The Books I Read in December 2020

In December I was at home a lot and had two weeks of vacation. That gave me a lot of reading time. So I finished 10 books. Funnily enough all of them are cozy mysteries. Why not, I love this genre and they felt fun and easy on the first cold days of the season. I also started a few other books, but will finish them in the new year. Next week I’ll also publish a summary of all the books I read in 2020 – quite a few actually.

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I read two more volumes of Claire’s Candles and liked them a lot. Claire is a very sympathetic character – she is so normal, suffers from living with her parents (again), but she is also strong and has started to follow her dreams. Her little town somewhere in England sounds quaint, although corpses regularly turn up. With the help of her friends and family Claire always investigates.

Agatha Frost: Coconut Milk Casualty (Claire’s Candles #3) – With the renovations complete, candles poured, and shelves stocked, Claire Harris is ready to stand behind the counter of Claire’s Candles and take her place as Northash’s newest shopkeeper. That is, until a menacing message spray-painted across the front of her candle shop on the evening before the grand opening douses the light of all her enthusiasm and hard work. When spray paint escalates to murder, and all the evidence points to Claire’s Uncle Pat pulling strings from behind his prison walls, Claire and her family can no longer keep their heads in the sand. Their monster in the basement isn’t content to remain ignored, and the longer they go without facing it, the more strained all their relationships become. And that’s before Claire discovers the connections between the old friendships, deep-rooted rivalries, and clandestine casinos that keep upping the ante and complicating the crime.

Agatha Frost: Rose Petal Revenge (Claire’s Candles #4) – When a group of sci-fi fans visit the village for a nearby convention, candle shop owner, Claire Harris, is pulled into yet another murder mystery!
Book 4 in the Claire’s Candles Cozy Mystery series! A light, cozy mystery with a candle-loving British amateur female sleuth, in a small village setting with quirky characters. Written in British English. No cliffhanger, swearing, gore or graphic scenes! Contains mild peril.

Agatha Frost: The Agatha Frost Winter Anthology: 5 Festive Cozy Mystery Short Stories – 5 BRAND NEW festive cozy mystery short stories! Featuring characters from the BESTSELLING Peridale Cafe and Claire’s Candles series! Perfect for Agatha Frost fans, and a great jumping in point for new readers alike!

This was just a cute little extra – 5 short stories with characters from Frost’s best cozy mystery series. In the spirit of Christmas, there were mysteries to solve, but they weren’t murders. It made a fun read while I am waiting for the author to publish new novels.

I love the Hex Files. Such a great series. In December I read the final two volumes. They were super thrilling and I didn’t see the end coming at all. Dani remains her independent self, who talks to her furniture and cares a lot for her family and friends. But she also really wants to get to the bottom of the Hex Files that are threatening the whole Sixth Borough of New York City. I love the mix of fantasy, real world and all the mysteries.

Gina LaManna: Wicked Twist of Fate (The Hex Files: Mysteries from the Sixth Borough #6) – The end is near. Detective Danielle DeMarco is challenged with her most intense case yet, and along with it, she inherits a host of personal problems. When a sorcerer is found dead in The Emporium, a spell shop brimming with magical potions, elixirs, and tinctures, Dani and her new tagalong, Primrose, are on the case.
However, work turns personal when someone close to Dani is poisoned. To make matters worse, another of Detective DeMarco’s closest friends vanishes, her boyfriend is hiding something, and there is a new threat to the borough more dangerous than any in history.
For Dani, it’s no longer about simply wrapping up any single case. If she doesn’t find out what’s going on behind the scenes—and fast—there will be no more Wicked to defend.

Gina LaManna: Wicked Ever After (The Hex Files: Mysteries from the Sixth Borough #7) – In this dramatic conclusion to The Hex Files series, Dani DeMarco comes face to face with the person she’s been hunting for months. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and Detective DeMarco has lost almost everything. But only one can win at this deadly game.
Dani is determined this will be the wicked end—one way or another.

Chelsea Thomas: Apple Die (Apple Orchard Cozy Mystery #1) – An Apple a Day Can’t Keep the Murder Away. Chelsea Thomas is just getting settled into life back in her hometown of Pine Grove, New York, when a sled race at the annual festival turns deadly. Chelsea doesn’t want to be involved in another murder investigation, and neither does her aunt, Miss May. But everybody in town had a motive in this case, including Miss May’s friend, town lawyer Tom Gigley. So Chelsea and Miss May start hunting down clues with their trusty sidekick Teeny, learning some dark secrets and strange twists along the way.

After reading the 11th volume of the series (see below), I actually started to read the series from the beginning. It was fun to read how the series began and Chelsea, with her aunt and friend, investigated their first murder case.

Chelsea Thomas: Dropping Like Pies (Apple Orchard Cozy Mystery #11) – Yes, someone drops a pie. And clues are dropped like breadcrumbs through the small town of Pine Grove. Lucky for everyone, Miss May is a former lawyer with a finely tuned ear for truth. May knows that truth reveals all. And she pursues justice at all costs. May’s best friend Teeny is a chihuahua who thinks she’s a pit bull. The lady has lots of bark. Plenty of bite. And somehow she survives on a diet of cake and sprinkles. Chelsea is the quiet weirdo. Every crew has one. But Chelsea has more suitors than she can handle. There’s a hunky detective. And an eccentric boyfriend. They’re both cute, in different ways, and they both want the best for Chelsea. But all she wants is to solve this murder! Who was buried on the orchard? Why were they killed? And what are our girls going to do about it?

After body parts have been found in their apple orchard, Chelsea and Miss May want to find the murderer. Especially in consideration of the rude and not highly competent local police. The detective trio is complete with their friend Teeny. They think the missing person must be the basketball coach who won three championships. At first it seems unlikely that anyone would have killed the popular and successful coach. But the three quickly find out that he had made a lot of enemies. Like former students that expelled from his team, other coaches, the English teacher he constantly bullied, and many more. Chelsea, Miss May and Teeny feel they investigation is also a race against time as an early blizzard is approaching and the murderer is still roaming free …
I hadn’t read any other novels from the “Apple Orchard Cozy Mystery Series” before. But even though this is the 11th book, I didn’t have any problems finding into the story.
“Dropping Like Pies” has everything a great cozy mystery needs: sympathetic characters with a few quirks, pets, a possible love story, and of course a murder case that seems almost insolvable. I highly enjoyed that the three amateur detectives pursued several leads and that it only becomes obvious towards the very end who the actual murderer is. The story with all its details is narrated in a convincing way that all other suspects could have killed the coach.
Having read this novel makes me actually want to read the whole series.
I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.

Joanne Fluke: Christmas Cupcake Murder (Hannah Swensen #26) – While Hannah speeds through a lengthy holiday checklist, drama in town grows like Santa’s waistline on Christmas Eve. Her sister Andrea wants to stave off the blues by helping out at The Cookie Jar, Michele’s love life is becoming complicated, Lisa needs Hannah’s advice, and Delores has a Christmas secret she’s not willing to share. But nothing dampens the holiday mood more than the chilling mystery surrounding the man found near death in an abandoned storefront two doors down from Hannah’s bakery . . .
The befuddled John Doe can’t recall a thing about himself—except for his unusual knowledge of restoring antique furniture. With a smattering of clues and barely enough time to frost Christmas cookies, Hannah must solve a deadly puzzle that could leave her dashing through the snow for her life!

I used to love the Hannah Swensen series – these books were even the one that started me on reading cozy mysteries. But sadly recent volumes haven’t been good in my mind. This is another example for this, unfortunately. The story is thin and almost not about the crime at all. Besides, it doesn’t make sense to me that the author once more jumped several years back in the time line. I think I maybe read the next book and then decide if I cut the series from my list.

Maddie Day: Murder on Cape Cod (Cozy Capers Book Group Mystery #1) – Summer is busy season for Mackenzie “Mac” Almeida’s bicycle shop, nestled in the quaint, seaside hamlet of Westham, Massachusetts. She’s expecting an influx of tourists at Mac’s Bikes; instead she discovers the body of Jake Lacey. Mac can’t imagine anyone stabbing the down-on-his-luck handyman. However, the authorities seem to think Mac is a strong suspect after she was spotted arguing with Jake just hours before his death. Mac knows she didn’t do it, but she does recognize the weapon–her brother Derrick’s fishing knife.
Mac’s only experience with murder investigations is limited to the cozy mysteries she reads with her local book group, the Cozy Capers. So to clear her name–and maybe her brother’s too–Mac will have to summon help from her Cozy Capers co-investigators and a library’s worth of detectives’ tips and tricks. For a small town, Westham is teeming with possible killers, and this is one mystery where Mac is hoping for anything but a surprise ending…

I quite like Cape Cod and enjoyed reading about a murder case there. This novel introduces Mac, her friends and family, and is a great start into a new book series. I really enjoyed that there were enough clues about several suspects that I couldn’t guess the murderer until the end. The only thing that didn’t make as much sense to me is that Mac doesn’t only meet with the Cozy Capers, but that every now and then other cozy mystery books are mentioned. I don’t see that it adds any value. But luckily those moments are rare.

Lily Harper Hart: Witch Is the New Black (Supernatural Speakeasy #4) – Ofelia Archer has faced demons, evil witches, and freaky zombies, but nothing could prepare her for the horror of meeting her boyfriend’s mother, Madeline Sully. She thinks she’s ready and able, but she’s really not. For his part, Zacharias “Zach” Sully isn’t any more thrilled by his mother’s visit than his girlfriend. He’s simply better at dealing with Madeline’s brand of madness.
After one meal, a magical barrage of fire rains down on the group as they’re walking down Bourbon Street. When the flames clear, a young woman is left for dead, and the only thing they know about her is that she was part of a multi-level marketing scheme called Hexential Oils. Before they realize what’s happening, Sully and Ofelia find themselves knee-deep in an odd world that neither of them really understand … and it leads straight to trouble, as usual. It seems New Orleans is teeming with suspects, and they have no idea which one to focus on.

Another great cozy mystery series. Here magic is combined with our real life New Orleans. Ofelia and her boyfriend Sully always work really well together. It is also funny to read how Sully tends to wind up Ofelia’s dad. In this specific novel I was very slightly disappointed how much space the visit of Sully’s mother took, even though it didn’t add much to the murder investigation. But I am aware that it is important to develop the main characters.

© janavar

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