Cozy mysteries are where I go to find solace when I’m too tired for anything else… when my imagination is too exhausted to fly with dragons… my intellect burned out or otherwise occupied reading homeschool material to my daughter. Cozies are for bubble baths, for “I’m so tired, I can’t sleep” nights (thanks, Sarah). And right now, I’m hooked on a few new ones.
Manor House Mysteries
So far, I’ve read Grace Under Pressure and Grace Interrupted by Julie Hyzy. The series stars Museum Curator (and mansion manager) Grace as she sleuths around a small town, helping the local police solve the murders that keep happening at her new job. Naturally, there’s an unfortunate past relationship that didn’t go well, and a new budding one with the local landscaper to keep us involved in the character’s life as she manages to avoid looking like a serial killer – because in real life, how many people are tied to so many murders? The touch of tourist seasons, southern drawls, and Civil War reenactments remind me of home.
Library Lighthouse Mysteries
I’m now in my third installment (Reading Up a Storm) of the Library Lighthouse Mysteries by Eva Gates, which began with By Book or By Crook. This series features a lighthouse that has been renovated into a library. Book Nerds and Jane Austen references abound while the newest librarian and the library cat stumble across – yep, you guessed it – one murder after another. Again, no one would dare think the Nancy Drew wanna-be is indeed a serial killer with no many murders suddenly happening right under her nose, and of course, she’s the heroine with a terrible romantic past and TWO attractive men vying for her attention. Brain candy indeed. Each book in this series have occurred within weeks of the one previously and all during summer tourist months near the beach. Southern drawls, check. Meddling mothers, check. (Booked for Trouble) Food stuffs and baking references, check. Also, weird guy who pretends to be British… this character confuses me, but I got used to him.
Next up, a Miranda James series that begins with a title called Bless Her Dead Little Heart. Seriously, how can I pass that up?
Title: CATastrophic Connections
Author: Joyce Ann Brown
Genre: Cozy Mystery
First of all, I was given this book in exchange for an honest review. Second, however, I chose it out of a long list of options from a ton of authors because 1. I’m a sucker for cozy mysteries 2. I’m a sucker for cozy mysteries that feature pets 3. I’m a sucker.
In this case, I’m totally ok with being a sucker. I’ll admit there’s a tad more “psycho cat” than I enjoy – but I’m not a big cat lover and the few cat mysteries I’ve read involved the cat being a swanky background character, not a constant topic of discussion. Die hard cat lovers, though, would probably love this book. (I’m a dog person. *Gasp*) I imagine that Lilian Jackson Braun fans will be the best fit for this series, but I haven’t actually read her books yet. (I tend to lean toward the Cleo Coyles of the genre.)
The mystery is fun an upbeat, which fits the bill for a cozy; and a lot of the action is driven by dialogue.
What won me over, in the end, were the quotes at the beginning of every chapter. I’m a sucker for that as well and love jotting down references for me to find and read later. Better than that, I love already knowing the reference and nodding my head along with the witticisms and wisdom of Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allen Poe, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the rest of them.
Brown has an easy breezy writing style, appropriate for a summertime cozy. I’d recommend this series for a road trip or plane ride, something to dive into to pass the time that won’t take too much energy or focus to read while things are going on around you. If your attention strays just the slightest bit, you have a friendly nudge back into the story: “Must I remind you? We are essentially in the middle of a detective mystery.” I tend to enjoy a little meta-fiction every now and then. Also, there are many short chapters, rather than fewer long ones, which I find makes for better vacation reading because it’s easy to find appropriate stopping points at a moment’s notice.
I already downloaded the second book in the series to my kindle and look forward to spending some time with Joyce Ann Brown’s characters again.
The curse of cozies is that they completely suck you into worlds of absolute silliness, and mid-read, you’re totally ok with that. Why? Because, inevitably, there’s coffee, fuzzy pets, books and knitting, and a few dead bodies that require you to summon your inner Nancy Drew for.
My latest cozy mystery read was Victoria Abbott’s The Christie Curse, the first in a book collector series – that I now, of course, have to collect. It can share shelf space with my Laura Childs and Cleo Coyles, with my Alice Kimberly series, and D.R. Meredith books… as they all tilt ther hats to their parents: Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie – who have inadvertently become the founders of the genre though they weren’t known for knitting or cooking themes.
The Christie Curse has proven itself to be one of the better books of the genre, especially if you count the other book themed cozies I have already read. Homicide in Hardcover by Carlisle is another bibliophile cozy mystery, and I enjoyed it, but the story didn’t hold a candle to Abbott’s book. Researching Agatha Christie, chasing top secret book industry scoops, browsing personal library collections filled with first editions… The Christie Curse is simply full of all my favorite things, including the Irish uncles who aren’t exactly on the up and up. Add some bipolar cats and an adorable pug – of course I thought this was a great book. Abbott didn’t pull any punches either, there’s a fabulous Italian lady who constantly shouts “Eat! Eat!” at our protagonist, and recipes in the back so that we, too, may partake in the deliciousness.
Currently, I’m reading CATastrophic Connections by Joyce Ann Brown and look forward to having an official review posted for you soon.
What cozies have you read lately?
The Bookshop Hotel has a new face! And back. And inside for that matter. It’s been re-edited and fine tuned and re-published by the marvelous Grey Gecko Press.
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Well, that’s not entirely true. I picked them both up at various times, years ago when I first got hung up on cozy mysteries. It wasn’t until I was moving that I put reading all my paperbacks on my TBR priority list so I can purge them. Only prime keepers are going to the new house once it is built. While unpacking paperbacks in my temporary abode I discovered this little coincidence and my very silly self immediately thought in rhyme. Naturally, I had to read them right away. (Or as right away as one can when one reads books for part of my living.)
I shall preface by saying: both were appropriately cute. Meredith, however, has a writing style that puts her a cut above the rest in the genre and I can’t wait to read more of her series.
I read through her book in nearly one sitting. Despite it being the third in the series, I didn’t feel like I had missed a beat, though I felt like I should surely go back and read the others as soon as possible.
The Cat in the Stacks series is fun, but I’ll probably just happen across them as I happen across them, rather than purposefully seek them out. Although, I did appreciate that I had indeed selected the first of that series. It is always nice to begin at, well, the beginning.
Both books were set in the south, which naturally made them fun for me. Meredith’s is actually set in Texas, however, and James’ is set in Mississippi with only a few references to Houston. I absolutely adored Meredith’s Ryan character and found him incredibly endearing, where James won me over by introducing me to a breed of cat I’d never heard of – a Maine Coon.
I will always choose books that lend themselves to wanting to read more books. Books on books are my favorites. Novels set in literary settings, a close second. Libraries, bookstores, reading groups, these are the places that keep my heart at rest – even if we have to kill someone off to maintain a plot line and a reason for being there in the first place. So whether it is sooner or later, I’ll return to both of these writers eventually.
End note: I like this Miranda James cover better…
This post has nothing to do with Guns and Roses the band. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to tease you that way. Actually I did. This is about my new book-gal-crush Rose Gardner, brain child of author Denise Grover Swank.
Title: Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes
Author: Denise Grover Swank
Genre: Mystery (Romantic Suspense)
I downloaded Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes solely because it was free and on kindle. I just recently got a kindle for the first time, because my home library is primarily in storage for the moment, and as a reviewer I couldn’t stomach adding more physical copies to a collection I couldn’t even access. So e-reader it is for now, aside from the stash of books I toted to my temporary digs with me, and if I’m going to be reviewing ebooks, I need to know how to read them.
So Denise Grover Swank’s free ebook was my guinea pig, my learning curve, my book to help me decipher buttons and technology, my reminder that I really am 105 at heart.
The first twenty “pages” (I don’t know how to quantify without page numbers) or so I HATED IT. “This is so lame!” I kept shouting at the screen. I was mostly talking to the kindle, but I took it out on the heroine Rose Gardner. Not that she needed anything else being taken out on her… her mother thinks she’s demonic and ends up dead, naturally the whole (small) town wants to pin Rose for the murder while Rose finds herself in a world where her mother is no longer telling her how to live. Insert sexy next door neighbor who might be a potential boyfriend, or… of course… the actual murderer!
I loved it. It’s gloriously cozy with less cheese than the average cozy mystery, placing it more in the romantic suspense category than the cozy realm.
By the time Rose is burying a gun under a rose bush in her backyard I was completely hooked and had mastered the art of turning the kindle page. That is a bigger feat than it might seem, as I don’t always maintain feeling in my fingertips and I kept inadvertently hitting the next button too many times. Without page numbers is was pretty difficult to find my way back. So it took DAYS for me to get to Rose burying that gun, but less than an hour to wrap up the book.
So thank you Rose (and Swank) for teaching me to read (on an e-reader). I’m looking forward to reading the next installment in the Rose Gardner Mystery series.
Title: Gunpowder Green
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Length: 244 pages
With autumn in the air, it’s back to hot afternoon tea (as opposed to iced sweet tea) and my dive into cozy mysteries. Even though in Texas, fall tends to be more of a state of mind than an actual weather change. Post Labor Day it’s still in the nineties, but there’s rain and I made a trip to the grocery store just for tea bags.
Many of my afternoon teas happen on the back deck. My backyard table is actually newer and nicer than my kitchen table and it’s where I prefer to take my meals and spend time journaling and reading, if the weather allows. It’s nice to spend time, even if it’s in a book, with people who feel the same way:
“I think it’s time we thought about lunch. Margaret Rose baked cranberry bread yesterday, and I threw together some chicken salad earlier. Why not fix trays and eat out here where we can enjoy the view? It’ll be ever so much nicer.” – pg. 149
Laura Childs, The Indigo Tea Shop, and Theodosia Browning aren’t just about tea though. There are gardening elements, I am finding, in each of her tea shop mysteries. (Apparently, the gardeners in town tend to be a murderous bunch, and the tea shop sorts the sleuthing kind.) I love hanging out in small towns with historic districts, antique dealers, garden extraordinaire, and party goers.
“Timothy Neville adored giving parties. Holiday parties, charity galas, music recitals. And his enormous Georgian mansion, a glittering showpiece perched on Archdale Street, war, for many guests, a peek into the kind of gilded luxury that hadn’t been witnessed in Charleston since earlier times.” – pg. 212
Reading this inspired me. I am an event coordinator and I adore bookish parties, cozy festivals, people gathering in gardens, and atmospheres that allow for coffee, wine, or cups of tea, and quiet conversation or a people reading books. Fall is a good time for these sort of events, and though my Fall is already planned, not everyone’s is.
A lovely lady at Fuller’s Country Store has agreed to guest blog for me soon about tea parties she’s hosts. I don’t know the details, but I’m pretty excited to find out and scroll through photographs of the upcoming event. Stay tuned for “Afternoon Tea Part Two” for the details, the pictures, and a review of Laura Childs’ third Tea Shop Mystery: Shades of Earl Grey.
Title: Death by Darjeeling
Author: Laura Childs
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime Mystery (Penguin)
Length: 242 pages
The best thing about cozy mysteries is generally not the mystery, but the cozy. The whole point of reading them is to sink luxuriously into a world of soothing smells and comforting sensations.
I find myself completely suckered by any paperback with the familiar palm labeled “Berkley Prime Crime Mystery,” knowing full well I’ll be in for a delightful dive into a two hundred page world. Usually part of fun serials, Berkley corners the market on the cozy mystery genre with this logo.
Laura Childs pulls the cozy serial off beautifully with her Indigo Tea Shop run by one Theodosia Browning. Such a delightful name! When I read or hear it I immediately think of Theodosia Burr Alston. Childs doesn’t stop there, though, the Indigo Tea Shop also features a dog named Earl Grey!
Tea preparation tips, recipes, and delightful garden descriptions will have you wishing you lived in South Carolina amidst a caddy historical society sampling tea blends.
For a more thorough review and a Darjeeling Cashew Cream Cheese recipe, click the photo I borrowed from the Kahakai Kitchen. It will take you to their blog.
I am currently reading A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg, I thought it would be a nice holiday book that has nothing to do with the holidays. Instead, it’s about the warmth of family and the joys of a well-used kitchen. However, I’m not very far into it, and that’s not really what this post is about.
I adore homey, cozy things. A thick homemade quilt, a pie, a dog, a cup of coffee, a good book (like the one mentioned above), these are all things that make my home feel like the kind of home I want people to remember. A big part of my home, too, is Scentsy.
I adore Scentsy mostly because candles got way too expensive for how quickly I go through them, and a wickless candle lasts much, much longer. There’s all the familiar smells: Hazelnut Latte, Baked Apple Pie, the usual suspects in my candle purchases, but instead of a $5 candle that lasts a few days, I can get a $5 bar of wax that lasts months.
I’m sharing this with you for several reasons:
1. It has truly helped me maintain an affordable good smelling home. Glade plugins and candles were becoming way too much in this economy, and my house smelling good is too high of a priority (for me with 3 dogs and a kid) to just stop buying those kinds of things that help me feel relaxed. Although those old school gel cones from Wally World are awesome, I also like being able to have my things out in sight of visitors, something that produces ambiance.
2. It is Christmas and they make great gifts. Order online and get it shipped straight to the intended person.
3. Money is much tighter than usual, and being a stay at home Mom/ part time Event Coordinator/ Writer/ Scentsy Consultant /Kung Fu Instructor without a solid and dependable source of income of my own, I could really use the cash. Ha! There, I said it, this post is in part a ploy to get you to open your wallet.
So all pride aside, I present in a link My Scentsy Site and offer a heartfelt thank you to my followers for reading my blog, whether you are a Scentsy shopper or not, I truly appreciate you all and hope you’ll forgive my groveling.