Monday, September 19, 2016

Cozy Mystery Monday - Kitchen Witch Mysteries

I'm back for another installment of my book review series. Two weeks in a row! Isn't it amazing? :) This week's review for the first book in Kitchen Witch series was originally posted last week on my Goodreads account but I wanted to share it here as well. It's also my first review of a self published series. So here goes...

Miss Spelled by Morgana Best starts the series with the protagonist Amelia Spelled inheriting a house and a bakery from an aunt she never really knew after the worst day in her already sad life. When the town jerk dies in the bakery after eating a cupcake she'd made, naturally Amelia started out as the prime suspect. Throughout the story she discovers her newly acquired house is a bit odd, her aunt was a witch (an unexpected that gift Amelia has too), and all of her aunt's friends are witches. Oh, and she has to overcome a serious inability to cook to run her new bakery.

The story had potential and might improve as the series progresses and the characters become more than caricatures. I know some other reviews (on Goodreads and on Amazon) took issue with the magick aspect of the story. As the protagonist is SO new to even the basic concept of witches (someone had to explain what a familiar is), it's not as jarring as if she'd grown up as a witch her whole life. But it does overwhelm the mystery. The one older guy running the show did feel a bit like he was borrowed from Buffy. He even speaks with the same proper tone as Giles. The part I liked about the magic was the explanation of Amelia's untapped fire elemental energy potential and how her buried emotions from a depressing childhood were manifesting when she cooked, catching everything she made on fire. Emotions can affect our energies so that made sense.

What took away from the story for me was the lack of build up for the mystery itself. The victim and the suspects all come off as extremely two dimensional as Amelia never even has a decent conversation with or about them. Most investigations in a cozy need that one-on-one contact (seeing body language, gauging emotions) with the suspects so we can take a stab at who the killer is right along with the protagonist. Alibis are never established. Facts are never ascertained. Digging through trash and tailing the suspects for one day does not an effective investigation make. And that is mostly done "off screen" by the secondary characters so we have no detective work done by our heroine. Even the evolution of the suspect list was haphazard. The cops in the story are a side note at best. I also don't think it's a great plan to actually use the phrase "red herring" to try and suggest a clue might be a red herring. The mystery felt more like an afterthought as Amelia got settled into her new life as a baker and a witch in a new town.

I've never read any of the author's other works. I'm still debating on whether to try the next book in this series to see if character development improves. I really wanted to like this but the lack of attention to the mystery and the silly idea of using Amelia's odd house to ascertain guilt or innocence of most of the suspects was a bit beyond acceptable suspension of disbelief for me. Better to do a proper investigation when possible than depending solely on magick (which didn't actually help) to solve the crime.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Cozy Mystery Monday - Magical Cats Mysteries

After a long hiatus of completing my Bachelors and surviving a rough summer I'm back for a new cozy review. I've decided that when I talk about an established series, I'll review everything that's been written up to this point. With so many new cozies with a witchy and/or paranormal slant I don't want to miss promoting the good ones as they're released in order to help boost the author's promotion. This time I'm talking about the Magical Cats Mysteries by Sofie Kelly.

In the first book we're introduced to Kathleen Paulson, head librarian of the Mayville Heights Free Public Library, and the two feral stray cats (ones with magical abilities) who adopted her. She's new to the small town, hired to help with the renovations of the historic Carnegie Library over the next eighteen months. Throughout the series we get a great feel for all the people of the town and why Kathleen is torn between staying or moving back to Boston, not least of which is a believable love interest that evolves organically with ups and downs, quirks and sweet moments. The highlight of the books are the cats, Owen (can go invisible) and Hercules (can move through solid walls), as they help point out clues while remaining very much like regular cats in every other respect.

Sofie Kelly does an excellent job of creating plausible crimes with realistic motives. The protagonist is sensible and intelligent and never betrays those qualities to further the plot. She cares about her new home and her new friends, willing to put herself in the middle of investigations to protect the innocent. That doesn't mean actively putting herself in harm's way. Everything about the series works well. I'm always excited when the next book in the series is released.

Make sure to start with book one, Curiosity Thrilled the Cat, and read them in order as the cast of characters grow and the core group really grow and develop throughout the series. The eighth and newest book in the series, Paws and Effect, comes out October 4th. I look forward to catching up with Kathleen, Owen, Hercules, and the rest of Mayville Heights and sharing my thoughts with you. I hope you enjoy the series as much as I have.