Wednesday, September 23, 2015

It's a Lazy, Cozy Afternoon ... and Morning ... and Evening ....

I've just spent the last month in Athena, Mississippi, with Charlie Harris and his Maine Coon companion, Diesel. Honestly, I really don't know where to begin this sordid tale of addiction, but I'll try. 

I hadn't read any male authored cozies until I read the Mary Handley Mystery series written by a man, Lawrence H. Levy who's main character is a woman so I was curious to know if other men wrote cozy mysteries.  Wrong moment to be curious - and the Good Lord knows, I should have known better given that old saying "curiosity killed the cat".  Well, it didn't kill me - the cat - but it certainly proved the other old saying of "be careful what you wish for" ... or what cozy series you start. As a result, this cozy cat ended up spending a month in Athena.  Naturally, my research didn't provide me with a simple, "yes, there are male authored cozies", oh no.  It rendered information that left me completely agog. Let's see ... uh ... there was indeed a rather prolific male writer of cozies named Dean James who wrote a series called A Cat In The Stacks Mystery under the pen name, Miranda James ... a female ... yet who's main character is a male, Charlie Harris, or rather two males:  Charlie and Charlie's Maine Coon cat, Diesel. So a male writer, writing as a woman telling the story as a man.  Did I get that right?

First of all, I am a southerner - born and raised in The Old Dominion.  Secondly, my husband, Jeff, is a librarian   We are both hopeless bibliophiles, have a proper library and probably 3000-5000 books between us.  And thirdly, every time I turned a page, some reference ... some old southern expression like the ones my third grade teacher, Miss Trula Elswick, used every two seconds ... even some of the dedications ... there was some kind of weird connection.  It was as if I was reading mysteries written by a kid I really liked and bonded with in the first grade, who moved away and I never saw again and now have discovered they are a successful cozy mystery writer.  By the time I got to the dedication of The Silence of the Library I was stupefied. It's one thing to love Nancy Drew, but to know and love Judy Bolton and Trixie Belden and know what the Stratemeyer Syndicate was ... well ... well ... it was just too much.  And then there's reference to a character named, Angeline.  Never, ever, EVER, have I known anyone who knew that name: the name of my maternal grandfather's mother, Angeline Ruth Foley Thomas.  Then I begin to wonder if somehow we were related.  He had an Aunt Dottie.  A woman named, Dottie White - whom I adored - worked in my father's men's store forever.  And THEN I come to find out he writes FIVE other series - one of which - The Emma Diamond Series under the name of Honor Hartman - is Bridge based.  Did I mention that I played Bridge every Sunday for 10 years?  That I have a shameful number of vintage Bridge playing card sets, vintage Bridge accoutrements, and vintage Jello molds for Bridge luncheons??????? And as if that wasn't enough, he had the colossal nerve to begin a new series that is a cross-over series featuring two divine old southern lady characters from The Cat In The Stacks Mystery series called A Southern Ladies Mystery that I am in the middle of reading now and will blog about when finished!

So here's what I want to say about this series and about Mr. Dean James. I am an actor and narrator of audiobooks, so prose and dialogue are my life-blood.   All who know me know Dickens is my hero and he is the master wordsmith whose words are the easiest and most delicious to read aloud.  I often read the dialogue of certain cozy characters aloud as practice.  As much as I love ALL my cozy series, and as amazing as ALL of the writers are, not all have a deftly gifted hand with dialogue.  But this gentlemen? A word wizard and a dialogue god. Charlie's lines trip off my tongue and out of my mouth in the single most natural way of any cozy writer I follow.  It's sheer joy. The ease and naturalness of the dialogue that comes out is pure bliss!  And this isn't only true for Charlie, but for all his characters.  His housekeeper Azalea?  She's perfection.  And it takes courage in this day and age to write Azalea's dialogue for fear someone will think it's disrespectful or politically incorrect, but the reality is that people speak like Azalea because it's the speech pattern of the region.  So I am grateful and gleeful when I am reading A Cat In The Stacks Mystery out loud.  

Mr. James's stories are plausible, all well thought out and he throws more red herrings than rice at a wedding.  And praise the Lord he doesn't belabor all the love interest stuff - he just cuts to the chase.  For that alone, I bow down to him.  He is one of the very best storytellers, mystery weavers and character painters among all the cozy writers.  And as for Diesel, well, if you aren't a cat lover, believe me you'll find yourself longing for one just like him. 

I know I am always encouraging others in their cozy addiction and suggesting they start a new series, but I promise you this is a dear, sweet, sharp, tight, perfect series that shouldn't be missed and sure to please. The next title in the series is out in February 2016, No Cats Allowed.

Please, please check out the indomitable Mr. James's website for every bit of information about him.  I have no idea how on earth he works as a librarian and writes all these wonderful stories.

As, always I'd love to hear from my fellow cozy addicts.  And should you wish to know more about me, please visit my site:

My month-long sojourn in Athena was a lovely, lovely cozy time. And I am resting up with more cozies!

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Royal Wedding?

In my cozy addicted world, Rhys Bowen is what I'd call a major "supplier".  She writes three series - all of which I read and have gotten my mother, my Aunt Martha and my Aunt Lila, hooked on at least one - in some cases - two of these series.  If this was a substance addiction case, Ms. Bowen would be a kingpin in the cozy world supplying those in need with the "super good stuff".  Which brings us to her latest title, Malice at the Palacein her most recent series, A Royal Spyness Mystery

My association with Ms. Bowen began with her wonderful, wonderful, Molly Murphy Mystery series.  I discovered them and chewed them up like so much candy, smacking my lips and living for the next installment.  So entranced was I that I passed this hunger on to my mother, my Aunt Martha and my Aunt Lila.  All three devoured them with the same intense relish and wanting more.  So when I discovered that she wrote a series called A Royal Spyness Mystery that old ambivalence about succumbing to another series reared its ugly head.  I baulked at the thought of getting emotionally involved with characters and adding yet another series to my Excel spreadsheet entitled, "Cozies".  I tried walking away.  I tried looking away.  I even tried dismissiveness:  "Thirty-fourth in line to throne, indeed!  Honestly, who'd swallow that?"  Now the phrase, "choked on his own words" comes quickly to my mind.  Because that is precisely what happened; my pro and con moment in the bookstore lasted all of 30 seconds, I bought the titles available, devoured them and "choked on my own words."  

Firstly, I am a mystery addict from childhood 'nough said.  Secondly, I am an Anglo-phile and have been since my earliest memory.  Thirdly, I, like Queen Mary, love and adore jewelry, although nothing I have could even qualify for a clasp on her rattiest piece.  No matter.  All of these things add up to my love for Georgiana and for Darcy.  For those who have been patient or crazy enough to follow this blog, it's a well-established fact by now that I am a broken record when it comes to one thing in these cozies:  get the main character and their love interest hooked up!  Do not drag it out. I certainly hope that the ending of Malice at the Palace is not something that will backfire in the  next title.  I fully expect to have satisfaction on this matter in the first chapter of that next title.  I beg that this issue of their getting together not be dragged out.  I so want to see Georgiana finally have a place to call her own.  

This was probably one of the very best mysteries in the series and the aspect of the historical figures was perfectly painted. The little twists that involved the other characters in the series was an element that gave the series even more dimension and I look forward to more of that.

I am curious to see how the series will evolve.  King George V hasn't many more years to live in the timeline of the series.  If Ms. Bowen continues advancing the timeline beginning with George V's death, to Edward VIII's abdication to the ascension of George V and Elizabeth becoming heir apparent (or is that heiress?), that would add the most delicious of dimensions to the series.  Only time will tell. 

In addition to the Royal Spyness and Molly Murhphy Mystery Series, Ms. Bowen also pens the Contable Evans Mystery Series. Queen of Hearts, the previous title in A Royal Spyness Mystery, was this year's winner of the Agatha Award.  Heartiest of congratulations to Ms. Bowen!  Ms. Bowen has a wonderful website, so please check it out.:

As always, I love hearing from my fellow cozy mystery addicts.  And should you wish to learn more about me, please visit my website:

Cozies coming in September.  And I have to confess ... yes ... I have succumbed to another series.  I won't write about it until I've read all six and then I will make a full confession.  Why, oh, why oh, why?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Cozy Reservation for One Please!

I think it's safe to assume that for all bibliophiles the idea of a place like Storyton Hall is akin to Shangri-la and the Book Retreat Mystery series by Ellery Adams is the stuff that cozy dreams are made of.  And in the most recent title, Murder In The Paperback Parlor that dream cozily continues.  It is the second title in the series with Mystery In The Murder Suite as it's "first in a new series" title debuting last August.  I admit to reading over 30 series - which shockingly enough - doesn't even begin to cover the number of cozy series in existence.  So I can't definitively make this statement, however, in the cozy mystery universe - or at least in my 30+ one, I find this series to be bravely unapologetically fantastical.  It's a cross between Prince Valiant, Knights Templar, Indiana Jones and The Waltons.  As a son of the Old Dominion (that would be the Commonwealth of Virginia for those who don't know) I think it's perfection that's it's set in Virginia.  It lends that old-world tone that thrives and survives today in old established Virginia families. The very premise of the "eighth wonder of the world", the secret library filled with unknown literary treasures from all times and all writers (all the very purest of bibliophile fantasy)is what I mean by the series being unapologetically fantastical.  What balances this fantasy, of course, is the sad reality of a young woman who has been widowed, left to raise small twin boys.  Anyone who doesn't fall immediately in love with Jane and those two adorable boys, Hem and Fitz, would have to be some kind of wretch.  The tattoos,  the special keys, the secret society of double-guised members of Storyton Hall - fighting to the death to protect it - is everything that is delicious about suspending reality and willingly give into fantasy.  Ms. Adams makes you care for all of the people of Storyton Hall and for all of Jane's friends.

On the toilet tank at Storyton Hall?
It's on ours!

The "fantasy perfection" quotient that is at the heart of cozies - you know what I'm talking about: perfect friends, perfect businesses, perfect boyfriends ....  it's what makes cozies, cozies.  But this particular cozy series takes the fantasy perfection to a level that - for me - almost out-fantasys all the series that have paranormal properties, like my beloved Aunt Dimity Series by Nancy Atherton. But I said almost, because I deeply love me some Aunt Dimity!

And Ms. Adams has already set up that love-interest/ambivalent thing that just drives me up the wall.  So I'm going to say to you, Ms. Adams, what I've said to a number of your sister cozy authors:  don't draw the Jane and Edwin thing out - PLEASE!  I'm not saying they have to get married in the next book, but I do so hope that in the next installment the mystery of Edwin will be solved and Jane and he can get on with it. For their sake, for the boys' sake, for Storyon Village's sake - and most importably for my sake. My sanity. 

For all cozy mystery readers who love the happiest and warmest kind of fantasy reads, this series is it. Ms. Adams is a beautiful storyteller with lots of heart.  The series is charming, it's dear and the mysteries themselves are great, clever and exciting.

Ms. Adams pens two other series so please take time to check-out her website for information on all her works:

The Village of Storyton.  Let's Book a Trip!

Also, recently, a fellow cozy addict posted a note on the blog before this one.  He is a great reviewer and has a wonderful site.  Please check out Mark Baker's very comprehensive and super-amazing blog:

And, as always, I'd love to hear from all my fellow cosy mystery addicts.  Should you wish to know more about me please visit my website:

Up next:  Malice at the Palace by Rhys Bowen.  Stay tuned!

Friday, August 14, 2015

All Just Peachy Cozy!

The City:  Atlanta

The Date:  14 August 2015

Lordy, lordy, look who's ... started another cozy series.  Ok.  So I couldn't make it rhyme as in "lordy, lordy, look who's forty"; so sue me.  I really have no excuse.  I guess I could say it's because I live in Georgia and the series is called A Georiga Peach Mystery.  But to be honest, how in the hell could I - could anybody - possibly pass up a book whose title is Peaches and Scream?  I mean, come on.  Of course, clever, catchy, kitschy, pun-ridden titles are the meat and potatoes of so many cozy series titles, but I found this one to be particularly delicious and I just couldn't resist.  Even before reading this title, I pre-ordered the next based on its title:  Rest In Peach due out 5 April 2016.

This first title in a the Georgia Peach Mystery series by Susan Furlong certainly promises to be a keeper in my Excel document of cozies.  Yes,yes, YES! I have to keep a book logue to know what I've read and what I have pre-ordered.  That's part of the proof of my addiction.  So sue me again.

Although I live in Georgia, I am a Virginian born and raised.  And although I lived in New York for nearly 30 years and was a hard-core New Yorker, I always have been and always will be a southern boy at heart.  So when I hear characters' names like Nola Mae and Ida Jean, it's all quite cozily familiar.  After all, two of my very dear and beloved teachers in high school (whom I send Christmas and birthday cards to) are named Carroll Lee and Mary Sue respectively (and respectfully).   

There is a wonderful, confident evenness to Ms. Furlong's writing that lends a kind of soft sense of comfort.  Maybe that's the southern thing, but the story was well-executed, definitely had good surprise endings and the promise of story lines regarding the main characters that will be interesting to see explored and played out.  This is the element that compels cozy addicts like myself to follow a series.  Peaches and Scream was an excellent "first in a new series" and another cozy series I am addicted to. 

Ms. Furlong pens two other series:  The Novel Idea Mysteries under the pen name, Lucy Arlington (a series I adore, am addicted to and follow; even have my Aunt Lila hooked on it) and The Pipi O'Brien Mysteries  under the pen name, Susan Furlong Bolliger.  

Please take time to visit Ms. Furlong's website for information on all her series:

As always, I'd love to hear from any and all fellow cozy addicts.  Should you wish to know more about me, please visit my website:

Still have two more cozies for this month.  So stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

My Cozy Kindred Spirit

First Title In the Series
The City:   Atlanta

The Date:   11 August 2015

I’ll simply blame it on my husband, Jeff and be done with it.  And in this case it’s the absolute truth.  When I was filming an episode of Sleepy Hollow in North Carolina back in early November, the front desk of the hotel I was staying in told me I had a package.  Even though Jeff knows I never go anywhere without ample reading material, when he saw the third title of this series, The Legend of Sleepy Harlow, he felt he just had to buy me the whole series.   I couldn’t start the series then and from November until about 10 days ago, I have had plenty of reading material and, to be honest, I was ambivalent about starting another series.  Also, as much as I like select kitties, I always have another ambivalence about series who insist on featuring cats on the cover.    Well … I should have known that being that resistant to something was a bad omen or I guess not so bad because ten days ago, I finally caved in and began reading, Mayhem At The Orient Express, the first title in the League of Literary Ladies series by Kylie Logan and boy did I find a true cozy kindred spirit.  It was love at first read.  OMG!  In the over 30 cozy series I follow, no writer has ever made me laugh out loud … and so often.  Moreover, with each page of each of the three current titles, I felt like I really had found a kindred spirit in Ms. Logan.  Let’s see … where do I begin?  The main character, Bea is an only child – like me.  In her acknowledgements for The Legend of Sleepy Harlow, Ms. Logan says her favorite holiday is Halloween.  Well, Christmas Eve is my favorite day of the year, but All Hallows’ Eve is my very next favorite; I wait for it all year long and our home is one large All Hallows’ orange glow and I’ve written an All Hallows’ Poem every year for almost 31 years.  To top it all off ... my favorite writer of all time is Dickens.  I am a past president and lifetime member of the Dickens Fellowship of New York and  I’ve performed Dickens's public readings for nearly 30 years – A Christmas Carol  most often.  So of course, Ms. Logan goes and names one of her titles,  A Tale of Two Biddies!  How much more proof do I need that something a little odd is going on?  Honestly, I find myself feeling like the kooky character Chandra with her tarot cards and ritual cleansing of bad energy because it's all just a little too wicky wicky.   

Second Title In The Series
By the time I finished all three books, A League of Literary Ladies, jumped to among my top ten favorite series.  As I said before, I don't recall laughing out loud so often in any series which I attribute to Ms. Logan's wonderful sense humour. There is an edge to her wisecracking commentary akin to the kind of perfect timing good actors have when delivering lines. She is probably one of both the best storytellers and best writers of the cozy mystery genre and that's no easy feat considering how large the writing playing field is. Her writing is tight and concise and her plots are engaging and wonderfully surprising.  I am completely in love with all of the literary ladies and have already pre-ordered the next title in the series, And Then There Were Nuns, to be released 1 March 2016.  

Fourth Title 3-1-2016
Now, for the many cozy writers whose series I follow faithfully, quite a few have heard from me over time about the love interest angle in their books.  Therefore, I implore Ms. Logan not to drag out the big moment between Bea and Levi.  I, for one, have had enough foreplay and am ready for the big hook-up. Personally, I think it would be most inappropriately appropriate for this to happen in And Then There Were Nuns.

All three titles, Mayhem at the Orient Express, A Tale of Two Biddies  and  The Legend of Sleepy Harlow are all totally worth reading.  This is a series that absolutely will not disappoint any true red-blooded cozy addict.  Run - don't walk - to the nearest bookstore and grab these books.  Ms. Logan writes a couple of other series as well and I hope you'll take a moment to visit her very wonderful website:

Third Title In The Series

As always, I'd love to hear from my fellow cozy addicts.  Should you wish to know more about me, please visit my website:

I have a couple of titles of new cozies waiting for me to devour that I will be writing about as soon as I've digested them.

So until then happy cozying!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Alert! There's a Man in the Cozy Writing Room!

The City:  Atlanta

The Date:  28 July 2015

Continually having to admit one's weakness is both tiresome and not a little embarrassing.  I mean, do I really need another series? The answer will be always, "maybe not need, but want!", but then again, "not really."  It's a dilemma.  But let me offer this excuse: this is a a new cozy series written by a man. I know there are cozies written by men and I will admit that I'm not familiar enough with those series to use as a comparison, but somehow I don't think there is a cozy, written by a man who's main character is a woman.  I could be wrong, of course, however, that's the excuse I'm using for starting the new Mary Handley Mystery Series written by Lawrence H. Levy who's debut title is Second Street Station.

It's 1888 Brooklyn, New York.  The Brooklyn Bridge is only five years old, electricity has come to New York City only six years before, AT&T is three years old and there is no underground transit system.  Like the cozy trailblazers Victoria Thompson of the Gaslight Mysteries and Rhys Bowen of the Molly Murphy Series (both series I read and love) a vivid portrait is painted for us of life in New York City at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.  Mr. Levy gives us a wonderfully strong and progressive character in Mary Handley - completely believable - infinitely likable - most definitely generating curiosity about where she's going in the future.  He sets his story up using historical figures like Thomas Edison, J.P. Morgan and Nikola Tesla to create a compelling and uniquely interesting mystery.  I loved Mr. Levy's characterizations of the historical figures that lent a greater reality to who they probably really were as human beings as opposed to our romantic historical vision of who they were.  And as someone who lived in New York City for nearly 30 years, it's always interesting to be transported to the New York City of the late 19th century - especially considering that - in spite of the ever quick paced death of New York City - there is still a lot that remains from Mary's time.

While I almost never offer criticism, I hope Mr. Levy will take my next comments kindly because they are meant as a gesture of goodwill  because I want to see the series succeed.  And considering he has super-stiff competition in the cozy culture from very well-estabished writers with very loyal fan bases, I don't want there to be any room for unnecessary criticism going forward.  Two things didn't ring true for me.  First was use of language in some instances that - regardless of class - was distinctly not 19th century.  Mr. Levy's contemporaries are very careful about this and tailor their verbiage accordingly.  The second thing is that it is essential Mr. Levy establish whether Mary's family is Irish Catholic or Irish Protestant.  From this title, I have to assume they are Protestants considering that the times in this book where Mary joins her family for their weekly Friday supper, meat was served.  No Irish Catholic - indeed no Catholic - ate meat on Friday any time of the year in 1888.  So I urge Mr. Levy to clarify this before the second novel is printed because readers will notice!

In spite of these two points, I most certainly will continue with the series.  I have already pre-ordered my copy of Brooklyn On Fire that will be released on 19 January 2016.

I sincerely recommend The Mary Handley Series to lovers of Sarah Brandt and Molly Murphy.  Mr. Levy has done a wonderful job creating the voice of a strong female character in the world of cozy mystery heroines.  Please visit his website:

As always, I'd love to hear from all of my fellow cozy addicts.  Should you wish to know more about me, please visit my website:

Until next month, when Mystery In the Paperback Parlor - the second title in the Book Retreat Mystery Series by Ellery Adams - is released - Happy Cozying!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Okay, okay! I Cry Uncle!

The City:  Atlanta

The Date:  20 July 2015

In "Grace Cries Uncle", the sixth title in The Manor House Mysteries by Julie Hyzy, Ms. Hyzy gifts us with a very compelling mystery that eases the reader into dis-ease.  This is most poignantly the case when her sister, Liza enters the picture and I knew right away that I just plain wished she hadn't entered the picture at all.  In the great land of cozies, Ms. Hyzy finally answers a mystery that has served as a tantalizing through-line in the series.  She also provided a heart-thumping twist at the end that made me cry, "uncle!", meaning for me - "I give in - this has been way too much of a cozy-coaster ride for me - I can't breathe!"  Of course, this is a good thing.  It is the sign not only of a good writer, but, more wonderfully, a great storyteller. And Ms. Hyzy is most certainly that:  a great storyteller.  The proof is in the pudding here because in the cozy cabinet of mysteries Ms. Hyzy provides us with two series.  I, of course, follow both and have hooked my Aunt Lila on both. In addition to the Manor House Mysteries, Ms. Hyzy authors The White House Chef Mysteries.  While I adore both of them, I am only going to focus on The Manor House Mysteries in this blog entry because I will write about the upcoming title in the The White House Chef Mysteries, "Foreign Eclairs",  when it is released on 5 January 2016.

When an author pens more than one series, it's always interesting to compare the series with regard to characters, tone, and ambience.   And while both main characters in each of the series are strong, intelligent, independent individuals, they are very different just the series themselves are very different.  

I have to be honest and admit that I have a great, great affection for Olivia Paras, the main character in The White House Chef Mysteries and that's all I'll say for now.  However, Grace Wheaton, the main character in The Manor House Mysteries, is not someone I find myself  loving  unconditionally.  There's no ambivalence here - I truly do love Grace as well as the whole cast of characters - otherwise I wouldn't be a loyal follower of the series.  This is one of those series where the author includes positive gay characters in  her supporting cast in the series.  In this case it's Grace's roommates, Scott and Bruce.  There is an honestly deep love and respect in the household portrayed here, with unconditional friendship, affection and loyalty.  That alone, can win my loyalty to a series.   Yet, Grace can oftentimes frustrate me and part of my frustration is my frustration at being frustrated because I always keep wondering why  I am frustrated. I am happy to report that after reading this title and being put through the emotional ringer I finally pinpointed the source of my frustration: Grace needs a beau; it's time for her to get serious about someone.  I am a firm believer in and advocate for the "main-character-needs-a-main- squeeze" angle.  I think this is an essential component in the success of keeping one's audience in cozies.  Let's be honest, what makes a cozy a cozy, is employing that Dickensian device where the bad guys get their comeuppance in the end and the people who are in love (and who we want to be) - really do get together.  The "main-character-needs-a-main-squeeze" issue came up in the most recent title of another series I read and when I addressed that concern in this blog and in an e-mail I sent to the author, they assured me that this issue would be addressed in the next title.  I suspect that since the sub-mystery plot that has been tantalizing us all throughout The Manor House Mysteries has been solved, the groundwork has been laid for Grace's love life.  I just hope that the sister angle will be resolved in the next installment in such a way that it becomes a dead issue because I really wasn't happy about the sister turning up or the way she turned out and I never want to hear of her again.  Of course, only time will provide those answers when the next Manor House Mystery appears.  In the meantime, check out Julie Hyzy's website where you'll get all the information on her two wonderful series:

As always, I'd love to hear from all my fellow cozy addicts.  Should you wish to learn more about me, please visit my website:

Until the next cozy!