Get Cozy With Deborah Blake — The Interview

Let’s get cozy with Deborah Blake, author of the new book Claws for Suspicion. Its the third book in the Catskills Pet Rescue series.

Things I learned:

Deborah is a delight! We had a nice conversation that covered her book, her writing process, and some behind-the-scenes info on the publishing process.

Deborah has some serious fans for her series. So much so that she said if the fourth book in the series doesn’t get picked up by a published, she’s considering self-publishing it (one can hope!)

For writers: Deborah is one of many authors who follows the idea that first time authors should write the book they’re passionate about and worry about selling it later.

Cozies are in-demand with readers, but not necessarily being bought by publishers. Show your support by pre-ordering your upcoming wish list whenever you can to keep the new books coming.

Check out my Bookshop.org shop to purchase Deborah’s cozies while supporting your favorite indy

Watch the interview below:

Happy reading!

-Amy-

Get Cozy With Deborah Blake, Author Of Claws For Suspicion

It’s time for our April author interview. This month’s featured author is Deborah Blake.

Check back on April 25th for video from our talk together.

A little bit about Deborah:

Deborah Blake is the author of multiple romance series, including the Baba Yaga series, as well as over a dozen nonfiction titles. When not writing, Deborah runs the Artisans’ Guild, a cooperative shop she founded with a friend in 1999, and also works as a jewelry maker, tarot reader, and energy healer. She lives in a 130-year-old farmhouse in rural upstate New York with numerous cats who supervise all her activities, both magical and mundane. Learn more online at deborahblakeauthor.com.

She has a new book out May 3rd, Claws For Suspicion, the third book of the Catskill Pet Rescue series. Here’s a synopsis:

When someone from her past comes to town to cause trouble, Kari Stuart and her sassy kitten Queenie will have to work hard to protect the Serenity Sanctuary in this new Catskills Pet Rescue Mystery.

     Kari Stuart is finally starting to relax into her role as the new owner of the Serenity Sanctuary and is looking forward to the various fun autumn activities in the beautiful Catskills town of Lakeview, like the annual Oktoberfest celebration. It’s time for friends and quality bonding with handsome vet Angus McCoy. Until the unexpected arrival of her unpleasant ex-husband, Charlie Smith.

      He comes bearing a shocking revelation—the paperwork on their divorce never went through, and they are still married. Worse yet, he thinks this entitles him to half of her lottery winnings—although he’ll happily take partial ownership of the sanctuary instead. Kari isn’t sure if he’s telling the truth, or if it’s just another one of Charlie’s lies. 
 
But things go from bad to worse when an unexpected death makes Kari the main suspect in a murder investigation. Will she and Queenie be able to find the real killer and keep the home they’ve built at the sanctuary safe, or is their string of luck finally tapped out? 

Learn all about her new book, her career, her writing process, and her thoughts on the cozy mystery genre. Footage will be posted Monday April 25th!

Have an author you’d like to hear from? Let me know and maybe they will be my next interview!

Happy reading!

-Amy-

Winter Reading Roundup 2022

Spring is here! Time to once again believe that I can actually grow things and keep them alive. Also time for walks while listening to audiobooks and reading out on my patio. It is nice to come out of hibernation after a chilly winter.

Winter is a busy time for me, so I don’t generally get a lot of reading done. But I was able to squeeze in two mysteries and two cozies. These were just enough to round out the season. The four books I chose included my favorite mystery so far this year (The Appeal) and maybe of all-time!

I’ve decided this year (based on a recommendation I heard) to keep a top five list of all the books I’ve read this year and, as I add new books, see if any crack the top five. I thought this was a cool idea and a great way to analyze how I feel about my reading year overall. Here are the first few candidates:

The Appeal by Janice Hallet

The book is amazing. I don’t often say that but the premise, the structure, and the execution of the novel was just stunning to me. The book centers around a theater group in England, where the leaders are making an appeal (thus the title) for money to pay for a cancer drug for their granddaughter. The cure is said to be from the United States at a cost of one-million dollars. 

The structure is made up of correspondence between one attorney and two others asked to review the material and draw conclusions, along with emails and texts between members of the theater group and those involved in the appeal. We know from the opening correspondence between the attorneys that a murder has been committed. The rest of the case slowly reveals how that murder came about, and drops a hefty number of suspects on the table. To tell more would give too much away.

The mix of characters includes some likeable people, some not so much, and all unreliable narrators. It’s an easy to access mystery with plenty of twistiness to it. I enjoyed sorting out what happened from the perspective of the people involved. It was almost an Agatha Christie style locked room mystery, in that you know someone among the emails and texts is responsible.

I highly recommend this book. It is the best I’ve read this year and I believe it will stay in my top five through the end of December.

Rating: Five stars! This will be one of the rare books that I will reread as time passes.

Batter Off Dead by Maddie Day

Maddie Day’s latest in the Country Store Mystery series is a delight. Robbie Jordan finds herself trying to unravel the murder of the special friend of Grant Bird, father of South Lick’s police Lieutenant Buck Bird. She was stabbed with a knitting needle after the town’s summer fireworks show. The investigation takes a turn to include a look into the death of Buck’s mother years ago.

Day’s writing is fun and engaging and I find myself rooting for the characters. Robbie is interesting and intriguing as a newly married woman to her husband Abe. I last read Maddie Day’s seventh book in the series, Nacho Average Murder and I liked her then too. I’m definitely going back to read from the beginning of the series to see how things started and progressed. Definitely worth a read.

I recently got to interview Maddie Day for my blog and she was great fun to talk to. It was nice to get some insight into her books in this series, as well as her others.

Rating: Four Stars

Fortune and Glory: Tantalizing Twenty-Seven by Janet Evanovich

Another rollicking adventure with Stephanie Plum, New Jersey’s wackiest bounty hunter. This one has Stephanie and Grandma Mazur on the hunt for a treasure that Grandma’s late [mob-connected] husband Jimmy held the key to (or keys). Jimmy’s mob cronies, the Laz-E-Boys (named for their favorite chairs set up in the back room of a strip club) are after the treasure too and won’t hesitate to kidnap or kill to get the clues and keys needed to get the treasure.

Stephanie and Lula still doing her bounty hunting and gains a massively allergic follower who insists he needs to protect her. But Stephanie’s got her hands full protecting her family and avoiding scary mobsters who want to kill her. Morelli and Ranger make their appearances, and a mysterious woman in a Mercedes that has the skills to step in in a difficult situation shows up in Morelli’s kitchen.

I enjoyed the progression of this book, which moves Stephanie from just doing bounty hunting on to trying to find the treasure. A lot of it is familiar territory, but the new emphasis adds some kick. It gives the book a different flavor than the others. It makes me wonder if the series is drawing to an end soon, but Janet Evanovich hasn’t made any indications that she’s wrapping things up. Not my favorite, but in the top five.

Rating: Four stars

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake Murder by Joanne Fluke

Joanne Fluke continues to impress readers with her long running Hannah Swenson series. This installment has Hannah trying to clear her sister from a murder charge when Andrea finds Mayor Bascomb dead in his office, other hours after she’d argued loudly with him. Hannah has the sheriff’s department’s blessing to investigate and she gets right to work on the lengthly list of suspects. This one has an interesting twist and is an engaging whodunit.

I’m a big fan of the series and devoured this and am ready for the next. My only issue is that it does seem to be getting a little repetitive. Fluke keeps it interesting, but once again we see Hannah in her familiar position of investigating by delivering baked goods and doing a will-they or won’t-they dance with Norman. The author shakes it up some in this book, but is running the risk of becoming formulaic. Then again, fans like knowing what to expect from a Hannah Swenson book, so that’s comforting. I’m not sure which way I lean on that. But that’s the only reason for my slightly lower rating.

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

Rating: Four Stars 

I’ve got a good TBR lined up, which includes more cozies from Leslie Meier, Vivien Chien, and Allie Pleiter (new to me!) along with The Club by Ellery Lloyd, a romance by Mary Kay Andrews and some audiobooks from the library. What are you looking forward to this spring? I love to hear from readers, so share your plans below.

Get Cozy With Maddie Day!

Time to Get Cozy with Maddie Day/Edith Maxwell! She is such a delight to talk with. We had a fun chat.

Remember, Batter Off Dead, her latest in the Country Store series, is out now! Pick it up at Bookshop.org or get an autographed copy from Jabberwockybookshop.com. If you’ve already picked up a copy, you can get a signed bookplate at her website edithmaxwell.com.

Here’s the video of our chat:


Thanks again to Maddie Day (Edith Maxwell) for taking the time to chat. Next up Thursday: It’s Reading Roundup time. Check out all the books I’ve read since the middle of January.

Love author interviews? Check out my chat with Abby Collette, author of the Ice Cream Shop mysteries.

Who would you like to hear from next? Comment below with your picks.

Happy reading!

Amy

Author Maddie Day Coming To the Get Cozy Book Nook

Author Maddie Day is coming to the Get Cozy Book Nook! We’re having a chat that will be posted here on February 22nd. Each post leading up to then will include tidbits about Day and her writing. Here’s some to get started with:

Maddie Day is the author of the super popular Country Store mysteries. The series centers around Robbie Jordan who runs the Pans ‘N Pancakes country store restaurant in fictional South Lick, Indiana. Each book in the culinary cozy series includes recipes to go along with Robbie’s adventures as she finds herself solving murders. Get started with the first book in the series Flipped For Murder. Her newest book in the series, Batter Off Dead is out this month.

What do you want to know about Maddie Day, the process behind writing cozy mysteries, or what’s next for protagonist Robbie Jordan? Submit your questions here by Friday at noon and I’ll be sure to include them when I talk with her that afternoon.

Stay tuned Friday for a preview of my conversation with Maddie Day!

Want in? Order Flipped For Murder, Nacho Average Murder, or Batter Off Dead HERE and support the independent bookstore of your choice.

Stay tuned for more as we get cozy with Maddie Day here at the Get Cozy Book Nook!

Enjoy author interviews? Check out my chat with Abby Collette, who writes the Ice Cream Shop Murders series. Buy her books HERE

(This post includes affiliate links, so if you make a purchase I receive a small commission at no cost to you. Thanks!)

Great Tea Time Mysteries For Cold Winter Days

It’s tea time at the Get Cozy Book Nook! Temperatures are frigid across Southern Indiana (where I live) and much of the U.S., so it’s a great time to snuggle in with a hot beverage and a good book. Tea shop mysteries are super popular. And, they’re great for (of course) tea lovers, but they also feature rich settings and interesting characters for even the most dedicated coffee (or soda, wine, whatever your pleasure) drinkers.

These are some of my favorite tea-themed series, along with a few I’m dying to try:

Laura Childs Tea Shop Mysteries

Tea shop owner and amateur sleuth Theodosia Brown uncovers and solves murders with southern charm. The books are set in the historic district of Charleston, South Carolina and have a flavor that matches the setting. These are thoughtful page turners, and the cast of characters fits the setting without being outlandish or like caricatures. The first book is Death by Darjeeling.

Seaside Cafe Series by Bree Baker

Be sure to check the author. Because there is another (different series) by another author. But, the Seaside Cafe series features Everly Swan’s beachside iced tea shop and cafe. In the first book, Live and Let Chai, the poisoning of a curmudgeonly customer sets off trouble for the new business. A fun series with colorful characters.

Tea By the Sea Mysteries by Vicki Delaney

This series centers around ex-New Yorker Lily Roberts, who opens an English tea room next to the Cape Cod bed-and-breakfast owned by her spunky English grandmother. In Tea and Treachery, her grandmother finds herself in hot water after someone she threatened is murdered. These are smart mysteries with a fun cast of characters.

Some sips I’d love to try:

Tea and Read Mysteries By Joy Avon

These book-themed mysteries center around tea party organizer Callie Aspen and her Boston terrier (books, tea, and a dog-trifecta!). And, they’re supposed to be good for Lorna Barrett and Jenn McKinlay fans (me!), so I’m looking forward to starting this one. The first book is In Peppermint Peril and is set at Christmas time.

Teapot Collector Mysteries by Amanda Cooper

These center around another former New Yorker (Sophie Taylor) who returns to her grandmother’s tea shop after her restaurant fails. So in the first book Tempest in a Teapot, tensions boil over at a bridal shower there, and later the groom’s mother dies while sampling a scone at a competing shop. Now, Sophie must get to work solving the mystery before more people die. Looks like a fun one and features antique teapots.

Wild Card:

I really enjoyed the Seaside Cafe series and am dying to try it. And, there aren’t very many books yet, so it’s easy to get in on the ground floor. The books are easy, breezy and have awesome titles.

My Next Pick:

I will definitely be reading the Tea and Read mysteries. I love any books about books, tea,(and a dog!). I like that the first book is centered around Christmas, even when spring approaches. And,I can get in early before there are, like, 30 of them.

Want some food to go with your tea? Try out these culinary mysteries I’ve featured before!

What’s your next pick? Will you be adding a tea-themed mystery to your TBR? Love another tea series, but I didn’t mention it? Let me know in the comments!

Holiday Rebound Reading

Holiday Rebound Reading

It’s time for a holiday rebound. Just for those of you who like to extend the Christmas mystery and romance reading through the month of January, here’s a list of some great ones I read and two that are still on my list. Feeling the post-holiday blues? Rebound back to that magical time with one of these reads.

Thank you to NetGalley for the electronic review copies. All opinions are my own.

First, the Cozies…

I love Christmas themed mysteries. This one was fun and I liked the idea of it. The set up was pretty good. I did have trouble keeping up with all the characters because there were so many. This made it hard to get into the book because I was flipping back and forth to see who was whom. 

The mystery was enjoyable and nicely challenging. It wrapped up satisfyingly. I liked the main character too and, of course, the newspaper editor. I also like how the Bruno’s who owned the bar played off each other. 

Good book, just not a favorite for me. I would recommend it. Other readers may have more bandwidth to keep up with the characters. Probably just a case of Christmas brain for me.

Rating: Three stars.

This is a two books in one compilation. It contains Christmas Caramel Murder and Christmas Cake Murder. Christmas Caramel Murder is told as a flashback, while Christmas Cake Murder is set in the past when Hannah was just in the process of starting her bakery. 

Both are satisfying for fans and can be stand alones for people new to the series. These were satisfying rereads for me.

Rating: Four stars

The second book in the Beacon Bakeshop series (and the first I’ve read) is a quirky fun mystery with lots of twists and turns. Darci Hannah does a great job embedding quirks into her characters without being showy or obvious. Her main character Lindsey is likable and has a lot of personality with just the right amount of exasperation to not be annoying.

I read a lot of cozy mysteries and this one was a great Christmas read. It had enough Christmas magic and busy-ness to ring true, but still had a twisty mystery to solve. This one did keep me guessing. I’ll likely go back and read the first in the series soon.

Rating: Four stars

Rosemarie Ross has a great protagonist in this smart, snappy mystery. It’s the third book in her series, and I will definitely be going back to read more. 

The plot centers around a baking competition. where Courtney Archer meets up with five other ambitious bakers vying for the prize. Judge Shannon Collins causes some controversy, but its one of the producers that ends up dead–strangled with an apron from Sharon’s line. Courtney must sort it all out.

The Christmas setting adds some joy and interest to the story, but is not so much the main character as to get in the way. This is a smart mystery with a quick-witted amateur sleuth. It’s twisty and interesting, and it kept me guessing, though I figured it out at the last minute before the reveal.

I do want to go back and read the first two. I liked the dynamic of the lead character and want to know more about her.

Rating: Five stars

And, now…some Christmas romance…

I always enjoy Fern Michaels. She tells great stories of strong women . The four women in the story were high school friends and meet for a reunion at Christmas time for a cruise. Over the course of the cruise, each looks for love in her own way. Definitely a happy-ever-after, but how Michaels gets there is a joy. 

I love the magic of a Christmas romance, and Fern Michaels really knows how to pull at the heartstrings and play to the season without being cloying. I will continue to read her books. This isn’t my absolute favorite, but it was very enjoyable.

Rating: 4 stars

Ah, the marriage pact. It’s a tried and true trope of romance novel, but that’s mostly because it works. Evie and Dan vow to marry each other if they haven’t married anyone else by the time their thirty. Then, they wake up Christmas Eve (and the eve of her 30th birthday) to find themselves married, in Las Vegas, in the honeymoon suite. A quick divorce is their solution, but will it be that easy?

This is my favorite romance trope (the slow burn “silly” marriage pact) and Jo Lovett does a marvelous job with it here. It pushed all the right buttons and included the sparkle of Christmastime. I had not heard of Lovett before (is this a debut? not certain.) but I look forward to reading her work again.

Rating: 4 stars

Ivy Perkins in newly divorced and buys a house on the Internet sight-unseen. While sorting through the stuff left behind, she finds a Santa suit with a letter in it from a little girl that sets off a mystery. She integrates into the small town and learns more about the owner of the suit and the previous owners of her house. Her super helpful and handsome realtor gives a helping hand and sparks fly.

Let me start by saying I love Mary Kay Andrews. She is one of my favorite romance authors and her book Hello, Summer is an all-time fave. That said, this one just didn’t light it up for me. I liked it just fine and it had all the right elements to make a great Christmas romance, and I bet most people loved it. For me, it just seemed a little overly sentimental for my taste. I’m not sure quite why this combination of story elements didn’t sit as well with me as most of her stories. But it just didn’t, and that made me sad, because I love her books.

Rating: 3 stars (my that’s mostly due to personal taste and not writing skill)

Two books still on my list…

Jacket copy:

Maybe this Christmas can thaw his frozen heart–and heal hers.

Hollywood starlet Tia Beckett knows one moment can change your life. Her career had been on the fast track before a near-fatal accident left her with a debilitating facial scar. Certain her A-lister dreams are over, she agrees to house-sit at her producer’s secluded estate in Silver Springs. It’s the escape from the limelight Tia’s been craving, until she discovers she’s not the only houseguest for the holidays. And her handsome new roomie is impossible to ignore.

Artist Seth Turner has good reason to keep his distance. Losing his wife after only a few years of marriage has left a deep scar, even if he is still happy to spend a semester teaching art classes at the New Horizons Boys Ranch for troubled teens. Despite nursing her own wounds, Tia finds her curiosity piqued by enigmatic Seth, whom she recognizes as something of a kindred soul. Maybe spending Christmas together could be another game changer for both of them–this time, for good.

I got to meet Elin Hilderbrand last year at Carmichael’s in Louisville and she was very gracious. She gave each book in the set a personalized signature. I finally have time to read it and figured the best time would be during the dreary January weather.

Jacket copy:

Spend the coldest days of winter on a Caribbean beach with New York Times Bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand. 

Join New York Times Bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand on the stunning beaches of St. John for the beginning of her thrilling new winter series-The Paradise. Welcome to Paradise, the first book in the Paradise series, has everything that readers have come to know and love about an Elin Hilderbrand novel, plus a healthy dose of intrigue. Irene Steele’s idyllic life-house, husband, family-is shattered when she is woken up by a late-night phone call. Her beloved husband has been found dead, but before Irene can process this tragic news, she must confront the perplexing details of her husband’s death. He was found on St. John island, a tropical paradise far removed from their suburban life. Leaving the cold winter behind, Irene flies down to the beautiful Caribbean beaches of St. John only to make another shocking discovery: her husband had a secret second family. As Irene investigates the mysterious circumstances of her husband’s death, she is plunged into a web of intrigue and deceit belied by the pristine white sand beaches of St. John’s. This exciting first book in the Paradise series will transport readers to a new beach locale-another world that Elin knows as well as her beloved Nantucket-and have them longing for winter

Share your favorite kind of book to read during the holidays. Do you read holiday books into January?

Happy Reading!

-A-

Reading Roundup – What I’ve Read Lately

Reading Roundup

Fall 2021

My husband and I live just north of Louisville it’s been devastating to follow the news of all the tornadoes that struck various areas of Western Kentucky December 10th. CLICK HERE to give toward relief efforts if you are so moved at the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief site.

I wanted to post a Reading Roundup before the year got away from me. We are mere days from January 1st, and so much has happened this fall. Our family was able to get together for Labor Day and Thanksgiving. Christmas plans became much more complicated as our adult children begin to make their own way in the world. Flight cancellations and the pandemic didn’t help matters. Through everything, one thing that has been a constant in my life is reading.

As we approach a new year, I’ve been spending time on my backyard reading patio on warm days while our beagle runs around and tucked under a blanket on the chilly days. I’ve focused a lot on my favorite cozies, but have also branched into romance, contemporary fiction, and non-fiction.

Everything below is available through my Bookshop.org store (this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase through some of these links, I will receive a small compensation at no cost to you. Bookshop.org links also allow you to support your favorite indie bookstores.):

What has your fall reading experience looked like? Comment below to share your favorite fall read.

Broken by Jenny Lawson

Now I have to go out and read everything by Jenny Lawson! She is absolutely hilarious in this memoir dealing with her perspective on her mental health issues. She writes at a frenetic pace, which takes some getting used to, but that pace also pulls you along and, as you hang on to the tide, you can’t wait to see what’s next. 

Lawson is wry and sardonic in her humor and is compelling in each of her chapters, but also touching. Her stories create an understanding with the reader, reaching out to say “I see you” to those struggling with their own issues.

I was new to Lawson’s work, but I am now a fan.

Thank you to NetGalley for the electronic advanced copy of the book.

Rating: 4 stars

Murder By Page One by Olivia Matthews

I am a cozy mystery lover, and this one delivers. The author nails a leisurely southern drawl to her story about a New York librarian who has moved to Georgia and gets caught up in a murder investigation. I liked the set up of the murder, almost a locked room mystery, with the victim killed in the back room of a bookstore where only the suspect (who the main character is trying to help) had been through before the murder.

The southern atmosphere permeates the book and, at times, sets back the pacing. But the plot is compelling enough to move the reader through. 

It wasn’t my favorite book, but I did like the characters and the setting. I just felt the slow pace, which fits the setting, hurts the book. That’s really the reason for my lower rating. There’s a lot to like about it, it’s just hard to access with the slow movement of the plot. I would read another book in the series to see if the pace picked up.

Thank you to NetGalley for the electronic advanced copy of the book.

Rating: 3 stars 

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey

I highly recommend listening to the audio version of this. McConaughey is expressive in his telling of his stories, journal entries and and poetry (yup, poetry!). The memoir focuses on the actor’s career with some personal anecdotes included. He really wants to get across what he’s learned from his history, choices, and opportunities.

It’s not particularly deep, but is a good exploration of one man’s journey from Texas to Hollywood and how his background affected his opportunities.

The “green lights” are touchpoints McConaughey encountered in his life that he found to be life changing, whether big or small.

The book was enjoyable and, again, I think it is best consumed in the audio version.

Rating: Four Stars

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

This is tightly written and compelling. The action centers around a former MFA Low Residency writing instructor that had one breakout novel, but has a faltering writing career. While an instructor, he encounters a student who reveals only to him the plot of what he believes is a “can’t miss” novel. Fast forward a few years later, and he finds out that the student has died before he ever wrote his mega-novel, and decides to steal the plot. “His” novel becomes a sensation and all is well, until the mysterious messages start coming in.

The author winds a wicked tale of intrigue, toying with what “authorship” truly means. There are all kinds of interesting twists, some of which I guessed but were still satisfying.

If you’re a writer, or even an avid reader, I’d call this required reading.

Rating: 5 stars 

Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert

What a fun book! Eve and Jacob’s story is one of redemption, but also a show of enduring strength while dealing with neurodiversity. They meet after Eve’s parents cut off her trust and require her to get a job, hopefully a lasting one. She’s dabbled in many things but can never find the right fit. She goes off on a drive to clear her head and ends up at a small bed and breakfast advertising for a chef. She crashes the interviews and meets Jacob, who really needs a chef before the Gingerbread festival. Things go badly, but then he runs after her to offer her the job and she kind of, sort of…runs him over! Now he’s hurt ANd desperately needs a chef, so she stays on for a trial. 

Eve and Jacob have their own ways of coping with the world and it’s intricacies, and her light-as-you-go attitude definitely clashes with his firm structured life. But somehow…well you’ll have to read the book to find out. 

This is the third in a trio of books about three sisters: Chloe, Dani, and Eve. Warning that this and the other two books include very open door scenes and lots of sweating, so if that bothers you, this probably isn’t for you. 

I like the author’s unique voice and plan to read the other two books.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing an electronic copy for review. All opinions are my own. 

Rating: 4 stars (but only because you kind of know how things are going to go from the beginning, but isn’t every romance kind of that way? I still love them)

Atomic Habits by James Clear

This book provides a great guide on how to approach forming habits that make your life more effective. I listened to the audio version, and it was a great experience. The author reads the text and it really ends up sounding like a motivational workshop. The strategies went beyond the basics and showed how to make small steps in a specific way to accomplish longterm routines.

Not having a hard copy makes some of the resources inside inaccessible for review, but some of the resources are available at the atomic habits website. I intend to use these to integrate some new habits into my life.

Rating: 4 stars

It’s Better This Way by Debbie Macomber

I love Debbie Macomber’s writing style and books, and this is no exception. She tells the story of divorced Julia Jones, who was left by her husband for another woman. After a blowup between the mistress’s children and her children, harsh words are spoken and relationships are broken. 

Julia moves on but isn’t looking for love when she meets Heath in the fitness center at her condo building. Sparks begin to fly, but relationships are complicated and obstacles come up.

There are some twists in this book that stretch the imagination, but stay just this side of believable. Nevertheless it is a satisfying story with fully realized characters. I will continue reading Macomber’s books. (I took this one in on audio and found the narration delightful).

Rating: 4 stars

A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny

It’s been too long since I read Louise Penny’s first book in the Gamache series Still Life. I was slightly resistant because, while I enjoyed the first book I found it to have a slow pace. I kept hearing praise for the series and gave it another chance, this time with an audio book. This book was much faster paced and included some interesting subplots.

Penny expands on the characters in the first book, giving them more depth as Gamache investigates the murder of new Twin Pines resident CeCe de Poitier (not sure of spelling). CeCe is high strung and verbally abusive to most people around her, especially her husband and daughter. She’s electrocuted at a curling match just after Christmas and Gamache sets off on a wide-ranging look into the people of Twin Pines while also looking into a separate murder in Montreal. Everyone has some kind of motive, but twists and turns in the story make it difficult to figure out whodunit.

Loved the story, revisiting the characters, and the intricate plotting by Penny. Already have the next audio book on my library holds.

Rating: Five stars 

The Ten Thousand Doors Of January by Alix Harrow

This unique book is a fantasy adventure that follows a young girl and she travels through “doors” that she conjures up to find her father. A group is working against her, trying to control her power.

This book came to my attention through another book club, and it was definitely a page turner. The young protagonist was strong and innovative, working to reach her objective with tenacity. It wasn’t easy for her, but the journey was amazing.

Rating: Four stars

Peachy Scream by Anna Gerard

This book combines some of my favorite things: bed and breakfast mysteries and Shakespeare. The book is the second in a series that follows the owner of a Georgia B&B. She has previously had a conflict over the rightful ownership of the property with the former owner’s nephew. The nephew is a famous actor and has returned to the B&B with his amateur Shakespeare troupe to perform Hamlet at the town’s Shakespeare festival. But when the (unliked) actor playing Hamlet ends up dead, our B&B owner has to team with the nephew to investigate.

Thank you to NetGalley for providing an electronic copy for review. All opinions are my own. 

Rating: Four stars

What You Wish For by Katherine Center

I always love Katherine Center books. She weaves in drama with every day issues and frustrations of life and a little romance thrown in. The one follows a school librarian in a Texas private school that she loves. The school’s beloved principal dies and an aggressive board member forces the hiring of a security focused, anti-fun replacement. Except, our librarian worked with him in California and he was a totally different guy– a fun loving, silly, engaged teacher that made learning fun. She has to figure out how to navigate the major shift at the school and reconciling the man she knew with the man she’s faced with now.

Center draws characters that you can deeply invest with, even the “villain.” No one is flat or a caricature. You grow to love the characters and really feel their feelings. The mixture of drama, a little bit of silliness, hope, and romance is deftly written. There’s nothing that feels forced or fake, but there’s enough real conflict to move the story forward. The ending had a bit of a twist, but you know what you’re rooting for as you read. It’s not my favorite book of hers, but it’s engaging.

Thank you to NetGalley for the electronic copy for review. My opinions are my own.

Rating: Four stars

The Tourist by Olen Steinhauer

Wow! This book was awesome! I love spy thrillers and this one didn’t disappoint. It’s a dense book and there is. a lot to keep track of as CIA “Tourist” Milo Weaver unravels a far-reaching and complicated conspiracy. The spy stuff was really cool, in the vein of John Le Carre books, and immerses the reader into Milo’s world; the good, the bad, the ugly. It is twisty and suspenseful and just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, some other twist happens.

This book is dense and long, but compelling. It’s not for people who don’t have an interest in spy novels and political intrigue. It’s far from a cozy and there is violence. But if you’re a fan of the Jason Bourne series (book better than movie!), this book is for you. It’s also a three book series, so I’m anxious to move on to the next book.

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

Rating: Five stars

Seven Sundays by Alec Penix

This book is a Christian twist on the fitness/diet book. It combines Bible verses and spiritual motivation with a laid out fitness and nutrition plan that lasts the titular seven weeks. Each day starts on Sunday and includes “walks with God”, diet challenges and an increasingly difficult strength training regimen.

I think this book can be helpful to many people, but it didn’t appeal to me. I found the spiritual notions and Bible verses to be watered down and made to fit the author’s approach to fitness. I think it just didn’t match up with my Lutheran Christian beliefs. And I think it shrank down the magnificent messages in the Bible to fit a fitness routine.

People who have a different approach to Christianity may find this approach to fitness and nutrition helpful and may like the spiritual connections made. It’s not a bad book and it seems to be a workable program. It just didn’t jibe with my approach to fitness and nutrition.

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

Halloween Party Murder by Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, Barbara Ross

These three stories are the perfect way to get in the mood for Halloween.. Meier does it again with her Lucy Stone story. Lee Hollis and Barbara Ross offer fresh voices even with their vast experience. A good book for fans of any of the authors. 

Rating: 4 stars

Between Two Kingdoms by Suleika Jaouad

I didn’t realize, for some reason, how gut wrenching this would be to read. I should have known by the topic. And yet, there are touching moment in this journey. It is raw and real with the ups and downs of a serious cancer diagnosis, treatment, and the aftermath.

What surprised me most was the aftermath she went through and continues to fight through. Those of us who are well can’t understand how being “well” isn’t a switch that can be thrown. She tries to reconcile the blessing of being well again and the challenges of what well really looks like, the difference between cancer-free and truly well. And what it’s like to go back into the world after being so immersed in the world of cancer.

The honest nature of the book gives a new perspective on the “brave survivor” myth and gets down to the nitty-gritty of survival that doesn’t fit into a convenient narrative.

I can’t say its an enjoyable read, but it’s an honest and eye-opening look at living with a disease that is so frightening.

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

Rating: 4 stars (just because of the difficulty of the subject matter)

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling

I really liked the premise of this book. It was fun and spooky for Halloween. I did have a hard time liking the male lead. Of course we’re not supposed to like him at first, but it was hard to root for him to get together with her. 

This was the only part of the book I had trouble with. Otherwise it was an enjoyable romp.

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

Rating: Three stars

Up Next: Christmas Cozies You May Have Missed

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.