What I Read in September 2016 Part III. . .Death Is Like a Box of Chocolates by Kathy Aarons--Cozy Mystery
Michelle Seranno and Erica Russell are co-owners of Chocolates and Chapters, a bookstore and gourmet chocolate shop. They will soon be celebrating the one year anniversary of their renovation with a Great Fudge Cook-Off which has snowballed into a part of a town-wide Memorial Day weekend celebration. That means a lot of work to do in very little time. When their neighbor and fellow committee member Denise is found dead with a box of Michelle's chocolates, it puts a serious crimp in Michelle's plans, not to mention is bad for business. Aided by Erica's sexy reporter brother, known as Bean, their computer genius Zeke and a mysterious stray cat, Michelle and Erica are determined to help the police solve the murder before Memorial Day.
I knew this book and I were off to a bad start when I saw the cat on the cover. I'm not much of a cat fan. I just don't get the appeal. Then Michelle and I got off to a bad start and never recovered. She tosses around phrases like "librarian glasses" and "geek chic." Librarians come in all shapes, sizes, colors, genders and styles. There's no such thing as "librarian glasses." Michelle's attitude seems a little antagonistic towards smart people though Erica is a certified genius. Michelle is also a chocolate snob- she hates fudge. Who hates fudge? She also hates cupcakes and can't bake. What the heck? Baking is easy if you pay attention to what you're doing. Creating gourmet chocolate is hard. Also, Michelle's sheer stupidity in insisting on investigating annoyed the heck out of me. It doesn't usually but probably since I didn't like her very much to begin with and since the police seemed competent, I didn't see the need for her to investigate.
The plot doesn't make a lot of sense. I'm pretty sure there's a plot hole somewhere but I forget where. I figured out who did it about halfway through when the clue was dropped. The story didn't end very satisfactorily. The plot was wrapped up too quickly and didn't explain enough. Why were the committee members targeted or was it a coincidence? Why did the murderer try to frame Michelle, Mark and/or Colleen or again was it convenience? That just didn't make sense. The motive was so stupid and lacking in believability. The burgeoning romance was kind of cute but I just don't get what Bean sees in Michelle. He likes her sense of adventure but I call that stupidity. There's a random, brief subplot about Michelle's brother Leo. Leo is a war veteran and he plot gets all patriotic and supportive of veterans for no good reason except the book is set during Memorial Day. If Leo had been in the story more, he could have interacted with his sister and shown more of her character, but he is barely in this book at all. I kept forgetting who Leo was. Hilary Punkin is another random character tossed in because the book is about cooking so there must be some celebrity TV food critic tossed in for good measure. There's also too much planning, committee stuff and repetitive babysitting requests that slowed the story. There's not enough chocolate making for me and none of the recipes appeal to me or make me even want to try to make chocolate.
The secondary characters are not all that memorable or quirky. I liked Erica better than Michelle because she's smart, loves research and sells books. However, she lacks some serious common sense, which I hear geniuses tend to do. She also lies too easily. Her relationship with Bobby drove me crazy. Her sister Colleen seems normal. She's a typical stressed mother of young children. Her husband is a jerk. Denise was not a very nice person. Though she didn't deserve to be murdered, the more that is revealed about her, the less I liked her. Reese seems crazy but her character developed well and the best of all the characters in the book. Gwen is a typical politician for all the locals refuse to believe it. Henna is the only quirky character in the book.
I didn't care about the characters enough to want to read any more of this series. I keep striking out with chocolate books. I do wish I could visit Chocolate and Chapters though! Two of my favorite things... chocolate and books.
Spells and Scones by Bailey Cates--Paranormal Cozy Mystery
Things are going quite well for Katie and the Honeybee. She and Declan are coming up on their one year anniversary and the bakery is so busy they need to hire part-time help. When the Honeybee was asked to cater a book signing at the bookstore next door, they are only too happy to help. Katie's neighbor, Margie, is eager to meet the popular radio talk show host and author dr. Dana. However, some people in the audience are not so excited. They claim the psychologist is a fake who gives terrible, outdated advice that will ruin any relationship. When Margie discovers Dr. Dana lying dead in the back room, one of the hecklers, Angie Kissel, standing over the dead body, Katie is drawn into yet another murder investigation. Detective Quinn thinks this case is cut and dry-Angie did it- he just has to prove how. Angie proclaims her innocence and begs Katie to help her. Katie wonders why the other woman has chosen her, until Angie reveals she is also a (former) witch and Mungo used to be her familiar! Katie feels torn between doing the right thing and preventing the other woman from taking her beloved familiar back. Katie knows what she has to do, but it won't be easy. Her relationship with Declan is also at a crossroads and Katie needs to make a decision about their future.
While the mystery is lacking in this book, the relationship aspect takes up a larger part of the story and brings the series to a conclusion (possibly?). I figured out who and why and how right away. It was SO obvious and even more so once the big clue was dropped. Katie should have known. There's a pattern to all the previous murders she's investigated. She does ask some stupid questions and slightly abuse her power but she recognizes what she's doing. Her relationship drama is rushed through at the end. I didn't really get a sense of how she made her decision and that she was confident in her choice. She's grown as a character throughout the series and lets the reader know that. Any reader who has read the whole series should be able to see that and doesn't need to be told.
The only major secondary character is Angie. At first when Katie isn't sure what to make of her, the reader isn't either. Then she becomes a big part of the story and I think she will be a good friend for Katie. If the series continues, I hope to get to know her better. The surprise at the end was great.
Dr. Dana doesn't sound like she was a nice person. Her advice didn't work for her so she had no business preaching it to anyone else. I don't even know why anyone would listen to her! Radical trust is creepy. She makes her sister into a flunky assistant, doing everything to please the prima dona. I don't understand why Phoebe put up with Dana. Then there's Dana's husband, who is kind of difficult to know. He isn't in the story much, but he can't have been happy married to Dr. Dana.
This is a nice, light entry into the series. There's not a lot of wiccan activity going on or any more light shed on Katie's special powers so if that's your main interest, you may not enjoy this one as much. I was happy Mungo plays a big role in directing Katie's actions in this one. He is just so cute!