My Reading Journey and Cozy Mystery Love, The Beginning…

https://www.facebook.com/ellenbyronauthor/
A Cajun Country Mystery Series
By Ellen Byron

I was a later bloomer when it comes to reading. I didn’t start reading regularly until I was in my 30s, mid to late 2000s. Prior to that, I did not read, at all. I mean literally, not at all. I struggled a lot in school with comprehension and, quite honestly, I preferred being social.

In 2005, post Hurricane Katrina, I relocated about 4 hours away from my immediate family and friends. I found myself to be very bored and lonely at times. A coworker recommended that I read Angels and Demons by Dan Brown and I figured sure, why not. That book was thick and intimidating for a non reader. I did read it and it took me about a month. I felt so accomplished.

In 2007, I returned back to the New Orleans area. One day my sister, an avid reader who read Gone with the Wind at the age of 3, said to me, “hey, I just read this book and I think you will love it.” I replied, “no thank you, I read a book last year.” I mean it was nice and all but really, I had better things to do with my time. As time went on, she pestered me about reading this darn book. Finally, bored one day, I picked up this book. I read it. I READ ANOTHER BOOK!! It was so good. It was a series and I NEEDED to know what was going to happen! That book, that book that changed my outlook on reading forever, was TWILIGHT!

At the time, only the first 2 books were available. Well what was I supposed to do?? I went into a B. Dalton Bookstore in the local mall (Borders and Barnes and Noble were too intimidating at the time). I found another YA Supernatural series to read. I bought 1 book every week until I caught up with that series. I would just stand at the YA New Release section and pick out whatever caught my eye. I was too intimidated to even venture further into the store. I was afraid to try anything different. What if I didn’t like it? Would I be discouraged and not want to read anymore? But, did I want to only read books about Vampires, Werewolves, and other supernatural and paranormal beings? Through like minded friends, recommendations, and social media, I was able to slowly broaden my reading interests.

One of those interested turned into a passion, Cozy Mysteries, and I owe it all to the amazing Ellen Byron.

One day, searching the library website, I came across a book called Plantation Shutters. On the cover, was a beautiful plantation home, a police car that looked suspiciously like an NOPD car, and a Basset Hound. I love touring the local plantations, my husband works for NOPD, and I have a Basset Hound… this book was written for me!! I immediately downloaded the book from the library and I instantly fell in love. I posted a review of the book on Goodreads and the author, Ellen Byron, actually reached out to me and thanked me!! GASP!! SQUEE!! OMG!!! I reached out to all my friends and told them “THIS AUTHOR JUST MESSAGED ME!!!!” I was a major fan girl. (This was four years ago)

Ellen and I would chit chat via social media here and there. When she was ready to release book two, Body on the Bayou, she had a release party in New Orleans and invited my husband and I. I felt so honored and fancy!! We have been friends from that moment on!!

Just a few of our moments together

Still being fairly new to the genre, I started doing some searches on Facebook. I found a couple groups here and there (nothing like it is today). One day, I was invited to join this group call the Cozy Mystery Crew. I was immediately mind blown!!! Are you kidding me??? There is this entire community of these cozy people??? This group was formed by authors just starting out, new series or new to the genre, or new to just having a book published. They did a summer reading challenge. The challenge was to read and review these authors’ books for prizes. Seriously, you are going to reward me for enjoying your amazing talent? Okay, if you insist….

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1757692634274149/?ref=share

In these past four years, I have read hundreds of Cozy Mysteries and have connected and developed true friendships with many. The books in this genre offer true clean and suspenseful entertainment. Some offer comic relief and others give you amazing recipe and/or craft and household ideas. I have recommended countless books and authors to friends and other interested readers. I solicit Cozy Mysteries wherever I go. I have never met a community that I enjoy more. And when a new book is released in a series, its just like catching up with old friends.

In these past four years, I have made friends, many amazing friends. I run two Facebook groups, one completely Cozy and the other general book discussions. I have hosted many discussions for my page and others and have hosted online parties for cozy mystery authors. I was inspired to start a blog as people tell me they enjoy my reviews. I have not been super consistent with it and don’t have many followers yet, but I am going to work on that.

In addition to Ellen and the Cozy Mystery Crew (which she is now a part of GASP!!), I would like to give a shout out to all the authors that have made an impact on my life with your amazing craft and friendship; especially, Julie Anne Lindsey, Ellery Adams, Krista Davis, Amanda Flower, Lauren Elliott, Sarah Fox, Sherry Harris, Dean James, Jenny Kales, Tonya Kappes, Kimberley O’Malley, Karen Rose Smith, Kate Young, and Jenna St. James.

Cozy Mystery Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/403108960079286/?ref=share

Room of Reading Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/681322238706284/?ref=share

The Diva Spices It Up by Krista Davis

Book 13 of the Domestic Diva Mysteries

The Diva Spices It Up (A Domestic Diva Mystery, #13) 5-STARS

I have no idea how this phenomenal series continues to get better, but Krista Davis makes it happen. I had binge read this series, books 1-11, and reading each new installment makes me feel like I am reuniting with old friends. I cannot say enough about the core characters of this series. Not only are they extremely well developed but you actually feel like you are a part of their world.

In this installment of the series, Sophie is ready for some R&R until Mars has her hired out as a ghost writer for a cookbook for one of his clients’ wives. In need of a major bathroom renovation, Sophie takes on the job. How hard can it be to write recipes?? This should be a breeze until people around this group begin going missing and dead bodies start popping up. There seems to be many with secrets, the question is, who is willing to kill to keep them buried?

I can never get enough of these books. Once I start them, I devour them, then I am devastated that I have to wait another year for the next one. I strive to be like Sophie in my daily life in the entertaining of family and friends. I adore her friends, Nina, Mars, Bernie, etc.

This is by far my favorite Cozy series and in my top 5 overall. I cannot sing the praises for these books any louder. I recommend them to anyone and everyone, cozy readers or not. If you have never tried audiobooks and don’t know if you would like them, this is the series to do it.

I have a digital copy from NetGalley of this book and the audible version. Hillary Huber, is as phenomenal of a narrator as Krista Davis is a writer.

And now we wait…….

Murder in the Wine Country by Janet Finsilver

Book 6 of the Kelly Jackson Mysteries

Murder in the Wine Country (A Kelly Jackson Mystery #6) 4STARS

I feel like this series is one of those extremely well kept secrets and we need to get the secret out!!

I love everything about the Kelly Jackson Mysteries… the plot, the setting, the characters, and the mysteries. This series has something for everyone. The setting of Redwood Cove is to die for, no pun intended. The characters are all very well developed, likable, and they all play their part in the stories. From Tommy, the child with Asperger Syndrome, and his dog Fred to all the Silver Sentinels, there is definitely a character for you. There is always a new hobby or event to explore in town and Janet Finsilver has a way of making you feel like you are experiencing it with the cast.

In this installment, its a wine tasting event. When an accident and burglary turn out to be more sinister than originally suspected, Kelly and the Silver Sentinels are on the case.

One other thing that really sticks out in the later novels, the charity developed for the aid and care of Veterans. This is a subject near and dear to my heart and the author does a great job bringing awareness.

This series is one of my favorite Cozy Mystery Series, it is carefree and entertaining. I love a series with senior sleuths. These books are easily one sitting reads and I highly recommending binging this series.

I had an advanced digital copy from NetGalley and Kensington Publishing Corporation. I also had this book in audio format. The narrator, Reba Buhr, did a fabulous job.

I am looking forward to a book 7 and more adventures at Redwood Cove.

Staging Wars by Grace Topping

Book 2 of the Laura Bishop Mysteries

Staging Wars (Paperback) 4 STARS

In this second installment, Laura Bishop’s home staging business is really growing even with the competition of her long time frenemy, Monica Heller. When a series of murders seem to be taking place, Monica looks to be holding the knife and caught red handed. Sister Madeline asks Laura to put aside her differences and help Monica out, as she believes she is not a cold blooded killer. Laura and her bff, Nita, decide to sleuth it up with the help of Mrs. Webster and Aunt Kit. Can they figure out the mystery before its too late?

I really enjoyed the roles Mrs. Webster and Aunt Kit played in this installment. I enjoy when there are seniors getting involved in the sleuthing and I hope to see Aunt Kit in future books.

I had an idea of the culprit from about mid book. I don’t know why, it just seemed to fit. This was a quick and fun book that also has some good house keeping and selling tips through out.

There is a slight mystery involving Laura’s father and where he could be. I hope that is revisited in future books. I would also like to maybe see some sparks for Laura and Spangler.

I listened to the audio version of this novel narrated by Emily Durante. She did a fantastic job.

I am looking forward to book 3.

Here Comes The Body By Maria DiRico aka Ellen Byron

First in the new Catering Hall Mystery Series

Here Comes the Body (A Catering Hall Mystery #1) 5 Stars

Here Comes the Body is the first book in the new series, A Catering Hall Mystery, written by Maria DiRico, a pseudonym for author Ellen Byron.

This series centers around the protagonist, Mia Carina and her family. After her philandering husband’s boat went down in Florida, she returns home to Queens to help with her family’s new business. Being the daughter of former mobster, Ravello Carina, we are never quite sure what the family business is up to.

Mia has come home to run Belle View, her father’s catering hall, a popular spot for weddings, office parties, and more. Everything is moving along perfectly, until a dead body is located in the pop out cake at the bachelor party being hosted at Belle View.

With signs pointing to Ravello as the murder, Mia is forced with the task of proving her father’s innocence and finding the true murdered before they find her.

This book is so well written. From the details of the plot to the development of the characters, this is one heck of a way to kick off a new series. The Carina Family are a cast of characters all in itself. Being of Italian descent, I could totally appreciate the family bond. I have a “nonna” who is 95 years young and is still as feisty as they come.

I am looking forward to Mia and the family’s next adventure!!

I received an advanced reader copy of this book from the author and digital copy for review from NetGalley and Kensington Publishing Corp.

This book is set to release on February 25, 2020 and is available for preorder.

The Book of Candlelight by Ellery Adams

Book 3 of The Secret, Book and Scone Society

The Book of Candlelight (Secret, Book, & Scone Society, #3) 4STARS

I love this series and I just love Nora so much. Although I do not have a tragic past, I somehow seem to identify with her. I love her character and how she is always there for her friends and towns folk.

In this installment, Nora and the gang are dealing with a multitude of crimes. Not only is someone defacing the groups’ property, its very personal. Add to that, a murder or two, and Nora has her hands full.

There are a few new characters that I hope will be around for the next book. There are also a few relationships developing.

Although the personal connection with this novel was not there like the one I had with Secret, Book and Scone Society, the story was still deep and moving. This is NOT a traditional COZY Mystery Series. Although there is nothing graphic, there are romantic scenes and some of the things discussed in the group are very deep and dark. I only say that because there are a some cozy readers that take offense to anything more than a kiss or a cuss stronger than darn.

I look forward to future journeys with Nora.

I received and read this digital copy of the novel from NetGalley.

Hems and Homicide by Elizabeth Penney

First in a new series

Hems and Homicide (Apron Shop #1) 4STARS

Iris Buckley decides to return to her hometown, Blueberry Cove, Maine, to help out her grandmother after her grandfather’s death. She is ready to bring her online hand-made apron designs to a real store, Ruffles & Bows. Finding a store front was difficult so there was no shock in finding the space in poor condition with a lot of work to do. What was shocking, finding a skeleton in the basement.

With help of her best friend and her granny, Iris wants to find out what happened to the person and lay these old bones to rest. Iris finds out that digging up the past can bring plenty of problems to the future.

This book has many twists, all the way to the end. I enjoyed the author’s character development. The relationship between Iris and her granny felt real. I also enjoyed the budding romances.

I am looking forward to continuing on with the series and learning more about all the characters.

I had this book in both digital format from NetGalley and audio format from Audible. The narrator, Kim Niemi, did a great job.