Wednesday, October 13, 2021

{I've Been Reading} Nothing But Blackened Teeth

 

 

Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

Looking for a quick read about a haunted house?  This novella is just what you need as we count down towards Halloween. The imagery is wonderfully creepy and, thanks to a well-timed bump on the roof of my own house, it managed to make me jump out of my own skin in the middle of a sunny afternoon.

What better wedding surprise could there be than a late night visit to a Heian-era mansion, built on the bones of a bride and the girls sacrificed over the years to keep her company? This must be the third book I've read in recent months about houses built on bones, but in this one it works. The author does a fantastic job of making you feel how cold and lonely the bride is down in the dirt. She uses a lot of Japanese terms and some of them aren't easy to figure out through context clues. I know I was missing details because I wouldn't put the book down long enough to look everything up, but I was okay with that. 
 

 Mother's Helper by Julia Crouch 

Rachel, a picture perfect influencer hires Abbie, an awkward young woman, to move into her home as a fully time nanny for her baby. Neither of the two women is exactly what she claims to be. This one was an entertaining fast-paced read. At first, not much made it stand out from all of  the other thrillers I've read about social media stars, but by the end I was absolutely holding my breath as the plot twisted and turned. 


Lost You by Haylen Beck 

I was quickly pulled into the first few chapters of this domestic thriller. Libby and her young son are vacationing alone at a huge resort. Despite her concerns about travelling along with a preschooler it's all going great until the little boy darts into an elevator ahead of his mother and manages to hit the buttons before she can reach the closing doors. The search for Evan is a tense one....and then the plot shifts to a completely different set of characters and a completely different situation. Of course they eventually tie together, but it felt like I'd been pulled out of a book I was really enjoying into a second book that wasn't quite as good. 


Disclosure -- The publisher provided me with an advance review copy. This post contains affiliate links. 

Thursday, October 07, 2021

{I've Been Reading} Nanny Needed

 


Nanny Needed by Georgina Cross 

This is the kind of domestic thriller I love best. Sarah Larsen finds an elegantly printed  job flyer in the lobby of her apartment building. She's never worked as a nanny before, but she's struggling to pay off her debts and the job will help her to reach her goals more quickly. After visiting the opulent penthouse apartment of the Bird family for an interview, she signs the employment contract and nondisclosure agreement with no hesitation. 

Quickly, Sarah begins to realize that the job isn't what she was told it would be and that nondisclosure agreement keeps her from sharing her concerns with her boyfriend. That's one of the things I liked about this book -- Sarah is young and desperate, but she doesn't start out alone in the world and with no support system. This is a fast paced gothic with everything but the creepy old house and I kept turning pages to see what would happen next. 

 
The Stalker by Satah Alderson

A pair of newly-weds enjoying their honeymoon on a remote Scottish island quickly discover that they aren't alone. Someone scratches an unsettling message into the window of their cabin and it quickly becomes obvious that the stranger means to harm them. 

I absolutely loved this one! The setting is wonderfully atmospheric, with its ruined castle and ancient burial sites. The characters seem to really love each other. And the plot itself is suspenseful and kept me intrigued until the very end. 


 


The protagonist from An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good is back and this time she's on a flight to South Africa, remembering her younger years. It turns out that Maude has always known how to get what she wants and always been ruthless in making that happen. She's also surprisingly likeable and I hated to see the book end. 

 

Murder Outside the Lines by Krsta Davis 

I can't resist cozy mysteries set during the Halloween season and this book had everything I could have wanted. It's filled with fall atmosphere and crunching leaves and ghostly apparitions...and a couple of other fun things I can't tell you about without ruining the surprise. Adult coloring book author Florrie Fox sketches her way to the mystery's solution and there's one scene where she's drawing a rolled carpet with a foot sticking out of one end (because that's what the celebrity psychic insists she saw) and contemplating whether the foot was male or female, flexed or pointed... watching her think things through is what I love most about this series.



The Child Who Never Was by Jane Renshaw 

The book opens with Sarah's frantic search for her eighteen-month-old son, Oliver. Everyone insists that Sarah has never given birth, that the child she remembers and insists is her own is actually the son of her identical twin, Evie. Everyone insists that his name is James. The official records states that James is Evie's son. But Sarah remembers giving birth and refuses to believe that it's all a delusion brought on by her agoraphobia and fragile mental state. Watching this unreliable narrator try to reclaim the life that she believes is hers had me holding my breath until the very end, wondering what was actually the truth. 



Disclosure -- The publisher provided me with an advance review copy. This post contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

{I've Been Reading} The Corpse in the Gazebo

 


The Corpse in the Gazebo by Debra Sennefelder

Food blogger Hope Early isn't the only one fighting with Birdie Donovan, but she's the one who finds the unpleasant woman lying dead in her backyard gazebo and the one who baked the muffins that are responsible for Birdie's death. 

I enjoyed the mystery element, but really started to lose patience with Hope. Her actions immediately after discovering Birdie's body had me asking a whole lot of questions. This is the fourth book I've read in the five book series and something seems off with the character. 
 


I've had  this book in my TBR pile for a very long time and kept cautiously circling around the idea of reading it until I finally picked it up last week and read through the whole thing in three sittings. My biggest take away from reading it is that I'm not nearly as angry about my own two c-sections as some of the authors who wrote these essays. That honestly surprised me. What I'm upset about is the quality of care I received after major surgery, not missing out on the birth experiences I expected. 

I appreciated the chance to read about the surgery and recovery from so many different perspectives. I learned a lot and had some of my own opinions confirmed. 


Disclosure -- The publisher provided me with an advance  review copy. This post contains affiliate links. 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

{I've Been Reading} Murder Gets a Makeover

 


Murder Gets a Makeover by Laura Levine 

This time writer-for-hire Jaine Austen hasn't been hired to pen something ridiculous....instead her friend and neighbor, Lance, has volunteered her to be the subject of a makeover. As soon as she meets influencer Bebe Braddock, Jamie has second thoughts. Everyone on the woman's staff hates her. She's nasty, and overbearing, and before long Jaine finds Bebe strangled with a wire hanger and Jaine's fingerprints are all over the murder weapon. 

This short mystery novel is fast paced and funny. In addition to solving the murder, Jaine is trying to recover her beloved Cuckoo for Coco Puffs T-shirt, to deal with her cat who just went viral for rescuing a toddler, and to navigate a new relationship with a much younger man.


Danger at the Cove by Hannah Dennison

There's a lot going on at Tregarrick Rock Hotel. Sisters Evie and Margot have their hands full with renovations, but it's looking like things might just get done in time for their grand opening. Margot is sure that they can accommodate one of her old friends who just arrived from Hollywood with little advance notice, and the friend's new beau, who arrived with absolutely no advance notice. And then there's a murder. I didn't reread the cover copy before starting the book so I wasn't quite sure who was going to wind up dead and not knowing definitely added to the suspense. 

I've really been looking forward to the second Island Sisters mystery and this one is just as much fun as  the first book. The hotel and island sound enchanting, especially the garden of figureheads. A rare low tide is going to expose a centuries old shipwreck and they plan to walk out to it. (Unlike the characters, I think I'd be headed out as soon as it was safe to start walking instead of waiting until after breakfast!) 




Murder at the House on the Hill by Victoria Walters 

Nancy Hunter and her grandmother live in the tiny village of Dedley End where they run a bookstore specializing in mysteries and thrillers. When a party at the stately mansion on the hill over their tiny village ends in murder, Nancy's best friend bets that the two of them won't be able to solve the mystery before the police. This one has all of the elements you'd expect to find in a cozy mystery, but it took me a while to get into it. The mystery element is eventually complex and satisfying, but for the first few chapters I couldn't keep the members of the victim's family straight or remember for sure who the dead woman was. 



Disclosure -- This post contains affiliate links. The publisher provided me with an advance review copy. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

{I've Been Reading} The Summoning by J. P. Smith

 

 

The Summoning by J. P. Smith

Fake medium Kit Capriol reads the obituaries every morning, looking for potential clients. Her own husband was killed in the Twin Towers on 9/11. She knows all about grief and the hope that it would be possible to communicate with the dearly departed and, although she can't seem to get an acting job, she's very good at convincing her clients that she's receiving messages from beyond the grave. 

I've got mixed feelings about this one. At first I didn't like Kit at all, but as I got further into the book I realized that everything wasn't quite what it seemed. By the middle chapters I was really enjoying it, then by end end I wasn't sure what to think.

Disclosure -- The publisher provided me with an advance review copy. This post contains affiliate links. 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

{I've Been Reading} I Let Him In

 The Family Plot by Megan Collins

The Lighthouse family is "unnatural." That's what Dahlia's twin brother tells her before running away on his sixteenth birthday. It's not until ten years after Andy's disappearance that Dahlia returns to the family's isolated island mansion for their father's funeral and realizes that her brother never left the property at all. All this time, he's been buried in the family plot, in the grave set aside for their father, his skull split open with his own axe. 

A serial killer has lurked on the island for decades, killing young women and branding them before leaving their bodies  to be battered by the waves. Dahlia and her siblings were educated through the homeschool curriculum their mother devised, one that consisted of writing carefully researched reports about murder victims and holding annual ceremonies to honor their names. The siblings themselves were named after famous murder victims. Now, while Dahlia tries to figure out what happened to Andy, her older brother, Charlie, is planning to open the house as a memorial museum and her sister, Tate, is constructing an intricate diorama of the murder scene. 

I really enjoyed this one. It's a mystery with a kind of traditional gothic feel to it. Even though I'm not a true crime expert by any stretch of the imagination, the author provides just enough context with her references that I never felt like I was missing too much. 




The Liar Next Door by Nicola Marsh

Three women cross paths at a neighborhood party. There's the expectant mother, who is hosting a gender reveal in an attempt to make connections with her new neighbors. There's the social influencer, and there's her new neighbor who might be a little too anxious to build a friendship between them. 

It's an somewhat entertaining read. The chapters alternate between the three women and more than once I found myself flipping back to double check whose part of the story I was reading. Spoiler -- everyone in this book is a liar. They've all got secrets to hide. The ending was abrupt and a little unsatisfying, but I don't regret reading through to get there. 


I Let Him In by Jill Childs 

After a hit and run accident puts an end to her travel plans, Louise finds herself with her leg in a cast, mostly confined to her small apartment. She hires a friend of an acquaintance to repaint the walls and 
they begin to develop a relationship that's threatened by dark secrets Louise has hidden from almost everyone in her life...This one is all over the place. It starts with the accident and feels like a tense thriller, then veers into romantic suspense territory, then winds up someplace else entirely. It wasn't the sort of read I was hoping for and ended with a final twist that made no sense. 

Disclosure -- The publisher provided me with an advance review copy. This post contains affiliate links. 

Thursday, August 12, 2021

{I've Been Reading} The Sister-in-Law

 

 

The Sister-in-Law by Pamela Crane

Wow! From the book's cover copy, I expected Candace to have difficulty with her new sister-in-law. I didn't expect the conflict to be so immediate or both women to be so nasty. These two aren't even going to try to get along. I was never sure which of them I was supposed to be siding with. The plot is fast paced and entertaining an although I found some parts unbelievable, I had fun reading it. 

Disclosure -- This post contains affiliate links. the publisher provided me with an advance review copy.

Wednesday, August 04, 2021

{I've Been Reading} Dark Roads

 

Dark Roads by Chevy Stevens

It was my buddy Jo, from Jo's Country Junction, who recommended Still Missing. I guess I can thank her for getting me hooked on thrillers and Chevy Stevens's books in particular. It was  the book's description that really made me want to read it, even before I realized who it was by, but I almost feel like it gave too much away. After the death of her father, teenager Hailey McBride uses the notoriety of the Cold Creek highway to escape her controlling uncle. Women have been disappearing from the area for decades. Sometimes their bodies were found. Others disappeared without a trace. Hailey hopes that she'll be seen as just another victim of whoever was responsible and can escape her life. But that doesn't happen until well into the book. At times Hailey felt really young and I had to remind myself that she was just a kid so of course she was acting that way. I'm not sure if I've ever felt the loss of a character the way I did in this book.

 

 Bad Scene by  Max Tomlinson

Set in 1978 San Francisco, this mystery definitely isn't a cozy. The protagonist, Colleen Hayes, spent a decade in jail for fatally stabbing her husband in the neck with a screwdriver. Her estranged daughter is involved with a cult. (I'm guessing one of the earlier books in the series explained why there's a restraining order against her, filed by a different cult that her daughter was previously involved with -- these are really interesting characters!) She's also infiltrating a neo-Nazi group of bikers to investigate rumors that they plan to shoot the mayor.  And did I mention the active volcano in South America  where the cult is building its new church? This book is a wild ride that had me holding my breath more than once.


   


Home Sweet Home by Nicole Trope 

Something is wrong in the pretty house on Hogarth Street. The twins haven't left for school. The drapes and windows are still tightly shut and Katherine won't answer the door, not to receive a delivery that requires a signature or to talk to her next door neighbor. It took me a while to figure out what was going on but once I did I was hooked. Katherine and  her husband are a bit of a mystery until the end, but the delivery driver and concerned neighbor were both intriguing enough to hold my interest while I waited to find out what was going to happen to the family in the locked house. 


Disclosure -- The publisher provided me with an advance review copy. This post contains affiliate links. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

{I've Been Reading} This is How It Ends

 


This is How it Ends by Eva Dolan 

Only a few residents remain in the once crowded apartment building, refusing the developer's offers to buy them out, knowing that their days there are numbered. A party in the building ends with a man's body in one of the vacant units and two of the protesters disposing of him down an elevator shaft. Its bleak setting sets this thriller apart from others I've read. The plot moves slowly, but it's definitely got atmosphere. 

 
Disclosure -- The publisher provided me with an advance review copy. This post contains affiliate links. 

Thursday, July 15, 2021

{I've Been Reading} Her Sister's Secret

 

 

 Her Sister's Secret by S. E. Lynes 

A late night call from her nephew brings Isla running. All she knows is that there was a fire, that her sister and her sister's new husband are dead, and that Callum needs her. Isla quickly realizes that she didn't know much at all about her sister's marriage or her new life. Things weren't as perfect as  they appeared from a distance.

I loved this domestic thriller with its intriguing plot and fun little details that kept me immersed in the book. The story unfolds with Isla in the present and Annie's recent past leading up to the days just before the fire.  

 

The Perfect Father by Charlotte Duckworth

When Esther receives a text message from her husband that just reads "sorry" and comes home to find an empty house, she's panicked. Robin has stayed home to care for their daughter since her birth and, after an extremely difficult pregnancy, Esther was grateful that he did. Now he's left with their two-year-old and she's filled with questions. 

This is one of those books where the narrator is deliberately withholding information from the reader. Almost immediately, we discover that Robin wasn't a perfect father or husband. The plot jumps between the past and present and chapters alternate between husband and wife. It was interesting, but everything important had happened long before that text message and I never felt a real sense of urgency or suspense. 

   

 What She Knew by Miranda Rijks

When a researcher approaches her for an interview about her college roommate, Stephanie's husband advises her not to speak to him. He doesn't want her dredging up bad memories. It's been almost ten years. Allison's presumed murderer is behind bars even though her body was never found. There's an explanation for why Stephanie didn't ask more questions at the time, but it seems like at some point between then and now she would've started to wonder more about what happened. 

I didn't love this one. It had me reaching for the dictionary twice in the first few chapters. I didn't have that reaction to The Visitors or The Influencer, so I'm guessing that it was supposed to be the protagonist's educated vocabulary.   I didn't really warm up to Stephanie although until the plot started to unfold. Near the end of  the book, things got much more interesting. 
 

Disclosure - The publisher provided me with an advance review copy. This post contains affiliate links. 

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