Book Review

Cozy Corner: White House Chef Mysteries 

While I review all genres of books on this blog, one type that is near and dear to my heart is the cozy mystery genre. These mysteries are characterized by amateur sleuths (often librarians, bakers, retired women, etc) and they have little to no violence, sexual content, or profanity. The murders always take place off scene, and the setting is often idyllic (despite the fact that a murder has occurred). I think that one of the reasons I’m so drawn to these books is because I know they’ll have a happy ending. Life is hard and sometimes I just need a guaranteed happy ending in my life. I’ve mentioned some cozies here among my other reviews, but I thought I’d start having a regular, expected “Cozy Corner” segment. The first series I want to review is the White House Chef Series by Julie Hyzy.

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The first book in this series is State of the Onion. I love the pun-ny titles! (I think my favorite title is either Buffalo West Wing or Eggsecutive Orders). The series follows Olivia Paras, a chef in the White House who has an uncanny knack for stumbling upon murders. One highlight of the series is that it’s a bit more action-packed than other cozies. I liked the fast-pace and the fact that there were some moments where I genuinely worried about the character even though I was certain that everything would work out in the end – it is a cozy after all.

Olivia is a great protagonist. She is career- minded and has to have some introspection as to whether or not she has time for romance in her life. She is a hard worker and is very competitive in the cooking arena, but she still has a soft side and cares deeply for her friends. This is not only a protagonist that you can root for, but she is also someone with a lot of potential for growth over the course of the series. While some characters in cozies (ahem – Stephanie Plum) never seem to grow as people, Olivia is one who seems to learn something about herself in every book.

I think that cozy lovers will naturally love this series, but this one could also appeal to people who like action/adventure with their mysteries. The White House is also a really cool setting, and I feel like I learned some interesting details about how it is structured and some details about the traditional role of the First Lady. Overall, I’m happy to recommend this to anyone looking for a quick escape from reality!

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Personal

New Year, New Opportunities!

It is 2017! I think that this past year felt like it went by so much faster than previous years. It seemed like 2016 was the year of reflection for me. I spent so much time thinking about what I wanted to do and what I wanted to be. I want 2017 to be a year of action instead!

I’m hoping that 2017 can be my most productive year yet. I have a few goals that I want to share with you (so I can feel somewhat accountable):

  1. I am going to write every single day! To be a successful writer, there are no shortcuts. It takes persistence and practice.
  2. I am going to continue blogging 6 times a week (3 times here and 3 times on my lifestyle blog Cincy Couture).
  3. I am going to complete a novel manuscript and have it ready for an agent or a publisher by the end of the year. I feel like I spend so much time planning and outlining future projects – but this year, I want to actually complete something.
  4. I am going to read at least 200 books. I want to make sure that I’m reviewing and sharing great works with you, and to do that, I need to continue reading a lot. I’m going to try to also read a better variety of things in 2017, since I feel like I read predominantly cozy mysteries in 2016.

I know that these are pretty big goals, but I also think they are attainable with enough hard work. I’ll try to check in throughout the year to mark any progress I’m making on these goals.

So, what about you? What are your goals for 2017? Feel free to leave them in the comments section, even if they’re not related to reading or writing.

And to anyone who’s reading this, I hope you have a really wonderful 2017!

Book Review

Why do YOU Read?

As a creative writing MFA student, I feel like I hear a lot of people tell me why they read. I’ve always been fascinated with this because I sometimes feel like an outsider when this question comes up. I love exploring the human condition and learning something new, but really the main reason that I read is pure escapism!

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Credit: Creative Commons 

Academic crowds don’t seem to value escapism very much, and I’ve been told several times that this is a very shallow reason. But it’s still my honest reason. I read so that I can have a break from my life. I have a great life, and I know I should appreciate it more, but I also have a lot of anxiety and occasional depression. Books help me leave this behind, at least temporarily. If that’s shallow, then I guess I should just embrace being shallow.

I bring this up because I’m curious if it will get a response – why do you read? Are you part of academic circles or commercial circles or both? Are there specific genres you always read or do you read a variety of things?

My life at the library is a lot different than my life in academia. I work in a public library, and I see all sorts of people – those who love literary fiction or academic subjects, those who only read for escapism, and those who really prefer not to read at all and would rather get DVDs. I think that all of these things are okay – I don’t like passing judgement regarding how people are entertained or spend their free time. But I’m still curious – why do you read?