Cozies Recommendation

It’s not really any secret that I’m a fan of mystery novels. I don’t care if its middle grade, YA or even adult, I would read it as long as it holds my attention. One sub-genre of Mystery is Cozy Mystery and this is one of those comfort reads for me. Anytime I’m feeling slumpy in my reading mood, I would always turn to these books to keep me on track.

Cozy books have a very specific type of writing. Obviously its always centered on a mystery, but these books are usually devoid of gore, violence, blood shed and very rarely does it include any violence towards children. Most cozy books are set in a small town or at least it revolves around a small group of people close to the protagonist.

The most common cozy mystery, that almost every book lover has read, are books written by Agatha Christie. I believe that her books are basically the foundation of cozy mysteries. Yes, Christie’s books are a lot more complex and in depth, but the lack of, or even the minimal violence of cozies are very reminiscent of Agatha Christie novels. Please don’t take my words the wrong way, they are not the same at all, but I believe Christie is the root of this sub-genre.

One of the main reason why many readers are drawn to this sub-genre is because it’s an easy read, you tend to get attached to the community that is introduced in the books, and you eventually get to see how each character develop from one book to the next. However, the main downfall of these books, is that the mystery starts to become similar and eventually the ending starts becoming very predictable. Especially, if you have read several books from the same series. I don’t really mind the repetitiveness, but I do need to read these books in between other books, so as not to get bored of the characters and story.

Anyways, I’ve read my fair share of Cozies that I think I can recommend some of them from newbies to this genre. Here are my top five cozy mystery series:

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Library Lover’s Mystery by Jenn McKinlay

I’ve read several of Jenn McKinlay’s books and I love every one of them. She writes her books very well, her characters are all lovable (except of course the killers), and her relationships are all very well written. This book in particular is an amazing read because the protagonist is a librarian, so bonus points.

Murder Past Due

Cat in the Stacks by Miranda James

Most protagonist in cozy books are female, there are those rare occasions that a male protagonist is in the series. The Cat in the Stacks are those rare books, and I really love these books. The protagonist is the lovely old man who has a beautiful main coon that you can’t help but fall in love with.

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A Jaine Austen Mystery by Laura Levine

This book is actually my guilty pleasure in his genre. At times I find myself eye rolling at certain parts of the books, but at the same time its just one of those books you can’t put down. I have a love hate relationship with the protagonist, Jaine. She tends to whine about certain things that’s is present since book one and at the same time Jaine is such a hilarious main characters. All the different shenanigans she gets into are so far-fetched and out of this world.

murder-is-binding

A Booktown Mystery by Lorna Barrett

This is one of the first cozies that I really got into. I’m not a fan of the protagonist in this series, but I really love the minor characters that Barrett includes in this series. This is one of those rare occasions that I prefer the other characters than the protagonist.

burried in a book

A Novel Idea by Lucy Arlington

This is a recent addition to my favorite cozy series and also the shortest. Since it was recently released there are only five books released so far and I’m patiently awaiting for more to be released. I admit I wasn’t a fan of the first book, but as the series progress, I eventually started enjoying the books. The town that Arlington writes in this series is very vivid and you can’t help but feel like you’re actually part of the community.

So that’s it for my recommendations on my favorite cozies. Hopefully, you found this interesting and PLEASE let me know of any good cozies that you guys enjoy and is not on my list. I’m always in search of a new series to begin!

 

 

 

 

 

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TBR Challenge #7: Series Catch-up

a just clause

A Just Clause by Lorna Barrett

Rating: 3/5

Why? I’ve been reading this series for a few years now and I’m not really sure if I want to continue it. I really enjoy the setting and the minor characters, but the story is starting to get tedious and repetitive. Anyways, this is the latest book in the series and I grabbed the chance to read this as soon as possible since I want to be caught up with the books. This author usually release one book a year within this series.

Review: As I’ve stated before I’m not really sure if I want to continue reading these books since it’s starting to become repetitive. I still enjoy reading about the lives of the minor characters and their progression throughout the series. I’m not really a fan of Tricia, but she’s starting to step-up as a protagonist in this book. It’s a bit awkward that the Miles sisters are undergoing personal transformations at their age, but we’ll see where the author is going with this story.

As for the mystery, this is an open and shut case. Once you get used to Lorna Barrett’s writing and her choice of villains, you tend to instinctively know who the perpetrator is going to be. I still enjoy the mindless reading, since it’s pretty easy to immerse myself in the world that I’m so familiar with. Now that I read a lot more thrillers, I’m starting to loose some of my interest in cozies, but its still a comfort read for me. Maybe my mood will change when it gets colder. Cozies tend to be easier to read in colder months.

I think only time will tell if I will continue with this series. I’m still interested in finding out what happens to the Miles Family and all the other lovely characters I’ve gotten attached to, but I do wish something different would eventually happen in the next few books, either that or it’s time for Barrett to wrap up Tricia Miles’ story.

 

TBR Challenge #3: Comfort Read Subgenre

plaster and poison

Plaster and Poison by Jennie Bentley
Series: A Do-it-Yourself Mystery #3
Rating: 3/5

Theme: Comfort Read Sub-genre

Why? If you’ve been to my blog before, you know that my genre preference is Mystery. I love everything that has to do with mystery, but my go-to within the mystery genre is cozy mystery. If I’m in a reading funk or I just want a quick read I always try to pick up my favourite cozy mystery. Fortunately there are thousands of cozy mysteries that has a wide variety of topics. One of these days I most likely will do a list of my favourite cozies.

For those who do not know what cozy mysteries are its basically just a story that doesn’t have too much gore or violence. Yes, there usually is murder, but typically there isn’t any graphic details on the crime scene. Also, most cozies that I have read revolves one specific protagonist, but there are other recurring characters. Basically, it’s like a t.v show, but in book format. Most of the time, one book focus on one mystery, but sometimes it does touch on a bigger story arc, but is not necessarily a major story. Therefore, technically, you don’t need to read the books in order. It will be helpful to start with the first book, however, since most of the time the main and recurring character(s) are described in depth.

Review: Avery Baker left New York City to start a business with her boyfriend Derek Ellis’. What started out as their usual home renovation ended up as a murder mystery, when Avery found a dead body in the soon-to-be new home of Kate and Wayne. Now, not only is she on a tight schedule to finish the house, she must also try to find a killer who is trying to ruin the lives of her closest friends.

I actually really enjoyed the third book in this series and most likely will continue reading them. The first two didn’t really get me love the series, and truth be told, this one didn’t either, but at least I enjoyed it enough to keep on going.

I’m still not entirely sure how to feel about the characters since I haven’t really connected to a particular one, not even the protagonist. I’m not really sure what it is about Avery that ticks me off, but I feel that she’s a bit too whinny, especially in this book. I understand that Avery’s reaction to her boyfriend’s ex-wife is realistic, but I would have hoped that there was less of it.

All in all the book was a pretty good cozy. I enjoyed the mystery and can’t wait to see what happens to the next book.

Jaine Austen Mystery: 5,6,7 by Laura Levine

I’ve been devouring these books this whole year, but I feel that I’m starting to get tired of Levine’s writing. As much as I love Jaine as a protagonists, I feel that the story is very much the same. I’m not saying I’m going to stop reading the series altogether, but I will probably be pacing myself for the remaining books that are out.

As for the usual, I will be revealing the ending of each book. Be forewarned!

Book 5: The PMS Murder

Jaine finally makes friends! While in the dressing room, Jaine befriends a wannabe actress, Pam. She’s then recruited to attend the ‘PMS Club’ where Jaine meets an assorted bunch of people. Everything is going well until claws comes out and secrets are revealed. Jaine is then caught in the middle of a feud between friends, where one is eventually murdered!

*This is actually my least favorite book in the series so far. I didn’t find the story as compelling as the other books and I feel that the characters were all mediocre. None of them really stood out and felt that most of the characters were flat. I was actually really excited that Levine decided to give Jaine friends, I know she has Kandi and Lance, but I’m starting to want more characters. Unfortunately, these characters I could do without. The term “with friends like these, who needs enemies” is a very strong theme in this book. I’m not really entirely sure why Levine alienates her protagonist, with only a disagreeable cat for company, but I really do wish she give Jaine a break.

That being said, the mystery in this book for me was ‘meh’. I wasn’t that invested in it. It took me awhile to figure out who the killer is and the reason why, but when it was finally revealed, I just wasn’t happy with the result. I’m not really sure if the whole book was lacking for me or the characters really did leave a mad taste in my mouth, but this book is definitely on the lower end of my favorites in this series.

***SPOILERS***

The killer is Pam. I really wasn’t expecting this, but then again I wasn’t surprised. As to the reason why she killed her friend, for money. The victim has won the lottery and wanting to take the winnings, Beth decided to DEAL with her, literally. I found this to be such a shallow reasoning for murder. I couldn’t deal with all the selfishness and shallowness that was present in this book. I think that was my main complaint.

Book 6: Death by Pantyhose

Since Jaine’s bank account is running low, she decided to take a job as a comedian writer for, Dorcas, who flings a pantyhose to her audience as a finale to her acts. Unfortunately for Jaine, not only was she unimpressed by the comedian’s act, but she had to also witness Vic, a fellow comedian, harass her client. When Vic’s body is found dead with Dorcas’ pantyhose around his neck she went from being a writer to amateur sleuth once again.

*This was such an improvement from Levine’s former book. She went back to her roots of hilarious antics and classic whodunnit. Since I do the majority of my reading on public transportation I found myself holding out on a laugh or two while I has this book in my hand. Yes, I know murder is not a laughing matter, but Jaine always gets herself in the weirdest/funniest circumstances. For me, Jaine’s love story took center stage in this book since Levine hardly ever gives Jaine a happy ending. Don’t worry though, there is still a lot of sleuthing for our heroine.

Levine has a way of writing her character very well and yet very annoying. Each character that is constantly present in Jaine’s life seems to either be egotistical or selfish. I’m not really sure if the author does this on purpose or she’s being stereotypical of Los Angeles citizens. They do have their redeeming qualities, but I still hate the fact that all of the characters are somewhat flawed. I especially hate how she writes Prozac. I’m not a cat person, but I’m pretty sure cats aren’t usually this snobby and self-centered. I wish that Levine will introduce a wholesome character for Jaine, a friend a boyfriend, anyone that will at least be charismatic towards her.

***SPOILERS***

The killer is Vic’s comedian writer. I totally forgot his name, I’m so sorry. The murder occurred because he wanted to get the T.V deal that Vic was promised. Since Vic’s materials are all written by him, he feels that it is only right that he gets to chance to be on TV than the fraud comedian.

Book 7: Killing Bridezilla

Jaine’s high school experience wasn’t her best memories because the school diva, Patti and followers Nicole and Cherrie. So when Patti tries to hire Jaine to be a screenwriter for her Romeo and Juliet type of wedding, Jaine was hesitant to say ‘yes’. Unfortunately, her constant financial grievances forces her to take on unwanted writing gigs. Though Patti wanted a happier ending for her Romeo and Juliet story, the outcome still ended up with Juliet dying at the hands of a cherub.

*I took a little break between Book6 and Book7. I got exhausted with the similar synopsis between her books and I’m glad I decided to take this break because I actually enjoyed this as much as when I first started the series. The mystery surrounding Patti’s death is pretty well thought out and I enjoyed seeing the past of Jaine, which we rarely see. Although I had the killer all figured out, the twist in the end was a great addition.

As usual Prozac was unbearable. I’m really starting to hate this cat! I also wish that Levine would give her a love interest worthy of staying for more than 1 book or any new recurring character will be better than nothing, something different for a change. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for the next book. That being said I did enjoy the different minor characters that are in this novel.

***SPOILER***

The killer is the stepdad. As usual I forgot the name. I really should start taking proper notes. His business has started to decline, having spent all of his money and his wife’s, he has no other choice but to kill his step-daughter to inherit her money. Unknown to him she has already used her money on business ventures that has not gone well.

Buried in a Book (Book 1) by Lucy Arlington

burried in a book

Author: Lucy Arlington
Rating: 3/5
Protagonist: Lila Wilkins
Other Character(s): Trey, Makayla, Sean, Marlette, Iris

Synopsis: The small town of inspiration Valley has everything that Lila needs to raise her teens son and renew her career. Unfortunately, on her first day on the job a wannabe author drops dead right in their agency.

Review: I’ve been in a cozy mystery kick since the beginning of the year. I can’t seem to fill my need for them and I feel like I’m devouring them left and right. I’m not complaining, it actually has gotten me passed my reading goal for the year on Goodreads. Anyways, like I said I’ve been inhaling these books like non-stop and Buried in a Book is one series that I’ve been enjoying. It’s been a few months since I first picked up the first book in the series and every since then it has captivated me. I admit its not as great as some of the other cozies I’ve read, but I really do love the small town that Arlington has created for her readers, the characters aren’t bad either. Yes, there are flaws and disappointments in her books, but overall I’m quite glad I had the chance to start this series.

Although her books are quite entertaining, its not flawless. There are points that aggravated me and wanted to shake some of the characters. As much as I do enjoy all the people Arlington includes in here, the protagonist did annoy me a bit. I like Lila enough that I kept reading the series, even if she does get better eventually, this book had me hating her. I felt that she complained about everything from her child’s behavior to her mother’s eccentricity, but at the same time she just kept on cuddling her child as if he’s still 5. With actions should come consequences and I feel that Trey got away with too many things just because he’s a teen. I feel that if she will complain he’s behavior, she at least will try to educate him of his error, not just get up and leave. I feel that Lila did this to everything else, she just lets everything lay low until the very last moment. I think Arlington keeps creating these scenarios for our protagonist and then gives it a quick fix. I did enjoy the assortment of characters that Arlington introduces, I’m not overly attached to them on this first book, but I eventually grew to enjoy every single one of them.

I have mentioned before I really love the setting of this little town. I love the thriving town with it’s unique stores and even more so, the unique names that the author gives them. I especially love Espresso Yourself, not a coffee drinker myself, but a cute and little cafe that you can loose yourself in. Besides this lovely town, I did enjoy the mystery that Arlington included in this novel. It’s not an Agatha Christie novel, but it did get me thinking who the culprit could be. I did prefer that she created a better backstory between the victim and the murderer, since I do feel like the author became lazy at that one point. I felt that her reasoning is weak and made it look as if this back story was an after thought.

As I’ve stated in my previous reviews, I’m very much attracted to cozy mysteries that have adorable towns with a fascinating and eclectic set of characters, Arlington provides this for me. Although I do have my complaints, I can push them aside and I’m able to absorb myself in the community and the mystery.

***********************SPOILER ALERT!!*********************

Ending: We find out that Luella and Marlette have previous connections. Marlette was actually Luella’s professor during her college years. Wanting to ruin his career, in order for her to still Marlett’s perfect manuscript, she pretended to have been sexually harassed by him, thus ending his teaching status in the college.

Years later they meet again in Inspiration Valley where Luella successfully steals his novel and tries to pass it off someone else’s novel. This will enable her to keep the profits for herself. Unfortunately, Marlette, now a vagrant, has been harassing the literary agency that Luella and Lila represents, fearing discovery, she kills the promising author with a lethal dose of bee venom, knowing his severe allergic reaction.

 

A Jaine Austen Mystery by Laura Levine Books 2, 3 & 4

Cozy Mystery books are very light and easy read especially when done right. I just got a hold of this series near the end of last year, and ever since then I was hooked!

There will be no spoilers for these three books!

Book 2: Last Writes 

In this second installment, we find our protagonist, Jaine, in the set of a t.v show Muffy ‘n’ Me. Having one of her stories picked for an episode in the show, she was able to rub shoulders with a variety of b-list actors, along side her best friend, Kandi. Unfortunately, this sudden fame all turned sour when one of the main characters, Quinn Kirkland, was found dead and Kandi is the main suspect.

* Just like the first book, I found myself enjoying my reading experience. Even though I hated the ending, obviously enough, I was able to get pass this. I’m still trying to get used to the lack of a small town setting, but rather in a larger city of Hollywood. Although the writer could have added more characters in this book, the recurring people that we do get are interesting enough to keep you wanting to read more. In this book, we see more of Jaine’s best friend, Kandi. We find out, unlike her friend, she is your typical Hollywood citizen, with a great paying job, lovely figure and beautiful features. Unfortunate for her, the tragic events of the death of Quinn Kirkland, made her the prime suspect of this murder investigation. Having one mystery up her sleeve, Jaine felt that it was her duty to clear Kandi’s name.

As usual this book is filled with hilarious escapades from our heroine and her ever popular internal monologues is present. At first they were a bit bothersome for me, but eventually I got used to her struggles with her will power when it comes to refusing fatty foods. I feel that a lot more readers can relate to her. The one thing that I do wish that Levine will include is a love interest. I usually associate cozy mysteries with a little bit of romance, and the lack of this is increasingly obvious for me.

I feel that all the characters that Levine includes in her books are either suspects or victims. In other cozies we usually see a plethora of minor characters to draw the readers even more into the story, but for the Jaine Austen mysteries, we don’t really get this sense of community. I’m not saying that this series is not as good compared to those other books, but I do wish that Levine adds more to her list of characters. As for the actual mystery, I wasn’t all too happy with the ending. I admit, it made sense, but it was a little bit on the darker side of this type of mystery genre.

Book 3: Killer Blonde

Finding herself a ghostwriter for a famous socialite, Jaine Austen is giddy with excitement as the thoughts of a permanent income fills her mind. However, the more she works alongside Sue Ellen, she finds her hostility towards her step-daughter unwelcome. On the day of her resignation, she finds the body of her employer floating in the bathtub.

*Again we meet our ever beloved heroine, Jaine and her many shenanigans. Whenever I want a light read that will make me laugh out loud, no doubt about it, I will pick up a Jaine Austen Mystery. Just like the other two books, this left me in a good mood and wanting more!

We are taken again to Jaine’s new job as a ghost writer for a well known socialite, Sue Ellen. Although she has perfected the art of creating laving and beautiful parties, her manners is less desirable. The more she spent time with Sue Ellen, the more she realized the unfortunate power of a step mother. Unfortunately for Heidi, her outburst during her party will land her as the number one suspect on the death of Sue Ellen.

Finally, an ending that I actually enjoyed! Although, this had a better outcome than the previous two, I was actually convinced I knew the killer since the first time the character was introduced. I wasn’t certain as to the motive, but I knew that this person will be the cause of Sue Ellens demise and surprisingly, I was right! Not a very intricately woven tale, but for a cozy mystery, its highly entertaining.

Jaine is fast becoming one of my favorite protagonist in a cozy mystery because of her personality and humor. I also enjoy the other recurring character, such as her parents. Although, their story is only told through emails, I find them to be just as hilarious as the main story plot. The incidents that her father goes through, is just as funny as Jaine’s many adventures.

Book 4: Shoes to Die For  

Freelance writer, Jaine Austen is too plain for her neighbor, Lance,  liking. Making it his mission to spruce up her love life, he intends to give her a makeover. As they peruse his favorite chic clothing store, it is evident that Jaine has no intention of lavishing herself with a shirt for hundreds of dollars. Instead, she leaves the boutique with a job interview with the owner, to create a new advertisement for their magazine ad. Before she gets her big break, however, Jaine finds one of the workers murdered and it is up to her to clear the name of the pixie like clerk, Becky.

*So far this is my favorite in this series. I enjoyed all the characters that was introduced and the mystery of this book was really good. The twist in the end! Yes, its still not an Agatha Christie, but I still love the humor in the book.

Just like in the second book, we are introduced further to one of the recurring character, Lance, Jaine’s bionic ears neighbor. Although I haven’t mentioned him in any of my reviews until now, he’s actually present since book one, but we don’t get to find out a lot about him until Shoes to Die For. Like I said, even if we do not get that many minor characters in this series, what we do get are all pertinent to every novel. Although, their not well developed as I would like them to be, they do a great job of entertaining you within the pages. In all actuality, I feel that these books would make a great sit-com just because of all the humor and shenanigans that these characters  go though.

I haven’t actually been disappointed with the mystery aspect of these books, including this one. Even though I enjoyed the twist in the end, its forthcoming. If you ever decide to read this series,  I think you will understand.

***Evidently enough, this series is fast becoming one of my favorite cozies. Even if there are some disappointing parts for me, I still find the heroine funny and can’t wait to see more of her adventures.***

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Agatha Raisin and the Potted Gardener (Book 3) by M.C Beaton

The Potted Gardener

Author: M.C Beaton
Rating: 3/5
Protagonist: Agatha Raisin
Other Character(s): Mary Fortune, James Lacey, Bill

Synopsis: Agatha returns to her small town from a holiday to find James, her neighbor and secret crush, having a relationship with the newcomer, Mary Fortune. Much to Agatha’s dismay, it seems that everyone loves her and she too eventually grows fond of her. As the Garden Day competition slowly comes to the little village, small petty crimes has been occurring: Roses being uprooted, fishes dying, etc. Then a body is found hanging upside down in a potted vase. The village is left shocked and uncertain of who could have done such a heinous act of violence.

Review: The first time I read Agatha Raisin I fell in love with the characters, the setting and the narration. So far I’ve been only listening to the audiobook, and I love every minute of it. I especially enjoyed the first two since it’s the BBC radio drama special. The third book, however, is just regular audio, but I’m not complaining since the narrator is the same person, just minus all the special sound effects.

Now onto the actual story. As most cozy books, I usually get to tell who the murderer is before the final reveal, here I’m sad to say I was clueless. I’m not really sure if the reason is because the killer is well hidden, or I just listened to the audio while partially asleep and exhausted from travelling. Either way, the killer was unexpected in my part.

Leading up to the actual climactic part of the story, meaning the death of the victim, I really enjoyed reading about the small stories of the different characters that Beaton introduces in this book. I always enjoy cozies that dig deeper into the stories of other characters besides the protagonist. I’m not saying that Agatha is not a worthy one, but learning more about her neighbors and her surrounding is just as enjoyable. Speaking of protagonists, Agatha is fast becoming one of my favorites. She’s spunky, and easy to voice out her opinions but at the same time she is kind and willing to defend her friends. She’s very temperamental, but that just adds to her charm. I especially like how the narrator makes her sound standoff-ish and yet she’s being kind to people, giving them gifts from her travels. The one character that did standout in this book is Mary, not in a good way. In all honesty, she is way too nice for a real person that it can’t all be genuine. Plus, the readers really do get to see her true colors when Beaton adds small tidbits of the other characters thoughts.

As for the whole killing ordeal in this book I think it’s very interesting how the author wrote it. The way the victim was killed off was really creepy and a little disturbing. There’s no gory details, but to put someone’s body in such a humiliating way is a little uncalled for. It’s an interesting read, but just a little different from the common deaths of other cozy mysteries.

I think in terms of ‘cliched cozies’, Beaton’s Agatha Raisin is trying to veer away from it. There are instances that are similar to other cozies, but the differences is very much apparent and obviously welcomed. This series, for me, is getting better and better. Hopefully its standards will be continuous and not conform to the other cozies.

***********************SPOILER ALERT!!*********************

Ending: I’m not sure if it’s evident in my review, but the person who gets killed is obviously Mary Fortune. Although she appears to be a saint, upon her death stories arise of her actually being a cruel person. At one point she told one of the villagers that they are dull and dowdy. When trying to better themselves, Mary laughed at her face. Those that preyed victim to her verbal abuse kept it hidden because it seems like everyone loves her and so they kept their mouth shut.

After her death we also learn that she was suffering from depression and could have been the cause of her vile actions. Nothing was confirmed, but only speculated.

Not so obvious to me, the killer was the guy who’s fishes got killed. Unfortunately, I forgot his name, blame it to old age. Falling victim to Mary’s charm, she flirted and ‘seduced’ him, only to be shut down when he asked her to dinner. It is also believed that Mary was the perpetrator that inflicted the small crimes in the community. Therefore, the killer of the goldfishes is none other than Mary, who’s fishes belongs to the said man. So, to avenge both himself and his goldfishes, who he treated as family, he killed Mary without remorse.