Wednesday, November 30, 2022

{I've Been Reading} The Family at No. 12



Death by Smoothie by Laura Levine 

Jaine Austen is hired as script doctor for a play based on the sitcom I Married a Zombie. It pays well, but the script is a total nightmare and then the obnoxious actress hired to play the zombie is poisoned by one of her awful green smoothies. Everyone had access to her drink and almost everyone seems to have had a motive for her murder. There's also a delightful subplot involving Jaine's father's plans to tap dance in a talent show with an iguana on his head.

I've only read a handful of the titles in this series and I'm sure my enjoyment of this book would've been increased if I'd read an earlier title where Jaine was involved in the murder of Cryptessa Muldoon, the star of the original sitcom. But I still  thoroughly enjoyed it and I'll be tracking down Death of a Neighborhood Witch just as soon as I get the chance. 


 

The Family at No. 12 by Anita Waller 

A woman opens her door to a stranger. He winds up dead at the bottom of the stairs. Later she finds herself pregnant. The first part of this book was compelling, if sometimes hard to read because of the subject matter. I was horrified by the circumstances, but wanted to know what was  going to happen next. Then it changed and I completely lost interest. The style and tone were completely different. The element of horrific suspense was gone. I struggled to make it through the last two thirds of the book. I've read plenty of thrillers where the plot abruptly switched to another character, or another point in the timeline. This wasn't that -- it was like a completely different author had taken over and decided to write a different book. 


Shadow Sister by Lindsay Marcott 

Ava has always questioned her mother's death. The doctors attributed it to a rare disease, but she remains convinced that it was something else. Maybe someone poisoned her mother there in the halls of the family mansion. Seventeen years have passed and she'd ready to find some answers. There are a lot of different characters and a lot of different motives, both in the past and present. Towards the end, my concern for the characters was making me actually uncomfortable. It's creepy and atmospheric and part of the Kindle Unlimited program. 


 

The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian

Cassandra Bowden wakes up in a luxurious Dubai hotel room, in bed next to a dead man. It's not the first time she's been blackout drunk, not by a long shot, but this is the first time the consequences have been worse than just embarassing. Terrified of what might have happened, what the consequences might be, she slips out of  the room and rushes to make her next flight, lying to her fellow flight attendants about where she was the night before, then lying to the investigating officers. This one has been in my to-be-read pile for years, since before the book came out, let alone the television series. It wound up being more of a political thriller than I expected, but watching Cassandra try to end her own self destructive streak made for an intriguing read. 



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

Friday, November 18, 2022

{I've Been Reading} The Party

 


The Party by Nora Valters 

Ruth's life implodes after she accidentally drops a friend's new baby at a holiday party. Her fiancé blames the accident on Ruth's drinking. The baby's mother insists that Ruth's actions  left her little boy badly injured and warns their mutual friends that Ruth isn't safe to be near anyone's children.  I love domestic thrillers, especially the ones that involve parents and young children. Watching a happily child free career  woman try to clear her name and convince everyone that she's not entirely to blame was extremely entertaining. More than once, I wanted to give her a  good hard shake and call her an idiot because she was making her own situation worse and worse. The plot wound and twisted and I definitely didn't expect it to end the way it did. 


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

Thursday, November 03, 2022

{I've Been Reading} Small Game

 

Small Game by Blair Braverman 

Mara didn't set out to get a spot on a new reality show, but after the producers contact the survival school where she teaches, she thinks she can make it to the end and collect the prize money. She's spent her entire life leaning how to live in the wilderness. Winning would open up a whole new set of options for her. The entire book is told from Mara's point of view and I genuinely liked her and wanted to see her succeed. 

The characters and plot drew me in and kept me turning pages, but I was expecting something very different, especially after the book's description said that "something had gone horribly wrong."  The team's six weeks in the wild don't go as planned, but I was expecting something completely different. 


Forget Me Not by Miranda Rijks 

Helen is a bit reluctant to take the job decorating a gorgeous chalet in the Swiss Alps. She hasn't returned to the area since her husband vanished on a snowy mountainside. For five years, she's been raising her daughter, rebuilding her life, and waiting for enough time to pass that Paul will be declared dead and she can remarry. It's a dream job, though, and will definitely move her career forward. Maybe her fiancee is right and visiting the mountains in summer won't remind her too much of that awful night .Maybe it's time to put that part of her past behind her. But she doesn't know what really happened during the snowstorm, or what's still happening. And she's about to find out. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The setting and characters and plot all made it easy to get swept up in the book and read it almost straight through. 

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

Wednesday, October 05, 2022

{I've Been Reading} Antiques Liquidation

 Antiques Liquidation by Barbara Allan 


A middle-of-the-night trip to buy some new old stock vintage toys and a barrel of buttons plunges Vivian and Brandy into another murder investigation. The books in this series are always fun. This one has the usual on-page squabbling between Vivian and Brandy (and their long-suffering editor) and  quite a few suggestions for  recipes to use up a large online order of rusks. (I had to stop reading and do an online search just to find out what those were!) There's also more than one murder to be solved, but telling you who died or how the bodies were discovered would spoil some of the best parts. The book is fast paced and funny and I definitely didn't guess where the plot was headed. 

The Witch in the Well by Camilla Bruce 

Childhood friends cross paths once again. They're originally met in the small town where Ilsbeth Clark was accused of witchcraft and thrown down an old well which still stands in the woods, dark secrets waiting in its depths. In one particularly entertaining scene,  mother lets her children climb on the low stone walls, insisting that they're too smart to fall in. Elena and Cathy are both writing books about Ilsbeth, both convinced that they have the right to tell her story. 

The book is creepy and atmospheric, but at times I found myself struggling to keep the characters straight because multiple women are telling the story.


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




Thursday, September 29, 2022

{I've Been Reading} Gone for Gouda


Gone for Gouda by Korina Moss

Cheesemonger Willa Bauer has high hopes for her shop's latest event, but as soon as celebrity chef Phoebe Winston arrives, things start getting complicated. The chairs for the audience are wrong. The ingredients Willa purchased for the cooking demonstration are wrong. Still, Willa is hopeful that the event will bring attention and  extra income to her shop -- until the guest of honor is found dead.

I enjoyed this one. The characters are fun to spend time with, the mystery was intriguing, and the setting had me wanting to put the book down just long enough to make myself a cheesy snack. One of my favorite things about cozy mysteries is the chance to step out of my own day to day life and this one definitely fit the bill. 


 

Seams Like Murder by Dorothy Howell

Abbey Chandler arrives in Hideaway Grove just in time to be the prime suspect in a hit and run homicide. Her car is white, and has a dented fender, and has been impounded by the local police until they conclude their investigation. To keep herself occupied, she takes over a charity sewing project, even though her only experience with a sewing machine was as a teenager and it seems like everyone in town remembers the awful dress she made. It took me a little while to warm up to this one, but by the second half of the book the mystery element and Abbey's enthusiasm for pillowcase dresses had both started to become more central parts of the plot. 



 The New Couple by Alison James 

This is one of those books where the tone of the book itself is different from the back cover description. The facts all match up, but instead of reading about the woman who isn't Stephanie Hamlin, we're plunged into the story of her middle-aged neighbor. Jane is a judgmental woman who likes to use big words. She lost me when she saw two neighbors having sex in another neighbor's garden and described it as "animalistic coitus." She's got a lot of opinions about a lot of people, including the couple who just won their house in a fund-raising raffle. Her newest neighbors, Stephanie and Richard Hamlin, aren't who they claim to be, but there's a lot of conflict in the neighborhood even before the new couple moves in.

The first third of the book is all from Jane's point of view and moves slowly until, about a third of the way through, it switches to another character and finally gets more interesting, until we switch to a third character's point of view. The middle of the book had me intrigued, but the ending was a disappointment...and the characters I was most interested in were almost completely left out of the plot. 


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

Thursday, September 15, 2022

{I've Been Reading} The Guest House

 The Guest House by Robin Morgan-Bentley 


This domestic thriller gets off to a frightening start and then keeps escalating from there. A romantic weekend get away before their first baby is born turns into a nightmare for Victoria and Jamie. The plot opens just as things begin to go wrong, but you won't find out what actually happened until much later in the book. Plenty of hints kept me turning the pages to find out. Chapters alternate between the couple's experience in the guest house and a few weeks later as they try to hide what happened. I had to keep checking the dates on the chapter headers and to do some math to figure out how much time had passed. I absolutely loved this one.  


The Stolen Child by Emily Shiner 

This one kept me turning pages! The chapters alternate between Emily, a blogger with a carefully curated life, and Bethany, one of Emily's online fans. Bethany has gotten just close enough to her idol to discover the one thing that Emily is hiding from the world and she's determined to use that thing to force her way into her new best friend's life. It was fascinating to watch the whole thing play out, even though I don't think the situation was all that plausible. People can make up explanations to explain things. They can out and out lie...but Emily doesn't. She just panics. 

Emily thinks of herself as a successful influencer, even though she's only managed a couple of brand details and her husband asks her to stop sharing so many details online. Success is just a viral post away!  She definitely doesn't want to be friends with Bethany, who wears an unflattering shade of lipstick and faded clothing.  In case you can't guess, I didn't care for Emily much.  Underneath that pretty exterior, she's mean. And she doesn't seem too bright.   Bethany, on the other hand, is just plain nuts. 

Watching the two interact was completely entertaining. The author lost me at the very end, but I had so much fun getting to that point that I don't mind one bit. 


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

Thursday, September 08, 2022

{I've Been Reading} The Nanny

 

The Nanny by Ruth Heald


I absolutely loved this one. A woman and her husband decide that taking in a lodger is the best way to ease the strain on their finances. It's an idea that they've discussed and decided against before, but they're running out of choices and the young woman who comes to look at the room seems absolutely perfect. It has to be a coincidence that she looks like someone Hayley had spent twenty years trying to forget. Not even Hayley's husband knows the story of "Bangkok's Killer Nanny"...but suddenly a lot of people are curious about her gap years and what happened in Thailand twenty years ago.

The book alternates between past and present, always from Hayley's point of view. The story gradually unfolds, finally revealing what happened to baby Chloe and what's going on now, but the pace never drags and I never felt like the author was deliberately stretching things out or hiding things from the reader.  It was an engrossing read that has me wanting to track down the author's earlier books as soon as I can. 

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

Thursday, September 01, 2022

{I've Been Reading} Please Join Us

 


Please Join Us by Catherine McKenzie

Panthera Leo,an exclusive women's networking group, promises life changing results. The high-powered members of each five-member pride take care of each other, doing what it takes to ensure that they all succeed. Nicole has never heard of the group before receiving an email from them, but she jumps at the sudden invitation to join. 

The description was promising, but I had a hard time getting into this one. Nicole is tired because of men. She's angry because of men.  Her husband doesn't have the same drive to succeed as she does and doesn't work as hard as she does. She's underperforming at her job. The apartment she and her husband love is being taken by another member of his family. She wants changes in her life and apparently isn't about to ask any questions about what she'll have to do to repay all of the favors the other pride members are doing for her. 

The plot shifts back and forth between a present situation and a few months earlier when Nicole first joined the group. It builds slowly and by the time things really started to happen I didn't care if Nicole was going to be okay or not. 


No Parm No Foul by Linda Reilly 

Carly Hale has cooked up the perfect grilled cheese on pumpkin bread for an annual Halloween food competition. She's not too worried about a rival sandwich shop owner. Ferris Menard is rude and unpleasant and angry that one of his employees has quit to work at Carly's shop...and then he's found dead in his own restaurant kitchen with a steak knife sticking out of his chest. 

After reading this one, I wanted to run out and buy some fancy bread and cheeses so I could make myself a sandwich half as good as the ones in the book sound. It's a fun read with lots of atmosphere and a plot that twists and turns in some unexpected directions. 





A Colorful Scheme by Krista Davis

This has absolutely become one of my favorite cozy mystery series. The last book, which featured a screaming skull, was so much fun that I plunged into this one without even pausing to look at the cover  copy. If it's about adult coloring-book creator and bookstore manager Florrie and her friends, I want to read it. This one starts with a missing bride and quickly escalates to a mysterious death.  There's a whole lot to enjoy in these pages, including one new character who I hope to read a lot more about in the next book. 



The Housekeeper by Joy Fielding

Jodi is stretched too think, trying to care for her aging parents and hold a full time job as the bread-winner for her own family. Something has to change and hiring a housekeeper to help her parents seems like the perfect solution, especially when she meets Elyse. The woman is almost too good to be true, stepping in immediately to solve most of Jodi's problems. At first. Then things start to change and Jodi realizes that Elyse is wearing her mother's jewelry. The beginning hooked me and, even when I  felt like the plot was starting to lag a bit, the writing style kept me reading until the end. 


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

Thursday, August 25, 2022

{I've Been Reading} Into the Woods

Into the Woods by Lorraine Murphy 

Karen knots that, within hours, her missing daughter's hearing aids will lose their charge and the eight-year-old will be plunged into terrifying silence. Almost before calling the police, she's streaming live on Facebook, hoping her army of follows can help find Scarlett. This domestic thriller plunged right into the action, making me care about the characters and their fates. Karen's life isn't as perfect as the image she shows to the outside world and as the search progresses, questions arise. I read the book almost straight through and thoroughly enjoyed it. 


Six Feet Deep Dish by Mindy Quigley 


Delilah O'Leary's new Chicago restaurant has a crime theme, playfully mocking the building's past connection to gangsters...and, as of the night of her soft open, it also has a fresh crime scene just outside. The food sounds fantastic. The plot is complex and interesting. At first, I felt like I'd come into the middle of the series instead of the first book because some of the relationships already have a lot of conflict, but the more I read the more that choice made sense. I found myself disagreeing with Delilah more than once, but I enjoyed reading the book and I'm curious to see where things go in future titles. 
Make sure to read the recipes at the end -- they're written by the characters and a lot of fun! 


The Favor by Nora Murphy 

Leah and McKenna are living similar lives although the two have never actually met. Both women are facing the same problems and  when their paths cross, they each recognize that fact. This one got off to a slow start, but I was holding my breath and crossing my fingers by the end. It didn't grab me quickly, but once it did, it didn't let go. It has a lot in common with a classic thriller, but telling you which one would spoil the plot.

Disclosure -- The publisher provided me with an ARC. This post contains affiliate links. 

Tuesday, August 09, 2022

{I've Been Reading} Stay Awake


Stay Awake by Megan Goldin

After waking up in the back of a taxi with no idea how she got there and discovering that her apartment has been completely refurnished and is occupied by strangers, Liv Reese is in a panic. She doesn't have her purse or phone with her, only a knife stained with blood and written warnings on both hands telling her to stay awake. Two years have passed since the last thing she remembers and none of her loved ones are answering their phones.

The plot cuts between Liv in the present and Liv in the time period she remembers from two years earlier, alternating with chapters from the point of view of New York police officers who are investigating a murder where STAY AWAKE was written in blood on the victims apartment window. I really enjoyed this one. Some of the  time jumps were a little confusing, but I think that was because Liv herself is so confused. The author does a great job making it all work, but a couple of times I found myself asking why people who knew Liv from before didn't realize that something was very wrong. 

One of my biggest complaints about the domestic thrillers I've read lately is that I don't care enough about the characters to car what happens to them. The more I learn about Liv through her own interactions with others and through the police investigation, the more I wanted her to be okay and hoped she wasn't responsible for that bloody knife. 



Such a Good Mother by Helen Monks Takhar

Rose O'Connell still lives in the neighborhood where she grew up. The place has evolved around her. She didn't fit in when she was young, and she definitely doesn't fit in now. She gets her young son a coveted spot at the Woolf Academy, a school located in a building that was once the  public school where she spent her own childhood. After a member of the Circle, an elite group of mothers who control everything that happens at the academy, dies, Rose somehow manages  to get herself a spot in the group. The other women are not welcoming and Rose's son is deeply unhappy at the school, but she refuses to let go or consider any other options for her family. I didn't like Rose at all and felt that the plot dragged. By the very end, I was starting to understand the point of the thing but, for me,  it was too little, too late. 



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

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

{I've Been Reading} The Swell

 

The Swell by Allie Reynolds

The first book I read by Allie Reynolds had the characters trapped at an icy ski resort. In The Swell, a woman finds herself on a remote beach in Australia, surrounded by unwelcoming strangers. I absolutely love the way this author immediately created such a vivid, hostile setting. Kenna has just dropped everything and  travelled to Australia after learning that her best friend is about to get married. She sees too many red flags that she's hoping she can convince Mikki to reconsider her hasty decision.... which is why she ignores so many danger signs and lets herself get dragged along to Sorrow Bay. A group of dedicated surfers is living there almost full time, jealously guarding their perfect waves from outsiders. Surfing was everything to Kenna until a tragic accident killed the love of her life and she gave it up. But now she finds herself being initiated into this group of strangers, even though she can tell they're keeping secrets and that bad things have happened in Sorrow Bay. This one genuinely creeped me out. There's a cultish feeling to the tribe of surfers and knowing that Kenna had no way to leave the isolated spot on her own really increased the tension. I highly recommend this one if you want to immerse yourself into a tense thriller.

   

Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey 

Vera's dying mother has called her home to the house her father built, the house where her father tortured his victims in the basement under Vera's bedroom. And, like a good daughter, Vera goes to help her. But her mother refuses any help with her personal care, insisting that she's made arrangements for that. Vera's job is to sort through closets and cupboards, digging through what was left after the murder investigations. Her mother has rented rooms to a series of artists and writers who have pillaged the place for inspiration and bits and pieces to add to their work. There's one still living in an outbuilding. While Vera's mom will barely speak to her, this guy wants to pry for details.  This book is a slow burn that takes some incredibly creepy turns. I don't know what I was expecting, but that ending definitely wasn't it! 


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

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