Ellery Adams

Books: Mystery

Book Retreat Mysteries: Murder in the Cookbook Nook (2021)

Secret, Book & Scone Society: The Secret, Book, & Scone Society (2017), The Whispered Word (2018), The Book of Candlelight (2000), Ink and Shadows (2021), The Vanishing Type (2022), Paper Cuts (2023)

Secret, Book & Scone Society

The Secret, Book, & Scone Society (2017)

The Secret, Book, & Scone SocietyNora Pennington runs Miracle Books at Miracle Springs. She–like many others–came to Miracle Springs in hopes of healing from her past, but it isn't until a businessman is killed that Nora reaches out to some of the other women in town, and they form the Secret, Book, & Scone Society in an attempt to find the murderer.

So what is good about this story? It features four women, some of which are middle aged, and have pasts and secrets. It's a cozy mystery, so we don't get a lot of violence and awfulness on the page (although the attack on Nora at the end of the book is upsetting). The women clearly are capable of taking care of themselves and saving themselves.

The story, however, is a bit uneven, with a couple of passages seemingly coming from out of nowhere.

Clever Hester, Annette thought. She's making me say his name.

That is the only time we are in that characters head, and it doesn't make any sense for that line to be there, since Annette isn't a main character, and isn't even particularly likable.

It was fine all around. Nothing fantastic or amazing. But a nice cozy at a time when cozy seems essential.

Publisher: Kensington Books

Rating: 6/10

The Whispered Word (2018)

Whispered WordNora Pennington came to Miracle Springs, NC and opened a bookstore. In Miracle Books she often tries to help people by recommending them just the right books to help them with their problems. With the friends she made in the last book, they are going to give secret care packages to people in need, except that they end up discovering a dead body.

Additionally, a young homeless woman comes asking for a job, and Nora knows trouble is following her.

I enjoy the women and their friendship.

Estella, sensing that this was a good time to call attention to herself, picked up a maple butter blondie and took a large bite out of it. She chewed. She moaned. She glared at Hester.

"If I keep eating like this, I'm going to turn into a sweet person. Being sweet is not one of my life goals."

It's a cute cozy–a potato chip story. Not sure if I'll ever want to reread, but I think I will want to read the next book.

Publisher: Kensington Books

Rating: 7/10

The Book of Candlelight (2000)

The Book of CandlelightIt feels like it won't stop raining in Miracle Springs. Although the rain is good for business, Nora's store is a mess, and she needs more "shelf-enhancers" so she bikes over to the local flea market to search for finds.

When she later finds one of the vendor's dead, she and her friends are drawn into other mystery.

I do love the characters in this story. Nora has an ugly past, but is trying to be a good person in her new life, and I do like the little peeks into how she attempts to do so.

Nora didn't want to confess that she was trying to avoid alcohol. She liked its numbing power far too much, and she was tired of being numb. She was ready to feel again.

I also adore all the book dropping that happens.

Nora paused her research to ring up the mother's selections of Sandra Boynton's Moo, Baa, La La La, Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight Songs, and Hello Bugs! by Smriti Prasadam. The toddler was holding Hello Bugs! with a death grip and eyes that warned of an impending tantrum. But Nora needed to scan the bar code, so she patted the counter and spoke to the child. "Why don't you sit up here? You can zap your book with a red light. Want to try?"

I also adore the new character, Sheldon.

Nora didn't think she'd ever had a better hug. She told him as much.

"That's the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me.

ALSO!!! Ace rep!

"I don't have romantic partners," Sheldon said. "I'm a starfish. Have been my whole life."

"A starfish?"

"Someone who isn't interested in sex. If None of the Above were added to the LBGTQ acronym, that would be me. I'd be the N."

Nora had never met an asexual before. "I came across a term for that in a book I read a few years ago. Was it ‘Aces'?"

"Aces. Ace of Hearts, whatever." Sheldon rolled his eyes. "I look a bit like the King of Hearts, don't I? Either way, I live alone."

That was a lovely surprise. I enjoyed the book and the mystery, although there was a section that I thought repeated itself. I look forward to the next book.

Publisher: Kensington Books

Rating: 7.5/10

Ink and Shadows (2021)

ink and shadowsBook 4 in the Secret, Book, and Scone Society series.

When Nora and Sheldon set up a new window display on books featuring powerful women (and with a Halloween themes) they hope to draw people into the store.

They don't expect a group of women to protest the window–and several other women-owned businesses–as anti-family.

This is a cozy mystery, and although there wasn't any gore, the story was rather dark in its way, as we are introduced to–and get to know–the victims before they are killed.

There are many things I like about this series. I love the strong female friendships. I love the representation. I love how Nora's relationship never quite goes as other stories would lead you to expect. And I love the overarching theme of redemption–that we are more than our worst deeds.

"My papa always said that if you sing while you cook, your food will taste like music in people's mouths."

I also adore all the books mentioned throughout the story. So many books!

I did have one thing I didn't love in this book, and that was a bit of bi-shaming.

When we first met, I knew that he liked men and women. I guess we both believed that he'd put this other interest behind him when he married me.

Ugh. No. He fell in love with someone else. That has nothing to do with sexual orientation.

Aside from that (and it really did feel like an aberration) it was another interesting story that I enjoyed.

Publisher: Kensington Cozies

Rating: 7.5/10 

The Vanishing Type (2022)

The Vanishing TypeOne of the things I particularly like about this story is the variety of the characters within. And that those traits don't define the characters: Sheldon is ace but also Hispanic and Jewish and someone who suffers from chronic pain, and also someone who tries to bring those around him joy.

"My anxiety is through the roof. Can you call them?" Sheldon pleaded. "If they forgot about our order, or the kitchen caught on fire, or the desserts fell out of the truck and are now scattered all over Main Street, I need to know. Argh!"

And although Nora is slowly becoming far more than her own past (as are all her friends) she continues to own that past and her own mistakes–redemption is a large part of the story.

The mystery was decent, and took multiple swerves to keep you guessing.

I will say that although most of the characters get redemption arcs, the bad guy here is rather flat and one note. But that's possibly because much of the story is dedicated to the healing of another of the main characters.

Publisher: Kensington Cozies

Rating: 7.5/10

Paper Cuts (2023)

Paper CutsA couple has opened a tea shop in town, and when Nora and her friends visit, she discovers one of the owners somehow seems to know her–and is distraught by the fact.

There were a surprising number of editing and continuity errors in this book.

"Daddy—sorry—Dad wants pop in hit the grocery store right after he stocks up on books.

That was probably the worst, since it took me a while to parse the sentence.

The continuity errors were more frustrating.

"We heard you were very anxious to have this," Sheldon said, handing Nora her phone.

The case was bent, and the screen was so badly shattered that tiny triangles of glass were missing. Though she knew it was futile, Nora tried to turn the phone on. It didn't work, of course.

Except that soon after:

it took Nora ten minutes to send McCabe a text. As soon as she hit send, she dropped her phone on the counter

Not only do we not see Nora getting a new phone, I don't see how there was time for her to have gotten one.

The other issue is more of a nit: Nora is able to call people on a borrowed cell phone.

Who knows phone numbers any more? Seriously, I know my husband's personal cell, but not his work cell or his work number, nor do I know any of the numbers of any of my friends or family. If there was an emergency I'd be able to call my husband and my parent's land line, and…. that's about it.

Another thing that bothered me was the bit about happy endings.

"If I'm reading a feelgood novel, it's a comfort to know that a happy ending is guaranteed. But I'm also okay with a messy ending. If books reflect life, and life is messy, then I guess endings should be allowed to be untidy too."

That's not what bothers me. I strongly agree with that. Even in cozies I think it's ok for justice not to be served–although the bad guy can't remain a threat to any of the main characters.

Which is why I was frustrated that everything was neatly tied up at the end of this book.

Publisher: Kensington Cozies

Rating: 6/10

Book Retreat Mysteries

Murder in the Cookbook Nook (2021)

Murder in the Cookbook NookJane Steward runs Storyton Hall–a retreat for book lovers in a small town in Virginia. A cooking show is going to be recording episodes–and basing the challenges on favorite books and stories of the host.

I picked this up because I've been enjoying the Secret Book and Scone society series, so picking this up on sale seemed reasonable–even if it is book seven in a series.

The positives: I had no trouble jumping into the story, even though plenty has obviously happened in the past. I found some aspects of the setting a bit much, but that was okay, because it's a cozy mystery, and full of book references.

Another major positive: Jane is not stupid, and she doesn't take stupid risks.

Jane took out her phone. With her thumb hovering over the red emergency button, she entered the break room.

The problems came from the mystery, and some of the characters. The murdered man was really to over-the-top awful. Yes, there are people like that, but the rationale for having him on the show felt weak, regardless of how many times it was repeated.

I also felt like the story ended up being more of a soap box for the issue that became a big part of the story, than a point that made sense with regard to the characters. It was a lot to believe that events happened for the reasons stated, and that people behaved as they did for the reasons they gave.

Even for a cozy the resolution was entirely too pat. And the concluding chapters were definitely for long-time readers of the series, rather than new readers. Which is fine, since I could easily skim those parts.

But the mystery didn't hold together for me, and that made the other weaknesses I saw far more glaring.

Publisher: Kensington Cozies

Rating: 6/10