Wednesday, December 15, 2021

{I've Been Reading} Please See Us


Please See Us by Caitlin Mullen

Two dead girls lie in the marsh, not far from the Atlantic City boardwalk. A teenage psychic begins having disturbing visions. Please See Us is bleak and atmospheric and the plot slips between quite a few different characters. (It wasn't until the end of the book that I finally figured out I had thought that two different women were actually the same person and by that point, I wasn't about to go back and re-read it to get things straight.) The pace is slow, but the atmosphere kept me reading until it started to become clear how the different  characters all fit into the plot. 
Disclosure -- The publisher provided me with an advance review copy. This post contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, December 08, 2021

{I've Been Reading} A Plus One For Murder

A Plus One for Murder by Laura Bradford 

The first book in the Friend for Hire mystery series is fast paced and fun. Her work as a travel planner has slowed to nothing and Emma Westlake is trying to find new sources of income when a friend suggests that she offer herself as a paid companion. It seems to be going great --until one of her clients drops dead at open mic night halfway through his poem. He'd already warned her that four of the audience members wanted him dead and because Emma left the venue before the police showed up to investigate, she's looking a little guilty herself. Luckily two of her clients are extremely enthusiastic about helping her figure things out. I loved this one and can't wait to spend more time with Emma and her quirky clients.

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

Wednesday, December 01, 2021

{I've Been Reading} The Life She Wants


The Life She Wants by Mel Sherratt 

Most of the book alternates between two women. Juliette has just moved into a new home and is grieving the death of her young daughter. Her husband is still working in the city so she's alone for most of the  week. Sarah has lived with her own husband in the house next door for years and is concerned about the impact new neighbors will have on their life, especially after Juliette asks about the little girl she saw in their garden.  
I didn't love this one. I'm not sure if I wasn't paying close enough attention or if I was actually  supposed to confuse the first person narrators in some chapters. The book jumps back and forth in time and it wasn't immediately obvious that certain events didn't make sense compared to what was happening in the present day. 

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

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

{I've Been Reading} These Toxic Things


These Toxic Things by Rachel Howzell Hall

Mickie Lambert works for Memory Bank, a company that creates digital projects that will tell stories and project holographic images of the client's favorite things. After her latest client, owner of a cluttered curio shop, commits suicide, she plans to finish the job. Maybe the dead woman's family will want the memories associated with the twelve unrelated objects she'd chosen. 

It took me a while to get into this one, but once I got past the high tech gimmick involved in the memory boxes and paid more attention to the objects and  their stories, I started to enjoy it more. Although I had a hunch what some things might be, and I was right, I never  came close to figuring it all out. The ultimate purpose behind the box Mickie is working on is extremely creepy and unsettling. 


 After She Wrote Him by Sulari Gentill 

Madeline is writing about Edward, who is writing about Madeline....and they're each convinced that the other is a character they created. Madeline is a mystery writer who's decided to branch away from her successful series about a maid in the early 1900s to write about Edward, a literary writer who is trying something different by writing about a mystery writer. Have I given you an idea how confusing this all is? The point of view shifts seamlessly mid scene so I was never quite sure if what I was reading was real life or the story being written. Which is the whole point of the thing. This one is a doozy of a murder mystery, unlike anything I've read before. 

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

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

{I've Been Reading} A Treacherous Curse


A Treacherous Curse by Deanna Raybourn 

I've been thoroughly enjoying the Veronica Speedwell mysteries. After absolutely loving the first one, I had to return the second to the library before finishing it and then never read the third one because I'd have to go back and start the second book over again... Please tell me I'm not the only one who does that! 

A Treacherous Curse, the third book, deals with a cursed expedition and a stolen diadem that once belonged to an Egyptian princess. Oh, and there's also a hot air balloon and an unplanned expedition into the London sewers. I love all of the historical details in these books. This one had a great mystery element with an intriguing solutions that I didn't see coming. I'm so glad I have four more books to read before I'm caught up on the series!  

Gorge by Katherine Carlson has an intriguing premise. Desperate to lose weight, Marty Clawson asks her husband to dump her into the woods where she'll be forced to starve herself thin. It's a thriller, so I was willing to suspend my disbelief that far. The problem is that Marty hates herself and she hates her husband and her doctor... Once things start to happen, she's too busy to complain about rubbing thighs or tight waistbands and that suspension of disbelief went right out the window. It got more interesting, in the way that an over the top horror novel sometimes does, then hit the ending and screeched to a halt. The Kindle app jumped me to the review screen before I had a chance to read the epilogue  but even those few pages didn't quite wrap things up. There's not much to like about any of these characters so I guess I don't really care what happened to Marty. 

Disclosure -- The publisher of A Treacherous Curse provided me with an ARC. Gorge is a Kindle Unlimited title. This post contains affiliate links. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

{I've Been Reading} Missing Daughter


Missing Daughter by Kiersten Modglin 

The morning after her birthday party, a three year old is missing. Her mother had a lot to drink the night before, and so did her father, but they locked the doors before going to bed. They're both sure of that. Only Ginny might not be as sure as she thinks she is. She's been having trouble coping since their daughter's birth and leans heavily on her husband to  help her manage things. 

The plot quickly jumps to events from six months before their little girl went missing. The book is entertaining but I never really liked either of the parents. At times it felt like they were more focused on their own relationship and whether extended family members were reacting the way they wanted them to than they were on the fact that their little girl was gone. They're both making stupid mistakes along the way. I felt like this one was a kind of run of the mill domestic thriller. 

Disclosure -- This post contains affiliate links. The publishers sent me advance review copies. 

Wednesday, November 03, 2021

{I've Been Reading} An Eggnog to Die For


An Eggnog to Die For by Amy Pershing 

It took me some time to warm up to the first book in the Cape Cod Foodie series, but by the end I was absolutely hooked and  couldn't wait for the second title to come out. Now I've had the exact same reaction to the second book. I had to get past the Christmas festivities and into the details of the mystery itself before I started really enjoying the read. I love the protagonist and her friends, I love the Cape Code setting and the mystery and even the dog....but I didn't love those first chapters. 

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

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

{I've Been Reading} Hypnosis is For Hacks


Hypnosis is For Hacks by Tamara Berry 

Eleanor Wilde is a (formerly) fake medium who talks to real spirits. While her boyfriend's castle is being renovated, she accompanies his mother to a seaside resort and almost immediately witnesses what she's sure was a murder. The man is definitely dead -- what's being questioned is whether those two shadowy figures Eleanor saw were real or a trick of the light. Oh, and Eleanor's former partner-in-crime, a shady mentalist, is staying at the same hotel and wants in on the scam he's sure she's committing against her boyfriend's family. There's also a creepy doll that keeps turning up just outside her door and terrifying her brother. 

Eleanor is one of my favorite cozy mystery heroines. When she's faced with the idea of having her past secrets revealed, she doesn't back down. Instead, she calls Nicholas and involves him in what's going on. I absolutely loved this one! 


The Broken Spine by Dorothy St. James

I've been thinking a lot about libraries lately. Ours just reopened after being closed for most of the past two years, first while they were relocating to temporary quarters so the main library could be retrofitted for earthquake safety, then due to lockdowns, then so that it could be moved back to the main building, then again due to lockdowns.... They've had craft kits you could pick up at the curb and mobile hot spots to check out and an island on Animal Crossing....seemingly everything was prioritzed  but books. 

It might have been the perfect time for me to read The Broken Spine, a cozy mystery about a library that's been updated by removing the books. Assistant Librarian Trudell Becket isn't going to give up the town's beloved book collection without a fight and, along with her friends, sets up a library in the building's basement, stocking it with the books that were destined for the local landfill. She's down there working when a heavy shelf falls upstairs, killing the town manager. And because she won't reveal what she was really doing, she's the main suspect. 

I really, really enjoyed this one and can't wait to spend more time with Tru and her friends in their secret basement library. It requires some suspension of disbelief, and I really hope that a future book fixed Tru's relationship with her overbearing mother, but as fun escapism I highly recommend it.  

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

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

{I've Been Reading} The Perfect Daughter



The Perfect Daughter by Alex Stone

Jess Harper has always trusted her mother to help her make the right decisions. In the past, things have gone wrong, proving that Jess needs someone to guide her...but now Jess is falling in love and her mother doesn't approve of her choice. He's a plumber. He took Jess's time and focus away from her mother. Then he was missing, presumed dead, and the police were interviewing Jess. 

I was fascinated by the relationship between the two women, especially since it wasn't immediately clear which of them was the unreliable narrator. The plots moves from past to present, gradually revealing what's happened over the years. And what happened to Adam.  

Well-Offed in Vermont by Amy Patricia Meade 

Instead of moving into their rustic farmhouse in Vermont, Stella and Nick Buckley find themselves staying at a primitive cabin with no electricity, no running water, and a horrible hide-a-bed that's jutting with springs. They won't be allowed in their new home until the sheriff finishes investigating the murder victim they found at the bottom of their well so the two decide to investigate on their own. 

I really wanted to like this one. The mystery element was intriguing, but by the end of the book I couldn't stand the protagonists. The banter and chemistry between the two was never quite convincing and they were critical of every other character they encountered. Stella describes everyone as wearing ill-fitting clothes and has a hatred of even the idea of flannel or hand knit sweaters. Nick compares them all to unattractive public figures. I get that the "fish out of water element" was supposed to be interesting, but they came across as mean-spirited. 

Escaping Dreamland by Charlie Lovett 

The cover copy promises not only a contemporary author trying to track down an elusive children's book from a century earlier, but also the the stories of the three authors who wrote the book in 1906. I wanted to love this book, but it took me a while to warm up to the characters and I wound up setting it aside for a week because I couldn't figure out how the people I was reading about connected to anything else that was going on. Eventually, things started to tie together and make sense and from that point on I was least on the historical scenes. I loved the information about the book packagers who put together series like the Bobbsey Twins and the Hardy Boys (the events predate Nancy Drew) and the details about life in New York at the turn of  the last century. And I really appreciated the author's note at the end explaining which events and characters were real. But the modern day author and his refusal to admit that he grew up reading children's books annoyed me the whole way through.   

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

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. 


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