A Bittersweet Murder by Kaz Delaney (#1)

Published: 22nd March 2022 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Tule Publishing
Pages: 294
Format: ebook
Genre: Cosy Mystery
★   ★   ★   ★ – 4 Stars

In the small town of Airlie Falls, Texas, everyone knows everyone’s business, and newcomer carer and wannabe-baker Rosie Hart may be surprised to find herself the sole attendee at the funeral of her client, Miss Alice Auchinschloss, but she’s shocked when she discovers she’s also Miss Alice’s sole heir. When reports confirm Miss Alice was actually murdered, Rosie becomes the potential small town hero for killing off the unpleasant woman–and prime suspect in her murder.

In a chance meeting with a helpful and handsome cowboy, Rosie discovers her newly-inherited home is ransacked, and someone is going to great effort to conceal their search. Rosie has no idea who is involved, or why, or what they were looking for, but when she’s questioned by the town’s sheriff, it becomes obvious that if she doesn’t prove her innocence, nobody else will.

With the help of her new friend, Jonah, his family, and a nosy but canny group of snack-loving ladies in the local retirement home, Rosie conducts her own investigation to clear her name and reveal the true identity of the murderer. Discussions over mouth-watering treats bring the motley investigative team closer together – and closer to solving this intricate puzzle, but when another elderly person winds up dead, it becomes apparent that this small town is full of secrets that someone is prepared to kill for in order to keep buried. Rosie must sift through her list of clues in order to serve up the truth – before she becomes the next victim!

Note: A Bittersweet Murder was previously published under the title Chocolate and Lace. I was provided with a copy of the new edition for review.

I have adored Delaney’s young adult novels in the past and now I can confirm that I adore her mystery novels as well. This was a delightful cosy mystery and one I finished in a single sitting. There is a great narrative voice and you fall into the story quickly, pulled along page by page with endearing characters and numerous twists and unexpected nefariousness.

Delaney’s writing style is to be commended. There is humour and warmth, and her ability to shift a scene with a few words means you are always being surprised and intrigued by what’s to come. The mix of twists and surprises is balanced perfectly with great characters and well established settings. From the beginning we are drawn into Rosie’s life and her current circumstances and it’s not long before we are caught up in the unexpected situations and evolving drama alongside her, eagerly turning pages to see where it’s all headed.

There are wonderful moments where we understand the significance of something Rosie has yet to connect which is always a satisfying feeling in a mystery. The urge to rush ahead and see where your own theories lead is high but like any great mystery writer Delaney leaves it to the very end to make us realise we missed a myriad of other clues being left behind. The mystery itself is unique and detailed in a fantastic way, and seeing Delaney pull all the threads together at the end was marvellous as you realise how even with the answers in front of you, there are still surprises in store.

Delaney has balanced the mystery and small town charm perfectly that brings a lot of light heartedness to this mystery which is what you expect from your cosies. The characters feel well rounded and even the few minor characters felt like they had depth and their own lives outside the pages. Being the first in a series getting to come back to this town and these people is inviting and Delaney has established enough that we can see Rosie making a future in the town. Having thoroughly enjoyed Rosie’s first crime solving misadventures in Airlie Falls I am primed and ready to jump into the next one.

You can pre-order A Bittersweet Murder via the following

Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Apple Books

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Check Kaz Delaney’s website for further purchase sites once released

The Reluctant Jillaroo by Kaz Delaney

Published: 4th January 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Allen & Unwin
Pages: 348
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult/ Romance/ Mystery
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Harper Gage has won the opportunity of a lifetime – ten days at Winmaroo Jillaroo and Jackaroo school. The camp could give her the recommendation she needs to go to the exclusive Agricoll for years 11 and 12. But when an accident leaves Harper hospitalised, her twin sister, Heidi, goes in her place. The only problem is that Heidi is not much of a country girl – not like her sister. And to make life even more complicated, her sister’s biggest rival Trent is going to be there. Will she be able to fool him?

And then the reality of the school hits Heidi hard. It’s all dust, snakes and heat – a million miles away from the surf she loves. When she meets the fun and handsome Chaz, life at the school suddenly doesn’t seem so bad, although with Trent acting up and trouble brewing with the other students, Heidi’s not sure how long she can keep her identity secret. And if her secret is revealed, will Chaz ever be able to trust her again?

Once again Kaz Delaney had me awake until 3am finishing one of her books. Read, finished, and loved the same day I got it and it was wonderful from start to finish!

Kaz gets your attention early on by starting in the middle of a moment, we are thrown into the story with no idea what has happened, and only Heidi’s thoughts to fill us in. I love stories that drop you straight in the action; it makes your curious and engaged right away. The idea that Heidi and Harper have concocted is well within the realm of believability, and Kaz writes so well that the story flows seamlessly and you get caught up in the story naturally.

Of course Heidi’s experience isn’t going to go smoothly, having to act like her sister and hiding her inexperience is drama enough without also dealing with a budding romance and the unexpected arrival of someone who actually knows her sister. Watching Heidi deal with everything that comes her way is fun and commendable. She never gives in and covers her tracks as best she can, not without the pang of guilt and the sadness she feels at lying to people she’s become good friends with.

Heidi is a great and admirable character. She’s a Batman lover (a great start), but she is also friendly and welcoming, even when she is out of her depth, and her loyalty and determination outweigh her fears and trepidations. She’s uncertain in her surroundings but she is strong and determined, not willing to let her sister down. Her commitment to her sister drives her to succeed and sees her doing things she wouldn’t normally do. What I also adored about her is that she has a great moral sense and good nature that makes her want to help people and make them feel included. Looking after other camp attendees and noticing what others are doing or feeling, making sure they are happy, is what makes her a wonderful person.

But this is not just a simple story where Heidi mustn’t be found out, there are mysterious things happening at the camp as well. The gradual introduction of the mystery is subtle and at the same time doesn’t deter from Heidi’s fish out of water experiences. Kaz connects everything brilliantly and there are twists and turns offering up a different thrill away from watching Heidi try to drench sheep or milk cows.

The best part about reading this though is how it feels like you are right alongside these characters, riding along trails, whispering at night in bunks, and having everyday experiences. That’s what makes Kaz’s writing so wonderful, it feels so realistic. Everything happens all at once, everything overlaps, and there can be fun and drama and love alongside one another.

It’s clear Kaz has done some amazing research and gone to a lot of effort to make this story feel authentic, not just in the camp activities, but also in making sure every character feels like a complete person, full, developed, and with experiences of their own behind them. You can’t help but love them all for their quirks and their different personalities; the comradery and friendships are evident, even after such a short time.

There really is so much to love about this story, it’s fun, suspenseful, and filled with mystery and madness that keeps you hooked from the start, not to mention an ending that will amaze!

You can purchase The Reluctant Jillaroo via the following

Dymocks | Kindle | Booktopia

iTunes | Publisher

Amazon Aust | QBD

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Book Launch: The Reluctant Jillaroo by Kaz Delaney

Yesterday I attended the wonderful book launch for Kaz Delaney’s new young adult novel, The Reluctant Jillaroo. Delayed from its release in January the day finally arrived to celebrate this fantastic book at Cardiff Library.

20160305_143559Kaz and her wonderful team and support put on a great event; there were delicious nibblies (an excellent brownie or three) and punch to enjoy, and there were games and prizes to be won as well. With a solid pink and rural theme there were games and fun to be had by all. There was a horseshoe toss, props to dress up in, a lucky door prize up for grabs, even a Guess the Number of Lolly Snakes game.

 

 

 

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The Reluctant Jillaroo is a fantastic book (review to come tomorrow) and seeing Kaz celebrate it with so much support was well deserved. Fellow author Susan Whelan launched the book and spoke of Kaz’s great friendship and work ethic, then Kaz spoke about the journey and long road to getting The Reluctant Jillaroo on the shelves. Broken armed but filled with high spirits she spoke about the trials of launching and the joys of celebrating things that are worth celebrating. With two years worth of work behind her, celebrations were most definitely in order. But not, as she said, to celebrate herself for having written the book, instead it was to celebrate having written the book and coming out the other side with her friends and those who helped her.
 

Kaz told us the origins of The Reluctant Jillaroo, first ideas, drafts, and rewrites. From wild fantasies about Jillaroo and Jackaroo camps to the rule it needed a snake in it. Not to mention the extreme research that went into it and all the skills Kaz had to learn (she is a theoretical master at so many things now). All that worked paid off, in her words she is older, wiser, and more grey under the blonde now but it was a lot of fun to write and I assure you it’s a lot of fun to read as well.

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I loved Kaz’s adopted philosophy from an old colleague about celebrating the little things, and while publishing a book is not a little thing, it was a fun afternoon of celebration. I think little things need to be celebrated more often and while the negatives can take up so much of our thoughts, and big things get a lot of accolades; occasionally the little things need a glass of champagne of their own.
 

20160305_150930Kaz, as always, was such a sweetie, she laughed at the hassles of getting the launch off the ground, the kept going despite breaking her arm literally the day before, and with a smile on her face she made the event as heartfelt and inviting as any of her previous events. I may not have walked away with a lucky door prize, though a few numbers came frustratingly close to my own, I had a ball. I caught up with a bunch of book friends and met new faces, and came away glad I got to share the experience with so many enthusiastic people.

 

If you would like to learn more about the book or about Kaz check out the links below.

 

All Your Bits & Pieces Needs

Goodreads

Kaz’s Website

Kaz’s Twitter

Kaz’s Facebook

Almost Dead by Kaz Delaney

Published: 1st January 2014Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Allen & Unwin
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult/Paranormal Romance
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

A glitzy whodunit set amongst the Gold Coast elite and a hilarious romance between Macey Pentecost, the privileged teenager with a social conscience who just happens to see ghosts, and the good-looking surf champion Finn.

Macey’s life has been turned upside down. Her mother has left, her father is absent and her two best friends (her brother Seth and his girlfriend Willow) are MIA. On top of that Macey is being visited by ghosts who need her help to ‘move on’. But as wild as all that sounds, it’s all under Macey’s control until a rakish, good-looking spirit called Nick turns up … in her bedroom!

Nick’s a spirit with spirit who insists he’s not dead, he’s astral travelling and has a message for Macey: someone is out to get her. Macey’s biting wit has got her in trouble before, so she’s not surprised but when the threatening notes start turning up, she’s seriously shaken. Does someone want her dead?

It’s all rather disturbing but she’s finding it hard to focus on who could mean her harm with the annoyingly handsome surf god Finn turning up at the most inopportune times and a father with a rather large surprise of his own.

Is it a case of bad timing? Or are these things somehow connected? And if they are, what on earth should she wear when she’s solving the mystery?

Even at 400 pages I flew through this book. I started at maybe 11pm and by 3:30 am I was done. I kept telling myself I should stop but then I convince myself to read some more and then all of a sudden I’d read another 40 pages and I was telling myself to stop again. And so the cycle continued until 3:30 when I finished the final page.

There is a perfect balance between the paranormal, the mystery, and the every day, and Kaz’s writing is so inviting that you want to keep turning the page. Her words draw you in and even closing the book for sleep is unthinkable because you don’t want to leave the story. Your curiosity overrules sleep, and who could sleep anyway when such an enthralling tale is being told!

A companion book to Dead, Actually, this time it’s Macey’s story that gets told. What I loved about this was that it was a completely new story but didn’t forget what had come before it. It is impossible to compare the two because they both have very different mysteries with different focuses, but the similarities and same surroundings is a comfortable familiarity. Willow and Seth are not forgotten, and there are throwbacks and references to the other book, but not so much that it tries to make you connect the two and see it as a sequel. Macey’s story is her own and Willow’s hers, and I loved that Kaz gave them both stories that suited them.

There are so many drawcards about this book, not only the creative paranormal aspect, but the mystery, the drama, and the realities of life that all mix together. It is easy to love the amazing events that play out around Nick as well as Macey’s newly discovered gift, not to mention the surprising home life she had found herself living in. Kaz’s portrayal of the stresses and confusion in Macey’s life is divine, as well as managing to express beautifully how overwhelmed and out of her depth she becomes. It’s wonderful.

Macey and Finn’s relationship is cheeky and adorable. He is a wonderful friend, loyal and protective, and seeing Macey fight her feelings for him reveals more of who she is and why. Everything connects and has consequences with this story and moments fit together and react off each other with style and creativity. This is just one of the many things that interact and connect, sometimes you don’t even realise just how connected things are until the last moment.

The mystery side definitely needs mentioning because the way Kaz plays it out you find yourself suspecting even the most innocent of people. There are hints and clues, and no clear motive which means anyone could be the culprit. With so much else happening in Macey’s life, having someone stalk her is another thing she has to worry about, and seeing it overlap with her other problems makes the story more intense and enthralling.

This multifaceted story has something for everyone’s tastes: There are great characters to fall in love with and great friendships to admire, there’s a great YA story, a thrilling mystery, some excellent paranormal, a budding romance, family drama, self discovery and acceptance, and an ending that’s beautiful – all wrapped up in a thrilling 400 pages.

You can purchase Almost Dead via the following

Dymocks | Kindle | Booktopia

iTunes | Publisher

Amazon Aust | QBD

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Dead, Actually by Kaz Delaney

Published: 1st January 2014Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Allen & Unwin
Pages: 312
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult/Paranormal Romance
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

dead-actuallyWillow’s having a bad week. A dead body, a funeral and now she’s being haunted by the star of it all, the dead queen of Ruth Throsby High herself, JoJo Grayson.
Being dead hasn’t made JoJo any nicer. She’s still venomous and vacuous and, unfortunately, determined to stick around unless Willow finds out what happened.
But the mystery keeps multiplying. There’s a missing phone. An anonymous blackmailer. Dirty secrets that won’t stay buried. And the blame is being cleverly pointed right at Willow.
The only good thing? The gorgeous Seth Pentecost. He’s got his own agenda but it looks like he’s going to help Willow out. Could solving this death be what it takes to finally bring him into her life?

There is so much to love about this book: the characters, the mystery, the fabulous writing that sends your heart and mind crazy with anticipation and suspense. I loved everything about this book from start to finish, it’s enthralling, it’s messy and complicated, but that is what makes it exhilarating to read.

The way Kaz has played out this story and these events, and in such a short space of time, is marvellous. Her writing captures the chaos in Willow’s mind, the conflict and the passion, the fear and self-doubt. Everything comes across beautifully on the page and makes this story come alive.

There’s a hundred different things happening all at once, all linked together, crushing Willow’s brain and sending her in every which direction and the chaos and mystery of it all is wonderful. Kaz pulls you along with a mystery and a quest for answers but there’s also other things happening and Kaz links these seemingly unconnected things together so wonderfully that it works on so many levels, interconnected snippets and separate things woven together to create Willow’s life and story. It’s divine.

Having everything happening in a short period of time makes everything more intense, but Kaz never makes it feel rushed or too soon. The strange and compelling nature of the events and the multiple angles covered brings the intensity to a point where Willow’s stress and overwhelmed feeling leap off the page and brings you into the story so you understand her frustrations, fears, and victories.

The romance element is natural and not once feels cheesy or fake. Willow’s crush on Seth is adorable, Seth himself is wonderful so you also fall in love with him, and Kaz beautifully misses out on the making the “crush on best friend’s brother” feel clichéd. Her exploration of Willow’s feelings, mixing it into the paranormal events and life drama, brings out the realism, such as Willow’s romantic feelings cropping up unexpectedly, her desire to control her reactions and emotion’s play down her feelings for fear of ruining what she has. That is what makes it feel so real, so believable, Willow’s feelings don’t come from nowhere, nor do they take away from who she is as a person, everything about her is mixed together into this dramatic and captivating novel.

Despite the paranormal element, everything about this feels so genuine, so much like the every day, and it’s made even better by JoJo being both ghost like and as she was alive. There is so much drama going on without the paranormal but the paranormal is the heart of it, both the main essence and an almost background feature.

I loved this book so much I gave it five stars before I had even finished. The narrative Kaz has constructed is clever, creative, and so incredibly intriguing. From start to finish she brings you into Willow’s world with curiosity and captivating characters and she holds onto your attention until the very last page. As the final chapters play out your heart pounds, your excitement grows, and you still have no idea where the story is going and what is going to happen. Kaz keeps you guessing and on the edge of your seat until the end, even after the whodunit has been solved.

You can purchase Dead, Actually via the following

Dymocks | Kindle

Booktopia | iTunes

Publisher

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