by the fountain or the food court with our treats. It’s nostalgic to read about a mall cop cruising through on her Segway, stopping by all kinds of small businesses on her patrol.

EJ, the MC, is a military veteran turned mall cop. She dreams of becoming a traditional cop, but is having trouble coming to terms with the fact that she’ll likely never become one due to the knee injury she sustained while in the military. She’s a determined character who has a group of interesting people around her, from her family to her fellow mall cops.

My favourite part about the book were the mall cops! My favourite parts of the book were watching the mall cops interact with one another. They’re a fun and eclectic bunch of characters who have to deal with a whole host of issues at the mall from loose snakes to serial car vandalizers to murderer(s).

As for the mystery itself, I personally found it just OK. I personally think there were too many elements and loose ends for one book. It made it kind of hard to follow and to sleuth along, which are two things I usually love doing in cozies.

There were also a couple of deus ex machina moments that I really didn’t enjoy. For example, it it’s awfully convenient that EJ’s grandfather is also a retired spy who still chats with his old friends about American intelligence-gathering.

If you love evocative settings in your cozies, this one might be for you, but if you’re more interested in the mystery component, maybe I’d consider a different one.

★★★ 3 stars. It was just OK.

Bagels and Blackmail by C.A. Phipps

Bagels and Blackmail (A Maple Lane Cozy Mystery #2)
By C.A. Phipps
June 2018
★★ 2 stars

Maddie Flynn owns a bakery in Oregon. One day, her beloved cat Big Red goes missing. But Big Red didn’t just run away. It appears as if his disappearance may be related to a recent increase in missing pets in her town and neighbouring communities. What’s more, owners of missing pets are beginning to receive ransom notes from the petnapper(s). Could Maddie be next?

Maddie is itching to find out Big Red and the other missing pets. First though, she’ll have to get past Sheriff Ethan Tanner and her grandmother, who don’t want her to get involved in another mystery.

This book had a lot of potential. The blurb was intriguing and I liked the premise behind the mystery. But, I personally didn’t think it was a very compelling read.

I’m always looking for cozies that bring something new to the genre. So, I liked how the book at least started off with a no-murder mystery. Exploring different kinds of mysteries provides the author with opportunities to tell different stories – in this case, animal theft and the bond between a human and their pet.

However, the book drags at many points. At times, I found myself asking when the book would end or when the next big clue would be found. I think the book would have been more compelling if certain parts were cut. Maybe a writing style where Phipps shows instead of telling the reader the story could have also tightened up the book.

Characters don’t have to be perfect and it’s ok that they have flaws in spite of (or perhaps because of) their life experiences. However, in cozy mysteries I think these flaws should not be magnified to the point where the reader is frequently exasperated or annoyed with a character, especially if it’s the protagonist.

Personally, I found Maddie to be unrealistically naïve at many points, especially since she’s supposed to have worked at a bakery in New York City. This made for a frustrating read.

Readers who like trying to solve the mystery of a book should be aware that it’s not really possible to do so with this one as there aren’t that many clues that readers can use. Readers should also be aware that there are several typos in the book. However, the typos aren’t too distracting.

★★ 2 stars. I’m disappointed because I think this book had the potential to be a lot more.

Invitation from the Venetian Billionaire by Lucy King

Invitation from the Venetian Billionaire (Lost Sons of Argentina #2)
By Lucy King
June 2021
★★★ 3 stars

PR expert Carla wants to help her best friend’s husband Finn find and reunite with his long-lost brothers. So, when she finds one of his brothers named Rico, Carla is determined to bring the brothers together. Rico, a Venetian billionaire, is used to being by himself and has no intention of meeting with family, let alone with a persistent stranger like Carla. Can Carla convince Rico and Finn to meet and break through Rico’s walls?

I was intrigued by the blurb and the fun plot but I wasn't a big fan of King's writing style.

King’s writing style is more tell than show. She plainly tells us how everything – how the characters are feeling, their motivations, their backstories, etc. It’s nice that all the cards of the plot are laid out on the table, but it doesn’t add a lot of depth to the characters either. For example, the book is a dual POV romance with Rico and Carla getting their own POVs, but their POVs had very similar voices. Maybe this is a style other readers might enjoy, but I personally found the prose too plain for my liking. I think it contributed to the book feeling less romantic than it could’ve been.

However, I think King did a good job of grounding the novel. Yes, it’s a fun escapist billionaire romance, but it’s also a romance with some drama. Our two protagonists both had interesting, yet difficult pasts and work on addressing these issues in healthier ways.

Despite some of the issues I had with the characterization, the book was pretty entertaining and I wanted to see how it ended. This was the first book I’ve read from Harlequin, which is a hugely romance publisher. This particular read is from their Harlequin Presents line. It wasn’t bad, but I’m hoping that I’ll enjoy other Harlequin books more. ★★★ 3 stars.

The book is steamy with a couple of open-door scenes, but those scenes aren’t particularly long or explicit. Several difficult topics are discussed in relation to the backstories of the characters, but they were not very graphic and all were handled in a respectful manner.