Magic, Lies, and Deadly Pies by Misha Popp

cover236344-mediumDaisy Ellery’s pies have a secret ingredient: The magical ability to avenge women done wrong by men…The first time Daisy Ellery killed a man with a pie, it was an accident. Now, it’s her calling. Daisy bakes sweet vengeance into her pastries, which she and her dog Zoe deliver to the men who’ve done dirty deeds to the town’s women. But if she can’t solve the one crime that’s not of her own baking, she’ll be out of the pie pan and into the oven.


Magic, Lies, and Deadly Pies is a book that seems to have all the elements of a great cozy mystery. A cute cover, an awesome title, and an interesting premise.

Daisy is our main protagonist and she has this amazing power of infusing magic into her pies. This magic renders her pies deadly and once she found out she could kill someone with them after accidentally killing a man, she decides to make that her calling and goes on avenging women who suffered in the hands of evil men.

She soon starts a word-of-mouth free service she calls Pies Before Guys, calls herself an avenging pie maker, and goes on with her business of killing men who she deemed have done their share of evil in the world. Until one day she finds an anonymous letter threatening to expose her killer business, so she sets out to discover the owner of the letter.

I have to say that when I read the synopsis of this book I was really intrigued. I figured this was going to be a cozy and funny story with some mystery element in it. Unfortunately, the final product was quite different from what I had in mind.

The concept of being able to infuse pies with magical powers was a very interesting start. But as you read the story, you soon realize that there is nothing really cute about that and that in fact, Daisy is no better than any other gun for hire or even a serial killer. Although Popp tried really hard to make us sympathize with Daisy and her struggles growing up, I had a real hard time connecting to her or any other character in this book, except for Zoe, the dog.

Another thing that did not work out for me was the misrepresentation of the book genre. The synopsis, title, and book cover lead you to believe that you are embarking on a cozy mystery adventure, but the reality of the story is a lot darker than that. Once you get past this initial annoyance, the story does get a little better and the pie recipes at the end of the book are a nice addition, but not enough to pull off a 3-star rating from me.

Magic, Lies, and Deadly Pies is scheduled to be published on May 10, 2022. I want to thank Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Format: Kindle edition
Published: May 10, 2022
ASIN: N/A
Source: Free copy provided by the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review
Rating: 2 stars
Genre: Mystery

Tender Is the Flesh by Augustina Bazterrica, Sarah Moses (translator)

tenderHis wife has left him, his father is sinking into dementia, and Marcos tries not to think too hard about how he makes a living. After all, it happened so quickly. First, it was reported that an infectious virus has made all animal meat poisonous to humans. Then governments initiated the “Transition.” Now, eating human meat—“special meat”—is legal. Marcos tries to stick to numbers, consignments, processing.

 


Tender Is the Flesh, original title Cadáver exquisito, by Augustina Bazterrica is an Argentinian dystopian novel. The book takes place in a not-so-distant future when animal protein is no longer available for human consumption because it has been infected by a virus fatal to humans. After what has been termed the transition, humans quickly come up with an alternative substitute for the lack of animal meat.

“After all, since the world began, we’ve been eating each other. If not symbolically, then we’ve been literally gorging on each other. The Transition has enabled us to be less hypocritical.”

Tender Is the Flesh is a bleak and disturbing story with a very strong agenda. Although the novel was the recipient of several awards, including the Premio Clarin de Novela in 2017 and Goodreads Choice Award for Horror in 2020, at times I felt this novel was part of PETA’s shock-value animal rights campaign to promote a vegan lifestyle. What would happen if the tables had turned and now humanity had to treat their fellow humans with the same disregard as it treats other animals? Argentina is the world’s fifth-largest beef exporter, behind countries like Brazil and the United States, and the world’s second-highest meat consumer. It is no surprise that a novel with such a strong stance on the future of humanity as it relates to meat consumption came from a place glorified by its high-quality beef.

Unfortunately, although the premise was an interesting one, from a literary perspective, this novel falls short. In parts, probably due to being a translation from Spanish. This is one of the worst books I have ever read and one of the few 2-stars ratings I bothered to write a review. 

The only positive note on this book is that this is a short novel of about 200 pages which provided me with only 2 hours of misery.


Format: Paperback, 211 pages
Original Title: Cadáver exquisito
Published:August 4th 2020 by Scribner (first published November 29th 2017)
ISBN:1982150920
Source: Library loan
Rating: 2 stars
Genre: Dystopian

One Night on the Island by Josie Silver

One nightSpending her thirtieth birthday alone is the last thing that dating columnist Cleo wanted, but she is going on a self-coupling quasi-sabbatical–at the insistence of her boss–in the name of re-energizing herself and adding a new perspective to her column. The remote Irish island she’s booked is a far cry from London, but at least it’s a chance to hunker down in a luxury cabin and indulge in some quiet, solitary self-care while she figures out her next steps in her love life and her career.

Mac is also looking forward to some time to himself. With his life in Boston deteriorating in ways he can’t bring himself to acknowledge, his soul searching has brought him to the same Irish island in search of his roots and some clarity. Unfortunately, a mix-up with the bookings means both solitude seekers have reserved the same one-bedroom hideaway on exactly the same dates.


One Night on the Island is my first novel by Josie Silver and one I’m struggling to review. At first glance, we have two strangers, Cleo and Mac, who luck will have it, happen to book the same cabin on an isolated Island. Neither of them wants to give up their reservation and seeing that this is an isolated island with only a weekly ferry boat, the couple is forced to spend the night together.

I’d like to start with the elements that worked for me in this novel. Silver did an excellent job at painting this picturesque, remote island off the coast of Ireland. I liked the depiction of a tight-knit community giving me Ballykissangel vibes. Cleo and Mac were overall good characters. Silver provided the reader with a good back story on the characters. Although, at times, Cleo got on my nerves I still really liked her. Mac’s story, on the other hand, was a much more complicated one. He was the most complex of the characters and that leads to the reason I find it so hard to properly review this book.

It is difficult for me to go into all of the reasons why ultimately this book didn’t work for me without giving out spoilers. Suffice to say that I struggled with some of the moral/ethical themes in this book. I am the first to admit that I was quite uncomfortable with the idea of this romance but that is by no means a reflection on the quality of Silver’s writing.

As far as romance goes, this book is a good romantic story that will have most readers experience feelings of sadness, happiness, excitement, and even surprise. I highly recommend it to fans of this genre.

One Night on the Island is scheduled to be published on February 15, 2022. I want to thank Ballantine Books and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Format: Kindle edition
Published: February 15, 2022
ASIN:B0991XG4TY
Source: Free copy provided by the publisher, Ballantine Books, and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Romance

The Couple On Maple Drive by Sam Carrington

57652944Have you heard about the couple on Maple Drive?
Isla barely leaves the house after her brutal mugging. Her boyfriend Zach moved in with her after the attack. To look after her, but something else has happened now. Right on their doorstep.
I don’t want to say that someone’s out to get her…
I just hope they find out the truth before it’s too late.


The Couple On Maple Drive follows the story of Isla who has been suffering from PTSD and retroactive amnesia since being brutally mugged. Her dedicated boyfriend, Zach, moves in to help take care of her and soon Isla starts having flashes of memories from the night she was mugged. Determined to figure out what happened, Isla starts her investigation.

This is the first book I read by Sam Carrington and I was not very impressed. The narrative style alternates between Isla’s POV, her boyfriend Zach’s POV, and the transcript of a true-crime podcast, Christie’s Crime Addicts. This book managed to be a solid 2 ½ stars and I am sorry to say that even with all of the red herrings, I had the killer figured out by 20% of the book. I still managed to finish the book in hopes of a little redemption but as with any thriller, the moment you figure out the culprit there is not much you can do to carry on the story.

The Couple On Maple Drive is scheduled to be published on December 9, 2021. I want to thank Avon Books UK and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Format: Kindle edition
Published: December 9, 2021 by Avon Books UK
ASIN:000843638X
Source: Free copy provided by the publisher, Avon Books UK, and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review
Rating: 2 ½ stars
Genre: Mystery, thriller

Stay With Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀

stayYejide and Akin have been married since they met and fell in love at university. Though many expected Akin to take several wives, he and Yejide have always agreed: polygamy is not for them. But four years into their marriage–after consulting fertility doctors and healers, trying strange teas and unlikely cures–Yejide is still not pregnant. She assumes she still has time–until her family arrives on her doorstep with a young woman they introduce as Akin’s second wife. Furious, shocked, and livid with jealousy, Yejide knows the only way to save her marriage is to get pregnant, which, finally, she does–but at a cost far greater than she could have dared to imagine. An electrifying novel of enormous emotional power, Stay With Me asks how much we can sacrifice for the sake of family.


In Stay With Me, Adébáyọ̀ introduces us to Yejide and Akin, a Nigerian couple who have been trying to have a baby for many years.

In their culture, it is expected that married couples have children, and when that is not possible, the men are expected to take another wife to produce an heir and carry on the bloodline. When Akin takes on a second wife, it initiates a series of tragic events.

Adébáyọ̀’s prose is both lyrical and fluid. The story is told in alternating POVs, which allows you to get to know the well-developed characters.

Stay With Me is a poignant novel that may leave you with very mixed feelings.

 
 
 
 
 

Format: Kindle edition, 288 pages
Published: August 1st 2017 by Knopf  (first published March 2nd, 2017)
ASIN:B01MTJQK9M
Source: Library loan
Rating: 5 stars
Genre: Fiction

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

KindredDana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.


This is a story of a woman, Dana, from 1976 who is transported back and forth in time to the 1800s during the slavery era. This is an interesting and important look at slavery in America. In particular, the look without rose-colored glasses.
One of the things that I appreciated about this book is that Butler does not shy away from the brutality of those times. In reality, she marvelously weaves those themes to make it into a compelling story. It is a great story, albeit not without its flaws.
Several things did not work for me in this book. The concept of time travel, although interesting in theory, is always tricky to put into actual practice. The plot from that stance is flawed–no doubt about it.
Much of the book is spent describing the pain of slavery in America, but very little time is put into developing characters and dialogues.
Kindred is a novel that begins and ends with a mystery, and that might be a good or a bad thing depending on who’s reading it.

Format: Kindle edition
Published: February 1st 2004 by Beacon Press (first published June 1979)
ASIN: B009U9S540
Source: Library loan
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Historical fiction

Murder By Page One by Olivia Matthews

Murder by page 1Marvey, a librarian, has moved from Brooklyn to a quirky small town in Georgia. When she’s not at the library organizing events for readers, she’s handcrafting book-themed jewelry and looking after her cranky cat. At times, her new life in the South still feels strange…and that’s before the discovery of the dead body in the bookstore.

After one of her friends becomes a suspect, Marvey sets out to solve the murder mystery. She even convinces Spence, the wealthy and charming newspaper owner, to help. With his ties to the community, her talents for research, and her fellow librarians’ knowledge, Marvey pursues the truth. But as she gets closer to it, could she be facing a deadly plot twist?


Murder By Page One is the first book in the Peach Coast Mystery series. This is a nice, light-hearted cozy mystery. As with most first books in a series, there are a lot of characters introduced and not enough time to explore each character in depth.
We have Marcella Harris, aka “Marvey” who has recently moved from Brooklyn to a small town in Georgia to work as a book promoter at a local library. She soon stumbles into a dead body and when her bestie gets incriminated, Marvey sets out to solve the murder.
This book has all the great elements of a cozy mystery featuring the love of books/library, cats, jewelry making, and small-town drama. Fans of the genre will certainly enjoy it.
Murder by Page One is scheduled to be published on March 23, 2021. I want to thank Hallmark Publishing and NetGalley for providing me an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Format: Kindle edition
Published: March 23, 2021 by Hallmark Publishing
ASIN:1952210135
Source: Free copy provided by the publisher, Hallmark Publishing, and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Mystery, Cozy-mystery

The Nesting by C. J. Cooke

The nesting Architect Tom Faraday is determined to finish the high-concept, environmentally friendly home he’s building in Norway – in the same place where he lost his wife, Aurelia, to suicide. It was their dream house, and he wants to honor her with it. Lexi Ellis takes a job as his nanny and immediately falls in love with his two young daughters, especially Gaia. But something feels off in the isolated house nestled in the forest along the fjord. Lexi sees mysterious muddy footprints inside the home. Aurelia’s diary appears in Lexi’s room one day. And Gaia keeps telling her about seeing the terrifying Sad Lady…
Soon Lexi suspects that Aurelia didn’t kill herself and that they are all in danger from something far more sinister lurking around them.


The Nesting is a novel that at first resembles Ruth Ware’s The Turn of The Key, but if you stick to it you’ll soon be in for a big surprise.  Some of the highlights of this book include Cooke’s ability to build a suspenseful, gothic novel. The Nordic folklore sprinkled in the story was certainly a plus. The themes of ecology and preservation were also extremely appealing to me, as well as the descriptions of Norway’s nature and landscape.

Unfortunately, this novel was the case of too many story lines that just were not well put together at the end. The story is told by an unreliable narrator, Sophie (aka Lexi), alternating with Aurelia’s pov and diary entries. Halfway through the book, the story takes a turn and slows down significantly.

Although this book started somewhat interesting, the excessive number of plot holes and the slow pace of the book had me struggling to finish it. I found the ending rushed and too convenient.

I want to thank HarperCollins and NetGalley for providing me an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Format: Kindle edition
Published: September 29, 2020 by HarperCollins
ASIN: B0818ZX2NY
Source: Free copy provided by the publisher, HarperCollins, and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review
Rating: 2 ½ stars
Genre: Mystery, thriller

The Little Bookshop of MURDER by Maggie Blackburn

Summer Merriweather’s career as a Shakespeare professor hangs by a bookbinder’s thread. Academic life at her Virginia university is a viper’s pit, so Summer spends her summer in England, researching a scholarly paper that, with any luck, will finally get her published, impress the Dean, and save her job. But her English idyll ends when her mother, Hildy, shuffles off her mortal coil from an apparent heart attack. Returning to Brigid’s Island, NC, for the funeral, Summer is impatient to settle the estate, sell her mom’s embarrassingly romance-themed bookstore, Beach Reads, and go home. But as she drops by Beach Reads, Summer finds threatening notes addressed to Hildy: “Sell the bookstore or die.” Clearly, something is rotten on Brigid’s Island. What method is behind the madness? Was Hildy murdered?


Little Bookshop of Murder is the first book in a new series by Maggie Blackburn. The story follows Summer Merriweather (no kidding!) as she returns to a small island off the coast of North Carolina after the death of her estranged mother. Upon arriving at Brigid’s Island, Summer finds her mother’s sudden death a little suspicious, so with the help of her aunt Agatha, they start an investigation of their own.

I like to start my reviews by pointing out the positives in a book. This book has all the right elements for a sweet cozy mystery. An excellent (although not novel) premise, a lovely cover, and who can resist books about cute bookstores? So, you are probably wondering why I gave such a dismal rating?

The first issue I had with this book was the fact that I could not relate to nor like Summer. It could be because this is book number one, and the author is rushing to introduce all the main players and somehow forgot to elaborate on her main character. But Summer is just simply put the flattest and most unsympathetic character in this book. Here we have a woman whose mother just died. She spends the entire book reminding us of how hard it is that her mother is dead, however, very little–if any, emotion is elicited from the pages. The reader does not get a feeling that this character is missing her dead mother, nor that she even truly cared about her mother. To make matters worse in the likeability rating, we get information early on in the story that Summer left some poor chap standing in the altar, but very little explanation as to why.

So, after you decide you are just going to ignore the poorly written main character and plow through the rest of the book, what you end up with is a very so-so mystery and a complete feeling of disappointment.

On a more optimistic note, this book is number one in a series, and the author has plenty of chances to make it up in the subsequent installments.

Little Bookshop of Murder is scheduled to be published on July 7th, 2020. I want to thank Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for providing me an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Format: Kindle edition
Published: July 7th, 2020 by Crooked Lane Books
ASIN: B0818ZX2NY
Source: Free copy provided by the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review
Rating: 2 ½ stars
Genre: Mystery, Cozy-mystery

Death in Kew Gardens by Jennifer Ashley

41867421In return for a random act of kindness, scholar Li Bai Chang presents young cook Kat Holloway with a rare and precious gift—a box of tea. Kat thinks no more of her unusual visitor until two days later when the kitchen erupts with the news that Lady Cynthia’s next-door neighbor has been murdered. Known about London as an “Old China Hand,” the victim claimed to be an expert in the language and customs of China, acting as an intermediary for merchants and government officials. But Sir Jacob’s dealings were not what they seemed, and when the authorities accuse Mr. Li of the crime, Kat and Daniel find themselves embroiled in a world of deadly secrets that reach from the gilded homes of Mayfair to the beautiful wonder of Kew Gardens.


Death in Kew Gardens is Jennifer Ashley’s third book in the Below Stairs Mysteries, featuring the fantastic Kat Holloway. The book starts with Kat, a cook who works for a wealthy family in Victorian England. One day Kat receives a gift from a mysterious Chinese man in return for an act of kindness. It is a rare box of tea, and that same night Kat’s next door neighbor, Sir Jacob Harkness is found dead. The secret Chinese man becomes a prime suspect, and now Kat and Daniel must run against time to find the murderer.

I did not read book one or book two and some of you, who have followed my reviews, know that I don’t particularly enjoy reading books that belong to a series I’ve never read before. Let me tell you that Death in Kew Gardens is an exception to that rule. Although it would’ve been lovely to know more about Kat and Daniel, I felt this story holds on its own just fine. Kat is such a robust character that I was able to get a sense of her even though I barely knew her background.

Death in Kew Gardens reminded me of both Downton Abbey and Grand Hotel, with a touch of Agatha Christie. I will definitely be reading the forerunners in this series and anxiously await for book number four.

I would like to thank Berkley Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Format: e-ARC
Published: Expected publication June 4th, 2019 by Berkley
ASIN: B07H73KSQT
Source: Free copy provided by the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction
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