Friday, September 29, 2023

I've Been Reading

 I've been reading, but I haven't been keeping very good track of what I've read. Life took an unexpected detour a couple of months back and, while things are definitely not back to normal, the dust is finally starting to settle. 


The Lodge by Miranda Rijks 

This domestic thriller is set at a game reserve in South Africa. Anna  accompanies her fiancé, Joel, who is interviewing for a position as veterinarian.  She can't imagine relocating to such a remote location, but it's his dream job and he's promised her luxurious accommodations and the trip of a lifetime. She's worried about animals and their open sided tent and making her way on dark paths at after dark. The place has real dangers...then she finds herself face to face with her toxic (and supposedly deaad) ex who is staying at the lodge with his new girlfriend. I absolutely loved this one. 


Prom Mom by Laura Lippman 

This one pulled me in quickly. Amber Glass gave birth alone in a hotel room on the night of her prom. The baby didn't survive. She has no memory of what happened before she was found there on the bathroom floor, but years have passed and she's built a new life for herself. Now she's back in her hometown, opening a gallery that features the work of outsider artists. She didn't mean to cross paths with her prom date and reopen old wounds, but once she sees Joe, she can't keep herself from seeing him again and finding out what he's done with his own life. I was immediately pulled into this one, caught up in the characters and their lives. 

The Guest Room by Tasha Sylva 

Tess, a young woman who rents out her murdered sister's room, can't stop herself from digging through her unwitting tenants' belongings to learn every last detail about them. When her latest roommate's journal reveals his obsession with an unnamed woman, she convinces herself that he must be responsible for the unsolved murder. The book has some interesting twists and turns, but I found Tess extremely unlikeable.

Country Roads by Colin Leonard is a slowly paced horror novel that gets better towards the end. People are dying on rural Irish roads late at night, gruesome deaths at the base of a twisted old tree.  As much as I love this type of old fashioned folk horror, nothing about this book really stood out to me. 

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

Wednesday, August 09, 2023

{I've Been Reading} Mister Magic

Mister Magic by Kiersten White 

I have hazy memories of a show I watched as a young child, something that played early in the morning, before any of  the normal cartoons came on. There was never anyone else up with me flipping channels before the sun rose, so I can't ask and I can't remember enough details to even try an online search.  Mister Magic captures that feeling perfectly. It was a show that ran for years, but there are no recordings or written records. No one knows who produced it or what channel it aired on. The adults who watched it as children can't agree on exactly what Mister Magic looked like, whether he was a puppet or animation or a live actor. They do agree that a tragedy ended the show and a few  claim that they saw the episode where it happened. Now the members of that last Circle of Friends, the children who participated in the last season of the show, are reuniting. Online rumors are flying fast.

Val has lived on an isolated ranch with her father since she was eight years old. She knows that something awful happened when she was a child and has always feared that she was responsible, but she doesn't know who they're hiding from. When two strangers show up at her father's funeral, thrilled to have found her, she learns about the show that she'd completely forgotten. And the reader starts to learn about it through her eyes. 

I absolutely loved this book. There's something dark lurking behind all of those childhood memories and it takes a while to get to what it is, but it all comes together into a creepy and satisfying conclusion. 

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

Thursday, July 20, 2023

{I've Been Reading}

The Mother at Number 5 by Jill Childs

This might be the first domestic thriller that had me almost yelling at the page for the protagonist to stop and think about what she was about to do. After sharing drinks with a stranger at a vacation resort and spilling far too many personal details, Ros comforts herself with the thought that she'll never see the other woman again. There's no need to worry about the secrets she told her. Then Lotte buys a house just down the street and enrolls her daughter at the same school Ros's children attend. The ending was a surprise and the journey to get there was an intriguing one. 


 The Homemaker by Shari J. Ryan

My favorite domestic thrillers are the ones that involve new mothers. This book, with its description of a new mother who is told that she doesn't have a baby, works extremely well. That back cover copy is vague and had me expecting something else but once I started reading it really was as "unputdownable" as the book's Amazon listing promised.  It wasn't until halfway through that I started to even suspect what was really going on. 

Hot Pot Murder by Jennifer Chow 

I was just as intrigued by the many descriptions of food as I was by the murder mystery. There are plenty of suspects, all with some sort of motive, and the stakes are very high. Yale and her cousin Celine are trying figure out who was behind the fatal accident at a restaurant owners association dinner and to make a success of their food stall at the night market. I jumped into this series with the second book and was able to quickly figure out who was who and what was going on, but I definitely want to check out the first book. 


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

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

{I've Been Reading} The Wicked Unseen

The Quiet Tenant by Clemence Michallon

This book is seriously creepy. Rachel has been held prisoner in a backyard shed for five years. She knows little about her captor, but now and then she sees signs indicating that there's been another victim. He's killed those other women, but not Rachel. Not yet. Then things change. His wife has died and her parents are selling the isolated property out from under him. He'll be moving into a new house with his teenage daughter, and Rachel is to take on a new role as a family friend who has fallen upon hard times and is renting their spare room. She'll join them in the kitchen for meals -- when she isn't handcuffed to the radiator in a locked room upstairs. Her only chance to stay alive is by following his new rules. 

Over the past few years, I've read several books about women kidnapped and locked away for years. This one is different. The fact that we see Aidan through his thirteen-year-old daughter's eyes and the eyes of a local bartender who has a bit of a crush on him makes him even more chilling.  


The Wicked Unseen by Gigi Griffis 

Audre and her family don't fit into their new community at all. She loves horror movies and has a pierced nose. Her parents collect ouija boards and her father is a former member of the Church of Satan. They don't blend into the highly religious rural community that was worried about secret devil worshippers even before a teenage girl vanished. 

I wanted to like this one a lot more than I did. The Satanic Panic still fascinates me.  The writing style pulled me right in, but if it hadn't been for the lack of cell phones and two mentions of movies that had just come out, I wouldn't have been able to tell that the book was set in 1996. Audre's attitudes make it feel like she's living in 2022.  She's angry and mean, lashing out at everyone whose views differ from her own.  Yes, some members of the local church as terrible and deserve it, but she seems to hate everyone, even friends who have done nothing to hurt her. The book makes some great points, but it's very anti-Church and anti-police. 

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

Thursday, May 25, 2023

{I've Been Reading} Six Ostriches

 Six Ostriches by Phillip Schott

After emergency surgery on an ostrich reveals that the huge bird had swallowed what looks like a Viking artifact, veterinarian Peter Bannerman gets curious. Not long after, he begins receiving calls from distressed clients. Farm animals have been killed and mutilated and it all seems to be connected. Six ostriches is an intriguing  mystery filled with lots of interesting details. I definitely want to go back and read the first book in the series. 


The Perfect Husband by Danielle Ramsay

This domestic thriller starts out strong and keeps going right until the end. On her wedding night, Sophie finds herself in the emergency room with a broken wrist, wondering how her groom has so suddenly transformed into a monster. In the days that follow, things only get worse. The protagonist is a likeable woman who is plunged into a nightmare and I absolutely could not put the book down. It felt too real, like something that could happen. The book's Amazon page said it's inspired by a true story, which leaves me wondering how much of this could be real. 

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

{I've Been Reading} With My Little Eye


Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson 

Actress Meribel Mills is terrified. Her stalker not only sends threatening notes and pictures scrawled in scented marker, he's been in her home. She hoped that moving cross country with her daughter would buy them some time, but she still feels that she's being watched. 

I absolutely loved this book. The characters were engaging and I really wanted  things to end well for all of them. I found myself turning pages with an ever increasing sense of dread, not wanting to read what was about to happen, but unable to put the book down. I wasn't ready for the book to to over, because I wanted to spend more time with Meribel and her daughter, but the ending is absolutely satisfying. 

A Vacation to Kill For by Eunice Mays Boyd

Olive Wallace has invited friends and family to join her on a trip of Europe.  Everyone in the tour group caters to her every whim because Olive is very wealthy and constantly updating her will. She delights in her sense of control until a string of accidents makes it appear that someone wants the money now, before she can change her mind yet again.

This was an absolutely charming read and I loved the chance to vicariously travel with the characters.. The book was written before the author's death in 1971, then edited by the author's goddaughter before publication.  

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

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

{I've Been Reading} The Class Trip



The school Trip by Miranda Smith 

It's easy to lose track of a child at a crowded pumpkin patch. All it takes is to turn your gaze in one direction while the little on you're watching decides to dart off the other way. The sense of panic and guilt is immediate, even if you're sure that everything is going to turn out just fine. In this book, things aren't fine, and the author does an amazing job of building the tension. 

Before one of the students goes missing, Emma is already feeling stressed and guilty. Her own daughter, Claire, is on the school trip, wanting one on one time even though Emma is working and has to keep a watchful eye on a number of children. She's promised that they'll spend time together at the end of the day. Then a little girl gets lost. She's quickly found, but in the confusion, Emma's own daughter goes missing and isn't quickly found. 

I really enjoyed the read, even if I wasn't completely satisfied by the ending. 


In The Meantime by A. R. Shaw

I was curious to see what a Cozy Apocalypse Mystery would be like. The book is set in a small town in Washington State, some time after spores killed off most of the population. It's exactly what the description said it would be, a cozy mystery. Someone has stolen the community's food supply and two widows team up to find the responsible party. At times, it felt almost too cozy, in the same way that other mystery series can feel too perfect. The author never really mentions any of the unpleasant details of the apocalypse itself -- that seems to be over and done with. Now the focus is on the survivors, with no mention of what might be going on beyond the town's borders. As a reader, I had a lot of unanswered questions about that. 

I enjoyed the read, but I'm not sure I'm enthusiastic enough to seek out the other books in the series.

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

Thursday, April 27, 2023

{I've Been Reading} Mastering the Art of French Murder

 Mastering the Art of French Murder by Colleen Cambridge 

Tabitha Knight isn't at all intimidated by airplane engines but she can't roast a chicken. Luckily she lives just across the street from Julia Child and Julia is determined to help her learn to cook. Not so luckily, one of the guests at a party in Julia's apartment was found in the building's cellar, stabbed with Julia's favorite kitchen knife. I can't even begin to tell you how much I loved this book! The mystery is suspenseful and kept me guessing. The setting is fantastic, filled with intriguing details about life in Paris in 1949. Tabitha is likeable and resourceful and I can't wait to read more about her in future books. 

Ashes to Ashes, Crust to Crust by Mindy Quigley

I loved the first book in the new Deep Dish mystery series so I read this one almost as soon as I got my hands on it. Delilah is hoping that one of her delicious creations will win the town's annual "Taste of Wisconsin" event, giving her restaurant a needed boost and better chance of making it through the lean winter months. Unfortunately, the celebrity judge is a huge problem. Another of the competitors just had a customer drop dead from a poisoned smoothie. This book is fast paced and full of entertaining characters, including a new one I can't wait to see more of. I still can't decide how I feel about Delilah herself, but the writing is fantastic and I'll definitely be looking forward to the next books in the series. Make sure you read the recipes -- they're written by the characters and not to be missed! 

We Love to Entertain by Sarah Strohmeyer

Holly and Robert are the perfect couple, young and in love and ready to reveal their home and hopefully win To The Manor Built, a popular home renovation show. Robert bought the property for nearly nothing and, together, they're turned it into something extraordinary. And then, hours before the live reveal, they're gone without a trace. 

I loved this one. It's fast paced and entertaining and what surprised me most is how little time we spend with Holly and Robert. The chapters alternate between their assistant, Erika, and Erika's mother. The reader sees Holly through their eyes, and through Holly's carefully curated blog posts. I stayed up far later than I should have because I couldn't wait until morning to find out what had happened to her. 

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

{I've Been Reading} A Wealth of Deception


A Wealth of Deception by Trish Esden 

I had mixed feelings about the first book in the Scandal Mountain Antiques mystery series, but I absolutely loved the second one. Antique dealer Edie Brown is doing a woman a favor by seeing if the are any valuable antiques that shouldn't be underpriced at her mother's upcoming estate sale when she notices a disturbing collage hanging in the dead woman's bedroom. It's style is unlike anything else in the house and Edie is sure that she recognizes the work of Vespa, a prominent creator of "Outsider Art." The collage isn't for sale and the story that goes along with it doesn't make any sense. Edie keeps asking questions, probing for details that might explain what's actually going on. I still don't love her, but I've warmed up to Edie and her ways since the first book. The mystery held my interest and had me holding my breath until the end. 

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

Thursday, March 30, 2023

{I've Been Reading} A House With Good Bones


A House With Good Bones by T. Kingfisher 

"Vultures are extremely sensitive to the dead. Particularly when the dead are doing things they shouldn't be." 

The first thing Sam notices when she arrives at her mother's house is the vulture sitting on the mailbox. Instead of being spooked by it, she wonders what type of mites are breeding in the bird's feathers. She doesn't start to worry until she goes inside and realizes that her mother, a women who loves vibrant colors, has painted the walls white and rehung the portraits that they hid away in the attic after her grandmother's death. Her mother's entire personality has changed. This is the most entertaining haunted house story I've read in quite a while.  I enjoyed it, especially the unique protagonist, but some of the horror elements were described in a way that felt a bit silly.  

The Assistant by Amada Reynolds

This thriller is a very, very slow burn with an unusual structure. Most of  the book is made up of interviews with Gail,  a middle aged woman who conned her way into the position as Ris's assistant. We know from the beginning that she wants to ruin the younger woman's life, but aren't given any reasons why. Ris is self-absorbed, but that's about it. Gail is completely unlikeable. Whatever happened between the women happened before the first of the interviews so everything is over and done with before the book begins and we're reading about it from a distance. The interviews alternate with vague emails from the interviewer to someone else and diary entries written by the woman Ris's husband is having an affair with. It takes a lot of patience to get to the reveal, but the writing is good.  

Curds of Prey by Korina Moss

The elegant bridal shower that Willa has created an elaborate cheese board for is abruptly cancelled after the groom-to-be is found dead in the stables. It turns out that Roman, who Willa has started to see as boyfriend material, was once involved with the bride-to-be....and he's a suspect. I love this series. The writing and characters are great. I wish that the adult characters who were upset about their relationships would have had a conversation with each other instead of sulking alone. I've never made a recipe from the back of a cozy mystery, although I've been tempted many times before. This book had me hoping that Willa's creations would be included and I can't wait to try all of them! 

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

Thursday, March 16, 2023

{I've Been Reading} The Loch


The Loch by Fran Dorricott 

After rain spoils their camping trip, three friends find  themselves staying in a rental house at the edge of Loch Aven. The last signatures in the guest book are from before they were born. The local residents of the small town aren't welcoming. Michaela, who made the arrangements for their trip, says she has a surprise for Eleanor, dropping some vague hints about a podcast she'd listened to. Then Michaela vanishes. The premise had me intrigued, but the plot moves very slowly and it feels like it would be almost impossible not to guess where things are going to end up. There was a small twist I didn't expect, but the important details are mentioned over and over again. 

The Last Wife by J A Baker

This one sounded right up my alley. Fiona and her husband move to Winters End, a small island where they can hide from what they did. The locals are unwelcoming and it's not long before she realizes that there are almost no women in the small town. The local cemetery is filled with gravestones, most of them recent. It's an atmospheric, slow burn that held me interest most of the way through. The revelations -- both of the awful thing Fiona did and of what happened to the local women left me a bit underwhelmed.  It's a solid read, but nothing unique. 

Eve in Overdrive by Faith Gardner 

A journalist picks up her new luxury car. There's just one problem -- the columns that earned the money that paid for her solar powered, self-driven vehicle really made some people angry. The engineer who programmed her car is one of those people. I loved this novella. It's a fast paced psychological thriller that plunges the reader almost immediately into the action and I read it straight through, hoping that somehow Eve was going to escape the nightmarish situation. There are other, longer, thrillers by this author, set in the same universe. I'll be downloading those as soon as I get the chance!

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

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

{I've Been Reading} A Sinister Revenge


Did you know that "she sells sea shells by the sea shore" refers to an actual historical figure, Mary Anning? (Or maybe that's just folklore. Either way, the woman's history is fascinating) And did you know that on New Year's Eve  1853, a group of scientists held a dinner parts in a life size model of an iguanodon?


A Sinister Revenge by Deanna Raybourn

I spent a chunk of time looking up the historical details from this book. I already love the characters and the setting and the mysteries and those historic details gave me an extra appreciation for the time and place where Veronica and Stoker live. I sometimes spend more time thinking about what they didn't have in the past than realizing how many amazing things they DID have. 

This time, Stoker's brother Tiberius has asked for their help. Friends from his younger days, members of a group that described themselves as The Seven Sinners, are dying. The obituaries that he's received in the mail make him suspect foul play, and that he may be the next target. Their investigation takes place at the family estate, which means we get to learn more about Stoker's childhood and his relationships with his brothers. 

If you haven't heard of wolpertingers, look them up. They're like jackalopes, but better! 

Things We Do in the Dark by Jennifer Hilier

Paris Peralta is found in her bathroom, covered in blood, holding a straight razor over the body of her much older, much richer husband, unable to explain what happened to him. The media circus is immediate. She didn't kill her beloved husband, but this isn't the first murder she's been involved in. 

I was immediately pulled into this fast paced thriller. I wanted so badly for Paris's husband not to be dead. I know, there wouldn't be a book if he wasn't, but the author's descriptions of their relationship had me wanting to know more about him and their backstory. There's a little of that, but the main focus is on the woman Paris was before she married a famous comedian and the events she thought she'd finally left behind her. Once I started reading, I couldn't put this book down. 

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

Thursday, February 09, 2023

{I've Been Reading} Of Manners and Murder

 Of Manners and Murder by Anastasia Hastings 

The first book in this new cozy series is absolutely delightful! The protagonist, Violet, is plunged into the action right along with the reader, learning that her aunt Adelia is a popular Agony Aunt, an anonymous writer who offers advice through a newspaper column. In that same conversation, she learns that Adelia is leaving for the Continent and expects Violet to take her place. When the first letter she opens is from a new bride fearing for her life, Violet sets off to offer advice in person, only to learn that the young woman is already dead. The book is fast paced and entertaining and, while I started to get an idea what the solution to the mystery would be, I didn't come close to solving it all. I can't wait to read more about these characters!

Wined and Died in New Orleans by Ellen Byron 

After some crates of what could be very valuable wine are discovered hidden at the Bon Vee Culinary House Museum, Ricki starts looking for ways to combine the upcoming auction with promotions for her vintage cookbook shop. Those bottles of wine could generate a small fortune, money that will definitely help the museum, and she's eager to help. Even if that means venturing back onto social media, something she's shied away from since her husband died while filming a prank video. News of the auction brings distant Charbonnet cousins to town, all hoping to claim what they see as their share of the windfall and seemingly willing to do anything to make that happen. 

I loved this one, with its quirky characters and the atmospheric backdrop of New Orleans. This murder mystery could only have happened at this museum with these people and I can't wait to see what happens to Ricki and her friends next. 

Such Pretty Flowers by K. L. Cerra 

Plagued with guilt about avoiding her brother's last few text messages and horrified by the details of his grisly suicide, Holly goes looking for explanations. Was her brother's enigmatic girlfriend somehow involved or had Dane experienced a psychotic break? Holly scrolls endlessly through Dane's messages and considers every detail of their last encounters, trying to figure out what actually happened. Maura is welcoming and supportive and almost before Holly realizes what's happening, she's moved into the gorgeous woman's apartment. The horror is absolutely claustrophobic and the author has a way of making things that don't seem like they should be scary work. The protagonist suffers from trypophobia, an aversion to clusters of small holes. When she first explains it and uses strawberries as an example of a sight that makes her uncomfortable, it seems silly. By the end of the book, descriptions had me squirming. 

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


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