10 January 2023

Three Great Books

As reading weeks go, the past one has been pretty good. I'm on vacation (mostly--when you work for yourself, you're never truly on vacation). With the Agatha Award nomination ballot due in four days, I'm reading madly. I read a ton last year, but there was way more published than anyone could possibly read. Still, I'm trying to get in as much as I can before I decide what to list in each category. 

As a result, since January 1, I've read five novels, one novelette, one short story, and I'm in the middle of two more novels. I also started one novel that I decided not to finish, and I'm hoping to get through two additional books by Friday night. If you're thinking I must be a fast reader, I'm not. But I can listen really well, and all but one of these books has been an audiobook. Thank you to my public library system for providing access to so many audiobooks. And Audible, thank you too.

So, today I'm going to share with you three of the books I've read in the past week. I don't usually have such good luck in such a short reading period, but these three reads are all ballot-worthy. (Well, I'm still reading one of them, but if it continues to be as good as it's been, it will be going on my ballot.)

Gone for Gouda by Korina Moss

This is the second novel in Korina Moss's Cheese Shop Mystery series. It's also the author's second published novel. You often hear of the sophomore slump, that the author's second book isn't as good as the first. That's not the case here. I really enjoyed Korina's first book (Cheddar Off Dead), and I liked Gone for Gouda even more. 

The series is set in a fictional small town in California's Sonoma Valley, where Willa Bauer owns a cheese shop. At the story's start, a famous chef is scheduled to give a presentation at Willa's shop. Soon before the event is scheduled to begin, the obnoxious chef is found dead, and one of Willa's employees is a suspect since he was the last person known to have seen her. Willa feels guilty because the employee wouldn't have been in the chef's company if it weren't for her, so she starts investigating--just to ensure the detective on the case has some other suspects, of course. The search for the killer  becomes a group effort, as Willa, her two employees, some close friends, and some others at times, work together to try to figure out whodunit. Among the things I liked about the book:

  • The characters are all different and enjoyable and caring. 
  • Willa has a wonderful friendship with her male next-door-neighbor. There are no sparks there, just friendship.
  • Willa shares information with the detective on the case, and he doesn't treat her like an annoyance.
  • The plot is complex, the writing is often funny, and the story includes a cute dog.
Overall, two enthusiastic thumbs up.

Magic, Lies, and Deadly Pies by Misha Popp

This is an unusual book. The main character, Daisy, comes from a magical family. Each daughter's ability comes in a different form. With Daisy, she can bake pies and infuse them with magic to give the eater what they need. If she thinks you need some confidence, for instance, she can bake some into your pie. And if you're a woman who is in a bad situation with a dangerous man--one you can't safely extract yourself from--she can bake you a murder pie. There's no poison in it. Just magic. If the man can change into a better person, wonderful. The pie makes that happen. But if he can't, then after he eats the pie, he dies. Her company works solely on referrals from previous customers, and it's called Pies Before Guys.

The author's voice is a delight, as is the book's concept. Not just the magic (I love magic) but how Daisy is trying to make a difference in the world at a micro level. As the book progresses, Daisy finds she has an unknown stalker, one threatening to expose her unless she meets his demands. She is determined to save herself, her business, and her fledgling relationship without compromising her principles, which includes not baking pies solely for revenge. I loved her positive attitude and her desire to help others. I loved her friends and the person she grows closest to as the book proceeds. And, big surprise, I loved her dog.

This is the author's first book (!), and the next one in the series comes out next month. I can't wait.

Sinkhole by Davida G. Breier

This is another debut novel. The book has two timelines. In the present, Michelle Miller is driving home to rural Florida--where she hasn't been since leaving for college fifteen years ago--because her mother is hospitalized. While she's driving, she's thinking about her last two years of high school--memories she has tried to forget since she moved away. Michelle grew up poor, but her best friend in high school was rich. She also was manipulative, but Michelle didn't see that then. We see the girls' friendship from the beginning until ... I'm expecting ... the end. (I'm not sure because this is one of the two books I'm in the middle of.)

The book opens with this sentence: "When I was eighteen, I killed my best friend." Early on, we learn how the friend died--at least what the newspaper said. I'm expecting there was a lot more to it. I'm halfway through the book, and I'm eager for what's to come. The characters are complex, the setting is lush, the author's voice is strong, and she can really turn a phrase. Plus, I love all the details about the eighties. Overall, the book is hard to put down, and I'm going to get back to it as soon as I hit publish on this post. 

Happy reading in 2023. And if you're still thinking about your Agatha ballot choices, I'd be pleased if you'd consider including my short story "Beauty and the Beyotch." You can read it on my website by clicking here.


  1. I'm thrilled that you loved Gone For Gouda. Thanks so much for reviewing it here!

    1. You're welcome, Korina. I'm happy to be able to share it with others.

  2. Thanks for the review of some interesting books. I think I'll check them out. But the most amazing thing about this piece is "five novels, a novelette and a short story" read since New Year's Day! I wish I could match that pace.

    1. You're welcome, R.J. I'm glad I have the time now to focus on reading. I can't often do it.

  3. I lost my ability to speedread, which saddens no end.

    Books 1 and 3 sound intriguing, but a veritable Giulia Tofana might send me packing!

    Happy New Year, Barb!


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