Weekend Reading 8.12.21

It sure has been hot here in Southern Indiana (I live right across the border from Louisville), with temps in the 90s and humidity so thick it feels like you have to swim through the air. But the peaches are ripe, so it’s a good time to stay inside and eat peach cobbler and ice cream while reading a cozy mystery (starting Peachy Scream today.

I’ve been staying inside this week after spending last weekend moving our son to his new apartment, where he began his teaching career this week! I am one proud Mom, who is now using the vacated space for an office with my husband. There will still be room for an air mattress when our son comes to visit, so no worries there. Our daughter is settled where she is for now, so no more moving duties for us this year.

I’m having a little post-Olympics let down. I always love watching the Summer Games. It’s the only time I get to see water polo, artistic swimming, rhythmic gymnastics, and equestrian show jumping on TV. Now I’m back to watching episodes of Hometown and Fixer Upper on Discovery Plus (instead of actually working on my own house, which I should be doing, right after I see the reveal on this Craftsman style home).

My husband and I are going to try to catch the Louisville Ballet’s dance interpretation of Shakespeare at Shakespeare in the Park tonight. Then we have a weekend to ourselves (first in ages! squee!). I’m hoping to get to this cozy by Sunday after church.

What are your plans for this weekend? Leave a comment below and share what you’re up to and what you’re reading.

Here’s are some things that have been going on in the book world (and other stuff too):

This one goes back a bit, but is a nice list of cozies coming out during the second half of the year (including several first-in-series).

In the mood for a different kind of read? Check out this review of the Japanese thriller (translated into English) Bullet Train.

It may be hot now, but Christmas is coming! Here’s a list of fun gifts for mystery lovers.

Love a beach read? One writer argues against reading at the beach in this article.

How would you update this 2017 list of the “absolute best” cozy series.

This “Cozy Mysteries” scented candle is calling to me. Search cozy mystery candles on Etsy to find more choices. #notsponsored

Home renovation is hot right now, so check out this list of remodeling/decorating themed cozies.

The book links to my Bookshop.org shop in this post are affiliate links, so I receive a small commission if you purchase at no extra cost to you. Check out my store there if you’d like and help support independent booksellers with your purchases too!

Stay cool and enjoy a good book this weekend!

Happy reading!

-Amy

Reading Roundup Spring 2021

Welcome to the Spring Reading Roundup! I have been in a reading slump. Maybe some of you can relate to that lack of concentration that makes it difficult to focus on reading during this pandemic. Even as the world has started to reopen, I’ve still found it hard to concentrate on books. I also moved halfway across the country in May and had to declutter the old house and unpack the new one while helping my adult and college aged kids set up house in two different states.

So I’ve been squeezing my reading into little bits of time here and there. I haven’t done a roundup on here in awhile, so this one will cover March, April, and May. Titles cover a variety of genres, but my heart is still into the cozy.

During this time I started the Ice Cream Parlor series by Abby Collette. I got a chance to speak with her recently. Check out our conversation HERE about the series, writing habits, mystery twists, uncooperative love interests, upcoming titles, and a shared love for Pepsi.

Here are the books I read this Spring:

A Deadly Inside Scoop by Abby Collette

I’ve found a new favorite series. Heroine Bronwyn “Win” Crewse renovates and takes over management for her family’s ice cream parlor in Chagrin Falls. On her opening night (in October!), she wanders out to gather snow to make her grandmother’s recipe for snow ice cream and stumbles on the body of a man her family had bad blood with.

Win is happy to let the police handle it, despite her sleuth-loving friend Maisie, but then her father becomes the prime suspect. She has to find out whodunit before her father ends up in prison.

Abby Collette’s series is full of quirky, but believable, characters in an interesting setting. She includes some interesting twists and I was left guessing until the very end (and I’m pretty good at figuring out mysteries pretty early). Even if you do guess early, the journey is worth it.

Rating: 5 stars

Note: Reading this and the second book (see below) in the series inspired me to invite Abby Collette for our first “Get Cozy With…” author talk. Find it HERE.

Murder Likes It Hot by Tracy Weber

This tightly written mystery isn’t a comical cozy with quirky characters. It follows it the infertility journey of the main character, owner of a yoga studio, and her experiences at a center for homeless teens. When the director there is killed, she must unravel the mystery before runaway Rainbow gets convicted of the crime. This is not her first rodeo, as this is a later book in the series. I jumped in with this book and there were a few references to previous cases that I didn’t always get. There is no shortage of suspects and the end is satisfying. I’d read more of this series. I’m curious if they are all this heavy.

Thank you to NetGalley for the electronic review copy. All opinions are my own. Rating: 4 stars

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal

An interesting tale of intertwined lives that gives you a peek into the culture of food and how people relate to it. The book delves into each of the characters’ lives briefly, but not in a shallow way, and ends up showing how they all are connected in some way without hitting you over the head with it.

There is swearing and adult content, so be aware, but I think the character studies are really good in this and I like how the ends are tied up without being put into a nice bow. Plenty of shoutouts to Minnesotans in this one.

Rating: 4 stars

The Basement Quilt by Ann Hazelwood

Not what I expected, so I think that affected my view of the book. The plot involves a group of related women who put together a quilt in the basement of the mother’s home. It follows their lives and has some supernatural elements.

I read this for our book club and had the impression it was supposed to be a Christian book (which it only kind of was). I think that affected my ability to enjoy the book. 

It was well written, but it just didn’t sit well with me. I’m not sure what it was that didn’t click for me, but it just didn’t click.

Rating: 3 stars

Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion

This is a great survey of Joan Didion’s best essays. The subjects vary from a Gambler’s anonymous meeting to Martha Stewart. Each essay shows insight and research into the topic with a charming voice. Didion is a favorite of mine, especially Year of Magical Thinking. If you want a deep dive into Didion’s body of work, this is the book for you.

Rating: Five stars

Twisted Twenty-Six by Janet Evanovich

Another great Stephanie Plum book! Stephanie is protecting her Grandma Mazur from a group of gangsters known as the Lazy Boys (as in the chair) after her brand new husband Jimmy dies suddenly on their wedding day. Jimmy was the “keeper of the keys” and the Lazyboys want those keys. But someone else is after them too. 

Throw in a couple of quirky FTAs and Stephanie’s up to her neck in danger. Morelli and Ranger make appearances too.

The mix of characters is good in this one, and there’s lots of Lula, who I love. You get some insight into Connie’s connections as well. The ending is fun and leaves you wanting more.

Rating: 4 stars

Irish Parade Murder by Leslie Meier

eslie Meier has done it again! She continues her Lucy Stone series with a fresh mystery about the death of a corrections officer and corruption in the county sheriff’s office. Ted Stillings has gotten a grant from the Truth Project and bought the Gilead Gabber, a weekly in a neighboring town. He’s also brought in hotshot new reporter from Cleveland Rob Callahan to bring a new take to local news. Lucy and Rob butt heads from the start, but when Rob is accused of murder, she comes to his aid. But can she overcome the grip of the county sheriff and get to the truth? 

The mystery is compelling and the characters are still fresh, yet familiar. We begin to see new sides to many of the regulars in Tinker’s Cove. Meier is a bit heavy handed with her focus on women’s place in society and the influence of the church. The Irish theme to the book also gets a bit forced. But after a wandering beginning, the book jumps to a compelling story that you can’t wait to finish. Another winner. I rated this four stars only because of the heavy-handed issues-focused parts. I like Lucy’s determination to stand up for herself and keep up with current trends and issues, but some of it was a little over the top and didn’t fit naturally into the story.

Thank you to NetGalley for the electronic review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 4 stars

A Game of Cones by Abby Collette

A great follow up to the first book in this series. Bronwyn “Win” Crewse is doing swift business at her family’s ice cream parlor and doesn’t think she’ll be affected too much by the proposed new mall in town. But when the mall developer’s messenger is murdered following a meeting of business owners where the mall was announced, Win ends up sleuthing again (though still reluctantly). Maisie and her friend from New York (who stumbles on to the body and becomes a suspect) work together to figure out who the killer is before he (or she) has a chance to kill again.

I figured this one out just before the reveal, but the whole journey was satisfying. This latest twist on the traditional cozy mystery plot is fun, with whimsical characters and a whopper of a subplot that could throw Win’s whole world off kilter.

Thank you to NetGalley for the electronic review copy. All opinions are my own. Still my favorite new series.

Rating: 5 stars

What have you been reading? Comment below with your latest picks.

Happy reading!

-Amy

Stay tuned! Weekend Reading posts on Friday. An overview of a popular series is coming Monday, and June/July Reading Roundup will follow next Wednesday.

Get Cozy With Abby Collette!

This week I had the pleasure of chatting with USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling cozy mystery author Abby Vandiver, writing as Abby Collette. Collette’s recent titles include A Deadly Inside Scoop, A Game of Cones, and the upcoming A Killer Sundae, all part of the ice cream parlor series. Watch as we talk about cozies, writing habits, and a shared love for Pepsi.

Check out Abby’s website here.

Check out my Bookshop.org shop here to purchase titles by Abby Collette and other authors while supporting indie bookstores. (affiliate link, so I get a small commission at no cost to you when you make a purchase)

Want more cozy of my cozy reviews (more coming over the weekend)? Visit here.

Weekend Reading will post tomorrow followed by a Reading Roundup on Monday, featuring everything I’ve read this spring/early summer.

Happy reading!

-Amy

Coming Soon: Interview With Cozy Mystery Author Abby Collette!

Are you a fan of cozy mysteries (or even just book talks)? Abby Collette is coming to the Get Cozy Book Nook!

Watch the blog on Friday July 30th when I will post an interview with Abby Collette! Our Zoom discussion will happen Thursday, and I can’t be more excited!

Collette wrote A Deadly Inside Scoop and her latest book A Game of Cones. Her upcoming Stay tuned here and sign up for email notifications to be notified when the interview is posted!

In the meantime, check out Abby Collette’s website at http://www.abbycollette.com.

To purchase A Deadly Inside Scoop click here or A Game of Thrones click here (or to preorder A Killer Sundae click here) while supporting indie bookstores, check out my shelf at Bookshop.org.

Happy reading!

-Amy

New Focus For Get Cozy Book Nook Plus 7 Tasty First-In-Series Food-Based Cozies

Here at Get Cozy Book Nook, I’ve focused on providing book news readers can use. As time has progressed, I find myself increasingly focus on cozy mysteries (my faves!), and so the tone of the blog is going to change. The main focus of most posts will be cozy mysteries, with some book-related content. I’ll still do my Reading Roundup, which will include books from many genres that I’ve read over the past month. Also continuing will be the Weekend Reading feature, where I share links about bookish topics, though most of the links there will focus on cozy mysteries.

So what’s a cozy mystery? Cozies generally focus on an amateur sleuth (though not always-love you Louise Penny!) solving a mystery that doesn’t show graphic violence, sex, or salty language on the page. Cozy titles are often a pun on the heart of the mystery, which can focus on anything from food to crafting to books to travel. They’re my favorite type of books. Don’t know where to start? Everyone loves a good, tasty dish, so here’s a list of the first-in-series cozies that focus on food.

Goldy Bear, a Colorado caterer, serves a meal at a wake, when her ex-father-in-law dies. Now Goldy’s accused of adding poison to the menu and must clear her name and save her burgeoning catering business.

Theodosia Browning owns Indigo Tea Shop in South Carolina and is catering tea for 200 at the historic homes garden party when a distinguished guest is found dead with a tea cup clutched in his hand. Theodosia and her staff set out to find who poisoned one of the city’s elite while trying to protect the reputation of her shop.

Hannah Swensen bakes up a Minnesota mystery when her chocolate chip crunchies are found scattered in the back alley of her bakery around the body of a delivery man. Someone’s cooking up trouble in Eden Lake, and Hannah and her friends need to find out who, before her mother sets her up with the town’s dentist and without getting in the way of the town’s newest detective. Hannah soon finds herself torn between two great guys while trying to protect her bakery after a murder just outside her doors.

Lana Lee ends up back at her family’s restaurant in Cleveland’s Asian Village after a bad breakup, when the property manager winds up dead after a delivery from her family’s restaurant. Lana has to solve the mystery before she ends up the next victim.

When Haley Snow applies to by a food critic at a Key West lifestyle magazine, she doesn’t know that her boss would be Kristen Faulkner, the woman she caught with her boyfriend. Then Kristen turns up murdered, and Haley is the prime suspect in the key lime pie poisoning. She has to find the real killer before she becomes a victim herself.

When Bronwyn “Win” Crewse reopened her family’s renovated ice cream shop, she finds a body just down the hill only days after opening. Not just any body, the body of a man who tried to swindle her grandma out of her own shop. Then Win’s father becomes a prime suspect, and she reluctantly embarks on her own investigation with her friend Maisie. This one’s got a cast full of quirky characters, secrets, and a whole lot of ice cream. Will Win and Maisie figure out who the killer is before the killer melts them?

Winona Mae Montgomery and her Granny Smythe run the struggling Smythe Orchards. They cook up an old-fashioned Christmas festival at the orchard to bring in locals and tourists. Things are sweet until Granny’s nemesis Nadine Cooper is found lodged in the apple press. Granny’s the number one suspect, and she and Winona must find the rotten apple before someone else ends up cooked.

Felicia runs a food truck business and gets steamed when everyone dismisses her suspicions when unlikeable retiree Mrs. Dunn passes out while walking home from Felicia’s truck. She’s sure someone’s cooking up trouble and she’s determined to find out the French fried truth.

If you’re down for a tale where mystery’s brewing, one (or all!) of these books could be for you. Murder can happen anywhere in a cozy: a small town, a big city, or right outside your shop door. Join me as I steer this blog toward a new and mysterious adventure in book loving. Keep coming back for more cozies and book-related content.

Happy reading!

–Amy

Reading Roundup February 2021

This month was a slow reading month. After finishing nearly ten books last month, I only finished four books, three of them audio books. The short month seemed to fly by. I’m in the middle of three books, so March’s book total should go back up. Here’s my February book haul:

28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand

Elin Hilderbrand has done it again. Even though I read this in the wintertime, I was transported to Nantucket for 28 summers of a beautiful love affair. Mallory and Jake have a “Same time next year” relationship where they only get together on Labor Day each year and recreate their first weekend together. The affair carries on through all the ups and downs of their lives, with a stunning conclusion.

Hilderbrand shows her characters’ full personalities, flaws and all, but there are no demons in this book. She always finds the balance in each character without making them flat and unmemorable.

The setting, the characters, and the plotting of the book all meld together into one unforgettable story. I listened to this on audio and recommend it, though it is a big time commitment.

Rating: Five stars!

Who I Am With You by Robin Lee Hatcher

I read this for our church book club and it didn’t disappoint. The story was sweet and jumped back and forth in time between contemporary times, featuring a young, pregnant widow and her neighbor, who’s gotten himself into political hot water, and the Depression, with the love story of the heroine’s great grandfather and grandmother.

I love the time switch aspect and how the stories mirrored each other. Things seemed to develop naturally in the plot and there weren’t many twists. You can sort of predict the ending, but it is so much fun getting there!

Rating: 4 stars

Killer Content by Olivia Black

This book is not a typical cozy. It follows Odessa Dean, a temporary Brooklyn transplant from small-town Louisiana. Odessa’s is a waitress at a book store and cafe when her fellow waitress Bethany leaves mid shift to meet some on in Domino Park and mysteriously falls from a medium high bridge to her death. Odessa is convinced it was murder and sets out to investigate.

Odessa is a great character, not your usual mystery heroine. She’s young and in the city for the first time, so the reader gets to follow not only the mystery, but her journey to find her place in New York. There are places in the middle of the book where the mystery seems to be forgotten for a bit and the pace slows, but towards the end the action ramps up to a fever pitch with an unpredictable ending. It kept me guessing.

What also kept me guessing was that there was no real love interest developed for Odessa. This is probably intentional, but I kept waiting for it to develop and it never did. Even the handsome detective ends up with someone else.

The book gets into the tech without getting too techy. I liked the relevance of that.

Overall, I really liked this book, even if it didn’t shout out as an all-time fav. I would definitely read the next one in the series.

Thank you to NetGalley for the complimentary electronic copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 4 stars

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

“Somewhere between life and death, there is a library.” After an extended depression, a job loss, and the death of her cat, Nora decides to overdose, only to find herself in a library with her childhood librarian. In the library, she looks through her Book of Regrets. She then has the opportunity to choose any of the books that will allow her to face one of her regrets and live an alternate version of her life based on a decision she made differently.

I found the premise fascinating. Most people have wondered what their lives would be like if they had made different choices at different times in their lives. After all, what would lead to the perfect life? The journey Nora goes on is interesting and unpredictable, as is the ending.

The whole concept doesn’t fit with my spiritual beliefs, but was an interesting exercise in looking at alternative beliefs. The characters are rich and vibrant and the events are believable, but unexpected. It can be difficult to read at times, but it is definitely compelling.

I listed to this on audio and finished it in two evenings. I think the audio version adds another layer of “personalness” to the book.

I recommend this book to anyone who likes the “sliding doors” concept in a book.

Rating: 4 stars

I may not have read a lot of books in February, but each of these books was impactful. And, as I said above, I have three books in progress, plus two audio books, so I’m off to a good start for March.

What did you read in February? Have you read any of the above books? If so, what did you think of them? Share in the comments below.

Happy reading!

–Amy

Weekend Reading 2.26.21

It’s been one crazy week for me. There’s been a lot going on in the news, so my (night) job has been really busy. I don’t work Fridays and Saturdays, so I’m looking forward to getting in some good cozy reading time. I’ve also taken on a project for Lent where I get rid of (donate/toss) one (kitchen-sized) garbage bag full of clutter in my house each day. I’m a bit behind, but plan to catch up some this weekend. There’s a lot going on in the book world too, and I wanted to share some of that with you. Have a great weekend!

Goodreads has this convenient list that includes the first book in many popular cozy mystery series.

Looking for an inspirational image/quote related to reading? This Pinterest page includes over 200!

I love a bookish candle and am dying to try this Little Women inspired one from the Classic Literature collection from Rose and Adder.

I am behind the times, but finally bought the first three books (find the first one here) in the Bridgerton series. (Am I the only one who hasn’t binged the Netflix series?)

I got this, this and this cookbook for Christmas and I am obsessed (Ina’s chicken pot pie? Yes, please!) Up next: Antoni: Let’s Do Dinner and Cheese, Wine, and Bread by Katie Quinn, out in April.

This buyer’s guide popular blue light reading glasses from one of my favorite blogs Hooked to Books provides a good sampling of what’s out on the market.

Great ways to style your bookshelves. I’m going to restyle the one in my living room this weekend using this guide.

Try these tea and book pairings for an elevated experience.

Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny are working together on a new thriller.

I’m really looking forward to reading Who is Maud Dixon?, one of The New York TimesNew Books to Watch for March.

It’s supposed to be sunny but cold up here in the mountains of Colorado this weekend. Perfect for a nice walk, followed by snuggling by the fire with a A Deadly Inside Scoop and an e-galley of Antoni: Let’s Do Dinner. Share below in the comments if you’ve got something fun to read this weekend.

Happy reading!

–Amy

**Want to support indie bookstores (and me)? Use one of my book affiliate links to purchase to benefit your favorite indie. Anytime you use these book links, I get a small amount at no extra cost to you. I only feature what I love. Thanks for your support!**

New Feature: What’s Up Wednesday: Audiobooks

How’s your week going? I’ve been trying to get things done around my house, but haven’t made much progress so far (see clothing-covered chair). But I have been making progress in my reading life. I just finished this Killer Content (watch for a review at the beginning of March) and am in the middle of listening to The Midnight Library (find the hardback here and the audio version here to support indie bookstores). I have five more audiobooks on hold through the Libby app at my local library. So I thought I’d kick off this new feature on the blog with..

What’s up with…audiobooks?

For a long time, I didn’t have the patience to listen to audiobooks. Some can be ten hours long or even longer (President Obama’s new book is 29 hours and 10 minutes long!). Then I started working nights. And I had eight hours at night where I had nothing to listen to while I worked besides TV (I work from home, so that would wake my husband up), music (distracting), podcasts (a good choice, but requires keeping up with a list of episodes) and audiobooks (also distracting sometimes, but…). Audiobooks tend to be my favorite choice.

Double your productivity with an audiobook

A lot of (uncited, but real) research is showing that audiobooks have become more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. People are at home more and have found themselves listening to audiobooks while they declutter, do laundry, bake sourdough bread, or engage in hobbies. An audiobook also makes for good background sound while working. And, many of us audiobook listeners are finding that we can squeeze in more “reading” time while getting other things done. And there’s nothing I like more than increased productivity.

Consume more books

Audiobooks give you a chance to consume more books when you don’t have a lot of time to sit and dedicate to reading. Just as it adds to your productivity in getting other things done, it can help you check more titles off your list. So many books come out each week (even with the erratic publishing schedules during the COVID era), way more than anyone can fit on a TBR. Anything that helps you consume more books in less time helps readers to meet those lofty reading goals we all seem to be setting.

More audiobook choices

It used to be, if you wanted to access an audiobook, you could either get the CDs (or further back, tapes) from a bookstore (at an exorbitant price) or the library and lug them home. The they became available digitally through Audible.com on Amazon. But that was your only choice. Now, audiobooks are available through loads of sources, such as Apple Books, Libro.fm (a personal fave because you can support indie bookstores), and even using the Libby app through your local library (nothing beats free, which often makes it worth the waitlist). More competition means better prices that are closer to the price of a hardcover.

It’s all about that narrator

The quality of a narrator can make or break your audiobook experience. I am starting to have favorite narrators for fiction choices, and some books have a full cast of narrators that can really add to the experience (especially if the book has multiple points of view). Many, if not most, memoirs (a favorite audio choice of mine) are read by the author, so you get that person’s story read in their own voice, which creates a more intimate experience.

Some of recent my favorite audiobooks: The Dress Shop on King Street by Ashley Clark; Why Not Me? by Mindy Kahling; American Royals and Majesty by Katharine McGee; 28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand; The If I Run series by Terri Blackstock; Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain, and The Guest List by Lucy Foley.

Have you tried any good audiobooks lately? What have been your favorites? Share your recommendations in the comments below.

Happy reading!

–Amy

**This post includes some affiliate links, so using them may earn me a small commission at no cost to you. I only feature what I really love and all opinions are my own. Thank you for your support!**

Keep the Romance Alive: Seven Books For Your Valentine’s (or Galentine’s) Day Hangover

Love is still in the air, even though Valentine’s Day was two days ago (and Galentine’s was three days ago). Whether you celebrate the Hallmark holiday of romantic love (based on a story with Christian roots), or are through with relationships, there’s a romance for you. Some are steamy, others tame, and still others take the hate-to-love trope VERY seriously, but all of them have happy endings. If you’ve found your happy ending with someone else, or are happy all by yourself, thank you very much, here are seven books that will make you say “what if…”

Steam level ratings:

1-No love scenes; 2-Closed door love scenes; 3. Semi open door but not overtly specific love scenes; 4. Open door love scenes; 5. Steamy, specific open door love scenes.

If You Believe In Long Lost Love

Out of the Storm by B.J. Daniels

Kate Jackson never believed her husband died in the Texas refinery explosion 20-some years ago. But she’s moved on with fiancé Collin, and takes a trip with him to Montana to see the snow for the first time. Their rental breaks down in the small town of Buckhorn, where she meets a man she swears is her long lost husband Danny. Except his “real” name is Justin and he’s got a secret of his own. Collin is thrown by this turn of events and the trip goes south. As Collin and Kate head into danger, can “Justin” save the woman he’s falling in love with, without getting himself killed in the process? First in.a series.

Steam level: One level three scene

If You Have A Steamy Secret Crush…

Real Men Knit by Kwana Jackson

When Mama Strong dies, leaving behind her failing knitting shop, serial heartbreaker Jesse tries to convince the other Strong foster brothers to save the business. The cozy knitting shop has a strong sense of community, and Jesse doesn’t want to see that lost.

Part-time employee Kerry has grown up with the boys and has always harbored a secret crush on Jesse. As they spend time together, their chemistry is undeniable. But can it last?

Steam level: Definitely a four.

If You’re a Single Mom With Faith and Dreams…

The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate

Single mom Tandi Jo Reese finds herself going through the belongings of a late, long-time resident of Hatteras Island while trying to raise a rebellious daughter and a withdrawn son. As she begins to clean out the house, she learns more about the life and love story of the woman who lived there. Tandi Jo is currently in a relationship with a wealthy but demanding man, but begins to put roots down on the island and starts a growing friendship with her son’s science teacher as she regains her independence. The house is threatened with a forced sale and her neglected children’s lives begin to go off the rails, she must save her son and daughter, save the house she’s grown to love, and decide whether or not to open her heart.

Steam level: One, this is a Christian fiction story (not strictly romance, but has romantic themes)

For Fans Of Jane Austen And The Bachelor

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

A modern day retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice set in modern day Cincinnati. Liz and her older sister Jane return to their family home after her father has a health scare. Studious Mary and their younger sisters Kitty and Lydia (who are way into CrossFit) also live there.

Enter new doctor-in-town Chip Bingley, fresh off a stint on the reality dating show Eligible and his reserved and cranky friend Fitzwilliam Darcy. Chip and Jane hit it off immediately, Liz and Darcy, not so much. But in this combination story of true love and hate-to-love, first impressions can be deceiving.

Steam level: Definitely a four, leaning toward five. Not your mother’s Pride and Prejudice.

If You Believe True Love Can Conquer All…

The Return by Nicholas Sparks

It doesn’t get more traditionally mushy, and dramatically romantic than Nicholas Sparks. Trevor Benson is a veteran and surgeon with PTSD moving back to New Bern, North Carolina. He was injured and can’t perform surgery anymore and struggles with demons from his time in Afghanistan. When his grandfather dies and leaves Trevor his home, he must decide what to do with the place.

Then he falls in love at first sight with town sheriff Natalie Masterson. But she has a secret that’s keeping them apart. Can their love overcome it? I think we all know the answer.

Steam level: One, maybe two if I remember right, but could just be one.

If You’re Staunchly Single, But Love A Meet Cute…

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

The first in a series of interconnected romances, The Wedding Date begins when happily single Alexa Monroe meets Drew Nichols when the two are stuck in an elevator. Drew asks Alexa to be his date to his ex’s wedding and she accepts. They have more fun than they can imagine, but have to return to their high-powered careers, Alexa as the mayor’s chief of staff in Berkeley, and Drew as a doctor in Los Angeles. Can this long-distance romance work, or are they headed for a disaster? What happens when what you think you need doesn’t always match up with what you truly want?

Steam level: Definitely four, leaning strongly toward five.

If You Love A Good Wedding Story…

Vision In White by Nora Roberts (First in Bride Quartet series)

Nora Roberts is one of the queens of romance fiction and can’t be forgotten in this list. The first installment of the series focuses on Mackenzie “Mac” Elliot, who is an experienced photographer who owns a successful wedding planning business with three close friends. She has a rocky relationship with her parents and is skeptical about romance. Then she runs into Carter, an old high school classmate, and a relationship is sparked. Their journey is endearing, with some steamy love scenes and a satisfying ending.

Steam factor: Four or five depending on the scene.

As the Valentine’s candy in stores is replaced with Easter candy, its easy to feel some whiplash after weeks of buildup to a romantic day-of-all-days. But romance remains strong long after the boxes of chocolate are empty and the conversation hearts go stale(r). I’m a big believer in the escape that romantic fiction can provide. My first love will always be the cozy mystery, but a close second is a good, mushy or sassy, and smart romance novel.

Do you have a favorite romance? Or do you hate all romantic fiction? Somewhere in between? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Reading Roundup January 2021

I got off to a great reading start this year. January is a pretty quiet month for me, and I got to celebrate my birthday, which meant more self-care stuff and more BOOKS! I almost like it better than Christmas. Lots of cold, snowy days here in Colorado left time for cozy reading afternoons. And, my (night) job writing news summaries for a radio media company allows me to listen to audiobooks while I’m working. I’ll admit, sometimes I have to turn them off because they get distracting (still trying to finish 28 Summers by Elin Hildebrand). But most of the time, they are a nice background to my work.

I read (and listened to) seven books in January, so let’s get to it:

Fierce by Aly Raisman

My family has a membership to the Olympic and Paralympic Museum in Colorado Springs, and that’s where I picked this up. (Awesome museum, you should totally go!) I wish I’d had this book when I was 8…or 10… or 13. All through those years when I was so insecure about how I looked and so unconfident. While I was never going to be an Olympic athlete, or any kind of athlete, I would have really taken inspiration from this book. I was one of those girls who watched gymnastics (especially Olympic gymnastics) and admired all the gymnasts and felt like I knew what the sport was all about. I still watch, loving how the gymnasts get to see the results of their hard work (or feeling for them when they have deductions that kick them out of the medals). Aly has a body positive and inspiring tone to her book. More than just a behind-the-scenes look at the world of Olympic gymnastics (though there’s plenty of that), its a look into the mind of an ambitious young woman where ambition isn’t always rewarded as it should be.

I loved how open she was about her life while still maintaining her privacy (especially about the sexual abuse she suffered, something I wrote about for my job as a news writer when the Larry Nassar scandal broke). She maintains her dignity while still speaking out for survivors and for young girls who could find themselves in a difficult situation. She’s a great role model for young women, especially, but also for boys on how to relate well to girls and women.

I highly recommend this book, even if you’re not huge into sports, but especially if you are into the Olympics and/or gymnastics.

Rating: 5 stars

Killer Kung Pao by Vivian Chien

I’ve got several of the books in this series, but this was the first one I read. I loved it. It’s a unique approach to the cozy mystery that I haven’t seen anywhere else. Asian characters are rarely represented in cozy mysteries, so that was great to see. The mystery was twisty and I really liked amateur detective and manager of her family’s restaurant Lana Lee. She was likable without be perfect and she was appropriately nosy. All of her interactions flowed naturally and it was easy to keep up with the characters without having read the other books.

I wasn’t excited about the ending. It was interesting and unexpected, but I’m not sure it felt natural.

I recommend this series. It’s a fresh take on the cozy mystery. It’s probably not the best one in this popular series, though.

Thank you to NetGalley for the ebook preview copy. All opinions are my own.

Rating: 3+

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kahling

I listened to the audiobook version of this and I highly recommend it. Hearing the essays in Kahling’s voice added another layer to the book. Her stories are entertaining and touch on culture, dating, Hollywood, and a writer’s life. I’m going to listen to her other book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? next.

Rating: Four stars

The Dress Shop on King Street by Ashley Clark

This is an amazing inter-generational story that provides an interesting look at the role of race in the South dating back to the days of slavery. It tells the story of bi-racial Millie, whose Black mother sends her from Charleston as a young woman to Alabama to pass as white. She meets Franklin on the train, setting off a chain of events that provides a rich family history.

The story is told in alternating time periods that explain Millie’s family story and the story of a satchel of heirlooms (which is based on a real life satchel) first given to a nine-year-old slave who is sold away from her mother. The story also revolves around Millie’s dream to own a dress shop.

I love stories that alternate between time periods and those that connect different people into one big story. I listened to this on audio. My favorite book so far this year, and may end up being a perennial favorite.

Rating: 5 stars

The Late Bloomers’ Club by Louise Miller

This is a sweet story about two sisters living completely different lives who inherit land from an elderly woman who was their neighbor growing up. One stayed with the family dinner and helped raise her sister after their mother died, then took over the diner after their father died following an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The other sister seemingly flits from place to place and project to project, chasing her dreams. Cue the friction

A big-box store is interested in building a store on the land, which threatens to up end the small Vermont town. The sisters disagree on whether to sell and the situation is complicated when the responsible sister begins to have feelings for the big-box store consultant sent to sell the town on the new store.

The story is nice, and there are some twists, but it has a rather predictable ending. I liked it and I like how the author wrapped things up, but it almost seemed a little too neat. Just a personal preference thing.

I’ve previously read the City Baker’s Guide To Country Living and loved it, so not sure where the disconnect is here. I will definitely read the author’s next book.

The book is well-written and interesting and the characters and town are well drawn. It just wasn’t for me. I listened to it on audio, so maybe it didn’t translate as well for me.

Rating: Three stars

The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi

I read a lot of books on organizing and time management, but this one felt unique. I liked the idea of the “lazy genius,” who lands somewhere between a perfectionist approach and a lazy, not productive approach. To me, this is the sweet spot of operation where you can get things done without worrying about being perfect. It’s an ode to the “good enough” life, one where happiness can be found without the stress of perfectionism.

It’s not really a system, per say, but does have techniques described for how to approach things in life. The techniques were pretty simple to use and I’ve tried to integrate them into my everyday way of being.

The book has a humorous tone and is not written as information given from on high. I highly recommend this for anyone who’s looking for a unique way to approach life.

Rating: Five stars

Death by Chocolate Snickerdoodle by Sarah Graves

This cozy mystery is set in Maine and centers around Jake (Jacobia) and Ellie who run a chocolate dessert shop in a Maine tourist town. The two occasionally get involved in mysteries that happen in the town and this book focuses on the killing of a reclusive elderly man who frequently changes his will. Jake’s son is business partners with suspect Billy, who was apparently the beneficiary of one of the wills.

Billy previously had to kill his father to save his two sisters from abuse. Now a dowdy aunt is threatening to take custody of the girls and make them into dainty ladies (they like to go fishing and are saving for their own boat).

Also, Jake and Ellie are trying to perfect a chocolate snickerdoodle for the town’s cookie contest to bring publicity to their shop.

The book starts out a little slow, possibly because I’m jumping into the series on the fourth book. But once the action gets going, I couldn’t put it down. The end is a real thriller, and I didn’t predict the twists that happened. Highly recommend this series, though I’d probably start at the beginning because Jake’s family alone has a lot of characters in it.

Thank you to NetGalley for the complimentary e-book preview copy. All opinions are my own.

Rating: Four stars

I am seven books closer to my goal of reading (listening to) 60 books in 2021. How did your January reading plans go? Share your goals and successes (as well as your challenges) in the comments below.

Happy reading!

–Amy