May 2023 Wrap Up

May was a great reading month. I read some wonderful cozy mysteries and graphic novels. I can’t believe that I only started reading graphic novels a few months ago. I missed out on some great books as a child.

Follow me on Instagram @fariba_reads for pictures of the books I’m loving and the jigsaw puzzles I’m completing.

Cozy Mysteries, Paranormal

A Skeleton in the Family (Family Skeleton Book 1) by Leigh Perry

A Skeleton in the Family was the first paranormal cozy I’ve ever read, and since finishing it, I’ve read book 2. I plan to read all the books in the series in quick succession. Sid is such a lovable character!


Georgia Thackery, adjunct professor and single mom, has a best friend named Sid. But Sid is no ordinary friend. He’s an animated skeleton! Georgia met Sid at a fair when she was 6 years old. He helped save her life. Everyone in Georgia’s family knows of Sid’s existence, except Georgia’s 14-year-old daughter Madison. Sid usually hides from Madison in the attic.

In book 1, Sid encounters a professor whom he thinks had something to do with his death. But when Sid and Georgia break into the professor’s home to investigate, they find her dead body. Could that woman have murdered Sid? Based on an examination of Sid’s bones, an anthropology graduate student confirms that the skeleton belonged to a 20-something university student who met his demise at the hands of a killer.


There are so many wonderful characters in this series: Georgia, Madison, Georgia’s adjunct colleague and friend Charles, and of course Sid. I was very impressed by Madison’s maturity. She is a very well-behaved, but quirky, teenager. I also appreciated Leigh Perry’s depiction of adjunct life. Although adjunct professors are often some of the best instructors, they are also the most exploited in academia.

The star of the show is obviously Sid. He was clearly a nerd in life because he loves research. There’s something so endearing about his demeanor. Georgia and Sid make a great sleuthing duo.

My only criticism has to do with the mystery. While I enjoyed the investigation, I was unsatisfied by the reveal. The killer was barely mentioned in the novel. Thankfully, book 2 had a more satisfying mystery.

Cooking/Baking, Cozy Mysteries

Assaulted Caramel (Amish Candy Shop Book 1) by Amanda Flower


Shortly before being named Jean Pierre’s successor as the head of JP Chocolates in New York, Bailey King is called back to Harvest, Ohio to care for her Amish grandfather and help run his candy shop Swissmen Sweets. Although Bailey only planned to stay in Harvest for a week, Bailey discovers that her grandfather’s health is rapidly deteriorating. To make matters worse, Bailey trips over the dead body of an Englisch developer, whom Bailey’s grandfather Jebediah King had turned away earlier that day. When the police name Jebediah as the primary suspect in the developer’s murder, Bailey opts to put her career ambitions on hold in order help clear her grandfather’s name.


Amanda Flower writes characters very well. My “favorite” was the demanding woman who hired Bailey to make chocolates for her daughter’s wedding on very short notice. She’s one of the most despicable characters I’ve ever encountered in a cozy. I couldn’t believe what she asked of Bailey. However, this woman’s aggressiveness was offset by a very lovable potbellied pig.

The Amish community was also described with great cultural sensitivity and few clichés. Unlike some romance or mystery authors, Amanda Flower avoids romanticizing the Amish way-of-life. The Amish men and women whom Bailey meets are sincere in their beliefs, but they are not without their flaws. They love to gossip and find ways to get around the most restricting Amish rules. My favorite work-around was the Amish taxi. Since the Amish are not allowed to drive cars, they apparently hire Englisch drivers to take them around.

This is a fantastic story with a twisty mystery.

Unfortunately, this book was also riddled with grammar issues and typos. Assaulted Caramel was victim to a trend that I have noticed in cozy mysteries put out by large publishing houses. The books are very poorly edited. It’s a shame. Traditional authors deserve better from their publishers. I hope that book 2 will have fewer typos.


Three Mini Reviews | The Secrets of Hartwood Hall, Framed in Lace, A Time to Swill

I’m behind on my reviews, so I’m posting three mini reviews today. The first two books are cozy mysteries, while the third is a standard historical mystery.

1. Framed in Lace (Needlecraft Mystery #2) by Monica Ferris

I love this series. Book 1 (Crewel World) will probably be one my favorite reads of 2023. I reviewed it last month.

In book 2 (Framed in Lace), Betsy Devonshire, the owner of Crewel World, investigates a skeleton found on a historic ferry called the Hopkins. This ferry had been sunk in Lake Minnetonka half a century before, while many of Betsy’s friends were young women. With the help of a local anthropologist, the police determine that the skeleton is the remains of a woman who ran off with the husband of a local needlecraft enthusiast named Martha. Betsy’s friends are adamant that Martha did not kill her husband’s girlfriend. But when Martha’s long-lost husband is also found dead in a local hotel, even Betsy is concerned that Monica is not who she thinks she is.

Once again, this book gave me the urge to try my hand at counted cross stitch. I really liked that needlepoint was an inherent component of this mystery. Betsy and her friends’ expertise helps the police identify the culprit. Monica Ferris excels at writing settings and characters. I can always visualize what goes on in her books. Framed in Lace kept me interested from start to finish, and I was satisfied by the reveal. Although it was not as strong as book 1, this was a wonderful mystery and I would recommend it to cozy enthusiasts. I am especially happy that the author did not spoil the mystery of the first book.

2. A Time to Swill (Chloe Jackson, Sea Glass Saloon Mystery #2) by Sherry Harris

This is a solid series. I reviewed Book 1 (From Beer to Eternity) recently.

It’s funny how similar A Time to Swill is to Framed in Lace. Both books deal with the discovery of a skeleton on a boat.

While searching for the source of a mysterious sound on an abandoned boat, Chloe Jackson finds a living cat and a skeleton. The police determine that the skeleton is the remains of Ralph’s wife who disappeared twelve years before with three other friends. Since Ralph remarried shortly after his wife’s disappearance, he is the police’s number one suspect. Chloe, however, has her doubts. When she’s not pouring drinks at the Sea Glass Saloon, she interrogates the owners of the heritage businesses in Emerald Cove.

A Time to Swill also contains a secondary mystery that concerns Chloe even more than the mysterious death of Ralph’s wife. The father of Chloe’s deceased friend Boone suddenly shows up to the Sea Glass Saloon and informs Vivi and Chloe that he is the rightful inheritor of Boone’s share of the bar. Apparently, Boone changed his will shortly before his death. Chloe is unconvinced. Boone would never give his share of the bar to his deadbeat father.

I enjoyed listening to this book on audio. The secondary mystery concerning Chloe’s share of the bar was the most interesting part. I wanted to know what really went down between Boone and his father. The primary mystery was less compelling because Chloe did not identify the killer. She got a lot of help from a character we meet in the first book. I prefer mysteries in which the amateur sleuth brings the killer to justice.

While this series is not a favorite, I enjoy returning to Emerald Cove with Chloe.

3. The Secrets of Hartwood Hall by Katie Lumsden

Although I know Katie Lumsden from her YouTube channel Books & Things, we are not good friends. You can trust that my review is unbiased.

The Secrets of Hartwood Hall is a Victorian-era historical mystery about a recently widowed governess named Margaret Lennox. When Margaret moves to Hartwood Hall to serve as a governess to a young boy named Louis, she discovers that the house contains many secrets. Louis’s mother tells Margaret that the boy is never allowed to leave the grounds of the estate, and a maid in the manor claims to see ghosts. Margaret also has her own secrets—secrets that would ruin her chances of a new life if they were to go public.

Katie Lumsden is a very good writer. The prose flowed so well that I flew through the 400+ page book. This is a quiet mystery that delves into the characters of Margaret, Louis, and his mother Mrs. Eversham. I really liked what Katie did with the the story of Jane Eyre. Without giving away any spoilers, I will say that The Secrets of Hartwood Hall is a wonderful homage to and a modern take on the classic. It was a perfect blend of Victorian gothic and modern feminism. If you enjoy mysteries in which the setting is a character in its own right, I definitely think you will like The Secrets of Hartwood Hall. The ending made me think that this is a first-in-series. I can’t wait to read anything else Katie writes. Although this is not a cozy mystery, the sex scenes are not very detailed.

2023, Reading Challenges

15 Books of Summer 2023 (All Cozy Mysteries)

20 Books of Summer is hosted by Cathy at 746 Books. The challenge runs from Thursday, June 1 until Friday, September 1. Here is the link to the challenge and sign-up page.

The following are the 15 books I plan to read. I’ve chosen 15 instead of 20 books because 15 is already overly ambitious. My list includes a good mix of traditional and self-published books:

  1. Clammed Up (Maine Clambake #1) by Barbara Ross
  2. Live and Let Chai (Seaside Café #1) by Bree Baker
  3. Still Life (Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #1) by Louise Penny
  4. The Novice’s Tale (Sister Frevisse #1) by Margaret Frazer
  5. The Wonderland Murders (Cozy Craft #1) by Millie Ravensworth
  6. Curse the Day (Spellbound #1) by Annabel Chase
  7. Crocodile on the Sandbank (Amelia Peabody #1) by Elizabeth Peters
  8. On What Grounds (Coffeehouse Mystery #1) by Cleo Coyle
  9. Flipped for Murder (Country Store #1) by Maddie Day
  10. Littered With Trouble (Whiskers and Words #1) by Eryn Scott
  11. Berried Secrets (Cranberry Cove #1) by Peg Cochran
  12. Fowl Murder (Kenya Kanga #1) by Victoria Tait
  13. Here Today, Scone Tomorrow (Baker’s Rise #1) by R.A. Hutchins
  14. Killer Jam (Dewberry Farm #1) by Karen MacInerny
  15. Chaos in Little Leaf Creek (Little Leaf Creak #1) by Cindy Bell

Have you read any of these?


Too Many Typos in Traditionally-Published Cozy Mysteries

I can’t be the only reader whose noticed that so many traditionally-published cozy mysteries are riddled with typos. I’m reading one now. Every few pages, I find a sentence with a missing word. I’m particularly disappointed by the poor editing because the story is very good. I love the small town and endearing characters. Why didn’t the proofreader do his/her job?

This is all too common. Last year, I read a traditionally-published cozy that contained several typos on each page! Every couple minutes, I alerted my husband to yet another missing word or misspelling.

I am particularly troubled by the lack of editing because traditional presses promise their authors a well-edited book. Authors receive a very small royalty because book sales have to be split among a team of editors, designers, and marketers. Every time I come across a typo-riddled cozy, I feel outrage for the author.

I have a few theories as to why there are so many poorly-edited cozy mysteries:

  1. The editors are over-worked and have no time to edit every book they’ve been assigned.
  2. Publishers know that cozy mystery readers are voracious and therefore assume that they have low standards. Since romance readers are equally voracious, I’m curious whether traditionally-published romances are also riddled with typos.
  3. Publishers think they can get away with poorly-edited books because a growing number of cozy mystery readers listen to audiobooks and therefore won’t notice typos.

Do any of these theories ring true? Why do you think that typos are so common in cozy mysteries?

No longer can traditional mystery publishers claim that their books are better edited than self-published books.

Detective Fiction, Golden Age Detective

Murder in the Mews: Four Cases of Hercule Poirot by Agatha Christie

I read this short story collection for two challenges.

1) Classics Club Spin. This was my pick for the spin, and I was tasked with reading it by April 30. Check ☑️

2) My personal Hercule Poirot series challenge. Check ☑️

Since Murder in the Mews is a collection of 4 stories, I will rate each story separately.

Story 1: Murder in the Mews

Synopsis: Hercule Poirot is summoned when a woman named Mrs. Allen is found dead in a locked room. The investigators determine that this can’t have been a suicide because the deceased was found holding a gun in her right hand but the bullet hole was in the left side of her head. She would have to have been a contortionist to pull off such a suicide. Mrs. Allen’s roommate Miss Plenderleith tells Poirot that a man named Eustace had visited the house shortly before the murder. But is is Eustace the murderer?

Thoughts: This was a solid mystery with some compelling red herrings and an interesting conclusion. I picked up on the important clues but was unable to guess the ending.

Story 2: The Incredible Theft

Synopsis: When politician Lord Mayfield and Air Marshall Sir George Carrington discover that a top-secret document has disappeared, George summons Hercule Poirot to find the thief. Lord Mayfield tells Poirot that he saw the shadow of a person cross into his office shortly before the discovery of the theft. George Carrington, however, insists that he never saw a shadow. Lord Mayfield’s secretary tells Poirot that he could not have stolen the document because he was not in the office at the time of the theft. He had left the office to seek out the source of a high pitched scream.

Thoughts: Although some reviewers have complained that the story was too long, I enjoyed following Poirot’s meticulous investigation. This was also the funniest story in the collection. In one scene, Poirot impersonates a maid who has apparently seen a ghost. The small Belgian with the enormous mustache has a sly sense of humor that never fails to get me. While I guessed the culprit correctly, I did not identify the motive.

Story 3: Dead Man’s Mirror

Synopsis: At the start of the story, Hercule Poirot receives a mysterious letter from a man named Gervase Chenevix-Gore claiming to be a victim of fraud. But when Poirot arrives at Gervase’s house, the host is nowhere to be found. Gervase missed not only the first but also the second dinner bell. The other guests find Gervase’s disappearance strange because he is apparently fastidious about his meals. He generally arrives half and hour before dinner so as not to disrespect the cook. When the guests break down the door to Gervase’s office, they find their host dead in an apparent suicide. But was it a suicide?

Thoughts: I found it hard to keep track of all the characters in this mystery. There are too many people at Gervase’s mansion and of course, Poirot has to interview them all. Since I never got to know any of the characters well enough to truly suspect them, I found the reveal pretty underwhelming. This is the kind of story that would have worked better as a full-length novel.

Story 4: Triangle at Rhodes

Synopsis: On vacation at Rhodes, Hercule Poirot meets a group of eccentric characters. While two women sunbathe at the beach, a famous socialite named Valentine Chantry flirts with a married man. Valentine, who has been married several times before, is currently married to a man named Tony Chantry. However, Poirot sees her spending a startling amount of time with Douglas Cameron-Gold, who is married to a woman named Marjorie. Poirot is right to suspect that the love triangle between Valentine, Tony, and Douglas is a train wreck waiting to happen.

Thoughts: This is one of those Agatha Christie mysteries that plays with the notion of appearance vs. reality. Valentine’s love triangle is not what it seems. Although I wish that the story had been longer, I liked how it played with the reader’s expectation. Certain details (though not the mystery) also reminded me of Death on the Nile.

So, my rating for the entire collection is 3.5 moose! Not as good as Christie’s novels but still a lot of fun.

Cozy Mysteries, Craft (Sewing/Quilting..)

Crewel World by Monica Ferris

When Betsy’s sister is murdered in her own needlecraft store, Betsy takes over the shop and the investigation. But to find the murderer, she’ll have to put together a list of motives and suspects to figure out this killer’s pattern of crime.


When Betsy moves to Excelsior, Minnesota (a real place) to live with her sister Margot for a few months, she finds it hard to adjust to a small town. Betsy is nothing like Margot. Whereas Betsy is unconventional, her sister toes the line of propriety. In addition to being the owner of a needlecraft store called Crewel World, Margot volunteers for several charitable causes in Excelsior. Although Betsy knows nothing about needlepoint, she agrees to help Margot in the store until she get back on her feet.

Unfortunately, Betsy is forced to change her plans when Margot is found dead in her own store. While police deem the murder a burglary gone wrong, Betsy insists that the killer knew Margot personally and had a connection to Crewel World.


I loved everything about this novel: the characters, the Excelsior setting, and the focus on needlecraft. I enjoyed following Betsy’s journey as she learned how to manage Crewel World. Monica Ferris’s enthusiasm for needlecraft came through in this novel. It made me want to buy a cross stitching kit for beginners.

Betsy is surrounded by interesting secondary characters. There’s a woman named Irene who has zero people skills but wants to take over Crewel World. Margot’s landlord Joe is equally unsavory. He has repeatedly tried to evict Margot so that he might replace her shop with the first high rise in Excelsior. However, not all the secondary characters are odious. There’s a police officer named Jill who offers much support and advice to Betsy in her time of need. If you like cozy mysteries with a great cast of characters, you should definitely read Crewel World.

The mystery was also so satisfying. I really liked that Betsy discovered the killer before the big reveal instead of stumbling upon the killer. She used her ingenuity to make connections between the clues.

After finishing Crewel World, I immediately borrowed an audiobook of its sequel Framed in Lace.

Btw, did you know that Monica Ferris also published historical mysteries as Margaret Frazer? I have a copy of The Novice’s Tale on my physical TBR and look forward to picking it up soon.

CW: Because this book was published in 1999, there are a few outdated attitudes expressed in the novel. For example, there were some brief instances of fatphobia, and at one point an intellectually disabled man is described using the “R” word (though not with derogatory intention). On the other hand, Betsy has a gay employee who is portrayed quite positively.

Cozy Mysteries, Farm/Orchard

Town in a Blueberry Jam (Candy Holliday Mystery Book 1) by B.B. Haywood

In the seaside village of Cape Willington, Maine, Candy Holliday has an idyllic life tending to the Blueberry Acres farm she runs with her father. But, when an aging playboy and the newly crowned Blueberry Queen are killed, Candy investigates to clear the name of a local handyman. 


After her divorce, Candy Holliday moves back to Cape Willington, Maine to live with her father Doc, a former professor turned blueberry farmer. At the start of the novel, Candy prepares to sell her blueberry pies at the annual blueberry festival. Candy’s friend Maggie has a daughter who is also participating, but in the pageant.

Unfortunately, a dark cloud hangs over this year’s festival. First, the famous athlete Jock Larson is pushed off a cliff to his death. Then, at the festival, the town’s gossip columnist Sapphire Vine wins the blueberry pageant over a clearly superior contestant. These two tragedies—Jock Larson’s death and Sapphire Vine’s upset victory—are followed by a third: Sapphire’s murder. Police determine that Sapphire was hit over the head with a hammer belonging to the town’s handyman, and Candy’s friend, Ray. Since Candy knows that Ray wouldn’t hurt a fly, she decides to conduct her own investigation.


Despite the book’s title, Town in a Blueberry Jam is not really about blueberries. Doc and Candy’s farm is only briefly mentioned, and we rarely get to see Candy prepare pies and jams. However, the outrageously quirky characters make up for the lack of farming in this novel. My favorite characters were Candy’s friend Maggie and the German baker Herr Georg. They are wonderful people and supportive friends to Candy.

Sapphire is one of the most unpleasant victims I’ve ever encountered in a cozy mystery. The audiobook narrator gave her such an irritating valley girl voice that I couldn’t contain my laughter. That voice suited her personality perfectly.

I enjoyed following Candy’s twisty investigation. There were several points in the story when I thought I knew who the killer was, only to learn that I had been misled. Yet, the mystery wasn’t overly complicated. Each dead end brought Candy closer to the real killer.

I just wish it been shorter. Cozy mysteries are not usually over 300 pages. The overly-descriptive prose also didn’t help. I hope that book 2 is more concise.

That said, I look forward to trying book 2: Town in a Lobster Stew. If book 1 is any indication, it probably won’t have much to do with lobster stew. However, the characters will be endearing and the mystery suspenseful, and that’s what I look for in a cozy.