Book Review

Book Review: Magick & Mayhem

I love the wide variety of subjects that come up in the cozy mystery genre. You can find almost any hobby, profession, or setting if you look around at Cozy-Mystery.com (my favorite resources for finding new cozies to read!)

Even though it’s July, I’ve been thinking a lot about Halloween because my coworkers and I are trying to decide what our costume theme will be. Because of this, I’ve been in the mood for something spooky and paranormal. While no cozy is really spooky, I have found some great paranormal picks, and one of my new favorite series is the Abracadabra Mystery series by Sharon Pape, which begins with the book Magick & Mayhem.

31491757

First off, can we just acknowledge how adorable this cover is? I love it so much!

This book starts off with our spunky protagonist Kailyn Wilde who unexpectedly inherits her grandmother’s shop and ends up stumbling upon a murder. This jumpstarts a very cozy and humorous adventure through this small-town infused with magic.

Kailyn comes from a long line of magical descendants, and some charming (literal) ghosts from her past help to guide her along the way. As she tries to prove her best friend’s innocence in this murder mystery, Kailyn also learns more about her powers and grows stronger in her magical practice. This book sets up a unique world of magic mystery. I was so pleased by the balance between traditional magical elements and fresh, new twists on the typical cozy witch story.

The mystery itself was more detailed and richly plotted than the average cozy mystery. I enjoyed the adventure and the great world-building. Rather than stumbling upon clues, Kailyn and her sidekicks are smart and resourceful. They are really solving puzzles here to discover the identity of the real murderer.

Kailyn is a really fun protagonist who is kind of insecure about her powers. She’s got a lot of growth to do, so I think this is the start of a really wonderful series where she will get more and more confident with each book. There are three books so far in this series, and I hope many more are to come.

Book Review

Book Review: When Books Went to War

I don’t often read a lot of historical-themed nonfiction, but my book club always tackles one a year. This year, we read When Books Went to War by Molly Guptill Manning.

22715829

This was a fascinating book about WWII and the Armed Services Editions of books that librarians and publishers from the USA made sure went overseas for soldiers to read in their down time. The result was a new generation of readers. Even soldiers who hadn’t been interested in reading before the war, fell in love with these paperback books. Fan letters from soldiers were written to authors, and some long-forgotten books like The Great Gatsby might never have become classics without finding this new audience. Over 100 million books were banned and burned in WWII, but this effort resulted in keeping literature alive.

If you’re interested in history, publishing, or just interesting facts, give this one a chance!

Book Review

Book Review: Black Ice

I’m currently working on a romantic suspense project, so I’ve been reading a lot of romantic suspense to learn as much about the genre as I can. Recently, I picked up the book Black Ice by Anne Stuart, and I was not disappointed!

24248

This book is a lot steamier than mine will be, but it was so exciting to read. In this novel, innocent American book translator Claire Underwood (this is an older book, so this is not an homage to House of Cards) runs into sexy Bastien Toussaint during a business conference in Paris. There’s been a dire misunderstanding, and soon she’s dragged into the Parisian underworld filled with dangerous arms dealers and ruthless assassins. Sparks fly as Claire and Bastien spend more and more time together on the run.

There were so many intriguing elements in this book. First, there’s the romance, which was more lustful passion than anything else. Also, the fast-paced adventure was filled with fun twists and turns. I never was sure who was good and who was bad until the very end. I really enjoyed this little guilty pleasure, and I’m excited to read the rest in this series.

I do think I should note that this is really aimed at audiences who love to suspend disbelief and just want to go along for the ride. It’s over-the-top and unbelievable, which is negative for some and great escapism for others.

 

Book Review

My Favorite Cozy Mysteries

I love reading and write cozy mysteries. There’s something so charming about their idyllic settings, and often they have a lot of humor and a dash of romance as well. There are puzzles to be solved, but they’re not going to keep you awake at night. Cozies are probably my very favorite type of mystery, so I wanted to share a list of my favorites:

 

Agatha Raisin by M.C. Beaton

139176

Agatha Raisin is a retired PR Maven who moves to the English countryside for a peaceful life. Once there, she gets entangled in local gossip and ends up solving murder after murder. Agatha is a prickly but endearing character, and these short books are so fun. The setting of the Cotswolds is also fantastic.

 

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen

383514

When I discovered this series, I just couldn’t stop reading them, and now I anxiously await each new book. Georgie, the main character, is a distant relative to the monarchy of England. She discovers a passion for detecting and often helps her royal relatives when they get caught up in murder plots. These books are really fun, and the historical setting is very engrossing.

 

Jaine Austen Mysteries by Laura Levine

20702329

This is another funny cozy series. In this one, Jaine Austen (named for the acclaimed Classic author) works as a freelance writer and often stumbles upon murders as she does her writing jobs. This series has a whole cast of funny characters, including her cat Prozac. Jaine’s humorous exploits and her unlucky-in-love storylines make this a really interesting and relatable series.

 

Charmed Pie Shoppe Mysteries by Ellery Adams 

13055971

This cozy series has a splash of magic, which is extra fun. These books follow baker and witch Ella Mae LaFaye as she navigates the world of magic and her own baking business. I was so impressed by the world building in this series, and the magical moments really enhanced the story. There are five books in this series, and I really hope another one comes out soon!

 

Booktown Mysteries by Lorna Barrett

2586724

This last series stars Tricia Miles who owns a mystery book store in a small New England Town filled with niche bookstores. I adore the setting for this series, and I love that there are so many characters that grow from book to book. The mysteries are also a bit more complicated than some other cozy series.

 

Do you have a favorite cozy series? If so, be sure to let me know in the comment section! I’d love to check it out.

 

Book Review

Book Review: The Hate U Give

I was finally able to get my hands on a copy of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This is a teen fiction novel that has just exploded in popularity due to its excellent writing and timely theme. In this book, a 16-year-old girl Starr is in a car with her friend Khalil, who is stopped by a cop and shot and killed during the event. The title comes from Tupac lyrics and reference the racial tensions currently happening in this country.

32075671

I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s powerful and painful and something that we all need to read. My experiences in life have been a lot different than the narrators, and that’s exactly why I needed to read this book. Fiction has this amazing power to build empathy and understanding for cultures different than your own.

On a technical level, this book is so well-writing. It’s engaging and flows at a rapid pace. Even though it’s marketed as a teen book, it will definitely appeal to a much wider audience than that. Starr is an engaging protagonist who struggles with her feelings. She is caught in two different worlds – the rough part of town where she lives and the prep school that her parents pay for her to go to in a different neighborhood. When this tragic event happens, her two lives intersect and she has a bit of an identity struggle.

The theme is also something that is very timely. If you’ve watched the news over the past year, chances are you’ve heard several stories about unwarranted police brutality against young African American males. This book handles this topic very respectfully. It doesn’t come across as preachy, but it does shed light on the larger ramifications of this phenomenon.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to pretty much everyone, especially those who haven’t had to directly experience anything like this. I think that this book is going to really help continue the conversation of fixing racial discrimination in this country. You should definitely read this one!

Book Review

Book Review: The Devil in the White City 

It’s no secret that I love mystery novels, but sometimes I like to delve into nonfiction and give true crime a chance instead. Recently, I had the pleasure of reading The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.

21996

Erik Larson is a true master of nonfiction. I like nonfiction that flows kind of like a novel, and this definitely fits the bill. Larson makes history come to life, and I’ve loved all four of the books I’ve read from him. This one was no exception!

The Devil in the White City is about the serial killer H.H. Holmes who terrorized Chicago during the World Fair. It’s such an interesting portrait of a true villain. H.H. Holmes was enigmatic and charming and unhinged all at the same time. This books was absolutely fascinating as it delved into the events that led up to his reign of terror.

Also included in the book were tertiary historical references that really helped to round out the story and give it a definite sense of place. I felt immersed in the time period, and I definitely gained a better understanding of America in the late 1800s.

 

Book Review

Book Review: The Days of Abandonment

I know this makes me sound like a major nerd, but I actually have a favorite publishing company: Europa Editions. Europa publishes tons of international books that have been translated into English. I’ve found so many gems from this publishing company, but recently I read one that I just had to share: The Days of Abandonment by Elena Ferrante.

77810

Elena Ferrante is an Italian author who is most known for being notoriously private. Her true identity has never been revealed, although there is plenty of speculation online as to who she might be. She is known most for her four-book Neapolitan series. The Days of Abandonment is one of her earlier works, but I thought it was an absolutely fantastic exploration of a crumbling relationship.

The Days of Abandonment follows a woman who is blindsided by her husband as he leaves her. In this short book (it’s only 188 pages), you can track her grief – from denial to emptiness to acceptance. This is one of the most emotionally raw books I’ve ever read, but it worked. I could see some complain that it is overly sentimental, but I disagree. I think that Ferrante has depicted the genuine emotion that comes from this situation. This is a hyper-realistic story that really touches on the psyche of the abandoned. Here, you can see how the whole family has to deal with this unexpected change. I highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for carefully crafted domestic literary fiction.