It is difficult for me to believe that we have already gone through the first month in 2015! School is back in session, winter is still upon us, and it’s a great time of the year to get a lot of Cozy Mystery reading done.
I hope you all have spent some time this month reading terrific Cozy Mysteries. I have! I discovered a new-to-me author who I have added to my list of Favorite Authors, and I have spent time with already-known-to-me favorite authors who have continued to keep my Cozy Mystery reading a favorite past time.
I am currently reading From the Charred Remains by Susanna Calkins. This is the second in her Lucy Campion Mystery Series. Lucy has gone from being a chamber maid to becoming an apprentice with a printmaker. I am enjoying this historical Cozy Mystery a lot! Rather than repeat everything I have written about before, I am going to refer you to my previous entry recommending Susanna Calkins’ Lucy Campion series: Susanna Calkins, Author of A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate : My Newest Favorite Author
It is at this time that I will ask you all to tell us about an extremely good Cozy Mystery you have read this January, and please tell us why you think this Cozy Mystery is better than the other Cozies you read this month. (If you read more than one terrific Cozy Mystery during January, please tell us about the other two, three, or even more that you consider to be better than the rest.)
What terrific Cozy Mystery book(s) did you read during January 2015 that you think the rest of us would definitely enjoy reading, and why did you enjoy it (them)?
Here are the current recommended authors (series) who (that) some of you have read and recommended this past month:
Kathy Aarons: Chocolate Covered Mystery Series
Tasha Alexander: Lady Emily Mystery Series
Ella Barrick (aka Laura DiSilverio & Lila Dare): Ballroom Dance Mystery Series
Lorraine Bartlett (aka Lorna Barrett & L.L. Resnick): Victoria Square Mystery Series
Melissa Bourbon (aka Misa Ramirez): Magical Dressmaking Mystery Series
Susanna Calkins: Lucy Campion Mystery Series
Kate Carlisle: Fixer-Upper Mystery Series
Maia Chance: Snow White Red-Handed (book #1 in Fairy Tale Fatal Mystery Series)
Edie Claire: Leigh Koslow “Never” Mystery Series
Jane K. Cleland: Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery Series
J.J. Cook (aka Joyce and Jim Lavene & Ellie Grant): Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mystery Series
E.J. Copperman (aka Jeffrey Cohen): Haunted Guesthouse Mystery Series
Cleo Coyle (aka Alice Kimberly): Coffeehouse Mystery Series
Krista Davis: Paws and Claws Mystery Series
Ilsa Evans: Nell Forrest Mystery Series (Forbidden Fruit is book #1)
Susan Hoskinson Frommer: Joan Spencer Mystery Series
Kerry Greenwood: Corinna Chapman Mystery Series
Janice Hamrick: Jocelyn Shore Mystery Series
Susannah Hardy: Greek to Me Mystery Series (Feta Attraction is book #1)
Charlaine Harris: Aurora Teagarden Mystery Series
Betty Hechtman: Crochet Mystery Series
Lynne Hinton: Sister Eve, Private Eye (book #1 in Divine Private Detective Agency Mystery Series
Christine Husom: Snow Way Out (book #1 in Snow Globe Shop Mystery Series)
Julie Hyzy: White House Chef Mystery Series
Victoria Laurie: Ghost Hunter Mystery Series
Joyce and Jim Lavene (aka J.J. Cook & Ellie Grant): Renaissance Faire Mystery Series
Elizabeth Lee (aka Elizabeth KAne Buzzelli): Nut House Mystery Series
Catherine Lloyd: Death Comes to the Village (book #1 in Kurland St. Mary Mystery Series)
Kylie Logan (aka Miranda Bliss & Casey Daniels): League of Literary Ladies Mystery Series
Karen MacInerney: Gray Whale Inn Mystery Series
Margaret Maron: Sigrid Harald Mystery Series
Laura Morrigan: Call of the Wilde Mystery Series
Anne Perry: Charlotte & Thomas Pitt Mystery Series
Ann Purser: Lois Meade Mystery Series
Hannah Reed (aka Deb Baker): Scottish Highlands Mystery Series
Barbara Ross: Maine Clambake Mystery Series
Dell Shannon (aka Leslie Egan, Elizabeth Linington, & Anne Blaisdell): Luis Mendoza Mystery Series
Charles Todd: Ian Rutledge Mystery Series
Elaine Viets: Dead-End Job Mystery Series
Lea Wait: Mainely Needlepoint Mystery Series
Jacqueline Winspear: Maisie Dobbs Mystery Series
♦To access more Cozy Mystery Books Recommendations, click on this link♦
P.S. While I try to respond to all of the comments that are made on the Cozy Mystery blog, I generally don’t respond to the comments on these monthly recommendation entries.
Death is Like a Box of Chocolates — Kathy Aarons
This is a new series by a new author. I first saw this book on this blog and decided it must be ‘good’ if it’s got ‘chocolate’ in the title! Well. I wasn’t disappointed, I REALLY enjoyed this book.
I liked the characters when I started reading it, but didn’t really get into it until about page 49. Then I could hardly put it down. The main characters are Michelle (chocolatier/chocolate shop owner) and Erica (bookstore owner). Actually both of these enterprises are in one shop and co-owned by these two women. Another two interesting characters are the brothers of both of these women, one being a famous journalist and the other a veteran with a prosthetic leg, the result of an Afghan war incident. Of course there are many more, but for starters these are the most complex.
The setting is in a small town in MD. The murder of an artist in a nearby shop results in the need for these two women to get involved in seeking the solution. There are many interesting twists and turns and an ending that is a complete surprise. This first book is very well written, quite humorous, and VERY fast paced. I thoroughly enjoyed the characters, the plot, and the side stories.
I did notice one minute error. On page 84, Michelle is describing a home where she is dropping someone off —- it’s a “two story red brick ranch”. Go figure!
Most cozies have a ‘protagonist’. But what if it’s a ‘team’. Are they both protagonists? Or, if it’s written in the first person is she the protagonist and the other ‘team member’ her assistant? If the latter is the case, then Michelle is the protagonist.
We discussed first person writing a couple of weeks ago. I noticed something in this book and a couple of others I recently read. When it is written in the first person, the reader generally doesn’t know the name of the lead character/protagonist until page 10, 11, 12 or so. And, one doesn’t find out their last names until much later.
Once Upon a Grind — Cleo Coyle
I always recommend this series, however I almost didn’t this time. So, I decided to recommend it with ‘reservations’. The many characters are intricate and well developed, same goes with the story –intricate with an international flavor. Both of these aspects is normal for this author(s), which is why it’s oft recommended.
HOWEVER, this time this husband/wife writing team decided to throw in some ‘woo-woo’ (perhaps a trend amongst authors?).
That’s probably not bothersome to many of the blog readers, but it is to me. But here’s an FYI: I found (for those who don’t like the ‘woo-woo’) that the reader can skip over these parts/chapters and NOT lose any of the threads in this story (which is what I did). Therefore, I still found this book quite intriguing – my reason for putting it on the January recommendation list.
Also, the ending leaves a ‘personal’ storyline question for characters Claire and Mike — will there be another coffeehouse? OR, is there something lurking that will be harmful to their relationship? Just have to wait for the next ‘installment’ to find out!
Death Makes the Cut — Janice Hamrick
I like this book and found the storyline quite interesting. But, I must warn potential readers that there are several uses of foul language throughout the book. I found it easy to overlook that, however I don’t understand why it was necessary for the author to use it. Frankly I think it cuts down on sales, because there are readers who will not purchase a book because of it.
The protagonist, Jocelyn Shore, is a high school history and French teacher. It is set in Austin, TX. A fellow teacher is murdered and Jocelyn sets out to solve it. It is a very well written story – a real page turner. I read it in a day or so. The pleasant interaction between kids and teacher is gratifying. Yay to great teachers! If you can overlook the occasional foul language, I think you’ll find this an entertaining read.
Ghost and Mrs. Mewer — Krista Davis
This book has a Halloween setting, but I didn’t want to wait until next October to read it.
This word is not in my vernacular when describing a cozy. However, it seems apropos here — “Delightful”. It is set in a small VA tourist town catering to pets. All pet lovers should enjoy this book.
The premise of the book is almost identical to Kylie Logan’s October release of the ‘Legend of Sleepy Harlow’. It is a bit ironic, but neither author could have known about the other’s storyline. In both books, a reality show comes to town because they are searching for ghosts within the community.
There are a few repetitive statements in this book. It was like the author was telling the reader, “if you missed it the first time, I’m going to tell you again!” In addition, the romance story line (such as it is) was repeated from the first book of this series. I like Krista Davis and recognize her highly creative skills, but I was confused at these inconsistencies (or should I say duplications).
HOWEVER, having said all that, this is a really enjoyable book. One of Davis’s strengths is the development of her characters, solid, humorous, even cantankerous. The mystery is absorbing and the ending very convoluted with numerous twists. It’s a quick read, keeping one engaged all the way through. AND, finding the antics of the various pets “delightful”!
Never Preach Past Noon — Edie Claire
I started two other books, both of which I read previous books in the series. I just couldn’t get beyond page 30 or 40. In one the story line was just two heavy and in the other, for some odd reason, I disliked the characters.
So I decided to read the third book in the ‘Never’ series by Edie Claire (a series I started reading because Danna gave it such high praise). I was so excited Ms. Claire hadn’t deviated from the quality writing of the previous two books. It is quick, witty, and evenly paced. I love the characters – so diverse, well developed, and some even a bit offbeat.
In one scene Leigh Koslow (protagonist) needs to call 911. She searches around for a pay phone. WOW! I thought I was reading ‘historical fiction’!!
The romantic story line is almost as compelling as the mystery storyline. I couldn’t wait to get to the end to see how the ‘romance’ situation was resolved.
I then read a couple of other books and decided to read the 4th book in this series, “Never Kissed Goodnight’. I’m not going to go on and on, but suffice it to say, “It is EXCELLENT”.
Originally I thought ‘Death is Like a Box of Chocolates’ would be my favorite book for this month. But after reading ‘Never Kissed Goodnight’ it went straight to the top of the list. What a surprise on the first page!
Scoop to Nuts – Elizabeth Lee
Another series set in Texas, it’s a light, fast read and pretty straight forward. It’s easy to figure out the ‘culprit’ about halfway through the book. I recommend this book because of its very strong female characters – quite enjoyable.
Linda MH says
I always enjoy your book reviews. I, too, enjoyed Kathy Aarons book, and I loved Janice Hamrick’s three books in this series. I’m sad she hasn’t written more. However, your review for Once Upon a Grind caught my attention for a couple of reasons. I love these books–they are an auto-buy for me. As a matter of fact, Once Upon a Grind is in my TBR pile. I just haven’t had a chance to get to it. Now, here’s my problem. It makes me crazy when an author takes a wonderfully entertaining series and after 14 books decides to add (as you call it) the “woo-woo” factor. Now, it isn’t that I don’t read books with certain paranormal elements. For example: I enjoy Casey Daniels’ Pepper Martin series, love everything Heather Webber/Blake writes, find E. J. Copperman’s Haunted Guesthouse series entertaining, and enjoy Evelyn David’s Breanna Sullivan Stories. But why, oh why, do authors decide to add a ‘woo-woo’ factor after so many books? I followed a particular series by a much-loved author(s) who added a ghost to the series after 5 books. This series is well-written and very entertaining and didn’t need anything to ‘kick things up a notch’. I was so upset by this that I’ve stopped reading this series. Thanks for the heads up about being able to skip over these parts and not lose the threads of the story. That’s just what I’ll do! (And I apologize for my rant!)
I read a lot of great books this month but my favorites were:
*The White House Chef Series by Julie Hyzy (Ms. Hyzy has talent! this series gets better with every book)
*Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade Mystery Series by J.J. Cook (not my favorite writing style, but a good mystery with tons of lovable characters)
*A Snow Globe Shop Mystery Series by Christine Husom (very strong first book with a good mystery)
*Coffeehouse Mystery Series – Cleo Coyle (great mystery series, it gets better with each book)
Overall I had a successful month, I beat my 15 book goal and I can’t wait to start February!
THANKS a lot, Jonathan. Since you and I have similar reading tastes this month I’m going to get “Snow Way Out’ (first book in Ms. Husom’s series). I wasn’t aware it even existed, so I’m glad you mentioned it!
Like you, I also read Hyzy’s latest book, recommended Coyle’s newest release, and am in the middle of J. J. Cook’s “In Hot Water”. Even though the authors have given much more prominence to the ghost character in this book (In Hot Water), it’s tolerable and I’m enjoying it immensely so far. I, too, really enjoy the characters, especially the fire chief (Stella). She’s the protagonist with a lot of moxie (in some ways similar to Sharyn Howard in another series, by the same authors). However since I haven’t finished it yet, I didn’t feel I should recommend it.
Danna - cozy mystery list says
MJ and Jonathan, Christine Husom’s Snow Globe Shop Mystery Series has been recommended by several Cozy Mystery readers, and she is actually in my next “batch” of authors to post on the site. I’ve heard lots of good things about Snow Way Out.
This week I read the latest Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade by J.J. Cook and totally agree with Jonathan above that the characters are terrific.
Following a recommendation from your year end post I read both of Laura Morrigan’s Call of the Wilde books and truly enjoyed them.
Then I found the Nell Forrest books by Ilsa Evans (available on Kindle Unlimited) and read all three of them. With the first one I was kind of “meh” but I found the characters fun enough to continue the series, which improved with the subsequent books so I will read the next one when it comes out as well.
Also due to Kindle Unlimited I started reading the Maine Clambake series by Barbara Ross and enjoyed the first two so will watch for more of those. Nice setting and good characterization.
Then I read the second in the Fixer Upper series by Kate Carlisle which is close to home for me with location and has characters that seem like they fit right in with my family and friends.
Finally, I read the first two books in the Gray Whale Inn series by Karen MacInerney and liked them enough to continue the series when I get a chance.
Stash Empress says
For once I don’t have that many books to report on this month. Not only did I not actually get in as much reading as usual (my daughter is getting married in April!), but in addition, had an unusually high proportion of “lemons” this month. I don’t know why that is, considering that some of them were by authors that I had previously enjoyed (in other series).
My new favorite series this month:
J. J. Cook — (Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade series)
That Old Flame of Mine,
Playing With Fire,
In Hot Water
I read all three of the books in the series, back to back, & do love this new-to-me series! Love the characters — spunky female fire chief, investigating murders with the aid of her “roommate” — hunky ghost of the previous fire chief! J.J. Cook is really beloved husband/wife writing team Joyce & Jim Lavene & they’ve got another great series here. Even the paranormal aspect of the storyline seems just so.. well.. “normal” LOL! (I just wonder how this dynamic duo keeps track of all their mystery series!)
Lynne Hinton — Sister Eve, Private Eye (Divine Private Detective Agency series) — new series featuring a nun (on leave) helping her father (a PI) solve a murder. (And its Divine, pronounced Diveen, as our sleuth keeps repeating LOL!) Another gutsy female sleuth — a nun who rides a Harley & solves murder.. gotta love it! Looking forward to the next in the series.
Kylie Logan — The Legend of Sleepy Harlow (League of Literary Ladies series) — another fun book in this series — I love the colorful characters & the way the book that the book club is reading ties in with the current murder!
Lea Wait — Twisted Threads (Mainely Needlepoint mystery) — first in a new series. Enjoyable setting & characters, this new series has promise, though I did guess part of the mystery — but not all!
Ella Barrick — Dead Man Waltzing — A Ballroom Dance Mystery — this series was new to me, the sleuth is the owner of a ballroom dancing studio. Well crafted mystery (though I admit I did guess the ending) & very enjoyable reading about ballroom dance competitions & the luxurious costumes. Looking to lay my hands on the other books in this series.
Jane K. Cleland — Blood Rubies — Josie Prescott Antiques Mystery. This is a great series — I love the characters, love the way all the disparate characters who work for Josie Prescott in her antiques business all mesh together to form a real “family”. Love the glimpse into the world of antiques & the ways they are researched & authenticated. And this one about a formerly unknown Faberge egg is just better & better.
And that’s all she read this month! Just started the newest Dandy Gilver this morning, so that will go on next month’s list.
I read a new author to me Death comes to the Village by Catherine Lloyd. It is the first in a series and I already purchased the next book Death comes to London. It is set in an English Village during the regency era. A soldier has been injured in the Napoleanic war and is bedridden with a broken leg and is aided in solving the mystery of a missing maid by the local Vicars daughter who comes to visit him. I liked reading about the details of life in that period of time. It was a little slow-moving, just like the English village it took place in.
I also read A Fine Summer’s Day by Charles Todd. It is set in 1914 England, the summer before WW1. It features Ian Rutledge, the police inspector who appears in her novels. Her first novel with him starts out in 1920 and he is still tortured by the war. This is sort of a prequel where he solves a series of murders while rumors of war are circulating. He also becomes engaged and relationship with his fiancé Jean are explored. The identity of the killer isn’t too hard to solve, but it was nice to read about his life and life in England in happier times before the war changed everything.
The last book I read was a re-read of one my favorite authors Jacqueline Winspear. Maisie Dobbs was her first novel with the title character. Maisie is a private investigator in post WW1 England. This book tells the present story of her first case and the backstory of how she came to be a private investigator. I had read the book many years ago and it was a pleasant re-read. It was a nice re-introduction to the main characters.
Ok. Tried this three times and the technology (kindle fire) fights me. I will now speak like a caveman: Off Kilter by Hannah Reed. A Poisoned Season by Tasha Alexander. Spector Inspector by E J Copperman. A Crafty Killing by Lorraine Barrett.
The first books that stand out for me, this month, are the two ‘Renaissance Fair’ mysteries that I got for Christmas from a friend – ‘Wicked Weaves’ and ‘Bewitching Boots’, both by Joyce and Jim Lavene. This is a great series, homey and fun, with several main characters that stay throughout the series, and an ever-changing cast of lesser, background characters.
This gives the series a stable base, while at the same time keeping things fresh and keeping it from any staleness.
The books revolve around a young woman, Jessie, who is working on a PhD in medieval crafts and apprentices every summer to a different artisan at the Renaissance Faire.
Different and recommended.
I’ve also re-read Kerry Greenwood’s entire ‘Corinna Chapman’ series for the umpteenth time. (They’re favourites of mine and easily stand regular re-readings!)
Corinna is a baker in Melbourne, Australia and lives above her bakery in an apartment house that’s more like a small village. Everyone knows everyone else and everyone always seems to get involved in everyone else’s problems. Often providing the solutions along the way.
I’ll round off my recommendations with Elaine Viets’ “Dead-End Job” mysteries, of which I have also re-read a couple this month.
‘Helen Hawthorn’ is an ex-professional woman who is on the run after catching her husband with another woman and attacking him. (I won’t say any more for fear of spoilers.)
She works a series of low-key, menial, ‘dead-end’ jobs in order to stay off the books and under any official radar, and lives in a Florida apartment building with a landlady who has a heart of gold underneath a slightly wacky exterior, and an assortment of kooky friends.
All these series are excellent examples of light ‘cozy’ mysteries, that you can easily immerse yourself in, and while they’re all very different in tone, they’re all great reads.
Danna, I have been bursting with news to share with you. Recently you mentioned free and inexpensive kindle books.One of the authors whose books were available was Dell Shannon. When I first began reading mysteries, her books were among my favorites, particularly the ones that dealt with Luis Mendoza. These books were only available at that price on Kindle. By a conjunction of the stars, it so happened that I had some extra mad money as it was my 80th birthday. The end result. I am buying the whole series (38 books). Once I started I cannot stop. They are as good a read as they were in the 60s.
Danna - cozy mystery list says
Regina, Happy Belated Birthday!
Thanks to an online deal I have been reading on this kindle a lot. Anne Perry’s Charlotte and Thomas Pitt books, Margaret Marons Sigrid Harald books, Sandra Parshall, Jon Taltons. David Mapstone books, Ann Pursers. “Suspicion at Seven “, and Susan Hoskinson Fromme. Liked every book, and now have more books to read than ever!
Karen L. says
I also read Edie Claire’s Never Preach Past Noon and Never Kiss at Midnight. I like this series because the characters and plot are well developed. Sometimes the story line becomes a little intense, but I enjoy the humor that is intertwined within.
Linda MH says
A Tiger’s Tale by Laura Morrigan
I’ve done a lot of reading this month because it has been way too cold (and snowy!) to be out and about. Most of the books were very enjoyable so I gave a lot of thought to the one I wanted to share. I decided on A Tiger’s Tale by Laura Morrigan. A Tiger’s Tale is the second book in A Call of the Wilde Mystery series. Book 1 (Woof at the Door) was entertaining so I bought this one as soon as it was offered (last May!) Unfortunately, it got buried in my TBR pile (ok, piles) and when I realized the next book was being released in March, I decided to dig it out. On the one hand, I’m sorry I waited so long to read it. On the other hand, now I only have to wait a short time for the next one to be out. LOL
The protagonist in this series is Grace Wilde. She is an animal behaviorist and is able to communicate telepathically with all animals. Her ability to do so is woven quite nicely into the storytelling so it doesn’t seem at all strange that she has conversations with her animal clients. In this story, Grace is called to a rescue habitat for big cats because a very docile tiger has started acting aggressively and has treed her veterinarian friend. As Grace tries to calm the tiger, she sees images that a well-liked volunteer has been kidnapped. Since the missing girl is considered a troubled teen, everyone thinks she has simply run away. Grace knows this isn’t the case so she sets out to find the missing girl.
This well-written story is very entertaining with lots of twists and turns and interconnecting stories. The characters are all likable but I must admit that Grace annoyed me a bit at the beginning of the book with her interactions with the guy she is dating. She has been hurt in the past and opening up to others is hard for her. I really like the fact that there are a handful of people close to her who are aware of her gift. This makes her interactions with these people more realistic. I’m definitely looking forward to Book 3 (A Horse of a Different Killer).
My January 2015 reading list.
A Stitch in Time,
You Better Knot Die,
Behind the Seams,
If Hook Could Kill,
For Better or Worsted,
Yes I am a crocheter and loved these book.
A Bone to Pick
A Seamless Murder
No Ghouls Allowed
All these books are worth reading. You won’t be disappointed.
My first mystery of 2015 also was my first 2015 “First Tuesday” purchase: TWISTED THREADS, the first entry in Lea Wait’s new Mainely Needlepoint series. I was looking forward to this new series, and Lea definitely delivered. The buzz I have read is deservedly strong. Angie is an interesting, mature but evolving protagonist. TWiSTED THREADS is a highly rewarding read featuring well drawn principal characters, an engaging plot, and a wonderful sense of place. Angie’s grandmother, is vividly drawn with a life and interests of her own. Hers is one of the more interesting subplots. I believe I see where Lea is going with the potential romantic interest (of course I could be mistaken): it is subtle, and the “roadblocks” should be organic and flow naturally versus being contrived. Well done! Lea hit it out of the ballpark with this one, and I am thrilled that the second in the series, THREADS OF EVIDENCE, will be available August 25. TWISTED THREADS definitely has secured a place on by Best of 2015 list.
My favorite book that I read this month was Snow White Red-Handed by Maia Chance. I loved it because it combined a mystery with fairy tales and took place in the past! I definitely look forward to her next book later this year.
I’m so glad you enjoyed this book. I just downloaded it to my Kindle. Now I can’t wait to read it. I have her other book loaded in my Amazon cart to get later this year.