Halloween Theme Read 2021 – Done!

Happy Halloween! I challenged myself to read 10 Halloween books during the month of October and I had so much fun doing it!

My absolute favorite read was Designed for Haunting by Sybil Johnson. An amazing plot, lots of twists and turns and characters I want to have as my best friends. This wasn’t a series I had read before, so I’m thrilled to find a new series to love. Definitely pick this one up if you can!

Tomorrow is Halloween, so I can spend the next 48 hours deep into ghost hunting shows (GHOST HUNTERS IS BACK! YAAY!) and then on Monday starts the Holiday theme read. So excited!

Bread of the Dead (Santa Fe Cafe Mystery #1)

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Bread of the Dead
(Santa Fe Cafe Mystery #1)
by Ann Myers

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Well written, likable and oozing cozy, Bread of the Dead has all the ingredients for the perfect mystery!

This book gave me hard core Goldy Bear vibes. The Goldy Bear series by Diane Mott Davidson was one of the first cozy series I read. I was heartbroken when it ended, but this made it feel like I was back in Goldy’s kitchen with her. Even the audiobook narrator reminded me of the Goldy Bear narrator. Loved it!

Rita is a transplant from the Midwest to Santa Fe, a recent divorcee with a teenage daughter and a love-to-hate ex-husband (who is every bit of a condescending jackass that Goldy’s ex was!) and a position as a chef at Tres Amigas, a café specializing in authentic Mexican food for breakfast and lunch. After her divorce, she rented a casita from her neighbor, Victor, who you (the reader) actually gets an opportunity to “know” – I can’t tell you how important it is to me as a reader to have some understanding of who the victim was before they were murdered and getting to know Victor gave his death an impact it wouldn’t have had otherwise. I loved the Santa Fe setting and the Día de los Muertos theme (I especially enjoyed the tradition and reverence portrayed by Victor about the holiday and his ancestors!) and the townspeople gave it that extra spice, especially Flori, Rita’s boss at the café. The hectic pace of Rita’s life kept the story moving along; really, I sometimes felt like I needed a break to have a cup of cocoa and a cookie. How cozy is that?

Very well done mystery, perfect for a Halloween read but just a warning – this book will have you looting the kitchen for snacks after reading about all the delicious foods!

Published September 29th 2015 by William Morrow

Only one book left for Book Bingo! Woo hoo!

2021 Holiday Theme Read Nov. 1 – Jan 2

Guys, I’m so excited about this! With help from the r/CozyMystery Discord, we came up with a great Holiday theme read to put everyone in the Holiday mood. You can download and print out the theme read card or, do what I do – import it into Canva or Photoshop and add each book you’ve read as you finish it. You don’t have to be a member of the Discord or Reddit group, you can follow along and use hashtag #2021HolidayReads in social media or review posts. Below you’ll find links to the Reddit posts with ideas and book recommendations for each category:

Continue reading “2021 Holiday Theme Read Nov. 1 – Jan 2”

2021 Halloween Theme Read!

Halloween is just hours away! Hooray!

I’ve had so much fun with the Halloween theme read, I read a bunch of new-to-me authors and found some spectacular books. Designed for Haunting by Sybil Johnson is definitely my top read, it was SO GOOD and I loved the skeleton on the cover. I love finding new series to deviour!

I also loved The Haunted Homecoming, the latest release in Angie Fox’s Southern Ghost Hunter series and the re-read of Victoria Laurie’s Ghost Hunter series, made for a real Halloween thrills, chills and spooky.

I finished up the Tess & Tilly series by Kathi Daley with The Ghostly Groundskeeper (SO GOOD!) and I’m trying another of her series, Haunting by the Sea. I’m around 20% on Bread of the Dead and loving it so far, it gives me real Goldie Bear vibes and it makes me miss Diane Mott Davidson’s epic series, that was my first introduction to cozy mysteries!

Want to join in? r/CozyMystery is doing a 3 book theme read, or you can join me for a 10 book theme read. Drop a comment if you’d like to join in!

The Haunted Homecoming (Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries #10)

The Haunted Homecoming
(Southern Ghost Hunter Mysteries #10)
by Angie Fox

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I downloaded this one on Netgalley for the r/CozyMystery Halloween theme read and let’s face it, no one does ghosts better than Angie Fox!

First off, I loved the 80s theme. Ahhh high school in the 80s…poofy dresses, poofier hair…you know, like omg totally awesome. Brought back memories of dancing to the newly released Two of Hearts by Stacey Q at my first high school dance. sigh Memories…But anyway, I’m hear to talk about this book; it’s Homecoming in Sugarland and the festivities are just getting underway when a body is found of a missing Homecoming queen who supposedly left town after the dance in 1985 (spoiler: she didn’t, but I figured that part out before I even started reading it.) We also meet Verity’s mother for the first time and really, what woman can’t relate to Tilly and Verity’s relationship? So realistic, I loved it.

But my favorite part of this was that a lot of the plot centered on Frankie; the loveable gangster ghost is going through some issues, wreaking havoc on Verity’s investigation. I loved that it made Frankie a bit more dimensional and…human? for lack of a better word. On one hand, I feel like it was a long time coming and on the other hand, I don’t know why it took this long to do!

A totally rad book from start to finish, like fer sure!

Published August 17th 2021 by Moose Island Books

What’s a Ghoul to Do? (Ghost Hunter Mystery #1)

What’s a Ghoul to Do?
(Ghost Hunter Mystery #1)
by Victoria Laurie

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is my second time reading this, I read it first back in 2013. I never got around to reading the final book in the series, so I wanted to do a complete series re-read and this being October, what better time to read a ghost hunting book?

In this book, we’re introduced to M.J., a psychic medium who can communicate with ghosts and (hopefully) move them on and best friend Gilley. They’re hired by wealthy and debonair Dr. Steven Sable to contact his recently deceased grandfather, Andrew, at the family lodge. The investigation concluded that Andrew committed suicide, but Steven doesn’t believe it. They set out to investigate and uncover a dangerous plot.

This one is on the outer edges of cozy mystery (there’s a few *ahem* adult situations that are more than what are typically seen in a cozy, but not explicit, think PG-13 rather than R rated) but the crackin’ good plot; while a bit over the top, made for an exciting read (the swimming pool scene! *gasp*) and I think that’s what I love about this series, along with how well the paranormal element is woven into the story. The ghosts offer up a few clues, but the actual investigating comes down to M.J., Steven and Gilley.

An excellent read, definitely recommended for fans of paranormal cozy mysteries.

Published April 3rd 2007 by Signet Book

Designed for Haunting (Aurora Anderson #4)

Designed For Haunting
(Aurora Anderson Mysteries #4)
by Sybil Johnson

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I picked this one up for the r/CozyMystery Halloween theme read. I’ve never read this series before, so I can safely say this can be read as a standalone.

Absolutely loved this one, it had everything I want in a cozy; a twisty plot, charming and likeable characters (I loved Rory and Liz, they were a fantastic team!) realistic police interactions and procedures (often a sticking point for me!) and a great atmosphere.

But the plot was the star of this book; Zelena, a former child actress, goes missing, which triggers an email to her friend, Rory. Rory contacts her detective boyfriend Martin Green and begins to search for Zelena, who is later found dead. While I figured out the WHO before the end of the book, I never saw the WHY coming, although the clues were all there. The side plot, concerning escalating Halloween pranks (that skeleton in a hammock is on the cover for a reason!) made for a great distraction/red herring that muddied the waters even further. Really, this was a superbly written plot that kept me guessing all the way through.

A fantastic read and I’m definitely going to pick up the other books in the series. Can’t recommend it enough!

Published October 9th 2018 by Henery Press

Murder in the Churchyard (A Tommy & Evelyn Christie Mystery #3)

Murder in the Churchyard: A 1920s cozy mystery
(A Tommy & Evelyn Christie Mystery Book 3)
by Catherine Coles

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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I received this one from Booksirens and it was perfect for the Set in an abbey, monastery, or other religious house square on the r/CozyMystery Book Bingo (only 2 more squares left to finish!)

Tommy and wife Evelyn find themselves in another murder investigation when the disliked ex-husband of one of the villagers is found dead in the churchyard. Due to a snowstorm, the police are unable to get to the village and put Tommy, a Lord, in charge of preserving the scene until they can get there. Having already solved a few cases themselves, Tommy and Evelyn begin to investigate, mindful that one of their many friends and neighbors is guilty of murder.

This is the first book I’ve read in the series, so I can safely say this can be read as a standalone. I love a good historical mystery and this was an easy and quick read at only 130 pages. I loved the setting in 1920s Yorkshire and there were several social issues highlighted; one character is a WWI veteran with PTSD, another is an impoverished war widow and I felt that added a lot of realism to the story as the villagers were still rebuilding their lives after the hardships during the war.

As for the investigation and apprehending the culprit, there wasn’t a whole lot to do since the village has only a few residents and even fewer had a motive so it was a matter of eliminating suspects until the culprit remains. I did enjoy how Tommy and Evelyn set about questioning people, uncovering a few scandals (boy, those villagers really get around!) and preventing more murders.

Overall, this was an enjoyable book and I’ll be looking at picking up the other books in the series.

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

Published January 29th 2021

2 squares left to finish!

Well-Offed in Vermont (Vermont Country Living #1)

Well-Offed in Vermont
(Vermont Country Living #1)
by Amy Patricia Meade

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Stella and Nick move from NYC to rural Vermont when Nick gets his dream job as a forest ranger. Within minutes of arriving at their newly purchased home, they discover a body in the well. Barred from their house by the investigation, they take refuge at a deer camp with no running water or electricity and decide to solve the murder so they can unload their moving truck and get settled in their new home.

It was hard for me to rate this book. On one hand, I loved the premise and the setting, but issues with the story detracted from my enjoyment. I call this a fixer-upper book; it needs a little work but it has great bones. There were many elements I enjoyed, from the leaf peepers (that bus had me laughing, I could easily picture the scene!) to the country store that has everything, including gossip. And the premise is what drew me in; making a move to Vermont and discovering a body in your well, yeesh! I just wish the book had lived up to its premise because it had everything it needed to be a great read, but it ended up falling short.

Although the eccentric townspeople gave the story a lot of flavor, I found I didn’t connect with the main characters. There wasn’t enough of Nick to form a bigger impression of who he is, but he was nice enough. On the other hand, Stella wasn’t nearly as engaging; she was condescending and her attempts at witty banter and friendliness felt forced and spurious. The pair of them reminded me of Michael and Stephanie on Newhart, it felt like they elevated themselves as being smarter and less eccentric than the rubes were, a trait I didn’t find particularly likeable or neighborly..

As for the investigating, it can be summed up as Stella and Nick annoying several townspeople with their questions, making assumptions, accusing people outright and then stumbling across the clues that solved the whole thing. I’ll say this, the one big clue that was overlooked when it was found and didn’t become relevant until the end was a good twist, but overall the investigation by Stella and Nick was lackluster. It wasn’t so much that anything they did solved it, they just kept guessing until the story fit.

Despite all the detractions, I did like the book. If Stella was more likeable, the story smoothed out and the ending jiggered into something more realistic, this would easily be a 5 star read. A big thank you to Netgalley and Beyond the Page books for the advance copy to read and review.

Published October 5th 2021 by Beyond the Page (first published November 1st 2011)