Cate Conte: Christmas Traditions

Author Cate Conte/Liz Mugavero joins us with this nostalgic look at Christmases of her childhood and Christmas as it appears in her Cat Cafe books.  Time to get in the holiday spirit…A Whisker of a Doubt will be published on December 1st.

Christmas, to many people, means the most wonderful time of the year. (Note: in my view Halloween takes that award, but I’ve always been a bit off-the-beaten-path…)

Regardless, I understand the appeal and I do love Christmas myself. Growing up, my family always made sure we had the best holiday season, full of traditions, family, and yes, gifts galore. I was very blessed. read more

Cozy round up 2020

“Cozies certainly provide solace from many of the dark edges of the actual world.” — Edith Maxwell in Mystery Scene

I read a lot, and I read lots of cozies, partly thanks to my column in Mystery Scene.  There I am restricted to reviewing mass market paperback originals, and I am generously showered with advance reading copies.  I sort through them by reading the premise and a bit of the beginning.  If the writing doesn’t hit me quite right, I skip that one, and check out another one.  And while I certainly read many, many cozies, I am in no way claiming to have read even a comprehensive number of the books in this sub genre published this year.  For that kind of scope, I highly recommend checking out Dru’s Book Musings, which is a comprehensive review blog of all things cozy.  In addition, Dru has guest posts from authors and publishes a guide to what’s coming out, sometimes weekly. read more

Best of 2019

I couldn’t keep it to 10 this year – can I ever?  My taste does tend toward the traditional and historical fiction side of things, so that’s mostly reflected here.  And a note: Kent Krueger’s This Tender Land, while not strictly a mystery, can definitely be enjoyed by his mystery loving fans.  Quite simply, it’s the best book of 2019 of any variety, and I hope everyone reads it.  I am looking to read it again myself.

There was lots to love this year!  Some long-awaited returns (S.J. Rozan), some debuts (Melanie Golding, Allison Montclair, Jess Montgomery), some trying a different format or series (Ann Cleeves, Elly Griffiths), and of course some solid entries in already great series (Benn, Bowen, Jones, Massey, Shaber). Lots of great, passionate, spectacular writing.  I love being a mystery reader! read more

Our Eleven Favorite Christmas Mysteries

Duck the Halls, Donna Andrews (2013). Skunks loose in the choir loft a few days before Christmas, a missing boa constrictor – do I need to say more?  Donna Andrews at her witty best, which is saying a LOT.

The 12 Clues of Christmas, Rhys Bowen (2012).  The body count is high as Lady Georgie hosts a holiday party in tiny Tiddleton-under-Lovey. While Bowen herself denies any resemblance to And Then There Were None, there are really far fewer people in Tiddleton by the end of the book than there were at the beginning – and the deaths are so creative! Delightfully, Bowen includes a guide of English Christmas traditions at the end. read more

Best of 2018

Black and White Ball, Loren D. Estleman, Deep into a now 80 book and counting career, and 27 in to his iconic Amos Walker series, what is Loren Estleman going to come up with that might be new? You might be surprised. In this novel Walker crosses paths with one of Estleman’s other characters, Peter Macklin, who hires Walker to look after his ex-wife. The meet up of these two classic characters delivers true energy and snap to this tight, well written novel. Paced perfectly, set in a gritty yet realistic Detroit, and sporting the truly lovely prose and incredible dialogue that are an Estleman trademark, this is a great addition to a classic series by the greatest private eye writer at work at the moment. read more

Best of 2017

As always I read so many great books, it was hard to choose just 10 (so I chose 11!). In their own category are William Kent Krueger and Louise Penny, both of whom write such consistently wonderful novels I started to feel they were beyond the top 10 list! Never the less both writers turned in beautiful books this year – Krueger’s Sulfur Springs takes Cork to Arizona on the hunt for his new wife’s son in a great novel that also takes a look at immigration issues and the border wall; Penny’s Glass Houses, also typically excellent, finds Gamache back as head of the Surete and investigating matters of conscience as well as a look at the drug problems rife in Western society at the moment (adding to a number of novels I read this year addressing the drug crisis). Both of these writers, with their beloved characters, gorgeous prose, and timely themes only continue to get better. But on to the list, which includes new writers as well as old friends. Happy reading! read more

Best of 2016

Every year’s reading journey (I read 2 or 3 books a week) has me looking out for my favorites, and finding them is like a treasure hunt. As always there are returning names to this list along with some new ones, and a great array of reading for everyone. Each of these books has something excellent and unforgettable about it and deserves to be read. All of these titles—as well as our “extra” featured titles—are offered at a 15% discount for the month of December.

You Will Know Me, Megan Abbott read more

Best of 2015

What makes a book a Top 10 read for me (or this year, a Top 12)? In some cases it’s perfection of a form – a perfect thriller, say, like Hank Phillippi Ryan’s or Ruth Ware’s; or a perfect character, like the one in Tasha Alexander’s new book; or the vivid depiction of an experience unfamiliar to me – being stuck in a mineshaft in Julia Keller’s novel or being a Vietnamese refugee in Vu Tran’s remarkable debut or being a bookseller in 17th century London, as depicted by Susanna Calkins. Sometimes it’s hitting the right comic note perfectly, as Judith Flanders does; or finding a new way to tell a suspense story, as David Bell and PJ Parrish do so well; or ripping a story from the headlines in a resonant way, as Allison Leotta and Michael Harvey do. And finally, there’s just flat out perfect, as in the case of Sharon Bolton’s stand alone. All in all, some terrific reading this year, and Jamie & I had a hard time winnowing down the titles. These titles and our bonus holiday recommendation are 15% off for the month of December. read more

Best Of 2014

As is often the case, we couldn’t actually keep this to 10 titles, instead offering 12 with one of the titles, Chevy Stevens’ That Night, being a favorite of both of ours (and our son’s). Lots of vivid, beautiful storytelling and great reading this year; I was going for an all female list but darn it if Michael Koryta and Jeff Cohen didn’t write such great books they had to be included. There are some new authors to the list – Malla Nunn, Jeff Cohen, Jenny Milchman, Chevy Stevens, and Lauren Willig – as well as the return of some favorites. Enjoy your reading journey wherever your taste may take you. As always these titles are 15% off for the month of December. read more

Best Of 2013

This year, I separated my choices into categories – there are some returning favorites, a book that stood out as an instant classic, some great sophomore efforts, and some new authors to the list. I couldn’t keep myself to 10 – there are a lucky 13 titles here.  All in all, a great year for reading.  I’ve also included picks from readers.  As always, these titles are 15% off for the month.  (Please contact us in order to receive the discount.)  Happy reading – here’s to some great reads in 2014! read more