Book Review

Cozies in Quarantine

It’s no secret that I love a good cozy mystery! They’re usually fun, fast reads with an idyllic setting and a quirky cast of characters. Even though the main character is typically solving a murder, there’s usually nothing vulgar or gory in the descriptions and the reader always knows there will be a happy ending. In these scary and uncertain times, I’ve been reading cozy mysteries mostly for that guaranteed happy ending as well as the brief escape from reality. So, I wanted to share my top cozy mystery suggestions for this continued quarantine/pandemic time:

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Title: The Quiche of Death

Series: Agatha Raisin

Author: M.C. Beaton

The Agatha Raisin cozies are probably my favorite (especially the audiobooks read by Penelope Keith!) Agatha is a bit unlikable but in a funny and endearing way. I love following her antics just as much as exploring the murder mysteries in this series. Also, the Cotswolds is an amazing setting – each book make me want to move to a cozy village in the English countryside!

 

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Title: Books Can Be Deceiving

Series: Library Lovers Mysteries

Author Jenn McKinlay

This book features library director Lindsey who has to clear the good name of her children’s librarian who is accused of murder. This was the first cozy series I started reading (right after college) and it’s still going strong. The coastal small town setting is super charming, and I love the romantic story elements too. Plus, this one feels extra special to me since I also work in a public library!

 

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Title: Brownies and Broomsticks

Series: Magical Bakery Mysteries

Author: Bailey Cates

In this series, protagonist and baker Katie moves to Savannah to help with her aunt’s bakery and discovers she comes from a magical family. I love the blend of magical elements and baking – plus, this series has a love triangle that actually intrigued me instead of irritating me. The world-building in this series is great, and I have enjoyed learning more about the magic right alongside Katie as she’s exploring her heritage. Of course, Katie is always solving murders too!

 

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Title: Murder, She Knit

Series: Knit & Nibble Mysteries

Author: Peggy Ehrhart

This knitting-themed cozy series is another fun addition. When the newest member of Pamela’s knitting circle is found dead and impaled with a knitting needle, Pamela has to solve the murder. This one has a slower pace, but I have definitely still enjoyed the series – in fact, the slower pace makes it feel extra cozy. I like that Pamela is an older protagonist who still seems very believable. Plus, I enjoy the descriptions of yarn and knitting since it’s a hobby of mine too!

 

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Title: Her Royal Spyness

Series: Her Royal Spyness

Author: Rhys Bowen

Georgie is one of my favorite protagonists! In this historical cozy series, Georgie is related to royalty but is far enough removed from the crown that she struggles to have money. So, she puts her ingenuity to the test and ends up solving a bunch of murders (and making a living while she’s at it). Georgie is both spunky and kind-hearted, and I adore the rest of the cast of characters in this series, especially the mysterious Darcy, Georgie’s genial grandfather, and Georgie’s flamboyant best friend Belinda.

 

I hope you enjoy these cozies if you decide to give them a try! What have you been reading during the pandemic? Be sure to let me know in the comment section!

Thanks for reading,

Tiffany

Book Review

Book Review: Murder Lo Mein by Vivien Chien

I love a good cozy mystery series, and Vivien Chien’s Noodle Shop series is quickly soaring to the top of my list of favorites. I was recently able to read Murder Lo Mein, the third installment in this series.

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In this book, the protagonist Lana Lee continues to work in her family shop while also stumbling across a murder intertwined with a local noodle competition. While the general plot is a familiar one for a cozy mystery, what sets this one apart is its humor. These books are just so funny, and I love that the protagonist is in her 20s and is Chinese-American, which is a refreshing change for the genre.

Sure, the mystery plays out like most cozies do, but the heart of the story is really the continuing dynamic between Lana Lee and her family. Her relationship with her parents is complicated and believable. I also love the progression of her relationship with Detective Adam Trudeau. Overall, this has been a great mystery series that I highly recommend to people who love cozy mysteries! Just know that you’ll also develop a huge craving for noodles while you read this one!

Thanks for reading,

Tiffany

Personal

March 2019 Favorites

Another month is basically gone – I can’t believe how fast this year is flying. I wanted to check in really quick and list four of my favorite things for the month:

  • Tilda Swinton – I realized this month that Tilda Swinton is the common link shared by many of my favorite horror movies: Only Lovers Left Alive, Suspiria, and We Need to Talk About Kevin. She is extremely talented and versatile!

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  • Cozy Mystery Audiobooks – I adore the fun, lighthearted nature of cozy mysteries where you get to solve a murder alongside an amateur sleuth and a cast of colorful characters set against an endearing, small-town backdrop. Lately, I’ve been making my way through the Magical Bakery series by Bailey Cates and the Needlecraft Mysteries by Monica Ferris.

Spells and Scones (A Magical Bakery Mystery Book 6) by [Cates, Bailey]

 

  • Knitting – Even though warmer weather is creeping in, I’m still knitting away to create hats and scarves for the homeless through the charity Warm Up Ohio. It’s both relaxing and rewarding!
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Photo by Surene Palvie on Pexels.com

 

  • Kindle Paperwhite – While I love my Kindle Fire, the e-ink screen of the Kindle Paperwhite makes it so much easier on the eyes to read for long periods of time. It’s also so thin and portable that it will squeeze into even my smallest purse – because I obviously need to be connected to my library at all times!
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Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

 

Well, that’s what I loved in March! I’m hoping that April brings more adventure into my life ­čÖé

Thanks for reading,

Tiffany Renee Harmon

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.

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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

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

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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

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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

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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 

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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

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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

Cozy Corner: Hannah Swensen Mysteries ´╗┐

The closer it gets to Christmas, the cozier my reading habits get! It’s just the happy time of year where I want to read lighthearted, fun things, so I’ve been reading a lot of the Hannah Swensen Mysteries by Joanne Fluke!

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These books are absolute mind candy! They revolve around Hannah Swensen, the owner of the Cookie Jar bakery in idyllic Lake Eden, Minnesota. The 22nd book in this series will be coming out next year, so it’s quite well established as a series and has even resulted in a series of films on the Hallmark Channel based on these books (starring the delightful Alison Sweeney).

This series contains all of the typical traits of cozy mysteries: a relatable and down-to earth sleuth, a feline companion, a mildly dysfunctional but loving family, small-town charm, and a love triangle! Hannah expertly navigates her bakery business and amateur sleuthing as she tries to find justice for anyone murdered in quaint Lake Eden. The cast of side characters like the helpful Norman the dentist, the dashing cop Mike, Hannah’s fun best friend/sister, and her overbearing mother all make for a great series. I’d say that the mysteries in this series really take a backseat to the atmosphere and charm of the setting and characters. If you’re looking for an escape from reality and want something ultra-cozy, I would definitely recommend this series!

Book Review

Cozy Corner: Death Overdue ´╗┐

Thanks to Netgalley for providing me a free cozy of this book in exchange for an honest review. As many of you know, I work for a public library, so I am always partial to books that take place in a library because I love the familiar setting, so I was really pleased to receive a copy of Allison Brook’s novel Death Overdue.

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This cozy mystery is the first in the Haunted Library series which follows Carrie Singleton, a small-town librarian who meets a helpful ghost in the stacks of her public library. I ended up reading this book in one sitting because it was just so fun that I couldn’t put it down. Carrie was a great protagonist and was remarkably well fleshed out for being a cozy protagonist. She was interesting and flawed and relatable, and I loved how she interacted with her aunt and uncle. Carrie also has to deal with a workplace bully – something that I’m sure many of us have had to endure, and this adds to the relatability of the novel and provides many interesting, dynamic social interactions for the protagonist.

The plot of this cozy was really well-written. When Carrie invites a presenter to the library for a program on a local cold case, he claims to have new evidence about this long-unsolved murder but is murdered before he can reveal it. Now, the past and present intertwine as the investigation continues. Using her own resourcefulness, research skills, and the help of her newfound companions ghost, Carrie tries to track down the killer before he or she can strike again. There were some great twists and turns here and the plot was really fun to try to figure out.

I definitely recommend this one!

Book Review

Cozy Corner: Booktown Mysteries ´╗┐

Welcome to another edition of Cozy Corner. As fall approaches, I am really getting into the mood for more lighthearted books, especially ones with great settings and puzzles to solve. I think one of the reasons that I love cozy mysteries is that they often are more focused on solving a puzzle than action and suspense. One series I’ve been really enjoying recently are the Booktown Mysteries by Lorna Barrett.

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These are charming books (for the most part – book 3 gets a little preachy). They take place in an idyllic little New England in town filled with genre-specific bookstores. Tricia Miles, the owner of the mystery-themed book store, stumbles upon dead bodies and uses her intuition and all she’s learned from her beloved books to crack the cases. She is a straight-laced person who I can really relate to. Her sister Angelica is her opposite but I really like her character too. The dynamic between the two sisters can be both heartwarming and humorous at times, and even their occasional friction is entertaining.

There are some great side characters too. I love Grace and Frannie especially. They add more entertainment and are very distinctive. I even really enjoy Tricia’s sparring with Sheriff Adams. I will admit though that I loathe the character of Ginny whose whining wears thin. I’ve been listening to these audiobooks and I find myself tuning out during her scenes, but overall there’s a great cast of characters here.

The setting of these stories is wonderful. It’s a cozy New England town that kind of reminds me of Cabot Cove. This is a place that would absolutely love to visit! I love cozies that take place in New England because I would love to live in New England (specifically Boston area) if I wasn’t such a wimp in winter.

The mysteries themselves are very well-plotted, especially for a cozy. There are lots of clues interspersed everywhere and it’s fun to try to figure out who committed the murders. In a lot of cozies, readers kind of bumble along and enjoy the ride while the amateur sleuth unbelievably uncover the murderer’s identity by happenstance, but these are very well-conceived puzzles.

If you’re looking for a new cozy series, I highly recommend this one!

 

Book Review

Cozy Corner: Agatha Raisin by M.C. Beaton´╗┐

It’s time again for another installment of Cozy Corner! This time, I am recommending the fabulous Agatha Raisin series by M.C. Beaton. This series is set in the English Cotswolds where retired PR guru Agatha Raisin is struggling to enjoy her retirement and winds up becoming an amateur sleuth and solving lots of village murders.

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This series is one of my favorite guilty pleasures, and I’ve been listening to a lot of the audiobooks recently (read by Penelope Keith who does an amazing job). I love Agatha as a protagonist. She’s endearing but very flawed which makes her both funny and relatable. Agatha can be petty, vain, and jealous, but she also has a big heart and a lot of wit. I love following her and the cast of side characters (especially Bill Wong and Toni Gilmour).

The mysteries themselves are not always the coziest, especially in the later books. While I would absolutely classify this series as a cozy series, there is occasional foul language, reference to sex, and some of the deaths are described in grisly detail. That being said, there’s still a light, whimsical tone in the books and Agatha is an amateur detective. These are two big parts of traditional cozies.

There is a companion television series that recently came out in the US, and it was just as fun as the books! I think I’ve seen every episode three times already, which is kind of insane actually. So far, only one season has aired, but I desperately hope that they make a second season. Agatha is played wonderfully by Ashley Jensen, who was the seamstress sidekick in Ugly Betty.

Some cozy series can be read in any order, but I would highly recommend these being read in the order they were published. While Agatha never seems to age, the drama of her personal life is complicated and will make more sense if the books are read in order. If you’re looking for something British and cozy and funny, I definitely recommend this book series and the TV show!