Thoughts on Christmas Cozies: FRUIT BASKETS AND HOLIDAY CASKETS • AN EGGNOG TO DIE FOR • TWELVE SLAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Fruit Baskets and Holiday Caskets (Down South Café Mystery, #5)FRUIT BASKETS AND HOLIDAY CASKETS by Gayle Leeson
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

It was fun to revisit the Down South Café at Christmastime. I’d read the first couple of books in the series a few years ago, and it’s good to see the gang still as charming and quirky as ever.

This time around, café owner Amy Flowers is trying to clear a friend’s name who’s suspected of murdering an employee. She’s also busy creating an enormous cake float and hundreds of cookies for the town’s Christmas parade.

While I thought Amy was clever with her investigation, I thought the mystery itself was just ok. I think it’s because a lot of it was telling and not showing, and the ending felt abrupt. However, the whole scene at the end of catching the killer was pretty cute!


An Eggnog to Die for (Cape Cod Foodie Mystery #2)AN EGGNOG TO DIE FOR by Amy Pershing
My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

AN EGGNOG TO DIE FOR is a smart and funny cozy mystery set in the small town of Fair Harbor on Cape Cod. Food writer Samantha Barnes finds the body of the man playing Santa for the town’s Christmas celebration while scoping out a new trendy local restaurant. But who would murder Saint Nick? Turns out the guy in the red suit may have been on the naughty list. With the help of her Harbormaster boyfriend Jason, Sam is determined to catch a killer.

Sam is a delightful character, clever in her investigations and so funny with her snarky comments. The mystery was puzzling with plenty of red herrings to keep me guessing. Each time I decided on a culprit, something changed my mind, and in the end I was completely wrong!

I loved meeting Sam’s parents (the ‘rents) and hearing about the family Christmas traditions. I’m not a big seafood fan, but Sam’s Feast of the Five Fishes sounded delicious!

This is the second book in the Cape Cod Foodie Mystery series, but it can easily be read standalone.


Twelve Slays of Christmas (Christmas Tree Farm Mystery, #1)TWELVE SLAYS OF CHRISTMAS by Jacqueline Frost
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

TWELVE SLAYS OF CHRISTMAS is a wonderful start to Jacqueline Frost’s Christmas Tree Farm Mystery series. When Holly White gets dumped by her fiancé two weeks before their wedding, she packs up her meager belongings and heads home to Mistletoe, Maine. With the holiday season in full swing, Holly offers to help out at her family’s tree farm.

Tragedy strikes when the president of the Mistletoe Historical Society is murdered on their property. Margaret Fenwick was a grump known for pressuring businesses to stick to stringent historical guidelines for the town or else, but did it make someone mad enough to kill?

This was a fast-paced and well written mystery with plenty of holiday cheer and a bit of romance. I loved the cold, snowy, cozy atmosphere of the book. Mistletoe felt like a real place. I enjoyed trying to fit all the pieces of the mystery into place. I was very shocked to discover the culprit, but it made total sense. Looking forward to continuing this series…next Christmas!

BECAUSE I COULD NOT STOP FOR DEATH by Amanda Flower

Series: An Emily Dickinson Mystery, #1
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publication Date: September 20, 2022
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★


This book is the first in a new historical mystery series with poet Emily Dickinson and her fictional maid Willa as main characters. Set during the politically turbulent time just prior to the Civil War, this mystery finds Emily and Willa investigating the death of Willa’s brother. Police say it was an accident, but Willa believes he was murdered, and Emily’s inquisitive nature leads them into an investigation of their own.

The book is well-researched and I enjoyed the historical details, though the mystery itself isn’t very strong or complex. I also felt like the characters were dry, and their dialogue was stiff and simplistic. The series has potential with such a haunting and curious character as Emily Dickinson, but this first book fell a bit flat for me.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

THE PLOT AND THE PENDULUM by Jenn McKinlay

Series: A Library Lover’s Mystery, #13
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: October 11, 2022
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★½


I greatly enjoyed this spooky literary cozy mystery! I’m new to the Library Lover’s series and was hesitant to jump in at the 13th book, but I’m glad I did. THE PLOT AND THE PENDULUM can easily be read as stand-alone, but it did make me very curious about the previous twelve.

In this one, library director Lindsey Norris is thrilled when a wealthy local family donates their extensive collection of rare books to the library. However, her visit to the creepy Dorchester estate to collect the books lands her in the middle of a “runaway bride” cold case from 1989.

I enjoyed meeting this cast of characters, with their funny moments mixed in with more serious scenes. The foreboding atmosphere was perfect for the mystery and setting. Readers in the mood for an eerie Halloween cozy should pick this one up!

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

STEEPED TO DEATH by Gretchen Rue

Series: Witches’ Brew Mystery, #1
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: September 6, 2022
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★¼


This was an enchanting start to a new mystery series! Main character Phoebe Winchester has just inherited a spooky gothic mansion and cozy tea/bookshop from her Aunt Eudora in Raven Creek, Washington. Yep, I spent a good portion of the book trying to figure out a way to jump inside. My dream! The descriptions of the brews and baked goods were to die for.

The mystery comes into play when a deceased man is found outside Phoebe’s store, possibly murdered as he was trying to break in. What was he after, and who wanted him dead? Phoebe also discovers that Eudora was a witch (that tidbit wasn’t just a town rumor!), and she may have inherited more than just an estate from her dear aunt.

This was an enjoyable read with a little magic, romance, and a solid mystery element. Plus a delightful cat named Bob! I can’t wait for the next book. If you love witchy/paranormal cozies be sure to pick this one up.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

SMILE BEACH MURDER by Alicia Bessette

From author Alicia Bessette comes an all-new mystery series featuring Callie Padget, a former reporter turned bookshop clerk in the Outer Banks who is pulled into a deadly web of secrets when a mysterious fall at a lighthouse echoes a tragedy from her past.

When Callie is laid off from her reporting job, she returns to her hometown of Cattail Island and lands a gig at the local bookstore — the same one where she found comfort after her mother died.

In fact, the anniversary of her mother’s infamous death is approaching. Years ago, Teri Padget tumbled from the top of the lighthouse. As islanders are once again gossiping about the tragedy, devastating news strikes: the lighthouse has claimed another victim. Eva Meeks, of Meeks Hardware.

The police are calling it suicide, but Callie does not believe Eva jumped any more than she believes her mother did — especially because Callie knows that before her death, Eva had dug up a long-forgotten treasure hunt that could have put a target on Eva’s back.

In Callie’s search for answers, she enlists the help of some beloved books and several new friends, including the handsome local martial arts instructor, Toby Dodge. But when another death rocks Cattail Island, Callie must face her fears alone. As she earns enemies in pursuit of the truth, Callie knows she will either uncover the killer or become a victim herself.

Series: An Outer Banks Bookshop Mystery, #1
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: May 10, 2022
Source: Review copy from NetGalley

Set on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, SMILE BEACH MURDER is the perfect cozy mystery for summer reading. After being laid off from her job as a reporter, Callie Padget heads home to Cattail Island to live with her uncle and work at the local bookshop until she decides what to do next. When a family friend dies under suspicious circumstances, similarly to her mother’s death years before, Callie uses her investigative skills to search for the truth.

The striking cover drew me in, but the intriguing mystery, complete with a treasure hunt, had me hooked. Callie is a smart, compassionate, and clever main character, though some of her risky choices had me gritting my teeth! I enjoyed getting to know her family and friends, and there’s definitely a strong sense of community. Her budding romance with Toby Dodge was a fun addition to the story. This book is a wonderful start to a new series, and I’m looking forward to returning to Cattail Island soon.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review.