Book Review

Best Christmas Mysteries

‘Tis the season for holiday reading! There’s less than two weeks until Christmas, and if you’re in quarantine or avoiding social things due to the pandemic, why not spend the extra time curled up with a cozy Christmas-themed murder mystery? Here are some of my top picks:

Kissing Christmas Goodbye by M.C. Beaton

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Goodreads Description: Agatha Raisin is bored. Her detective agency in the Cotswolds is thriving, but she’ll scream if she has to deal with another missing cat or dog. Only two things seem to offer potential excitement: the upcoming Christmas festivities and her ex, James Lacey. This year she is sure that if she invites James to a really splendid, old-fashioned Christmas dinner, their love will rekindle like a warm Yule log.
When a wealthy widow hires Agatha because she’s convinced a member of her family is trying to kill her, Agatha is intrigued—especially when the widow drops dead after high tea at the manor house. Who in this rather sterile house, complete with fake family portraits, could have hated the old lady enough to poison her?
Agatha sets out to find the murderer, all the while managing a pretty, teenage trainee who makes her feel old and planning for a picture-perfect Christmas, with James, all the trimmings, and perhaps even snow.

The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen

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Goodreads Description: On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me—well, actually, my true love, Darcy O’Mara, is spending a feliz navidad tramping around South America. Meanwhile Mummy is holed up in a tiny village called Tiddleton-under-Lovey with that droll Noel Coward! And I’m snowed in at Castle Rannoch with my bumbling brother, Binky, and sourpuss sister-in-law, Fig. So it’s a miracle when I contrive to land a position as hostess to a posh holiday party in Tiddleton. The village is like something out of A Christmas Carol! But no sooner have I arrived than a neighborhood nuisance, a fellow named Freddie, falls out of a tree dead.  On my second day, another so-called accident results in a death – and there’s yet another on my third.  Perhaps a recent prison break could have something to do with it…that, or a long-standing witch’s curse. But after Darcy shows up beneath the mistletoe, anything could be possible in this wicked wonderland.

I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley

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Goodreads Description: It’s Christmastime, and the precocious Flavia de Luce – an eleven-year-old sleuth with a passion for chemistry and a penchant for crime-solving – is tucked away in her laboratory, whipping up a concoction to ensnare Saint Nick. But she is soon distracted when a film crew arrives at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ decaying English estate, to shoot a movie starring the famed Phyllis Wyvern. Amid a raging blizzard, the entire village of Bishop’s Lacey gathers at Buckshaw to watch Wyvern perform, yet nobody is prepared for the evening’s shocking conclusion: a body found, past midnight, strangled to death with a length of film. But who among the assembled guests would stage such a chilling scene? As the storm worsens and the list of suspects grows, Flavia must use every ounce of sly wit at her disposal to ferret out a killer hidden in plain sight.

A Little Yuletide Murder by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain

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Goodreads Description: Jessica Fletcher is planning to spend a cozy Christmas in Cabot Cove. But when Rory Brent is found shot to death on his farm, there will be no peace on earth until his killer is found. Snooping into the small town’s past for a motive, Jessica is determined to deliver the killer before Christmas. The trouble is, the next sound she hears this silent night may be a scream—her own…

Plum Pudding Murder by Joanne Fluke

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Goodreads Description:

Holiday business is booming at Hannah Swenson’s Cookie Jar pastry shop, but the mysterious murder of “Lunatic Larry” Jaeger puts a serious crimp in the season of good cheer. From the looks of it, Larry had as many enemies as Hannah’s sugar cookies have sprinkles. With the 12 days of Christmas ticking down and cookie orders piling up, tracking down the killer won’t be easy.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season! I know it’s been unusual and perhaps a little lonely for many of us, but there’s still a lot of Christmas magic all around. Do you have a great Christmas book you’ve read this year? Be sure to let me know in the comment section!

-Tiffany

Personal, Update

Suburban Secrets Publication Day!

Surprise! The publication day of Suburban Secrets has been moved up to today!

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Suburban Secrets is available on Amazon for $2.99 (or FREE if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber!)

Here’s the description from Amazon: “Angela Carmichael feels like an imposter in her idyllic neighborhood. Surrounded by seemingly perfect families, Angela is just doing her best to stay afloat as a single mother and freelance writer. But when a neighborhood boy goes missing, and danger seems to lurk behind every white picket fence, Angela becomes determined to uncover the secrets and lies of her community in order to keep her daughter safe.”

If that sounds like it might be something that would interest you, I hope you’ll consider getting a copy!

Thanks for reading.

Tiffany

Personal, Update

Suburban Secrets – Now Available to Pre-Order!

It’s official – Suburban Secrets, my debut mystery novel, will be available on August 16th! You can pre-order it on Amazon if you’d like a copy!

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I’d love to share a bit about this experience. This project began in grad school and was born out of my love of mystery and my fear of motherhood. I think that being a parent is probably the hardest job in the world, so I really wanted to explore that throughout this mystery. Full disclosure: I am not a parent, so this is very much my way of experiencing something I’ve really only observed.

Here’s the Amazon description of the book: “Angela Carmichael feels like an imposter in her idyllic neighborhood. Surrounded by seemingly perfect families, Angela is just doing her best to stay afloat as a single mother and freelance writer. But when a neighborhood boy goes missing, and danger seems to lurk behind every white picket fence, Angela becomes determined to uncover the secrets and lies of her community in order to keep her daughter safe.”

I hope you’ll consider getting a copy if this sounds intriguing to you!

Thanks for reading.

Tiffany

 

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

Update

New Project – Dreaming in Fiction

I have some more exciting news for 2020! Earlier this year, I launched Ephemeral Elegies to support new and emerging poets, and now I’ll be doing the same for authors of fiction with: Dreaming in Fiction. While the stories won’t be published until this autumn, we are already open to submissions, and you can learn more about our submissions guidelines by clicking here.

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Dreaming in Fiction will be the home for short stories and flash fiction across the genre spectrum. From supernatural stories to compact capers to heartfelt romance and even some terrifying tales, we’ll be exploring every facet of fiction. One new story will be published each Saturday, so your next adventure is never too far away!

I hope you’ll consider submitting to Dreaming in Fiction or exploring it post-launch to support and discover some new authors!

Wishing you all heath and happiness during this pandemic!

Tiffany

Book Review

Quarantine Book Recommendations

During this time of global fear and uncertainty, I’ve been escaping back into familiar fictional worlds. Reading has always been one of my favorite coping mechanisms, and so I wanted to share some of the books I’ve been enjoying during this time of quarantine (a lot of them are rereads of books I own because I love them so much).

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Photo by Flickr on Pexels.com

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery – This is probably my favorite book of all time. It seems like each time I reread it, the experience is different but equally rich. This books covers a wide range of topics: philosophy, classism, cultural appreciation, and unlikely friendships.

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell – Scarlet O’Hara is unlikeable but in such a realistic, interesting way. I’ve enjoyed rereading this tale of hardship and growing up, even when you don’t want to.

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver – While certainly not uplifting, I did enjoy exploring this book again. It’s a hard read since it’s about a school shooter, but it delves into nature vs. nurture in such a fascinating way.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple – This is such a fun journey about both motherhood and childhood. There are some really zany characters that create a lot of humor in this one.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – Even though I read it for the first time just last year, I knew I wanted to reread this one. It was just as great the second time with its themes of love, loss, and murder as well as its rich setting.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – This is a magical realism romance that is so well-realized. I’ve read it multiple times now and look forward to each reread.

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton – I’m a huge fan of this franchise, especially the movies. The book is just as fun (though some of the characters are drawn much differently). I always enjoy rereading this harrowing adventure.

What have you been reading during this coronavirus epidemic? Feel free to share your own recommendations in the comment section!

Thanks for reading,

Tiffany

 

Personal, Update

Quarantine Projects – and a Special Announcement!!!

I hope everyone reading this is doing well! Here in Ohio, everyone is pretty much quarantined until further notice (well, at least the next two weeks). Anyway, it’s been a while since I blogged and I wanted to share a few updates of what I’ve been doing:

 

Ephemeral Elegies

Ephemeral Elegies

Ephemeral Elegies, an online poetry journal I run, is still doing well. We’re currently accepting submissions for our May and June issues. I’ve been really enjoying interacting with and supporting some great emerging poets. Check it out if you have some extra time (and/or submit some of your own work!)

 

Warm Up Ohio

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I also run the local branch of Warm Up America: Warm Up Ohio. Although Spring is bringing warmer weather, I knit and crochet all year long so that I have enough to donate each winter. Since we’re a really small chapter, the focus has been less on squares and more on clothing. Hats and Scarves are simple and fun projects – and they are great donations for the many amazing Homeless Shelters in Greater Cincinnati and beyond.

 

Suburban Secrets

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Surprise! Here is the cover reveal for my first novel Suburban Secrets – coming out later this year! It’s a work of romantic suspense that I began in grad school and finished last year. I’m still in editing mode, but I’m getting really excited about this project and can’t wait to share more with all of you when the details are all finalized.

 

So, those are my big projects for this Quarantine time. Please, let’s all do our part to stay in and help Flatten the Curve!

What are you doing with your extra quarantine time? Let me know in the comment section!

Thanks for reading,

Tiffany

Book Review

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Every so often, a book comes along that haunts me long after the last page. As a voracious reader, I feel like it takes a lot to impress me, but I recently had the opportunity to read Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, and I was absolutely blown away!

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I can confidently say that this book is one that I’ll have to reread multiple times. At it’s heart, this is a character-driven narrative about a girl who grows up in near-isolation in a marsh. But it’s so much more than that. This close character study is a heart-wrenching coming-of-age tale mixed with a love story entangled within a murder mystery. Here’s a breakdown of the major elements:

Character – Kya is a dynamic character. Watching her grow up on these pages was amazing. The characterization was heartfelt and I shared in her joys and sorrows. The way the author builds this empathy was fantastic and allowed the character-building to be a main driving force in this story.

Plot – While a secondary characteristic, there was still enough plot that this book didn’t feel aimless. The murder mystery in the story is not a typical whodunnit that builds escalating suspense, but it does provide a needed structure. Since the book jumps around between time periods, it also acts as an anchor to the “present.”

Writing Style – Owens’ writing style is hauntingly beautiful. Her lyrical words and expert metaphors made me want to reread sentences over again and continually experience the poetic beauty of her prose. While also a research scientist, this is Owens’ first novel, and her love of nature is absolutely evident. Her descriptions of the setting make it come alive as if it is a character in its own rights.

I can’t say enough good things about this book! I’ve already purchased two copies because I want to lend them out to everyone I know. If you’re in a book club, this would also be a great (easy to discuss) selection.

Have you read this one? If so, please share your thoughts 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