I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.
I needed to read a culinary mystery for a challenge/game I'm doing in one of my cozy discussion groups and I was moderately curious about this new series.
It was a quick read but I'm left feeling ambivalent about the book. Meh. Look, it's not a bad book; it's just not a great book. But most cozy firsts aren't. Great books.
So. What I liked. The writer does an excellent job with place and setting. The Jersey Shore is vividly written - the boardwalk and the vendors descriptive enough you can almost smell the salt and the vendor food.
The Premise is also an interesting one (actually it's one I'm surprised hasn't been done more). The protagonist, Victoria (Vic), is a mystery author. She's taking a break from her series to write "the book of her heart" - a fictional story based on her family's history. To do this she moves home to the Jersey Shore and back to the heart of her family.
The characters are more good than bad. They are all colourfully written. Some are better done than others. There's a serious threat of clichés on the horizon, as well as a better-than-average chance of stereotypes, but in this book they are still only just on the horizon and most of the characters are, for the most part, likeable. I like the ongoing, somewhat realistic conflict between Vic's Brother and his wife. It adds a bit of oomph to the story line in between plot points.
What I didn't like. Really, there isn't that much that I flat out disliked. Vic and her sister in law keep referring to each other as SIL. Lord love a duck that is Annoying! (with a capital A!!). If the author changes only one thing - make that stop! Then there's Nonna. I had a Nonna. She was born in Italy and came to America. She was a sweet, loveable grandma - not the lemon-faced nonna in this book. I don't pretend to have cornered the market on Nonna's, but does this Nonna have to be such a sour old bat? Can't she just be an affectionate curmudgeon? This depiction doesn't feel realistic and definitely not sympathetic. Also, the distinct aroma of a love triangle. If it happens, I'm outta here. Just say no!
The plot was, well, it was ok. The author did a good job of running us around with a dismal lack of clues (although, much to her credit she does an excellent job giving the reader a major clue at the beginning hidden exceptionally well. I saw it but convinced myself I'd misread it.). Truthfully, I felt like the book could have been 50 pages shorter with no detriment at all to the story. I was ready for the denouement long before it happened. There's a snappy ending though.
As is probably evident by this sort of all-over-the-place review, I'm not completely sold. Nor am I completely turned off by the book. I'll probably read the second one to see where things go from here. I'm betting it will be a more tightly written book.
Some recipes at the end that look like they might be really yummy.