Grab yourself a nice hot drink, a blanket, and make yourself cozy because you’re going to want to read this mystery in one sitting.

Bless Her Dead Little Heart by Miranda James is the story of two prominent, elderly sisters in the small town of Athena, Mississippi. The sisters are cat-sitting a Maine Coon, affectionately named Diesel, for their librarian friend, Charlie Harris, when they receive an unexpected visitor. Their afternoon turns to chaos when old acquaintance, Rosabelle Sultan, barges in, hysterical that someone is trying to kill her, and not just anyone, but a member of her own family.

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It’s 7:44 p.m. and people are crowding into the cafe. I try to identify what brings them here and where they are going later by their clothes, shoes, and accessories. Tonight is a night for people watching and for chatting with friends, a night when people actually talk to each other rather than stare into their phones.

Here at the Coffee Klatch, the atmosphere inside is cozy: squishy chairs and a couch, local art on the walls, and the earthy smell of coffee. A group of us meet to relax, sketch, and drink…lattes. This is Sketch Night.

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In his Newbery Medal Acceptance speech for The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman discussed that there wasn’t a difference in what he read, whether books were considered good or bad. To him, there were no bad books or stories, just stories that he liked. I want to agree with Mr. Gaiman, however, there are some books I just can’t get through. It’s not the length of the book that prevents me from finishing the story, but the content.

My bookshelf contains a balance of classic American and British Literature (stories published from the regency period through the early 1960s) and Gothic family sagas, young adult, and an undeniable amount of books with or about cats. Below is a list of books that will not be taking up space on my bookshelves.

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I may have been overambitious setting such a high standard for myself. In my first blog post, Wednesday Weekend,  I discussed my goal to read 50 books by the end of the year. It’s been nearly four months since I challenged myself (on January 7, 2015) and I am progressing steadily, but according to Goodreads.com, I am falling behind.

goodreads graph

I was on a steady reading route until I started reading books I didn’t enjoy.

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“There’s a hamburger head shark!”

This shout came from a child in awe and surprise as he watched a hammerhead shark swish its body and swim around the giant tank.

I was on the second floor of the Open Sea Exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Below me, a group of children and adults lined the floors sitting crossed-legged, ready for the feeding. After a disappointing visit to the Slough and not seeing a single ray, I was ready to see some sea animals.  Here at the Open Sea Exhibit stingrays, tuna and sharks were hanging out together.

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It was Monday and not all of the animals in the exhibit get fed everyday, so only the turtles and the sardines were dining today. A sea turtle munched on some lettuce and bell peppers at the top of the tank. A school of shiny sardines whirled up from the narrow bottom of the pool to get their share of fish flakes. However, the sardines weren’t the only hungry fish in the tank that day. The Mahi Mahi snapped at the tornado-like school in an attempt to secure a snack. How do all these animals co-exist and not eat the wrong food? The presenter explained that the animals at this exhibit have been “target trained” to recognize a specific visual whenever their food is coming, essentially a “visual dinner bell.”

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It was evening when Joey and I walked along a dock of Moss Landing to get a better view of the seals resting on the shore in the marina. In the distance we heard the distinctive arf-arf of some sea lions, but much closer we heard knocking. Knock-knock-knock came again from under the dock. Something was under there. A family was laying on the dock, stomachs down and squealing. Even their dog knew something exciting was happening by the way he whined and pulled on his leash. Joey and I leaned over the dock to get a closer look at the water and out popped an otter!

I have never been this close to an otter in real life without a glass window between us. It was magnificent and terrifying to see such a creature up close. I watched it swim around in circles and continue to pull shellfish from under the dock and use the dock to crack open its treats. I was surprised that this one otter was approaching the dock with people and a dog standing on it, but it didn’t seem to bother the otter at all. The dog wanted to sniff it. I wanted to touch its fur, but its clawed paws changed my mind. Moss Landing wasn’t on our itinerary and yet it was one of the most astonishing places we visited on this trip. I had started the day anxious to catch some rays and splash waves. It was the perfect ending to my Beach Day.

Otter at Moss Landing

Otter at Moss Landing

 

 

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For our first wedding anniversary (03/14/2015), Joey and I decided to celebrate by going on a short vacation. Since I’m still not back at work full-time, we didn’t feel right splurging on going somewhere exotic, international, or, really, anywhere that needed a plane ticket to get there. Instead, we chose a destination that would take less than a day of driving: a road trip to Monterey, CA, one of my favorite places to visit. Monterey is very exciting for literature nerds like myself, but our first stop on our vacation was actually 50 miles outside of the city at Pinnacles National Park.

 

Pinnacles National Park Entrance

Pinnacles National Park Entrance

Day 1: Pinnacles National Park

My first visit to Pinnacles was in 2012, when the national park was still only a national monument. We visited the west side then, the less popular side of the park. It was also July, so that may have added to the emptiness of the park. Then, Joey and I climbed through pitch-black caves, the only light we had came from a cheap LED flashlight I kept in the car for emergencies. The caves inside were cool, but the air outside was overwhelming and the heat made our already out-of-shape bodies struggle through the hike. This time, we visited the eastern side of the park. I anticipated more of the same cave climbs, but was disappointed.

 

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Do you love coffee, cats, or mysteries?  Would you like to learn more about a mystery featuring cats named after wines with lots of detective work done at a coffee shop? If yes, read on. If no, then you’re probably reading the wrong blog.

The Cat, The Quilt And The Corpse (A Cats in Trouble Mystery #1) by Leann Sweeney wasn’t the exact novel I was looking for when I browsed the Mystery section, but my first thought after reading the title was, “Oh no, a cat is in trouble? I must read this and find out if he is OK.” Warning – If you weren’t already drinking a coffee, this cozy will have you craving one before you or anyone else solves this mystery. So grab your latte and read on about one of the most caffeine-suggestive cozy mysteries.

Jillian Hart, a recent widow living in a small town in South Carolina, returns home from a quilter’s convention and discovers her house vandalized and her purebred cat, Syrah, is missing. Is he hiding or did someone steal him? The question transforms Jillian from quiet quilter to amateur investigator. She is your standard, lovable, crazy cat lady who lives with three purebred cats rescued from Hurricane Katrina: Syrah, the loveable Abyssinian, Chablis, a cat allergic to humans, and Merlot, a hefty Maine Coon.

I know, I promised coffee.

Where else does Jillian look for clues to find her missing cat, but Belle’s Beans, the local java hot spot in her small town. Here she meets neighbors, faces off with frenemies and yes, orders lots of coffee. The bold beverage powers her through amazing detective work, like put together a cat flyer that has already run through the shredder and sorting through old missing cat flyers at the local hoarder’s place of residence. In a town where posting flyers is not allowed, Jillian must do some real investigating to find out where her lost cat is hiding. It’s a good thing Jillian isn’t working alone. Alongside her in this investigations is Candace, a young police officer trying to solve this mystery and convince the force that it’s time to modernize their outdated technology.

Fueled by hot coffee, Jillian doesn’t rest until she has been reunited with her feline friend. But that’s only half the whodunit because in search for Syrah, a corpse has been discovered. Are these crimes related?Jillian will need more clues, so it’s back to Belle’s Beans. Does Jillian’s crime solving lead her to the killer or just make the police suspect her of the crime? To process these questions and decide who is guilty or not, you’re going to need another latte.

The story is a balance of coffee and cats. Jillian has a “cat-cam” installed at her place so she can watch her feline children anytime she is away from the house, and like the crazy cat lady she is, that’s about every time she needs to refill her mug. There’s also some kitty cuteness in the way Chablis spends have the book in a benadryl-infused haze, falling asleep just about anywhere.

Overall, The Cat, The Quilt And The Corpse is cheesy and predictable, and honestly, by the number of times this book mentions sipping coffee, ordering coffee or brewing a pot at home, you would think this book was promotional material for the coffee industry. The numerous visits to Belle’s Beans made me crave a latte every few pages. The Cat, The Quilt And The Corpse is a fun read with the essentials for this cozy lover: cats, coffee and a murder mystery. The cat lover in you will want to read this book, but first, you’ll probably need a refill on that cup of Joe.

 

Cost: $0.00 at my local library.

Drink of choice: Caramel Macchiato.

I spent my youth reading V.C. Andrews novels – family saga gothic fiction with dark secrets and twisted mysteries. Last November I was looking for a change in novels, something more my age. I was having difficulty trying to focus in on the exact genre I was yearning to read. I browsed the “Mystery” section at bn.com, but everything seemed way too violent, sexy or supernatural. My husband suggested Stuart Woods, but he didn’t sound that appealing, I wanted something more Nancy Drew.  I wanted a mystery that I could solve, something fun, that would make me laugh, but still keep me engaged until the unveiling at the end. Then I discovered that there is a name for such a genre: Cozy Mystery.

What is a cozy mystery? I think of it as a light-hearted mystery with a happy ending, nothing too obscene or grotesque. There is most likely a murder, an unknown killer, and maybe even an innocent person accused. These novels are more Hallmark Channel than Investigation Discovery or Cloo. Like a PG movie for those of us not interested in the details of a predictable sex scene or a violent, gory murder.

Goodreads describes a cozy mystery as, “Cozies very rarely focus on sex, profanity or violence. The murders take place off stage, and are often relatively bloodless (e.g. poisoning, while sexual activity (if any) between characters is only ever gently implied and never directly addressed.” And that’s exactly what I wanted.

I plan on reviewing some cozy mysteries soon. Grab a blanket and make yourself some hot tea, because you’ll want to snuggle right up with these page-turners.

Drink of choice: Earl Grey tea