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

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.

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.

Silenced in Sequins by Debra Sennefelder

Book Two of A Resale Boutique Mystery Series

Silenced in Sequins 4 STARS

Another great novel by Debra Sennefelder!! Her stories have very likable characters in well developed plots and settings. Even while being haunted with murder, the story is very light and fun with moving and emotional aspects.

Kelly Quinn was a fashion buyer in Manhattan before inheriting her grandmother’s outdated consignment shop. Giving up her high fashion life, Kelly returns to her home town of Lucky Cove to turn the consignment shop into an up scale resale boutique. What Kelly didn’t expect was an uncle trying to shut her business down, the sheriff not being her number one fan, and solving murders.

In this installment of the series, Kelly is commissioned to sell some clothing from a reality series celebrity. When one of the reality stars turns up dead, Kelly is pulled in to the case by several different hands but one hand seems to want to cause trouble for Kelly. On top of that, she finds information that may put her business in jeopardy. Can Kelly find out what is really going on with the Long Island Ladies and can she find a way to save her lively hood and keep her grandmother’s legacy afloat before its too late?

I cannot wait to for the next installment of this series.

I received an advanced digital copy of this book from NetGalley and Lyrical Press, a division of Kensington Publishing.

Also by Debra Sennefelder…. The Uninvited Corpse (Food Blogger Mysteries #1)

Theater Nights Are Murder by Libby Klein

Book 4 of the Poppy McAllister Mysteries

Theater Nights Are Murder

If you want a series of shenanigans, this is the series for you. There are several Laugh Out Loud moments. Libby Klein has very detailed plots and characters in her stories. Poppy is a very relatable character for me, as I too have felt her struggles with weight, love, and self esteem issues.

In the start of this series, a widowed Poppy McAllister returns to her home town to attend her high school reunion. While there and staying with her whimsical Aunt Ginny, she learns that social services is investigating Aunt Ginny for more than just being a little whimsical. After reconnecting with her high school best friend and realizing Aunt Ginny really can’t be on her own anymore, Poppy decides to stay.

In this installment of the series, Aunt Ginny’s high school boyfriend has retired from Broadway and is returning home to play the male lead in the senior center’s theater production of Mamma Mia. When one too many accidents start happening in the theater, one has to wonder, is someone trying to put a stop to the play or is someone trying to stop a player. Can Poppy and the Biddies get to the bottom of this case before another accident takes center stage?

It was fun to see the biddies investigate more and to see their romantic troubles too. I am not a huge fan of love triangles, but I understand that it works here. However, I picked my side early on in this series.

I received an advanced digital copy of the book from NetGalley as well as a print copy from the author and Kensington Books in return for my honest review.

I am looking forward to the next … Are Murder shenanigans in the future.

Three Widows and a Corpse by Debra Sennefelder

Book Three of the Food Blogger Mysteries

Three Widows and a Corpse 4 STARS

Another great mystery set off by a great cast of characters.

This series begins with Hope Early leaving her magazine editing career, a not so sweet stint on a baking reality show, and a failed marriage, all behind to focus on her Food Blogging career. Little did she know, she was going to become an amateur murder sleuth.

The third installment of The Food Blogger Mysteries starts off with a bang, literally

While competing in the town’s annual scavenger hunt, Hope finds the body of shady real estate developer, Lionel Whitcomb, shot in a parking lot. Lionel had been in the news a lot lately, pending the trial for his unsavory business dealings. Finding him shot isn’t as shocking as the fact that are three women there, claiming to be a Mrs. Whitcomb.

With so many possible murder suspects on the list, despite hunky Chief Ethan asking Hope to please stay out of the case, she finds herself smack in the middle, again.

This installment had a lot of plot twists to throw you way off; however, I pretty much had this one pegged early on. I also enjoy that the recipes for the blog aren’t the only thing heating up for Hope.

I received an advanced digital copy of this novel from NetGalley. I also purchased the audio version of the previous two. The narrator, Callie Beaulieu, is amazing. I highly recommend both.

I also recommend, Murder Wears a Little Black Dress, book one in the Resale Boutique series, by Debra Sennefelder, that was released in January 2019. Book two, Silenced in Sequins, will be released January 7, 2020 and is available for preorder.

An Ale of Two Cities by Sarah Fox

Book 2 of A Literary Pub Mystery Series
Release Date is 11/26/19

An Ale of Two Cities (Literary Pub Mystery #2) 4.5 STARS

I love Sarah Fox’s Pancake House Mysteries so I had no doubts that I would enjoy this series, and of course I was correct. How much fun would it be to have a literary pub to hang out in?!?!?! Ms. Fox has a great way of making you fall in love with the characters, the town, and the story.

Sadie leaves her life in Boston with her gambling addicted boyfriend and moves to the small town of Shady Creek, Vermont. She’s bought and redecorated the old grist mill pub, transforming the Inkwell into a cozy spot where tourists and regulars alike can enjoy a pint or a literary-themed cocktail, or join one of several book clubs.

After dealing with a murder and a murderer after her in the first installment, she has settled down in her new life in a great town with great people, including her Aunt Gilda, her friend Shontelle, and the handsome brewery owner Grayson.

Its winter in the town of Shady Creek and what better way to celebrate than with a Winter Carnival and ice sculpture contest? Everything is going perfect until one of the contests is found dead. To make matters worse, Mel, one of Sadie’s employees, has had her tools from the competition stolen and it turns out one of them was the murder weapon. With Mel being Suspect #1, Sadie is out to prove her friend’s innocence. Although the police have their eyes set on Mel, it seems everyone in town had a grudge against Freddy, including his assistant, his mentor, his former flame, and even his half-brother.

With the help up Grayson, who has some interesting secrets and sleuthing skills, Sadie is heating up the search for the killer…. and heating up her emotions for Grayson.

A very fast paced read, I didn’t want to stop. I am totally on board with Sadie and the gang and can’t wait to see what the future holds for Sadie and Grayson. I am highly anticipating book 3.
I was humbly awarded an advanced copy of the book, signed by Sarah Fox, as well as a digital copy from Kensington Publishing and NetGalley.

Claws of Action by Linda Reilly

Book 4 of the Cat Lady Mysteries

Definitely a one sitting book; quick but thoroughly entertaining. This series grips you, not just the mystery, the bond between Lara and Aunt Fran. This series starts off as feel good coming of age/coming home again story. It is so great to see Lara with her roots planted and relationships made.

In this installment, a health inspector shows up at the house/cat shelter just when they are finishing up on the remodel. Because they offer potential adopters beverages and snacks, the inspector deems them to be a “cafe” and unsanitary. When the said inspector is found dead the next morning, Lara and Aunt Fran are the primary suspects. With everything to lose, Lara sets off to solve the case.

What I always enjoy about the books in this series, there are secondary mysteries to solve too. There are many with secrets in the small town, and some will do whatever they have to for them to stay hidden. Things are definitely not what they seem.

In the remodel of the house/shelter, Lara has a reading room set up for children to come and read to the cats. I adore this idea and am very thankful that more rescues are starting to participate in activities like this.

There were a few small cliffhangers in this book; wedding plans, budding romances, etc. I cannot wait for more from Whisker Jog!!

I received an ARC of this novel from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Bark If It’s Murder by V.M. Burns

Book 3 of A Dog Club Mystery

Bark If It’s Murder (Dog Club Mystery #3) 5-STARS

I cannot say enough about this series. It is sweet with a slight romantic element, family oriented, female empowering and of course, MURDER!!

Lilly has put her past behind her and started a new life in Chattanooga. With the help of her best friend, Dixie, she is settling in well in her new surrounding. Looking to purchase a new home and doing well at her job, everything seems to be falling into place.

In this installments of the series, Lilly is helping Dixie out at Dog Show. While there, she meets the owner of Pet Haven, a posh doggie daycare and boarding facility. A last-minute opportunity arises to accompany her boss to an art auction, so Lilly decides to leave Aggie in the hands of Pet Haven. While watching the live feed of the facility to check in on Aggie, Lilly witnesses something that she surely believes is a murder in progress. Upon investigation, there is no crime scene and no body. Lilly, determined not to be deemed crazy, sets off to find out what happened and to whom.

What I love most about this series is that the protagonist, Lilly, is a middle aged woman with real life problems that we can relate to. She does her investigating but unlike many mystery protagonists, she doesn’t throw herself into extremely dangerous situations. In my opinion, these would be realistic if it was realistic for middle aged women to go around solving crimes.

I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley in return for an honest review. I highly recommend this series, and cannot wait for an announcement on book 4.

A Midwinter’s Tail by Bethany Blake

A Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery

A Midwinter’s Tail (Lucky Paws Petsitting Mystery #4) 5 STARS

If I could go on a winter holiday, it would be to the pet-friendly Pocono Mountains town of Sylvan Creek. I love everything about the people and the place. The author makes the town seem so warm and inviting, well I mean yeah they have murders, but they are usually targeted. I wouldn’t feel unsafe there lol.

Daphne Templeton is a free-spirited pet sitter, armed only with a Ph.D. in Philosophy and a stubborn Basset Hound, who has become an amateur sleuth.

In this installment of the series, a former classmate and nemesis returns to Sylvan Creek. She plans on opening a big box discount pet store from her chain that she runs. In a town full of small business owners, especially pet shops, everyone is none to happy about this news. When her body is found soon after, the list of suspects seem vast, but someone has an obvious motive. However, it is very obvious that the suspect did not do it. Daphne, working better with Detective Jonathan Black, is hell bent on solving this murder and clearing her friend’s name.

This novel is just oozing with Christmas and Winter Bliss. As cold as it is in Sylvan Creek, relationships are heating up, both human and canine. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I adore the series but this was my favorite thus far. I am a Christmas enthusiast, so I am quite certain that aspect of the book helped.

This series is a fun way to escape the day or intrigue those who love a good “who dunnit” series. I swear, I have yet to figure it out in this series. I really enjoyed the detail of the story and character development, even all the dogs have great character development. A lot of cozies that I read, I describe as quick and fun, I would not describe this one as such. Ms. Blake is very detailed in her plot and characters, so you really get to dive into the story. I would not say one style is better than the other because I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I am looking forward to continuing on with the series.

I have this book in both digital (NetGalley) and audio versions. The narrator, Elise Arsenault, does an amazing job.