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Monday, March 29, 2021

Create Family Reading Habits and Traditions

How do you compete with televisions and video games?  Children today have a lot of devices calling them, enticing them.  But if you start early (although its never too late to start), you can build reading into children's lives.  Here are a smattering of ideas to help you with developing reading habits that will carry your children into adulthood.  It will aid them at all stages of their life with academics, focus, theoretical thinking, creativity building, and empathy towards others.  All of which will be critical as they grow older.

Reading aloud to the little squirts is the most basic concept.  If you are fortunate to start early, then start with the baby bump and read aloud to your child at this stage.  This would be good right before bedtime to settle in and start that habit.  Get that habit instilled before birth and you are ahead of the game!

Once the baby is born, keep up the habit.  It may require a bit more flexibility with newborns and may be only a few minutes of reading, but it will be worth it.  Middle of the night feedings are rough, but perhaps after its changed and while/after feeding it may be a good time to slip in a short nursery rhyme or two read aloud.  As your children grow older, an established routine helps even during the terrible twos.  Flexibility is still key since some children have more attention span than others.  

Keep books available to children at all times, whether that is a soft book for infants and toddlers, board books, or early chapters books.  When the children have their own rooms, even one bookshelf with books readily available makes a difference.  There are even books designed for tub-time called bath books!  That is perfect to get children used to books as natural in their lives.

Library trips can be made into a special time.  Keep up with your libraries children's section and if they have story times or other programs you can bring your kids to participate.  This makes books and reading special and reinforces with other children that are modeling a love for books.  Encourage your child to keep a list of books they want to check out to read.  Make it a big deal when a book can be marked off the list!

Its best if you can set a specific time for reading together, whether everyday or on certain days.  It may start as only fifteen minutes and evolve into thirty minutes after the habit is well developed.  It is still best to read aloud to them, unless they ask to do the reading for you.  
I read where a mother always had a book on hand, at first a small board book in her purse and later digital on her phone.  When out in pubic and her child would get restless in a line waiting, she would take out her book and read aloud to her child.  She would have others in line smile as her child focused on the story rather than her restlessness get out of hand.  It may not work for every child, but its worth a try, especially if you have started them early with reading.

Taking the story and getting interactive is always great with children.  This may not be for every story, just the special ones, but try dressing up and playing the characters.  Don't forget dressing up as a favorite character for Halloween.  For years there were scores of  Harry, Ron, and Hermiones at Halloween. 

Another way to get interactive is with some dolls or stuffed animals to play the characters.  If you are really crafty, you can make some basic hand or sock puppets with your kids and dress them to act out some scenes from the book.  

Basics Paper Mache forms from craft store with pictures Mod Podged on.
Speaking of crafts, you could create holiday ornaments by photocopying (reduced size) the covers of favorite books and use Mod Podge to adhere to a form from a hobby store like Michaels.  You could also create a "Have Read" poster for their room with small photocopies of the books they've read glued onto the poster. They can stick on stars for how good they thought each book was.

Another great interactive idea is field trips related to the book.  If you read a book on dinosaurs, a trip to a nature museum within driving distance would be a good tie-in.  If you read a book on astronauts, find out if you have a local astronomy group for a star gazing session.  Go to a ballet if you read a book on ballerinas (or a video of the ballet).  The Nutcracker is great for children and you can usually find it being performed in December.  Any books on local history might have a local spot related to the topic.

Give books as gifts for holidays, birthdays, and rewards which places a value on them.  Of course, buying books on something they are interested in is best.

Children always have questions about why things are a certain way, so find a book or children's magazine to answer the questions.  Ranger Rick is great for animal and nature questions.  The library usually has a great selection to help you out.

Don't forget older kids - Harry Potter saw many tween kids and teens reading the books with their parents and enjoying them as a family.

When your child needs to read aloud at school, it can be stressful for them.  A great way to ease those nerves is to encourage your child to read to a pet. Some schools even have programs where dogs or cats come in just for the kids to read to them. Sometimes it is the local shelter that offers Book Buddies.  Pets are non-judgemental and make children feel accepted reading aloud. 

As your child gets older, the competition for their attention is greater.  I heard of a parent who, rather than an allowance, gave five dollars for each book (age appropriate length and page amount) that their son completed.  The boy thought it was easy money and the parents felt it was the best investment.  You could do your own amount depending on the age of the child and your budget.

Best of all is for you to be an example, let them see you place importance on your own reading and share how you enjoy what you read.  My family talked about the books we were reading at the dinner table.  If you make it a priority, they will often follow that example. 

Create a family TBR list and keep a record of the books you have read together.  This creates excitement for what's next to read and a sense of accomplishment with each book finished.

It may be a challenge at times, but instilling a reading habit early will reap life long rewards.

Here is a full instruction video of how to make basic sock puppets.  It is long because it is a craft instruction video.

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Saturday, March 27, 2021

Review - The Crossing Places

The first entry in the Ruth Galloway series follows an archaeologist in this gritty winner of the Mary Higgins Clark award.  Somehow it took me this long to begin this series.  So many books, so few hours in the day.  But better late than never!  Read on to see how I felt about this first in the series.

Author: Elly Griffith

Copyright: Jan 2010 (Mariner Books) 306 pgs

Series: 1st in Ruth Galloway Mystery series

Sensuality: One mild (no graphic details) sex scene

Mystery Sub-genre: Amateur Sleuth with touches of police procedural

Main Character: Dr. Ruth Galloway, Forensic archeologist 

Setting: Modern Day, Norfolk, England

Obtained Through: Library

Book Blurb: "Forensic archeologist Dr. Ruth Galloway is in her late thirties. She lives happily alone with her two cats in a bleak, remote area near Norfolk, land that was sacred to its Iron Age inhabitants—not quite earth, not quite sea. But her routine days of digging up bones and other ancient objects are harshly upended when a child’s bones are found on a desolate beach. Detective Chief Inspector Nelson calls Galloway for help, believing they are the remains of Lucy Downey, a little girl who went missing a decade ago and whose abductor continues to taunt him with bizarre letters containing references to ritual sacrifice, Shakespeare, and the Bible. Then a second girl goes missing and Nelson receives a new letter—exactly like the ones about Lucy."

Dr. Ruth Galloway lives a pretty solitary life. She teaches classes at the university in Norfolk, works archeology digs, and shares her house with two cats that keep her company.  She is brilliant but self conscious of her being more "full figured".  She is relatable in some ways, and not  in other ways.  Detective Chief Inspector Harry Nelson doesn't seem very bright at times. I'm not sure if that is a deceptive ploy or not (like Columbo). Example, simple things need explained to him like the concept of carbon dating, and he made no progress for ten years on analyzing the taunting letters.  Ruth's mentor Erik Anderssen, one of those professional men who expect everyone to bow to his superior knowledge, is part of the story and while intelligent he is abrasive.  Ruth's former boyfriend, Peter, is a total jerk trying to weasel his way back into Ruth's life now that his marriage has failed.  Then there is Shona, her friend, who has baggage of her own.  The characters are complex and all a bit of a mess.

The setting is deliciously gothic with the the bleak and treacherous saltmarsh. I love when the setting is used to optimal effect and that is the case with this novel. 

The story develops, unveiling the suspects and events from ten years prior, creating a twisting tale.  Ruth takes the investigation further than it had for the last ten years without exerting herself much.  The writing style kept me glued to the pages.

If you have followed my reviews for long, you know I love a scary, tense killer reveal/confrontation.  This book excelled in that sense.  Great suspenseful killer reveal.

Conclusion: This is character driven, so we see everything through Ruth's eyes and that is claustrophobic at times which adds to the overall feeling.  It is also written in first person, so if that turns you off you have been warned. Ruth weighs 12 stone (size 16) and you get how people have treated her as overweight in many ways. I know this could be misconstrued as fat shaming - but in reality the author has brought the reader inside Ruth's head to see how she has been treated is now part of her psyche.  I liked how Ruth was a strong character and a little stubborn who therefore makes occasional bad decisions.  This first novel shows strong potential and I look forward to the next book in the series.  

Rating:  Well done, loved it! 

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Monday, March 22, 2021

Cozy Mystery Tropes: The Good, Bad, and the Ugly

There are many tropes ("a common or overused theme or device" Merriam Webster) in the cozy mystery genre.  Here I will compile the tropes I know of and a little about what is good and/or bad about them for consideration.  I certainly am not a final say and these are just my thoughts on them for consideration.  

Let's begin with the broad definition of what makes a cozy mystery a cozy.  IngramSpark's blog "What is a Cozy Mystery and Why is it So Popular?" gives us this definition:

 "The tone of a cozy should be upbeat, optimistic and light-hearted. The setting should be the kind of place that the reader might long to live in or to choose for their vacation."

That is a fairly wide open definition that provides plenty of room for an author to be creative while still being a cozy.  A more strict definition will state there is an amateur (usually a woman) investigating a crime, there should be no blood, guts, or gore and definitely no on-page sex, swearing is anathema along with overt violence.  Don't ever hurt an animal or a child in a cozy either! Oh, and the setting should be a small community of some sort to keep suspects limited.  That is the more specific elements of a cozy mystery and what's acceptable.

But, you knew there would be a "but", the cozy genre seems more defined by unofficial guidelines anymore in the form of tropes.  Some of the tropes have been good for the genre, and others I feel aren't helpful.

Somewhere in most cozies today, you will read the amateur sleuth repeatedly admonished, harangued, and downright hounded to not sleuth - don't even consider the possibility of asking even somewhat innocent questions.  This is by far the trope I dislike the most.  An entire genre based on the premise of an amateur solving murders is weighed down by this lazy attempt (in my opinion) at creating story tension.  Sadly, this hounding is usually done by the romantic interest.  I find myself yelling at the star sleuth to immediately break up with the fictional boyfriend, he isn't adding to the story, just being a nuisance.  Some argue that such haranguing is more realistic.  Cozy mysteries are the closest to a fantasy world with a smidgen of crime.  If you want realism, then you want police procedurals - but those have violence, swearing, sex, and blood because... that's realistic. If you are reading a cozy, you don't really want realism.  So please, can we ditch the nagging the sleuth to not sleuth?

Whew, glad I got that out of my system.  Now on to the next.

A police officer must be the sleuth's boyfriend.  I have nothing against police in fiction, but again this seems like a lazy way for the sleuth to gain certain information for their investigation.  This is a setup for the harassment mentioned previously.  I find these policeman boyfriends tedious at best because they are duty bound to talk down to, nag, and deride the sleuth for asking any question at all - in some cases even charge them with obstruction or interference to make a point.  

Obstruction is officially defined as:  "an act that "corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice."

 I haven't seen many sleuths that fit this definition even minutely!  So the cop boyfriend claiming that the sleuth essentially gossiping for information constitutes obstruction is absurd.  The setup is most often a gossiping situation or asking round-about questions of who was where.  That isn't interfering with the administration of justice, or influencing either.  If that were the case, every time people around a water-cooler gossiped about a murder in town then gossiped with their neighbor over the fence about the same murder, they would be arrested.  Again, the entire point of the genre is this amateur will be snooping like your nosey next-door neighbor, so I wish more would have boyfriends who aren't a cop and get the info they need via other methods than a defensive cop boyfriend.  Granted, this may just be me.  

Next up is the trope of two eligible men (one probably a cop!) are trying to date the female sleuth.  When handled well this can work for a book or two.  The biggest problem with this trope is it has been used so much and for too long in a given series that the reader gets sick of the situation.  I'm not a fan because I think it makes the woman out to be rather insipid and opportunistic.

Often the amateur sleuth is a prime suspect in a murder which kicks off the penchant for sleuthing.  From that point on people look to this amateur for assistance when there is a murder.  This is a useful way to start an amateur's foray into sleuthing and it leaves plenty of room to not be the same old thing every time.  

Another often used introduction to a cozy series is the sleuth left the big terrible city and high powered job for small town life.  Often this is because of a messy breakup or occasionally a job loss.  This same driven and highly successful woman finds fulfillment working a small town job like a retail store of some sort or a librarian (without the usual prerequisite degree in library science.)  Somehow, this is when realism isn't a big deal.  This sort of woman would need more mental and creative stimulus than what most small towns have on tap, if we are true to the origin story of the character.  The second part to this trope is how a small town retail store, like a bookstore, yarn, or bead shop, makes enough revenue to support one or more employees.  I don't know about all small towns, but the ones I have been a tourist in see the owner slaving long hours with no help and barely scraping by.  So if you want realism in your cozy mystery - forget the nagging boyfriend and be more true-to-life in this aspect perhaps.

One of my favorite tropes is the animals.  Who doesn't love an adorable dog or cat?  Their involvement can just be devotion to the sleuth or sometimes an intuition that aids the sleuth in their snooping.  These animals help to round out the character and humanize them.

Another good trope is the funny or quirky sidekick friend or family member.  This gives much needed "girl time" and comradery that rounds the character and helps us witness what kind of a friend our sleuth is.
Family is a tough one in the cozy mystery.  They are either quirky or too judgmental of our sleuth.  I love when they are an eccentric or funny family who provide support and aid in snooping.  I really don't have much tolerance for the difficult, nitpicking, disrespectful, or judgmental trope family.  Usually the sleuth takes the verbal lashings and doesn't stand up for herself, which drops my opinion of the sleuth right off.   There is the subset trope of a parent pushing and prodding our sleuth to marry and have kids.  I had my sleuth push right back on that score.   

One of the definitions of a cozy is they take place in a small, tight community so there are limited suspects.  I love the authors who do this within a big city such as Cleo Coyle's cozies in New York City, or Juliette Blackwell's two cozy series set in San Francisco.  An intimate community doesn't have to mean a small town.  I enjoy the quirky denizens of the setting best.

Finally in this list is the trope of a food or hobby theme.  This has been done so much that forecasts for the future trends in cozy mysteries say food and hobbies may have been overdone and travel is the next trend.  We will have to see, because food and hobbies are comfort and spirit enhancing, which is part of what makes cozies so lighthearted and upbeat.

Thank you for indulging my short rant and opinions on the most common tropes in the cozy mystery genre.  What are your thoughts on cozy tropes?  Share in the comments.

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Thursday, March 18, 2021

Review - Murder at Queen's Landing

I have been a fan of this series from the very beginning.  Here are my previous reviews for you:
First book, Murder on Swan Lake (click here)
Second book, Murder at Halfmoon Gate (click here
Third book, Murder at Kensington Palace (click here)
Plus an interview with the author (click here).

"Andrea Penrose transports readers to Regency England with the story of Lady Charlotte Sloane and the Earl of Wrexford who must untangle a dangerous web of secrets and lies that will call into question how much they really know about the people they hold dear—and about each other…"  

Sounds like another rip-roaring adventure for our duo.  Apparently, this addition to the Wrexford and Sloane series got very mixed responses from readers.  Continue on to find out what I thought.

Author: Andrea Penrose

Copyright: Sept 2020 (Kensington Books) 370 pgs

Series: 4th in Wrexford & Sloane Mysteries

Sensuality: mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy Mystery

Main Characters: Charlotte Sloane, widow who makes a living drawing satirical cartoons

Setting: Regency era, London, England

Obtained Through: Personal purchase

Book Blurb: "The murder of a shipping clerk…the strange disappearance of trusted friends…rumors of corruption within the powerful East India Company…all add up to a thrillingly dark mystery…
When Lady Cordelia, a brilliant mathematician, and her brother, Lord Woodbridge, disappear from London, rumors swirl concerning fraudulent bank loans and a secret consortium engaged in an illicit—and highly profitable—trading scheme that threatens the entire British economy. The incriminating evidence mounts, but for Charlotte and Wrexford, it’s a question of loyalty and friendship. And so they begin a new investigation to clear the siblings’ names, uncover their whereabouts, and unravel the truth behind the whispers.
As they delve into the murky world of banking and international arbitrage, Charlotte and Wrexford also struggle to navigate their increasingly complex feelings for each other. But the clock is ticking—a cunning mastermind has emerged . . . along with some unexpected allies—and Charlotte and Wrexford must race to prevent disasters both economic and personal as they are forced into a dangerous match of wits in an attempt to beat the enemy at his own game."

Lady Charlotte is still a force to be reckoned with but she has to face some tough decisions in this story. In particular, she stiffens her spine and tells her Great Aunt Alison the truth about herself and the boys. I love Alison, she is a stellar character and I want more of her. Alison accepts everything about Charlotte without blinking.  Of course, Raven and Hawk are favorites. They are blossoming and becoming shrewd young men.  The Earl of Wrexford, Wrex for short, often finds his rough edges are smoothed a bit by Charlotte and he isn't sure what to make of that. 

Kit Sheffield is Wrex's best friend who is trying to be more responsible rather than waste all his money gambling.  Lady Cordelia, the math tutor for the boys, ends up in the center of the intrigue and over her head.  Lord Woodbridge, Cordelia's brother, was the source of entangling Cordelia and himself in the deadly trouble.  The dirt poor street urchins, Skinny, Harry, One-Eye, and Alice the eel girl, who are friends of Raven and Hawk, get a change in their fortunes that made me so happy.

London is always replicated with such precision in the series, I feel like I entered a time machine.  In this book, we get to visiting Wrexford's country estate and the descriptions are perfect so you feel the country breeze.

The plot is complicated as it unravels involving new technology for that era in a criminal enterprise.  Excellent plot. The complexity did make it slow in a few short spots. In particular -the details about mathematics and design of a machine to more accurately calculate math functions, although integral to the plot, did slow down those sections.  I didn't find those rough patches much to discourage me.

The killer confrontation was wonderfully tense and dangerous, as I have come to expect from this series.  The wrap-up has some surprises.  

Overall I found this a delightful addition to the series, although a bit different due to the complex plot.  There was a fair bit of idioms and period phrases that might detract for some readers, but they didn't bother me.  I enjoyed the use of real history and the developing science of the era.  That makes the time period more real to me. I love how Charlotte is creating her family with the boys, and how Wrexford is softening. The slow-burn romance is well done and believable to me, while some might want things to move faster.

Rating: Excellent - I enjoyed it!  Consider giving it a try.

Join me on Goodreads (click here).

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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Cozy Mysteries and Quarantine

During the pandemic and days of quarantine at home, away from crowds or super spreader events, book sales took off.  People who hadn't read for years picked up books again and that translated into about a six percent increase in sales.  

The statistics show that police procedurals and gritty crime fiction didn't do as well in book sales.  But the kinder, gentler murder mystery - the cozy, seemed to do very well and gained recognition as a great escapist read.

The Associated Press had an article on March 7, 2021 about cozy mysteries being a salve during the quarantine.

"The Associated Press had an article on March 7, 2021 about cozy mysteries being a salve during the quarantine.

For those who find their dreams in books, there’s a group of readers who are hungrily consuming a particular style of narrative to escape from the past year’s reality: “cozy” mysteries.  In an unfathomably complex year, a gently told tale of murder and mayhem whittles the sharp edges of reality to a manageable, smooth surface.

“Murder is definitely dark, but in a cozy the reader is with the protagonist every step of the way as each clue is revealed,” says Michelle Vega, executive editor of Berkley, who works with several cozy authors. “You can enjoy the perfect cup of tea and pretend you’re sitting in that comfy bookshop with the protagonist, smiling along with the banter as she and friends figure out whodunit. It is escapist perfection.

... The genre’s parameters are few: no swearing, no sex, and little to no gore. Just what the pandemic-era doctor ordered.

“The cozy mystery is a familiar way to encounter the two seemingly unreconcilable realities of death and country peace at the same time,” says Sarah Allison, an associate professor of English at Loyola New Orleans who is working on a book about “escape reading.”

“The restoration of order at the end of the novel might be less significant than the way this genre makes beautiful scenery and grisly details feel like they go together naturally,” she said in an email. Such mysteries, she says, promise a messy murder and a tidy resolution, “a welcome contrast to the way we’ve all been suspended between life as it was before COVID and life as it will be after.”  Murder but gentler: 'Cozy mysteries, a pandemic-era balm by Tamara Lush 
           Read the full article here 

I know cozies are like mystery comfort food.  Besides their lighter and humorous tendencies, cozies usually reveal the killer, thus justice is served and balance is restored.  Also, the main character is instrumental in the killer being brought to justice, reinforcing that one person can make a difference.  Both of which are spirit-raising during a global pandemic.  But I suspect that the element that is the real salve during troubled times is the mainstay of cozy mystery series, the quirky family and friends that populate the tight community in the books.  

These characters, from the spunky sidekick to the wacky neighbors or laugh-out-loud family, become friends to the reader.  Sometimes the featured pets are just as important.  These are friends you want to spend time with and can't wait to get back together.  The beauty is, they are only a book away.  That has to be incredibly soothing, to return to people that make you laugh and feel good in a series.  

Consider the "Cat Who" book series by Lillian Jackson Braun with thirty whopping books.  The main character and his two Siamese cats became near family to fans, along with the residents of Pickax and Moose County (400 miles north of everywhere!)  It was so popular that there is a companion book, quiz book, cookbook, reunion cookbook, and a parody book.  Even though the author is dead, the Facebook page continues.  

All this to say, the characters become friends and during quarantine, that is some of the best medicine, friends to help your through!  There might even be the book boyfriend in the cozy that gets your through as well. What do you think makes the cozy mystery such a comforting read during troubled times?  Share in the comments.  Also share what cozy helped you through a tough time.  Let's be real.

For me, during financial difficulties I find cozies help me get my mind off the worries.  I definitely find my favorite series' characters are like friends who I enjoy spending time with that helped me though the sense of isolation during quarantine. BTW, I have been quarantining for a year since I have a health condition that puts me at high risk.  So this was a significant help.

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Friday, March 5, 2021

Cozy Mystery Spring Fling

Spring is the air!
The Cozy Mystery Spring Fling is LIVE with plenty of page-turning reads to help you spring into a new season.
This weekend only! #SpringFling
Follow the link to find your next favorite read:

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

While you are at it, friend/follow me on Goodreads too!

Thank you!

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Thursday, March 4, 2021

Review - Mums and Mayhem

Today I am reviewing the third in the Magical Bookshop mystery series by Amanda Flowers, author of the An Appleseed Creek Mystery, A Living History Museum Mystery, and India Hayes Mysteries as well.

I have reviewed the prior books in series:

1st Flowers and Foul Play (click here)

2nd Death and Daisies (click here)

Guest Post (Dec 2016) (click here)

Guest Post (April 2016) (click here)

Read on to find out how well the third book in the series does.

Author: Amanda Flower

Copyright: Aug 2020 (Crooked Lane Books) 327 pgs

Series: 3rd in A Magic Garden Mysteries

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy Mystery

Main Characters: Fiona Knox, recently relocated to Scotland

Setting: Modern day, Duncreigan Scotland

Obtained Through: Library

Book Blurb: "World-famous fiddle player Barley McFee arrives in blustery Bellewick, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, for a grand homecoming concert organized by jeweler Bernice Brennan.  Fiona Knox, owner of the Climbing Rose Flower Shop, is starting to regret volunteering to help with the concert. Bernice is an exacting taskmaster, and Fiona has enough tension dealing with her parents, who have traveled from Tennessee to visit Fi and her younger sister, Isla, and to reveal a secret about Fi's birth. But when Barley is found dead in his trailer during the concert's intermission, and his death is shockingly tied to Fiona's father, Fiona discovers there are more secrets surrounding her family than she realized. 

Much to the chagrin of handsome Neil Craig, Chief Inspector of the County Aberdeen Police, Fiona delves into the case to clear her father's name. To make matters worse, Fiona learns that Duncreigan, the magical garden that she inherited from her godfather, is dying. At some point during the concert, someone broke into the garden and cut the centuries-old climbing rose--the source of the garden's magic--from the standing stone.

The stakes are higher than ever and Fiona could lose all that she's grown unless she's able to dispel this terrible curse and dig up the truth--fast."

Fiona is struggling with the magic garden dying, her parents visiting, her sister Isla hiding her boyfriend from said parents, and parents not wanting to discuss a major issue.  Additionally she is trying to get her fledgling business viable.  Chief Inspector Neil Craig is the romantic interest and I keep wishing to have him more of a sense of him. Spoiled and pampered Isla is Fiona's sister who is starry eyed in love and is waiting to the perfect moment to tell her parents she isn't going back to the States.  The notable animals included a mischievous blue-eyed fox that Fiona believes (somehow, someway) is her godfather Ian, a cat who adopted Fiona named Ivanhoe, and Hamish's companion red squirrel, Duncan, that are additional magical touches.

Duncreigan and the nearby town, Aberdeenshire, are charming and picturesque, adding atmospheric and delightful Scottish touches.  Duncreigan is isolated and can be scary for Fiona there by herself.  Aberdeenshire is where the murder takes place and all the sleuthing.   These are perfect for a cozy mystery.

There is a lot going on and Fiona's father being implicated makes even more complicated.  The murderer is murky from the start with several suspects.  This kept my interest to find out more page after page.

The killer reveal has its tense moments that I like.  I must say that I only briefly considered this character as the killer and I didn't have the full motive worked out, so kudos there. The wrap up tied up loose ends and gave boyfriends and the folks a chance to get to know each other.  Well done.

This was a little different in that I felt that the magical garden, the magical animals, and Hamish were all back-burnered.  There was only a few scenes with Hamish and Duncan, and the garden seems to take a back seat to the floral shop in town now.  Which is inevitable for Fiona to have murders to investigate.  But I felt like some of the magic was toned down. This was a cozy mystery stable with the small town populated by interesting people, a romance building, a solid murder mystery, a few splashes of magic, and some humorous parts.  This is perfect for a relaxing mystery to read on the weekend, at the beach, or by the fire.

Excellent - Enjoyed it! Solid cozy mystery novel. 

Here is a video of the author discussing this book:

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