Slow start to 2021

So, we’re over a week into the new year and I have yet to open a book. Why? Discovery+, that’s why.

I signed up for the 7 day free trial just to see what they’d have to offer and was blown away! All of the shows I started later in the series run and was never able o watch all the way through were there – Building Alaska, The Dead Files, Renovation Realities, the list goes on and on. So for $7 a month, I can binge my heart out. I’m so terrible but man it’s so worth it to see all of the shows I want to watch completely ad free.

But! I did make up the full list for my r/CozyMystery Book Bingo. It was tough to choose which book for some of the categories, but I think I managed to put together a great list!

Takes place in a non-English speaking country – Old Bones (Gideon Oliver, #4) By Aaron Elkins (France)

Setting Featuring Lakes, Rivers, or Streams – The Lake District Murder By John Bude (HARD MODE: The entire book takes place in this setting.)

Historical – Murder at Wedgefield Manor By Erica Ruth Neubauer, (HARD MODE: Not Regency)

Paranormal/supernatural/alternate reality – Dead Bolt (Haunted House Rennovation #4) by Juliet Blackwell (HARD MODE: No vampires or witches.)

No romantic subplot  – The Book of Candlelight (Secret, Book & Scone Society #3) by Ellery Adams (HARD MODE: Features Asexual and/or Aromantic character(s). It should be explicitly stated (either by the character themselves, another character, or the author) that a character isn’t interested in romance or sex.)

Agatha Christie – By the Pricking of My Thumbs (Not an Agatha Christie fan, but I’ll give this a shot.) ( HARD MODE: Not Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, or Then There Were None.)

Book/series has been turned into movie or TV series or vice versa: – Garage Sale Stalker (Garage Sale Mysteries #1) By Suzi Weinert (HARD MODE: Not Agatha Christie or Murder She Wrote.)

Gay – Time Bomb (Alex Delaware #5) By Jonathan Kellerman (HARD MODE: Not a sassy gay friend.) (using my re-read card)

Plant in the title – Nightshade for Warning (Enchanted Garden #2) By Bailey Cattrell (Is Nightshade a flower? Does a flowering plant count as a flower or not? I have no idea)

Read with a book club, read along or buddy read: – I don’t do book clubs or buddy reads and not interested in starting so this one will probably not be filled

Self Published – Malice in Miami (Jamie Quinn Mystery #6) by Barbara Venkataraman

Set in your home state/province/district/department/other principal administrative entity – The Body in the Beauty Parlor (A Jazzi Zanders Mystery #6) By Judi Lynn (HARD MODE: Same city where you currently reside or grew up in that is not a capital of the country or administrative unit.)

Published 2021 – Details in the Document (The Inn at Holiday Bay #14) by Kathi Daley

TBR >3 months Any Given Sundae by Morgana Best (HARD MODE: On your TBR for over a year.)

Book about Books – Ink and Shadows (Secret, Book and Scone Society #4) by Ellery Adams (HARD MODE: Does not feature a library (public, school, or private).)

Set in an abbey, monastery, or other religious house  – No ideas. Anyone? HARD MODE: Not Cadfael.

Occupation of the protagonist is a career you would have liked to be a part of it – The Breaking Point (Body Farm #9) by Bill Bass (HARD MODE: Not one you can be a hobbyist in.)

Referral from a book blog, instabook, or booktube: Haven’t decided yet. Keep the reviews coming, I’m looking for a book to fill this one! 🙂 ( HARD MODE: Review referring review or submit annotated resource.)

Social Issues – Dog Eat Dog (Andy Carpenter #23) by David Rosenfelt (HARD MODE: Social issue is central to the plot.)

Indian Author – Any suggestions?

Features an Animal– Tequila Mockingbird (Australian Amateur Sleuth) by Morgana Best (HARD MODE: Not a cat or dog.) (Parrot)

Published before 2000 – Aunt Dimity’s Death by Nancy Atherton

Transportation in the title – Any recommendations?

Audio Book – I don’t usually listen to audio books. If I happen to listen to one, I’ll fill it in.

Features Politics  Any suggestions!

None of these are set in stone, just organizing ideas. If you have any suggestions, drop me a comment. And if you’d like to participate, click the link above and join us!

Anyone up for Cozy Bingo?

r/CozyMystery on Reddit just announced our 2021 Cozy Bingo challenge!

The goal of the book bingo is to discover new and amazing reads outside your normal reading, and encourage discussion of books.

When we had the poll about the definition of a cozy, it was a close race between “must contain a theme” and one that met all the other criteria, but didn’t have a theme (no explicit sex, gore, etc.). For purposes of Bingo, the broader definition will apply (unless the square relates to a theme).

Many thanks to r/fantasy for their permission to use their bingo as a model, particularly to u/lrich1024 who drafted their rules.

Download your card here!

RULES:

  • 2021 Bingo Period lasts from Feb 1st 2021 – Jan 31st 2022
  • Each book may only be used for one square.
  • Unless otherwise specified, requires a full-length novel. You may substitute a novella for one block, or two novellas for any block.
  • All but one should be a first read; you may use one book you’re re-reading for one square.
  • HARD MODE: Hard mode is optional, but adds an extra level of challenge. You may do none, some, or all squares in hard mode.
  • When you complete the entire card (as long as it’s before the end date), we’ll assign “Book Bingo Champ”’ flair to you.
  • If you get lines completed (horizontal, vertical, diagonal) but not the entire card, we’ll assign “Book Bingo Participant” flair to you.
  • Please post about what you’re reading, progress, etc, on r/CozyMystery. Let us know what you think of the books you’re reading! Share what you found for your squares and whether you liked them.
  • Leading up to Feb. 1, 2021, we’ll have discussions about books we’d recommend in each category (that’s not personal to you).
  • Generally, the resources we have listed on the menu of r/CozyMystery are a good place to look.

You can get all of these rules and the card are available as a shared Google document. I’m preparing a spreadsheet you can use to log your books.

About the Squares:

First Row Across:

  • Takes place in a non-English speaking country:The majority of the action is NOT in a country where English is at least one of the official languages. HARD MODE: Translated from a different language.
  • Setting Featuring Lakes, Rivers, or Streams: This setting must be used for a good portion of the book. HARD MODE: The entire book takes place in this setting.
  • Historical: Takes place in any period at least fifty years in the past. HARD MODE: Not Regency
  • Paranormal/supernatural/alternate reality: A cozy featuring a paranormal/supernatural character or environment and/or an alternate reality. HARD MODE: No vampires or witches.
  • No romantic subplot – A cozy without any of the protagonists looking for love. HARD MODE: Features Asexual and/or Aromantic character(s). It should be explicitly stated (either by the character themselves, another character, or the author) that a character isn’t interested in romance or sex. 

Second Row Across:

  • Agatha Christie: Any novel by the classic author. HARD MODE: Not Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, or Then There Were None.
  • Book/series has been turned into movie or TV series or vice versa: This can include books that weren’t cozy/traditional originally, or that were and the film version made them not so cozy/traditional, as well as books that came out after the film/TV show. HARD MODE: Not Agatha Christie or Murder She Wrote.
  • LGBTQIA+: The protagonist or a major character is non-cis non-hetero. HARD MODE: Not a sassy gay friend.
  • Plant in the title: Self-explanatory. HARD MODE: Not a flower.
  • Read with a book club, read along or buddy read: Any past or still active book clubs count, as well as past or current read-alongs. You can use any you find here or elsewhere; we encourage you to use r/cozymystery to find a book buddy or invite people to read along. HARD MODE: Participate in a discussion or post a review on r/CozyMystery.

Third Row Across:

  • Self-Published: Only self-published novels will count for this square. If the novel has been picked up by a publisher as long as you read it when it was self-pubbed it will still count. HARD MODE: Self-pubbed and has fewer than 50 ratings on goodreads.
  • Set in your home state/province/district/department/other principal administrative entity: Either the one where you currently reside or one you grew up in. HARD MODE: Same city where you currently reside or grew up in that is not a capital of the country or administrative unit.
  • Published in 2021: Self-explanatory. HARD MODE: It’s also a debut novel.
  • On your TBR for three months: Any book you’ve been meaning to get to for at least three months. HARD MODE: On your TBR for over a year.
  • Book About Books: Books must be central to the plot somehow. HARD MODE: Does not feature a library (public, school, or private).

Fourth Row Across:

  • Set in an abbey, monastery, or other religious house: Either the murder, sleuth, victim, or suspect must be located in this setting. HARD MODE: Not Cadfael.
  • Occupation of the protagonist is a career you would have liked to be a part of it: Self-explanatory. HARD MODE: Not one you can be a hobbyist in.
  • Referral from a book blog, instabook, or booktube: A cozy you found from reading a blog, or from Instagram book reviewers, or YouTube book reviewers. HARD MODE: Review referring review or submit annotated resource.
  • Social issues: Includes some social issue; for example, gender inequality, sexuality, race, sexual violence, family violence, economics, or reproduction. HARD MODE: Social issue is central to the plot.
  • Indian Author: Let’s give some love to the country with the second largest number of English speakers in it.  HARD MODE: Book from an Indian small press OR self-published Indian author.

Fifth Row Across:

  • Features an animal: An animal is part of the plot or a discernible character. HARD MODE: Not a cat or dog.
  • Published before 2000: Self-explanatory. HARD MODE: Published before you were born.
  • Some form of transportation is in the title: Self-explanatory. HARD MODE: Not a train, including the word “train” or a description of a train or railroad.
  • Audiobook / Audio drama format: This is a format, not a genre however, please stick to something within cozy/traditional mystery. HARD MODE: Audiobook / audio drama over 25 hours long.
  • Features Politics: Politics are central to the plot. This covers everything from royalty, elections, wars, to smaller local politics. HARD MODE: Larger than city politics (not PD, HOA, other small group).

General FAQ’s:

  • Does ‘x’ book counts for ‘y’ square? If you wonder if something counts for a square, first ask yourself if *you* think it should count? If you’re not confident that it counts, check into some other recommendations.
  • Do I have to start the book from 1st of February 2021 or only finish it from then? If you’re less than 50% through the book when February 1st hits, you can count it if you finish it after the 1st.
  • Can I read a book of short stories for one of the novel squares? Yes, but the anthology needs to be novel length.
  • Can I read a book in another language? Yes, look at you showing those language muscles.
  • Can I listen to audiobooks for any square? Sure thing.
  • Can I turn my bingo sheet in early? Yup. When you’re done with it, just share it to r/CozyMystery. If you don’t get the flair or a confirmation from the Mods that we got it, DM us.

Resources:

I’ll add these as they are created. If anyone else makes any other resources, please DM me so I can make sure it gets here as well.

Indian mystery authors: https://www.thecuriousreader.in/bookrack/mystery-novels/

Best lists: https://www.mysterytribune.com/45-best-cozy-mystery-novels-essential-2019-guide-to-first-book-of-a-series/

A Cozy Year – 2020 Wrap Up

Happy New Year! I set out in January 2020 to read 20 books, then upped it to 50. I ended up reading 71! Amazing. Out of all the books I read, only 6 weren’t cozy mysteries and out of those 6, only 3 were not mysteries at all! According to Goodreads, I read 14,574 pages this year. Almost 80% of the books I read I rated 4 and 5 stars. That’s a lot of good books!

Here are the highlights of my cozy year:

49085292

15 Minute of Flame (Nantucket Candle Maker Mystery #3)
by Christin Brecher
While setting up a Girl Scouts haunted house, Stella stumbles across an old skeleton entombed in the chimney of an old chandlery behind the house. Soon, police discover the bones are very old and call in an expert named Solder and his assistant Leigh to determine the age and origin of the remains. It comes to light that the victim is one Patience Cooper, who, as legend has it, was robbed of a collection of money raised to invest in merchant ships and then disappeared.

While researching the unfortunate victim in the chimney, another related case comes up of a friend of Patience who killed herself by jumping down a well, An expedition is formed to descend into the well, where another skeleton is found, clutching a map indicating the location of a treasure. When a tree suddenly falls over, trapping Leigh in its branches, Solder is found dead, strangled and bludgeoned. Can Stella untangle the threads of an old mystery while finding a modern day killer?

Hands down, probably my favorite book I read this year and I went on to read the other 2 books in the series to catch up. Can’t wait for the next one!

53983251. sy475

His Father’s Ghost (Mina Scarletti #5)
by Linda Stratmann

Mina Scarletti has caught a nasty illness and is under strict instructions from her good friend, Dr Hamid, not to leave her bed. But Mina’s lively mind cannot be entertained for long by pretty poems and dry sermons. So when she catches wind of a local mystery, she is determined to find a way to get involved.

This is one of my favorite series! If you’re a fan of historical mysteries, don’t miss out on this one. Mina is a spunky young woman, despite her scoliosis affliction. She investigates cases resulting from the Spiritualist movement that often are criminal in nature. Set in Victorian times when women had very little freedoms, Mina not only writes best selling horror stories under a pseudonym but is also able to get out and investigate with the help of her many devoted friends. Rich in vibrant historical detail, these books are easy to slip into and enjoy

The Makham Sisters Mysteries

54476508. sy475

Janet has Doveby House, the bed and breakfast she owns with her sister, Joan, all to herself for a few weeks, and she’s enjoying the solitude. When sirens in the middle of the night wake her, however, things get complicated.

Stuart and Mary Long have lived across the road from Doveby House for years. Now their half of the semi-detached property has burned to the ground and Stuart was lucky to escape the blaze with his life. When the police determine that the fire was started deliberately, Janet can’t help but get involved in the investigation.

The Markham Sisters Mysteries novella are another favorite and sadly coming to an end with the release of the final book this month. I rated this one 5 stars, it was so good! I enjoy these short, quick reads that manage to weave intricate non-murder mysteries into a short novella that always leave me wanting more. I will miss Janet and Joan and Doveby Dale and recommend this series to anyone looking for a pleasant, enjoyable read.

Lake Mills Main Street Program | Calendar of Events ...

To close out this year-end post, it’s definitely worth mentioning that two authors I enjoyed sadly passed away this year, taking treasured stories with them.

Sheila Connolly wrote several series, including County Cork, Relatively Dead, Orchard and Museum. It was the County Cork series I loved most, I always loved returning to the tiny village of Leap, Ireland and the cozy atmosphere of the pub Maura owned. I was very sad to hear that she passed earlier this year and she’ll always hold a special place in my book loving heart.

Lea Wait

Lea Wait, author of the Mainly Needlepoint and Antique Print series also passed away this year. Writing a beautiful series set in Maine, her artful writing brought the world she created alive.

So that’s my year in books. My plan for next year is 75 books or more. How about you? Do you have a reading goal in mind?

Cookies in the Cottage (The Inn at Holiday Bay #13)

Cookies in the Cottage (The Inn at Holiday Bay #13)
by Kathi Daley

55271385. sy475

I saved this one to read on Christmas Eve and it was a perfect read to get into the Christmas spirit. Alongside the many festive activities for the guests were were several mysteries; the main plot of a handyman found dead at the estate the three half-sisters Sage, Shelby and Sierra inherited in the last book, which lead to the second mystery – who or what was “haunting” the mansion and did it cause the death of their grandmother, Henrietta and last, someone is leaving gifts for Abby in the cottage, but who’s behind it?

This one makes up for the turkey that was the last book (which was a Thanksgiving book, so that was a really bad pun. *Groan*) by expanding on the story line of the 3 half-sisters and the mysterious death of the handyman, which resulted from some very shady shenanigans and led to an exciting conclusion. I loved the resourcefulness of Abby and Colt to find their way out of the predicament they found themselves in.

But my favorite plot of the book was the secret Santa presents in the cottage that held fond memories for the still grieving Abby. It was so sweet that so much love was shown to her, really put me in the right Christmas mood.

Overall, an excellent, festive read and now I can’t wait for the next one!

Publication Date: December 15th 2020

Serpentine (Alex Delaware #36)

Serpentine (Alex Delaware #36)
by Jonathan Kellerman

53511489. sy475

I was so excited to get this as a “Read Now” on Netgalley that I sat down last night and read every last page. I’ve been a fan of Alex and Milo for almost 30 years and each book just gets better and better.

This one starts with a cold case, a case so cold, it’s frozen shut. Thanks to his stellar solve rate and some politics, Milo is put on the case to help a wealthy young woman find out how her mother ended up dead in a burning car pushed off a cliff. But with next to nothing in the archives, no clues and only a faded picture of the woman, Milo and Alex are forced to start from scratch, weaving together a story of evil that spanned decades.

Very few things make me happier than cracking into a fresh new Kellerman book and this one was no exception. Watching Milo and Alex work is always a pleasure and the intricately woven plot of this nearly-impossible-to-solve case kept me guessing til the end. There were more highs and lows and twists and turns than an alpine race course! And oh man, did I love that ending! Vindication and pure, unadulterated poetic justice. Is there anything better? Nope.

There’s so much more I want to say about this one but I’m afraid I’d give too much away, so I’ll just say this: if you’re looking for a great mystery series, Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series is the top of the heap.

Publication Date: February 2nd, 2021

Intuitive Fasting

Intuitive Fasting: The Flexible Four-Week Intermittent Fasting Plan to
Recharge You Metabolism and Renew Your Health
by Will Cole,

56036319

I’m no stranger to fasting; I lost 50 lbs with fasting/keto but then 2020 happened and I fell off the wagon. Ugh. When I saw this on Netgalley, I requested it, as my goal for the new year is to get back on the weight loss train and I was interested in seeing if there was anything new I could add to my routine.

I’m not sure where the idea that fasting is bad for you came about, but it’s not true. When I started fasting, I had a lot of people spouting off untruths – everything from how fasting will “slow your metabolism” to “it’s not healthy” to the head scratching “you’ll become malnourished”. Seriously? None of those things are true.
And adding low-carb eating along with fasting cuts down on cravings, which means once you get past the first week or 2, you’ll find it easier and easier to do.

As far as all of the information in the book goes, I did learn a few new things that I intend to incorporate into my new program. Things like staying away from diet sodas (I’m not going to pretend I’ll give up my beloved Pepsi Free entirely, but I will reduce the amount I drink substantially) and also from dairy (As a cheese addict, this one will be tough. Goodbye Pepper Jack, I’ll miss you) so I’ve got some challenges in the weeks ahead as I adjust my eating plan.

If you are new to fasting (or are interested in learning more about it) then this is a great place to learn more. All the information is easy to understand and would be a great resource for people who want to begin fasting but don’t know where to start. Included in the program are recipes and sample plans for what the author calls “Ketotarian” – in other words a high fat/moderate protein/low carb diet that includes lean meats and vegetables, combined with a 4 week get started plan. The program is simple enough to do (although the first week may not be easy) and I recommend it for people to at least try.

Publication date: February 23rd 2021 

Turkey in the Trap Room (The Inn at Holiday Bay #12)

Turkey in the Trap Room (The Inn at Holiday Bay #12)
by Kathi Dale
y

55171456. sy475

Between 3 and 4 stars, but I’m rounding down to 3.

This one didn’t wow me like the other books in the series have. Usually I read these in one evening because I can’t put it down, but this one took me a couple of weeks to read. Although it had several intriguing plots, it felt…distracted, unfocused, almost as if it was just trying to kill some time before the end of the book. And considering this was meant to be aThanksgiving themed book, it had very, very little Thanksgiving-y fuss about it. It was more or less a footnote at the end.

The main mystery, who killed Dashwood Hollander and why was the biggest head-scratcher. Not only didn’t he appear in the book (well, not while he was alive, anyway) but none of the suspects ever appeared in the book. It’s hard to try and sleuth along with Abby if there’s no frame of reference on the clues or the motives. In fact, most of the book was Abby rehashing everything over and over.

The secondary mystery of sorts, the three half-sisters given tasks to complete to inherit money from the mother of their absentee dad, was definitely the more interesting of the two plots. In fact, if that was the main plot and had more interaction with the three sisters, it would’ve been a great read on its own, but ended up being watered down in favor of the primary non-mystery.

So, the central theme to this review is….Meh. I’m hoping the next book out soon will be better.

Published November 3rd 2020

Close Your Eyes, Sleep

Close Your Eyes, Sleep: Reprogram Your Mind to Fall Asleep
–And Stay Asleep– With the Groundbreaking Power of Hypnosis
by Grace Smith

49535860

I got this book last month on Netgalley because I’m a chronic insomniac. Once I get to sleep, I usually stay asleep, so it’s the “getting to sleep” that is my biggest problem. I decided to give this a try, even though I’m not great at meditating and I’ve had trouble “going under” through hypnosis before (thank you, ADHD). So I’m probably not the best person to test whether or not this works but then again..maybe I am? I’ll update in the weeks or months ahead with more on how well this works for me.

It was an interesting read, talking about the science of sleep and the problems many of us face, plus giving good tips and steps to retrain your mind to let go and sleep. I’ll admit, it’s been a bit of a struggle for me so far, but I’m hoping repeated practice will help this work for me. So I’d say, if you’re one of those who are great at meditating and/or visualizing, this book may be of help to you. For those of us who struggle with that, it may take time to see results. It’s mentioned in the book that there will be an accompanying website with video tutorials, but at this time it isn’t up yet (I’ll check back after publication.)

If you or someone you know has problems sleeping, I definitely recommend giving this book a try.

Publication Date: December 29. 2020

An interview with author Barbara Venkataraman

Barbara Venkataraman is the author of the Jamie Quinn series of cozy mysteries and her newest book, Malice in Miami is now available for free for a limited time, and you can get the first 3 books in the series for just 99 cents! and all are available on Kindle Unlimited. This is a great cozy series, I definitely recommend!

Malice in Miami Get for 99 cents on Amazon for a limited time!

Reluctant family law attorney Jamie Quinn is loving life–and why wouldn’t she? Her boyfriend Kip is back from Australia, her long-lost dad finally has his visa and she’s about to start her dream job at an art foundation. But it all falls apart when Jamie is accused of stealing priceless art from a rare book collection. If she can’t find out who framed her, she can kiss her dream job good-bye–and her law license too. Meanwhile, Kip has problems of his own. Now an environmental activist, he uncovers a deadly secret–one that just might get him killed. Jamie’s in trouble, Kip’s in danger, and Duke Broussard has gone AWOL. How could Jamie’s favorite P.I. abandon her at a time like this?

I invited Barbara to do a quick interview about her writing, her methods and her visions of how she crafts her books:

Q.There are now 6 books in the Jamie Quinn series, how did Jamie come about? Which is your favorite?

Barbara: My favorite Jamie Quinn book is always the most recent one, but I have a special place in my heart for the first one, Death by Didgeridoo. Although it’s the shortest and the characters have developed so much since then, the first book got me started on this journey. I’ve always been writing since I was in second grade but hadn’t managed to get past short stories and essays until I came up with Jamie Quinn. I was trying to teach myself to play a didgeridoo to help with my sleep apnea and I dropped the didge and broke a glass tabletop. It occurred to me this could be a lethal weapon and I immediately thought of the title Death by Didgeridoo. From there I just started asking questions–Who would get killed with a musical instrument? A music teacher Who would want him dead? Several people. Whose didgeridoo was it? One of his students. And I kept going until I had a story.

Q. What comes first for you, the plot or the characters?

Barbara: Plot first. I have the same main characters in all the books but the other characters just show up when I need them to make the plot move along. Sometimes I get surprised. In Jeopardy in July, I came up with Herb Lowenthal as a very minor character but as I wrote I realized he had an important part to play.

Q. How do you come up with the plots for your books?

Barbara: That’s a mystery even to me. Stephen King says put interesting characters in an interesting situation and see what happens.

Q.How do you come up with the character’s names in your books?

Barbara: I try to come up with a name that fits the person without repeating any names or making them too odd. My cousin’s daughter died tragically and her father asked me to make her a character, so I did. Jesse Sandler was my cousin’s name and the character has her personality. After I did that, several friends and relatives asked me to make them a character so that makes it easy to name them, lol.

Q.How do you cope with writer’s block? Any favorite tricks to get your plot moving again?

Barbara: Writer’s block is a pain, but it can be managed. If I’m totally blocked, I have to ask why. Did I write myself into a corner? Do I have no idea what happens next? Two things help. First, write something else, an essay, a short story,a letter to the editor–just to get the juices flowing. Then go back to the problem and ask questions like, what are all the things that could happen nest? What are the obstacles to each option? Sometimes I’m blocked because I’m going in the wrong direction and I have to shift gears.

Q. What sort of books do you like to read? Do you have any cozy mystery authors you recommend?

Barbara: I actually avoid cozy mysteries because I don’t want to accidentally borrow any ideas. The most recent book I read that I absolutely loved was the Pulitzer Prize winning “Less”. The writing is fantastic and I loved the main character. I also loved “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.”

Q. Tell us about where you write. Do you have a studio? A favorite cafe? Curled up on the couch? What do you like to eat or drink while writing?

Barbara:I sit at my computer to type at my desk in our guest room/office. When I get stuck I go for walk outside to think.

Q. If your book were made into a movie, which actors would you pick to play your characters?

Barbara: That’s tough. Jamie Quinn would be Jennifer Connelly and Kip Simons would be Jared Padalecki. Grace is Cobie Smulders.

Q. If you could be a character in one of your favorite books, who would you be?

Barbara: I would be the wife in the Time Traveler’s Wife.

Q. Last, do you have any new quirky insights for us?

Barbara: If you want to write, do it! It’s the same way you get to Carnegie Hall, practice, practice, practice.

Screech!

Screech! by Charis Cotter

53490194

First came The Thing at the Foot of the Bed. In 4th grade, I was obsessed with it, took it out of the library so many times, I’m surprised they didn’t just let me have it.

Then came Scary Stories to Tell In The Dark. Back then I used to take care of a couple of cute kids in the summer and we used to read them out loud and they loved them as much as I did.

So, scary stories have long held a place in my heart, so when I saw this on Netgalley, I jumped on it. A collection of eerie tales from Newfoundland, Canada, the 10 or so short stories are guaranteed to get a screech! out of the little ones (and maybe even the older ones!) accompanied by gorgeous illustrations. I’d love one or two of them for my wall! My favorite story was the ghostly ballerinas (so cute!) and the Old Hag (eeek!) and the blueberry picker was both heartbreaking and eerie. It takes me back to the days when I was a kid, huddled around the campfire listening to Gramps tell The Hookman story (and when they got home, they saw, hanging from the door handle, was a HOOK! *scream*)

Screech! concludes with several tips on how to come up with your own scary story, something I might just do to scare the little ones in my family while sitting around the fire this winter. Scary good fun, and it would be a great gift for younger kids, I’d say ages 7 and up, especially for kids who like a little bit of scary and might help them to enjoy reading.

Release Date: August 31, 2020

The Gargoyle’s Secret (Stonehaven Mysteries, Book 1)

The Gargoyle’s Secret (Stonehaven Mysteries, Book 1)

55765578. sy475

I found this book on BookSirens and thought it sounded cute and I’m a sucker for paranormal mysteries. This proved to be a cute, easy read and I loved the spooky atmosphere, made for a great read late in the evening.

Laurel is a photojournalist with an assignment for a piece on Stonehaven Mansion and the family that owns it. There seems to be several mysteries at Stonehaven; a man who went missing decades ago, someone searching the grounds for something, and even the master of the house, Marc, seems to be hiding something. Although the plot moved along quickly due to not being a very long book, it unrolled leisurely, with lots of detail to bring the story alive without dragging it down. The picture created of the beautiful Maine setting and the gothic mansion and of the many characters really brought it to life. There was a bit more romance than a typical cozy mystery, so I’d call this more a romance mystery than a cozy mystery but it wasn’t graphic or in your face. If you like a bit more romance in your cozy, this is for you.

Overall, a great start for a newer author and if there’s a second book, I’ll definitely pick it up.

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

The Cottage at Gooseberry Bay (Books 1-3)

I’ve been looking forward to this series ever since Ainsley was introduced in one of the Inn at Holiday Bay books, so I spent the weekend with Ainsley and her friends in Gooseberry Bay. Absolutely loving this series so far!

Halloween Moon (Cottage on Gooseberry Bay #1)

Halloween Moon

I’m a huge fan of (some may say obsessed with) the Inn at Holiday Bay series, so when there was a crossover introducing Ainsley, I was excited to dig into this series and I absolutely love it! Ainsley and her new group of friends are a plucky bunch, resourceful and determined in their investigation into a young woman’s death, and heroic in their rescue. The main plot of Cammy’s death was a little different than most cozies in that there was really only one suspect, so they were just looking for proof, and the cracking good ending made for an exciting read.

As with Abi’s search for answers in the Inn at Holiday Bay series, Ainsley’s search for the truth of her adoption will span several books. I’m looking forward to seeing that mystery unfold as well.

I really enjoyed this debut book of the Gooseberry Bay series and definitely recommend it (and the Inn at Holiday Bay series!) to cozy fans looking for well crafted characters and excellent plots.

Thanksgiving Past (Cottage on Gooseberry Bay #2)

Thanksgiving Past

It’s Thanksgiving in Gooseberry Bay and with it, another mystery for Ainsley and her friends. Her friend Parker, a journalist for the local paper, is reopening an investigation into a family who disappeared on Thanksgiving 5 years ago. The Thanksgiving dinner was on the counter ready to be served, the table was set and there were no signs of a struggle. Parker was just beginning her career back then and is hoping that with her refined investigative skills and new resources, she’ll finally be able to solve this mysterious case.

What I love about the books this author writes is that they’re never the same ol’ tried and true plots and this one was no exception, I thoroughly enjoyed how the plot around the missing family played out and the awesome ending. Meanwhile, Ainsley finally meets Adam, the elder Winchester brother and begins to look into the mystery of her adoption. I like the dynamic between Ainsley and Adam, it’s cute and romantic without being too cute and romantic.

Also, I just realized that the blurb about this book is different than what happened in the book I read, so I think there was some editing or retooling involved before it evolved into this book.

Overall, a super enjoyable holiday read and I’m totally sucked into this series!

Gooseberry Christmas (Cottage on Gooseberry Bay #3)

Gooseberry Christmas

This was a great holiday read and I’m loving how this series is coming along. Ainsley and her friends team up again, this time to clear a friend after he’s seen running from the scene of a murder. The victim had no shortage of people who’d want him dead, both due to his professional life as a successful realtor and his personal life of chasing women. Ainsley bowed out of helping much with this one, saying she “wasn’t a local, so it was better that the locals do the sleuthing…” which didn’t make sense to me. I mean, how are you going to know the locals if you don’t go out and learn about the locals? It was a flimsy excuse so she could spend more time with Adam, which she did; ballroom dance lessons, cozy lunches in Adam’s palatial apartment (within the mansion, no less) and volunteering at the Christmas tree farm. But we did get to learn more about Adam and his work, and I appreciated the glimpse into his life.

As with the last book, the main plot of the murdered man at the Christmas tree lot was not your usual cozy plot, and that’s what I love about this author’s books. How they tracked down the true culprit from just a few clues shows how resourceful and adept they are at putting the pieces together. Enjoyable!

Furbidden Fatality (A Catskills Pet Rescue Mystery #1)

Furbidden Fatality (A Catskills Pet Rescue Mystery #1)
by Deborah Blake

54355045After winning $5 million dollars in the lottery, Kari is still working her dead-end waitressing job and living in a crummy apartment while deciding the best way to use her winnings. When an opportunity to buy a struggling local animal sanctuary comes up, Kari knows this is what she’s meant to do. But Serenity Sanctuary comes with a fistful of problems; dilapidated buildings that need updating, an over-zealous dog warden who is inexplicably obsessed with shutting the sanctuary down and a dog who has been accused of attacking a man and his dog. As she begins to tackle everything on her to-do list, a bigger problem arises; the dog warden is found dead in the dog yard! Under suspicion, Kari and her group of sanctuary volunteers begin investigating, uncovering more than just a murderer.

As an animal lover, I can’t resist a good pet lover cozy, so when I saw this on Netgalley, I snapped it up quick. The first third of the book didn’t wow me, although I liked Kari, the “you found the body, you’re the main suspect” and the “leave the investigating to the police…” tropes really get under my skin. But I held on and, as the story unfolded, it turned into a smashing good read. Once the pace picked up and more and more leads were uncovered, it was impossible to put down. And I loved how Kari and her friends uncovered pieces of the puzzle and went to the sheriff with what they found, leading to several people headed off to jail. This little plot-within-a-plot elevated this to not-just-your-average cozy. Add in the heartwarming rejuvenation of the pet sanctuary, finishing this left a smile on my face and that warm, fuzzy feeling when all is put right.

One last note…seriously, NO ONE called out mouthy Bryn when she blames everything on Kari several times? No one, absolutely no one, told her to grow up and stop acting like a spoiled toddler? Not a fan of Bryn. She can go wash dogs somewhere else.

Heartwarming, satisfying and oh so cozy, Furbidden Fatality was a wonderful debut to a new series.

Publication Date: February 23, 2021

Mystery Movies

With the weather turning cold I’ve been binging on all the Hallmark Mysteries and Movies that I saved but never got around to watching. They’ve done a great job of bringing books to life (well, most of them) and some of them are new to me but super enjoyable.

DIGI18-HMM-MysteryMoviesSeries-AuroraTeagardenMystery-Portrait-338x500-KO.jpg

I tried reading the first Aurora Teagarden mysteriy at one point but I wasn’t able to get into it. I loved several of Charlaine Harris’s other series (Harper Connelly and Lily Bard are ones that I’ve read several times) but I wasn’t a fan of Aurora – until this series started on HM&M. But Candace Cameron brings the series alive. Who’d have thought DJ Tanner was a sleuth?

My favorite so far is A Bone To Pick. Aurora’s friend Jane dies and leaves everything to Aurora – including a skeleton and a mystery. Had me on the edge of my seat!

DIGI19-Mystery101-Portrait-328x500.jpg

Mystery101 is another movie series I gobbled up. I don’t know if they’re based on a series (if so, I’ve never heard of it) but I loved this from the first moment of the first movie.

Amy is an English professor and teaches a class on crime fiction, and her knowledge comes in handy when solving murders with the hunky police detective Travis. I love the cast; there’s great chemistry between Jill and Detective Travis, and this series has some great plots and don’t get me started on the scenery. Absolutely beautiful! There’s 5 movies in this series so far and I hope there’s many more.

I also love the Fixer Upper Mysteries starring Jewel and Colin Ferguson (who I absolutely love) I don’t know if they’re going to continue this series, only 4 were made and it’s been a few years since the last one came out – which is so disappointing!

In the first movie, Shannon Hughes, an expert in historic home renovation, is hired by Mac, an investigative crime reporter, to restore the old mansion he just purchased. But when Shannon’s friend Jesse, a deep sea treasure hunter, is found dead and the police chalk it up to an unfortunate accident, Shannon thinks it was murder. Teaming up with Mac, they uncover the clues to uncover a murderer.

I really enjoyed this series, Jewel is fantastic as Shannon Hughes and even gets to sing a bit. Colin Ferguson (who has been in tons of things, but most notably in SyFy’s series Eureka) is always a big draw for me. Add in the beautiful scenery, the old houses (I love old houses!) and the great plots and this is one series you just can’t miss.

So if you’re looking for something to watch, give these a try!

On Deadly Tides: Penny Brannigan #11

On Deadly Tides:  Penny Brannigan Mystery #11
by Elizabeth J Duncan

53631377. sy475 Penny and fellow painter friend Alwynne take a weekend course on painting in the nearby town of Beaumaris on the beautiful North Wales island of Anglesey. Sitting in a crowded bar on her first night, Penny first meets Colin, an attractive man, and a young news reporter named Jessica who just arrived from New Zealand to investigate a man who went missing several years before. The next morning, while out to paint a lighthouse, Penny finds Jessica dead on the beach, the victim of an apparent fall. Penny knows this was no accident and when the police have no evidence it was anything but an accident, she picks up the threads to unravel the circumstances that led to the young woman’s death.

Found this on Netgalley and snapped it up. I’ve read this series since the beginning and a few books back, I mentioned that I thought the character of Penny had stagnated, so I was really happy to see her character moving forward! I think this will breathe some new life into the series.

As for the plot, I had a pretty good idea whodunit but eagerly raced through the book to see it all unfold. Lots of twists and turns led to a satisfying conclusion that neatly wrapped up the two cases. It was also a pleasure to watch the romance blossom and to catch up with the usual cast of characters I’ve grown to love. The sweet ending left a smile on my face and I do hope this isn’t the end to the series (felt a little ambiguous to say for certain?) and if not, I look forward to more of Penny’s exploits.

Release Date: 10 November 2020

Mining for Justice (Chloe Ellefson Mystery #8)

Mining for Justice (Chloe Ellefson Mystery #8)by Kathleen Ernst

34458847. sy475

This series blows me away with every book. There are always 3 narratives: Chloe’s, cop boyfriend Roelke’s and a haunting historical story featuring a woman facing horrible hardships. It’s managed so well, too; it seamlessly switches in between the narratives and brings a multi-dimensional facet to the story that’s unmatched in any other series I’ve read.

There was a lot going on this one; Chloe is struggling to find out who was buried in the root cellar of her friend’s stone cottage and also trying to help save the historical interpretation site Pendarvis from closing. Roelke is working on a big drugs bust while trying to protect his cousin from her ex-husband. Meanwhile, centuries ago, a Cornish woman and her brothers immigrated to Wisconsin to mine lead and her struggles and triumphs. There’s a lot packed into this book, but the story is woven so well that it’s easy to switch between characters. I loved the story of Mary Pascoe, from her time as a balmaiden in Cornwall to her immigration to the US and the struggles she faced throughout her life but also her triumphs. Meanwhile, with Chloe away, Roelke was forced to make a drastic decision that haunts him, one he can’t share with anyone, even his beloved Chloe.

I heartily recommend this series, particularly for those who enjoy historical fiction.

Released October 8, 2017

Mrs. Morris and the Ghost of Christmas Past (A Salem B&B Mystery, #3)

Mrs. Morris and the Ghost of Christmas Past (A Salem B&B Mystery, #3)
by Traci Wilton

50264263. sy475

I love this time of year, the best time to curl up with a warm quilt, a good book with a Christmas theme to get you in the holiday spirit, and a roaring fire (well, I don’t have a fireplace, but there are videos on Amazon Prime, so that’ll have to do.)

This was the first book from the Salem B&B Mystery series that I’ve read, and I’ll definitely be picking up the first two. In this one, Charlene attends a charity auction at a restaurant owned by a recent lottery winner, David Baldwin. Tensions are high at the auction and when David suddenly bolts outside and is fatally struck by a car, there’s no shortage of suspects.

This was my introduction to all the characters and I liked them all, from the analytical and down-to-earth Charlene to hunky ghost Jack to Charlene’s dad (her mom, however, can go freeze out in the backyard. Tone it down, sweetie) and everyone at the B&B. It made for a very cozy read, and the plot, complete with juicy secrets, intrigue and even a bit of humor here and there made for an exciting and enjoyable read.

Published September 29th 2020

On Borrowed Crime (Jane Doe Book Club Mystery #1)

On Borrowed Crime (Jane Doe Book Club Mystery #1) by Kate Young

Lyla is a good ‘ol southern gal living in Sweet Mountain, GA, a small town as only the south can do. With its laid back lifestyle and good people you’ve known all your life, it should be idyllic. For Lyla, a receptionist in her uncle’s private investigation office, solving mysteries runs in her blood. Together with a circle of like minded friends organized into a true crime book club, Lyla enjoys the crime investigating life. But when one of the club members turns up dead in a suitcase delivered to Lyla’s front door, crime investigating turns serious – and deadly. Unable to set aside the danger, Lyla puts her skills to the test to track down a killer in her home town.

A first book in a new series always calls to me. What is this new world? Can I settle right in? Will these characters become friends? A first book in a new series is always an open invitation I can never pass up, and this book opened the door to a place I’d love to spend more time in. The characters were equally as charming, I loved Lyla’s granny (would love to see her more as Lyla’s partner in crime…well, crime fighting) and I’m looking forward to seeing where Lyla goes from here.

As for the plot, it was packed with intrigue and tension, from the discovery of Carol’s body to the threats and red herring to the thrilling ending, it made for a can’t-put-it-down roller coaster ride. I admit, this was one of those books where I would decide on the likely culprit but the red herrings always pulled me off the scent. I love books that do that!

Overall, an excellent introduction to the folks in Sweet Mountain, GA and I’m looking forward to reading more!

Release Date: October 6, 2020

For Whom the Book Tolls: An Antique Bookshop Mystery

For Whom the Book Tolls: An Antique Bookshop Mystery #1 by Laura Gail Black 

After some nasty business back home in Charlotte, Jenna receives an invitation from her Uncle Paul to come live with him and work at his bookstore.  When she finds Paul dead, crumpled at the bottom of a staircase, Jenna finds out she has inherited everything, putting her under suspicion.  Determined to clear her name and to start over again, Jenna starts investigating to find a killer.

Excellent start to a new series, with lots of twists and turns to throw you off the trail. I really liked Jenna and love the small town of Hokes Folly (I’d love to go stay at that inn!). There was plenty going on in this book, between Jenna’s troubles in Charlotte to finding her uncle dead and inheriting the bookstore to a man trying to usurp her inheritance and then winding up dead himself and it kept the pace moving quickly. The plot was very well done, I went back and forth between suspects throughout the book, so the ending was a bit of a surprise, but satisfying.

My only minus to this story is Sutter. I feel like the whole “bad cop” trope in cozy mysteries has been done to death; as a device to add tension to a story, all it manages to do is annoy me so much, I start flipping pages. And really Jenna, if you’ve already been falsely accused and arrested for a serious crime once, wouldn’t you realize that talking to a hostile detective without a lawyer present isn’t a good idea? And it takes her what, 3 times to do it? *sigh* Get it together, Jenna!

Overall, an excellent start to a new series and I look forward to reading more from Jenna and Hokes Folly.

Release Date: September 8, 2020

Little Bookshop of Murder

 Little Bookshop of Murder: A Beach Reads Mystery #1  by Maggie Blackburn

50253341. sy475 Summer is not having a good summer. After a minor scandal has her scurrying off to England to spend some time researching Shakespeare for an academic paper, she has to rush back home to North Carolina when her mother dies suddenly of a heart attack. Arriving back home in the small town she thought she’d left behind forever, Summer begins to suspect that her mother’s death wasn’t natural and after failing to convince the town’s police chief to investigate, takes on the challenge herself with her aunt and cousins. Can Summer uncover the truth before she ends up a victim in her own tragedy?

I saw this on Netgalley and couldn’t resist snagging it.  I really enjoyed this, equal parts engaging, heartbreaking, exciting, and heartwarming. Summer and her family are likeable and the story was rich in detail, making the setting and the characters seem so realistic it was like being there. But that came at the expense of the pacing, which lagged a bit in the middle and there was a fair amount of rehashing. I liked how organically and realistically Summer set out to investigate, especially when she followed in the footsteps of her mother’s last day. Took her a bit longer to see whodunit than it did me (and I thought the motive was a bit shaky) but that twisty, action-packed reveal and the surprise twist at the very end wrapped everything up nicely and left me wanting more.

Publication Date: September 8, 2020

Mums and Mayhem (A Magic Garden Mystery #3)

Mums and Mayhem (A Magic Garden Mystery #3)  by Amanda Flower

49504556. sx318 sy475 When I saw this as a Read Now on Netgalley, I eagerly snatched it up! In Mums and Mayhem, Fi has her hands full. Not only is she helping out with a homecoming concert put on by a superstar musician to the small village of Bellewick, but her parents are also in town to visit (and to guilt the girls into returning to run the family farm) and to cap it all off, someone killed the magic garden she’s been tasked with keeping!

I really enjoyed the main mystery, who killed superstar fiddler Barley. Plenty of people were angry with Barley but who was angry enough to kill him? Fingers were pointed all in all directions and even Fiona’s father is a suspect! In the end, the true killer was a surprise and the exciting ending made for a real page turner.

But it was the magic garden was what sucked me into this series from the beginning; I’ve been under the spell of magic gardens ever since I read The Secret Garden at the age of 9. It was with a sense of dread when Fiona discovered the garden dying. How could this happen? Who would do such a thing? It wasn’t hard to figure out, but the why was was a head scratcher and I wondered why Fiona hadn’t noticed the tell tale clue. The reasons for the vandalism were unnecessary. Although there was no legal recourse, I would’ve asked a few of the old salty dogs at the shipyard to handle the situation for me.

It was good to see Fiona and her parents settle a few issues and come to an understanding. But I have to say, Isla is an annoying woman who acts like a bratty 8 year old and the more annoying she gets, the more Fiona (and her parents) seem to shrug it off. I don’t get it. Go home, Isla. Marry a farmer. Go be a problem somewhere else.

Overall, a solid mystery and a very enjoyable read

Release Date: August 11, 2020

His Father’s Ghost (Mina Scarletti #5)

His Father’s Ghost (Mina Scarletti #5) by Linda Stratmann

53983251. sy475 First off, I can say that my automatic rating for this series is five stars, it’s that good. The Victorian period is painstakingly portrayed so realistically, I expect to see men in top hats driving by my window in horse carriages.

Mina is an intelligent and spirited young woman battling Scoliosis, which she manages with grace and strength. But when a slight cold becomes serious, she is tucked away into bed, protected from the outside world by her hired nurse and her family. But that doesn’t stop Mina from cracking another Spiritualist case. Using her dedicated friends, she delves into the mystery of Franklin, a young lad haunted by the ghost of his father, Jasper, who vanished seven years before after falling off a yacht into the sea. Shortly after his disappearance, the truth was revealed; Jasper was on the verge of bankruptcy and was unable to hide his money troubles any longer. But without a body, it took several years to have him declared legally dead. Shortly after, his widow married a new husband and the rumors started flying once again.

Desperate to help her young son, the widow asks Mina to help. Mina, fascinated by the disappearance, calls in her network of friends tp find information about the case. Slowly, she works her way through the web of misinformation and finally uncovers the truth.

I started this after supper and couldn’t put it down until I finished it well after midnight. The plot, characters and locale are so vivid, so three dimensional that I felt like I was right there in the thick of things. When I picked up the book, I thought that Mina being stuck in bed for the majority of the book would make it dull, but that wasn’t the case at all. Between Mina’s brother Richard’s tales and the observations of the flamboyant actor Mr. Merridew, I felt like I was seeing it through their eyes.  I loved the ending, which neatly tied the threads together and even made me a bit misty.

Truly, this is a magnificent series and one I heartily recommend to historical mystery and cozy mystery fans alike.

Released July 20, 2020

The Body from the Past (A Jazzi Zanders Mystery #5)

The Body from the Past (A Jazzi Zanders Mystery #5)
by Judi Lynn

50003717Finally able to jump into this newest book in the Jazzi Zanders series after choosing to catch up on the first four after getting this one on Netgalley.

Jazzi, Jerod and Ansel have snagged a great deal on a fixer upper in Merlot. While beginning the process of emptying the house to prepare it for renovation, they find a locked bedroom, shut away since the former resident, a recently graduated high school girl, fell to her death during her graduation party when she was pushed off a second floor balcony, a murder that was never solved and in small town Merlot, rumors abounded ever since.

First off, it’s a known fact that a secret locked room is a quick way to suck me into a book. I loved how the journals introduced and narrated Jessica and her tragic life. Without it, she would’ve been just words on a page, instead it brought her back to life. There was no shortage of suspects, including a few who were right up there on the list because of how odious they were but in the end, the killer was unmasked and what a twisted tale it was.

Part of the draw of these books is watching (well, reading) the gang as they renovate houses; what design choices they make (both good and bad. Still not over the yellow brick house with the red metal roof and green door in the last book) and all the different houses they find. So, I enjoyed Ansel and Jazzi’s vision of turning their basement into a playroom/man cave/spare sleeping space for guests. Truly enviable! Their family gatherings sound like such a warm, lively parties, with good food and lots of fun. Enviable!

Overall, a solid addition to a series that continues to grow and satisfy. Can’t wait for the next!

Release Date: September 22, 2020

The Body in the Gravel (Jazzi Zanders #3)

The Body in the Gravel (A Jazzi Zanders Mystery #3)
by Judi Lynn

43426272. sy475 Jazzi, Jerod and Ansel are onto a new flip, a 3 story brick house in need of extensive renovation; just the sort of job the gang does best. The foundation is sinking, so the crew builds forms and calls their cement contractor Darby for a delivery. Darby is a prickly sort who doesn’t get along well with others and has a heated argument with Thane about Darby’s missing wife and son. When Darby’s dead body is delivered in a load of gravel, Jazzi teams up with Detective Gaff to find a killer.

Ok, first I have to get this off my chest. They put a red tin roof and a green door on a yellow brick house? Sounds like Caillou’s house. Yeeesh.

But enough about design choices, I really enjoyed the plot on this one and it feels like the series has hit its stride. I really enjoyed the plot, there were lots of suspects so likable, I was rooting for them to be innocent. When the killer was finally revealed, I was surprised. I mean, I knew one of them did it but the one that did wasn’t high on my suspect list.

Overall, an enjoyable read capped off with a sweet wedding and now onto book 4 so I can read the latest I got on Netgalley.

Murder’s No Votive Confidence (Nantucket Candle Maker #1)

Murder’s No Votive Confidence (Nantucket Candle Maker #1)
by Christin Brecher

42118422This is the first book in this series and only the second one I’ve read and I have to say, this author excels at keeping the reader in the dark about whodunit until the final pages. Obfuscation is the word of the day with this author! It’s rare that I find a book where I have no idea, not even a suspicion, whodunit. So this book ranks high just for that.

Stella is helping her heavily pregnant best friend Emily with the high society wedding and her role is to create a unity candle for the bride and groom. But when the bride’s uncle is found dead, bludgeoned with the unity candle, and the hotel’s bartender is arrested, Stella smells a rat and sets out to find the real killer.

There was so much to love about this book, from unrequited love to murder to candle scents to cats. Although the quick pace kept the plot moving, it was neither rushed nor confusing. I found myself reading late into the evening because I just had to keep going to find out more. So easy to get lost in this book! By the time I got through the exciting ending, I was at the edge of my seat and the subterfuge continued right up to the end with many surprise twists and turns.

I’m not sure why I didn’t hear about this series when it came out, but I’m glad I found it. This will definitely be a must read series for me and I look forward to many more.

15 Minutes of Flame (Nantucket Candle Maker #3)

15 Minutes of Flame (Nantucket Candle Maker Mystery #3)
by Christin Brecher 

49085292While setting up a Girl Scouts haunted house, Stella stumbles across an old skeleton entombed in the chimney of an old chandlery behind the house. Soon, police discover the bones are very old and call in an expert named Solder and his assistant Leigh to determine the age and origin of the remains. It comes to light that the victim is one Patience Cooper, who, as legend has it, was robbed of a collection of money raised to invest in merchant ships and then disappeared.

While researching the unfortunate victim in the chimney, another related case comes up of a friend of Patience who killed herself by jumping down a well, An expedition is formed to descend into the well, where another skeleton is found, clutching a map indicating the location of a treasure. When a tree suddenly falls over, trapping Leigh in its branches, Solder is found dead, strangled and bludgeoned. Can Stella untangle the threads of an old mystery while finding a modern day killer?

I found this on Netgalley and although this is the third book in the series, it’s my first entry and you can bet I’ll be reading the first two ASAP. I can safely say this can be read as a standalone or as an entry into the series, as it doesn’t seem like many details from previous books are present, or if they are, are adequately explained.

I absolutely loved the atmosphere of the book from the first page! Great, engaging characters, a romantic setting at seaside Nantucket and an intriguing mystery spanning generations. What more could anyone ask for? I totally admit I had no idea whatsoever whodunit, the culprit was neatly hidden very well until the dramatic reveal at the end.

I did feel that the historical mystery wasn’t tied up as well as the modern mystery, as what happened to the “treasure” and what was found at the location really wasn’t explained or even brought up again. That would be my one gripe. Where is my happily ever after for Patience’s treasure?

Overall, this was one excellent read and you can bet it’ll be on my list of ones to follow eagerly for each new installment.

Release Date: August 25, 2020

The Last Curtain Call (Haunted Home Renovation #8)

The Last Curtain Call  (Haunted Home Renovation Mystery #8)
by Juliet Blackwell

50848065. sx318 sy475 I saw this book on Netgalley and couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and it was every bit as good as the blurb made it out to be. This is my first entry into this series (this one is number 8!) so I can safely say that it can be read as a standalone.

I sat down one evening with some time to kill before LivePD started and ended up missing the show! This was just too good to put down. So much to like about it, from the great characters to the amazing plot to the wonderful setting in an old decrepit theater.

Mel is an expert in renovating houses (always a huge draw for me, I love old houses and I love when people restore them instead of ripping out the character and making it an open-plan-granite-countertop-marble-floor monstrosity. But that’s another topic.) So, when Mel lands the plum job of restoring an old run down theater that she once visited with her late mother, she goes to have a look.Purchased by a mysterious organization whose motives are unclear, Mel is wary, especially after another contractor was dismissed from the job seemingly without any reason. At the theater, Mel finds a lot of work that needs to be done, as well as a small group of squatters who have to relocated before work can begin.

While assessing what needs to be done, one of the squatters is found, strangled and set on top of the Wurlitzer organ, which rises slowly, revealing her dead body.

Meanwhile, Mel and boyfriend Landon have bought an old house and are renovating it when they discover the ghost of a flapper in the attic, surrounded by her dresses. One of the dresses has a long rip in it and Mel also tries to unravel why she is haunting the attic.

So, several things to solve in this book, and the pace swept along quickly, always a new clue popping up. I really enjoyed how it unfolded and the exciting conclusion capped off a really great book.

If I was to point out any shortcomings, it’s that the ending, while satisfying and thrilling, seemed to come about rather quickly. I do have to say that there was really no clue as to who the culprit was. Still, I enjoyed every bit of it and you can bet I’ll go out and catch up on the other 7 books!

Release Date: June 30th, 2020

The Body in the Attic (A Jazzi Zanders Mystery #1)

The Body in the Attic (A Jazzi Zanders Mystery #1) by Judi Lynn

39168404. sy475 I saw the latest book in this series on Netgalley and it sounded good, so I requested it. When I saw the latest is book 5, I got this book to “catch up” if I am approved for the Netgalley book.

I started it last night, since there wasn’t anything good on TV (which was a good thing, since I ended up not being able to put it down!) I liked Jazzi immediately and was sucked into the story within a few pages. Then I realized the book is set in the area I live, and having a personal connection to many of the places in the book really brought the story alive. I loved the dual plot, revolving around Jazzi’s long-missing aunt’s skeletal remains found in a cedar chest and another (more recent) body found in the back yard. I liked how the investigation unfolded, with all its tragic details (I really felt for poor Cal!) and the satisfying conclusion (although I still can’t figure out why a police detective would bring a civilian along when questioning suspects. A bit far-fetched but I was able to suspend disbelief.)

Frankly, I enjoyed the house flipping more than anything else in the story, I play House Flipper on Steam obsessively, watch a lot of DIY Network, and love everything about historic home conservation, so I loved “watching” Jazzie, Ansel and Jerod restore Cal’s house (I loved almost everything they did , except for the stainless steel countertops. Ugh.)

There was some romance involved in this book, more than you’d usually find in a cozy mystery but considerably less than what you’d find in a romance novel, so I’d say this is a romantic cozy mystery rather than a cozy mystery romance. Although the relationship between the characters seemed to move pretty quickly, I chalk that up to the characters having known (and worked with) each other for years before the book begins. Really, it’s such a small aspect to the book that I (as someone who doesn’t care for romance novels) wouldn’t be put off recommending it to others as a good cozy to enjoy.

Overall, this was a delightful read, homey, familiar and touching as well as a cracking good plot.

Proof in the Photo (The Inn at Holiday Bay #9)

Proof in the Photo (The Inn at Holiday Bay #9) by Kathi Daley

50253340. sy475 I can’t believe this is book 9 already. When a new one is published, I can’t wait to get my greedy hands on it. In this one, a bride-and-groom-to-be rent out the inn for an engagement party, bringing along a motley crew of old friends. When one of the group is found dead, and no one in the group seems to be particularly put out, Abby is on the case and finds betrayal, lies and painful secrets.

I love this series, from the wonderful characters to the beautiful setting to the rich descriptions of everything that make me feel like I’m right there. This was a great plot, too and I would never have guessed in a million years the motive or the killer. And the “cold case” omigod a hidden room? *swoon* Nothing sucks me in faster than a hidden room and I have to wait to see what’s in it? Hurry up with the next book, I gotta know!

A great entry in a great series that shows no signs of slowing down and I’m already refreshing Goodreads to see when the next book will be released.