Book Reviews: Cozy Mystery, True Crime and Historical Fiction Reads

My Reads for January 2020

For the year 2020, I have set a goal to read fifty books in different genres. It seems that in the past, I read too much of one kind of genre and would get stumped with finding something different. In 2019, I was more successful in extending my reading. I was dabbling in memoirs, historical fiction, and true crime. I found a new mystery author that I will binge into an entire series (that would be Louise Penny!).

January has started out well, with a choice of books in newer areas of reading: true crime, historical fiction, and non-fiction. Some have been on my TBR (to be read) list, and others a quick pick from Kindle Unlimited.

Castle Mystery by Faith Martin (real name, Joyce Cato) was a result of googling for a similar series like the Louise Penny “Gamache” books, all of which I’ve completed. Because I could not find the first of this series through my local library or Kindle Unlimited, I decided to try out the fourth, a Kindle Unlimited option.

In this book, Jenny, a professional chef, is already known as a successful, amateur sleuth, and not necessarily liked by the local police (of course). She discovers most of her clues by carefully observing and listening in the kitchen, then offers those to the police.

While I like the independence and resourcefulness of the Jenny character, I’m not fond of police characters who act like amateur sleuths instead of qualified police detectives. So for me, this was on a scale closer to a cozy mystery. It’s light, moves quickly, and is suitable for a weekend read.

But absolutely nothing like Gamache.

Stranger Beside Me was my first Ann Rule read, after coming across it on the online Libby library service. I assumed that Ann was writing a true-crime narrative about Ted Bundy that she painstakingly researched and compiled — but this story is one in which she was a part!

Through her depiction of Bundy, she includes her occasional interactions with him almost to the time of his execution (she broke off contact once he was convicted). It is incredible how someone (Bundy) could be so convincing and appear so ordinary – yet was extraordinarily conniving and dangerous.

The book was an excellent, albeit creepy read. I was relieved when I finished after learning the extent of his crimes. If you have not read true crime before, I am convinced that you will be hooked after reading this one!

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan is a title I learned about on a podcast, as well as seeing it on many Best Reads lists. After waiting for two months, the book finally arrived on my Libby library app shelf. I was prepared to sit and enjoy the weekend with this fictional account, based on C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidson.

It took me much longer than a weekend to complete the book. I finished it, but it was not for me. I wish I could join the many others who gave the book a 5-star rating but simply cannot. I’m not sure if I was disappointed with the writing or the story itself. The story moved much too slowly, and the relationship between Jack and Joy seemed awkward, after Joy’s divorce and her move to England. However, the narratives describing Oxford and other places were lovely depicted. 

I would highly recommend that before starting the novel, the reader should FIRST read “A Note from the Author” at the back of the book. In it, she explains how she did her research and what memorabilia she referenced for her writing. It would have helped me tremendously if this were the introduction instead of an endnote. 

I’m not giving up; I plan to read another book by this author. This was just something that didn’t quite succeed as historical fiction for me.

Now, THIS was a lovely weekend read (or should I say a one-day read!). As a fan of Anne’s “What Should I Read Next” podcast, I’ll give her credit for my changed reading life this past year. I am always intrigued by the guests on her show and her insightful recommendations. I’d Rather Be Reading is lighthearted, delightful and describes how our reading lives are changed by what we read and what is on our bookshelves. Anne not only gives her reading insights but shares unique memories about her reading life, such as her visits to the library when she lived right next door as a newlywed. 

“Our books shape us, define us, enchant us, and even sometimes infuriate us. Our books are a part of who we are as people, and we can’t imagine life without them.”  Absolutely. What should I read next, Anne?

Disclosure: As an Amazon Affiliate, there may be links in this post, which if you click through and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission that helps support this blog. You are in no way obligated to use these links.

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