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. 


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