Wednesday, April 10, 2024

{I've Been Reading} Every Living Thing - The Great and Deadly Race to Know All Life


Every Living Thing - The Great and Deadly Race to Know All Life Jason Roberts 

This is the story of Carl Linnaeus and Georges-Louis de Buffon, two scientists who were determined to document all life on earth and who both vastly underestimated how many plants and animals existed. Based on the book's description, I had hoped that the author would spend more time on the search for specimens.  It's long and a bit dry, covering the lives of Linnaeus and Buffon in exhausting detail. There were some sections I found absolutely fascinating,  but overall I slogged through it. 

A Botanical Daughter by Noah Medlock

Imagine two men living in a vast greenhouse, the only structure that survived after a fire took the adjoining manor house. Living walls separate the rooms. Humidity is taking a toll on everything, especially the grand piano. Gregor deals in exotic plants.  Simon creates whimsical taxidermy in his basement retreat. Once Gregor realizes that his newly imported sample of fungus seems to be intelligent and capable of movement, he sets out to see how much it's capable of. Before he's done, he's created Chloe, a walking, talking, sometimes angry combination of plants. Something about old glass greenhouses has always intrigued and fascinated me and the setting of this book was incredibly vivid. The story itself is hauntingly beautiful and it left me wondering if the parts I found most horrifying were what the author intended. It wasn't the grisly deaths that got to me, it was the awful lack of consent. (And one particularly explicit scene near the end of the book.) 

Grey Dog by Elliott Gish

This creepy folk horror is set in 1901, told through the writings of Ada Byrd, a school teacher who has accepted a post in a small town to escape the scandal that caused her to leave her last teaching position. Ada is fascinated by the owl skull and feathers and bits of stuff she finds in the woods. Not every thing she finds out there, though, is natural. The thing waiting for her in the woods is unsettling, but I found myself more horrified by the idea of how powerles Ada was against the members of her new community. The unpleasant depictions of pregnancy and childbirth also got to me. 

Disclosure -- The publisher provided me with an advance review copy. 

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

{I've Been Reading} The Fortune Teller

 The Fortune Teller by Natasha Boydell 

Not long after a fortune teller promises Simone she'll meet the love her life but their marriage will end in tragedy after five years, she does meet the perfect guy. She plunges into the relationship, ignoring the ridiculous warning, but it never leaves her thoughts and as time passes she becomes more and more certain that disaster is looming. Watching Simone unravel as time passes made this one a sad but compelling read. There are some intriguing twists near the end, but the last bit left me confused. 

Murder Takes Root by Rosie Sandler 

Steph and her big dog, Mouse, are on to a new job at Ashford Manor where she'll be restoring the historic gardens to something resembling their original design. I enjoyed the second Gardener Mystery. The bond between Steph and her dog (the only two characters to return from the first book) is absolutely adorable. Her work in the garden is fascinating. The mystery itself is a unique one. I do miss the unusual setting of the first book and it looks like the third will be set in a new place with new characters. 

One by One by Freida McFadden 

Three couples are driving to a week long getaway at a luxurious cabin when they take a wrong turn and the mini van breaks down. With no cell phone reception, they set off on foot and before dark they're hopelessly turned around. Soon, one of them is dead. Then another.... I started reading this one late one night and made it half way through before bed time, then had to get through a busy day before I could pick it up again. I had an absolute blast trying to figure out which of the four surviving characters could be the bad guy. I'm still not sure how they got so lost so quickly. If the dirt road you're on dead ends, wouldn't you backtrack to the main road? It seems obvious that they weren't going the right way, but these characters didn't know how to pee behind a tree so I was willing to suspend my disbelief and enjoy the ride. 

The Perfect Village by J M Hewitt 

A woman who lives alone and is no longer allowed to foster children finds a boy and girl next to the centuries old well behind her property and brings them home. The children are filthy and refuse to speak. Their skin is a troubling shade of green. The first few chapters of this book left me extremely confused and wondering whether the children were real or a figment of Vivacia's imagination. Based on the cover and description, I expected this to be a typical domestic thriller, but things in the gated community are a lot more complex, especially after a heavy rainstorm floods the old well and a body literally bubbles to the surface. It's definitely different and left me trying to figure a lot of things out. 

Disclosure -- The publisher provided me with an advance review copy. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

{I've Been Reading} Three Fudges and a Baby

Three Fudges and a Baby by Nancy Coco

Can fudge maker Allie McMurphy clear the name of her best friend's midwife before the baby is born? It's not looking good, since Hannah was found holding the gun and the baby is already overdue. The Candy Coated mystery series is everything I love about cozies, with an interesting setting I'm not likely to ever get to in real life and a fun cast of characters. Although I've only read a few of this twelve book series, there was just enough backstory to keep me from feeling lost.  I was seriously tempted to put this book down just long enough to make one on fudge recipes included between the chapters, but the plot kept me reading.  I definitely want to try making some fudge and  want to spend more time with Allie and her friends in her historic hotel on Mackinac island. 

Rhythm and Clues by Olivia Blacke 

The Record Shop Mystery Series keeps getting better and better! In this one, a killer strikes during a violent storm that knocks out the power and phones. The victim is an investor who had his eyes on Sip and Spin Records and was already involved with a number of local businesses, leaving some of his new partners thrilled and others unhappy...maybe angry enough to want to do away with him? The blocked roads and lack of communication really complicate things, making this one a slightly more suspenseful than the usual cozy. It's set in a tight knit community with a bunch of likeable characters and the quirky names of the shop's coffee creations add to the fun.

Disclosure -- The publishers provided me with advance review copies. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

{I've Been Reading} The Playgroup

 The Playgroup by Leah Mercer

The Nest, a community run nursery co-op, should have been where little Florence was safest. Bur a responsible adult made a mistake and now the little girl is in the hospital with life threatening injuries. Accusations are flying. The depiction of the accident itself is absolutely chilling and although I was concerned to see that the chapters alternate between four different women, that didn't turn out to be a problem and it was always clear who I was reading about at the moment. All of the women are desperate to save their own hides, no matter who they have to blame to keep their own names clear. Everyone is hiding dark secrets and would do just about anything to keep them. This one is a fast paced page turner. 

Disclosure -- The publishers provided me with advance review copies. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

{I've Been Reading} The Perfect Couple

 The Perfect Couple by Jan McLoughlin

His job offers the young couple the opportunity to relocate to England for a year and live in  gothic mansion while he works. She starts to hear and see things as soon as she's alone in the house. He's kind of a jerk, policing her vocabulary and behavior so she won't seem too American and embarrass him. Their new home is near the small village her grandmother came from and she begins to hear rumors of a family curse. I mostly enjoyed this one. The Jayce compares her situation to The Shining and, while that makes total sense, I think I was getting more of a Rosemary's Baby or Yellow Wallpaper vibe. It was great until the ending, which was a bit of a let down after the author had built up so much great suspense. 

The Other Wife by Danielle Ramsay

"And if I do, what becomes of her? Of my wife?"
"You live your life as if she never existed." 

The protagonist finds herself in a stark white room, cared for by an unsympathetic housekeeper who tells her that she's suffering from memory loss caused by her migraines. She's kept drugged, confined to her  room. I had a hard time identifying with the woman because, as convinced as she is that she's not Mrs. Langdon and doesn't belong in the remote Scottish estate with this man who claimes to be her husband, she never explains where she thinks she should be. The first half of the book is extremely repetetive and absolutely drags. Then it got better. I had guessed the big twist, but the way the author pulls it all together is much more satisfying than I expected it to be. This is a unique domestic thriller with a traditional Gothic feel to it. 

The Nurse by Jenna Kernan

A newly graduated nurse is hired to take care of a wealthy doctor's wife, making sure she takes her pills on time and eats her meals, driving her on her errands and to her golf club. Doctor Roth warns Emily that his wife has delusions, that she'll claim responsibility for things that never happened...but Emily soon begins to suspect that her client is over medicated and might need her help. This is a slow burn that has the feel of an old fashioned gothic thriller. Once Emily starts uncovering the Roth family's secrets, it's a wild ride to the conclusion. 

Disclosure -- The publisher provided me with an advance review copy. 

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

{I've Been Reading} Bye, Baby


Bye, Baby by Carola Lovering

After realizing that her baby has been stolen from her stroller, influencer Cassie Barnwell stands in her apartment, screaming for the woman who used to be her best friend. In the apartment downstairs, Billie stands with the baby in her arms, thrilled that after pushing her away for so long Cassie finally wants her. This is the best domestic thriller I've read in I don't know how long. As the plot moved in unexpected directions, I found myself aching for both characters and hoping that things would somehow turn out okay. 

If I Lose Her by Brianne Sommerville 

The marketing materials warned that this one is dark and it definitely is, at first, in a misery lit sort of way.  It's a different style of thriller. The first chapters feel more like a true story than a domestic thriller. Gradually, the pace picks up and the plot starts to twist until it reaches an unexpected conclusion.  Jo's fear and confusion are realistically portrayed, especially when she makes mistakes that any mother could have made. 

Listen for the Lie by Amy Tintera 

Lucy was found wandering and covered in her best friend's blood and doesn't remember what happened. Everyone believes that she killed her best friend, but Lucy herself doesn't know. I absolutely loved this one. Chapters alternate between Lucy's point of view and new episodes of a popular true crime podcast  that is investigating the crime. The only thing that's immediately clear is that Lucy really doesn't know if she killed her friend or not and she's a fun character to spend some time with. 

Disclosure -- The publishers provided me with advance review copies. 

Thursday, February 22, 2024

{I've Been Reading} The Baby I Stole


The Baby I Stole by McGarvey Black 

This is an entertaining read if you don't think about the details too much. How can a woman just come home from an afternoon at the beach with a stranger's baby in her arms? I spent the whole book waiting for things to fall apart, and they eventually did because nothing else could possibly happen. By the end things actually made a lot more sense than I would've expected them to. 

The Boy Who Cried Bear by Kelley Armstrong 

When I choose this book to read, I didn't realize that it was the second in a series and apparently the characters were introduced in a previous series. I feel like I was missing a lot of necessary details, although I warmed up to the characters eventually. A ten year old boy goes missing after reporting that he saw a bear just outside a tiny well-hidden forest town. As the search for him intensifies, it becomes clear that it wasn't an animal who took him, it was a person....and there aren't many suspects in the isolated wilderness. 

Mrs. Morris and the Mermaid by Traci Wilton

I picked up the eighth Salem B&B Mystery because the mermaid festival sounded fun. The actress who played the mermaid in a cult classic film has agreed to appear on the lead float and her rival, who starred in a more recent remake, is also on the scene, stirring up conflict. The author does a great job of portraying the conflict between fans of the remake and fans of the original and capturing the business of the festival. That might be my one complaint -- there's so much going on that it distracts from the mystery. Add in the witches and ghost that are already present in  this series and there's a lot of magical fun to enjoy.  

Disclosure -- The publishers provided me with advance review copies. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

{I've Been Reading} DM Me for Murder

 DM Me for Murder by Sarah E. Burr 

When Coco Cline arrives for a meeting with mega-influencer LaTage, she finds the popular internet star dead. This is the third book in the series, so it's not the first brush Coco has had with murder and LaTage's fans are quick to start spreading rumors about what might have happened. The one is a fun, quick read with lots of pop culture and social media references. The mystery itself is well developed and kept me interested. There was just enough back story to keep me from feeling lost, even though I hadn't read the previous two books.  I also appreciate that when the author referred to events from the previous books, she didn't give away the endings to those mysteries. 

Case of the Bleus by Korina Moss

Everyone is after the secrets behind Church Bleu, a legendary cheese created by Willa's former employer, Max Dumas. Instead of leaving the recipe in his will, Max teases them with an enigmatic clue that infuriates his daughter and employees, who all think they should have been trusted with the instructions. At first I thought the solution to this one was obvious, but it got a lot more complicated than I expected and the ending is absolutely perfect.  

Disclosure -- The publishers provided me with advance review copies. 

Wednesday, February 07, 2024

{I've Been Reading} A Fatal Groove


A Fatal Groove by Oliva Blacke 

The second Record Shop mystery has everything I love about cozies, even a little bit of crafting. Along with her sisters, Juni Jessup runs Sip and Spin Records in the same space where her grandparents once owned a record shop. When the local mayor dies just after finishing a cup of their coffee, its definitely bad for business. Mayor Bob wasn't a great mayor, but no one seemed to dislike him. Between the murder investigation and the local Bluebonnet Festival, Juni barely has time to catch her breath. I found myself vicariously enjoying the food trucks and music and history of the fictional town, not to mention the annual hole digging competition. The mystery itself is engaging and complex. Happily, the third book is due out soon so I'll be spending more time with the Jessup sisters. 

Disclosure -- The publishers provided me with advance review copies. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

{I've Been Reading} Of Hoaxes and Homicide

 Of Hoaxes and Homicide by Anastasia Hastings

I absolutely love this series and the second book is almost more fun than the first! Of course it couldn't have existed without the first book setting up Violet's unexpected new role as an agony aunt....but this one has a cult that Violet's stepsister is much too intrigued by. Sephora has been absolutely devouring stories of the group, which include rumors of virgin sacrifices. When "Miss Hermione" receives a letter from a troubled mother she joins the Childred of Aed herself in an effort to rescue a missing girl. This one got a little darker than I expected, but the gruesome events were filtered through Violet's Victorian sensibilities, so it wasn't too dark.  

The Book of Renfield by Tim Lucas 

This book weaves text from the original Dracula in with original notes by Doctor Seward and Renfield telling the story of his own life and how he became a servant of the vampire. I picked it up after watching the recent movie, which combines characters from the original book (which I haven't reread in decades) I was reading about the wrong Renfield, if that makes any sense at all. It was an enjoyable read for the most part, but some sections absolutely dragged and the introduction and the author's notes at the end were downright tiresome.  I'm apparently not enough of a Dracula fan to thoroughly enjoy this. 

The Au Pair by Jane Renshaw 

Melanie is the second au pair to work for the Davidson family. Her predecessor, a young girl named Alice, is missing, assumed drowned after her clothes were found on the beach. Deep scratches on her bedroom floor show where Alice pushed a heavy dresser against the door, presumably to keep someone out. The story alternates between Alice and Melanie and as soon as Melanie is introduced it's revealed that she's there to investigate what happened to Alice. I never quite got caught up in the suspense of this one and couldn't suspend my disbelief nearly enough to be satisfied with the ending.  

Disclosure -- The publisher provided me with an advance review copy. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

{I've Been Reading} One Last Breath

 One Last Breath by P S Cunliffe 

This thriller plunges right into the action, with the protagonist trapped at the bottom of the same well her best friend's body was found in years earlier. Jessie is well known for the documentary series she filmed about Amy's death and not everyone is happy that her work led to the release of the man originally convicted of the crime. The plot alternates between the present, with Jessie in the well, the days leading up to that, and earlier points in time. It all makes sense -- there are secrets to be revealed, but it was always clear whose head I was in and when. The best part of this book for me was the sense of suspense and urgency the author creates and the vivid settings. As fantastic as it was, right up until the very end, I would have been happier with one or two fewer twists. I couldn't suspend my disbelief quite that far. 

Disclosure -- The publishers provided me with advance review copies. All opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2024

{I've Been Reading} The Heiress

 The Heiress by Rachel Hawkins 

Ruby McTavish Callahan Woodward Miller Kenmore led a long and eventful life. When she was six years old, her kidnapping made headlines and had the entire country praying for her safe return. Her first husband was shot on their honeymoon. Her second was electrocuted in the barn of the family estate. Her third and fourth husbands also died under questionable circumstances. She left everything to her adopted son, Camden, who refuses to have anything to do with the family estate or the relatives who still live there. He's created a life for himself in Colorado and is doing just fine without Ruby's money until an email from his cousin draws him back to Ashby house and his wife gets a look at everything he walked away from. Told through Ruby's letters, brief news stories, and the point of view of Cam and his wife, this book kept me hooked from the beginning.  The old scandals and current drama between family members combined to make an absolutely fascinating read. 

A Bean to Die for by Tara Lush

Coffee shop owner Lana Lewis is delighted to get a spot in the local community garden, where she hopes she'll be able to grow her own coffee plants. Her father, a long term member, has warned her about the many rules and ongoing conflicts between members, but nothing could have prepared her for the shock of discovering a dead body on her first visit. It's the fourth book in the series, so it's not the first time Lana's seen a murder victim and her previous career as a journalist has helped her discover the skills she'll need to figure everything out. I thoroughly enjoyed this one. The setting, cast of characters, and intriguing mystery all come together in a perfect blend. Even though I haven't read the previous three books, I felt right at home in Lana's world.  

Everything is Temporary by Jon Cohn

Sarah never knew about the nightmares of her husband's childhood, not until he was suddenly arrested for attempted murder and told her to retrieve a box from the rafters of his art studio. In the battered cardboard carton is an elf costume and a book that Tom wrote, detailing the time he spent with Mrs. Claus and her house full of talking ornaments, what started out as friendship and turned quickly to a horrific nightmare. Now, Tom warns her, the monster is after their teenage daughter. I enjoyed this quick read and found myself more interested in Sarah's situation than the horror elements. The monstrous candy canes and figurines are fun, but I was more worried about how Sarah was going to keep her family together. 

Disclosure -- The publishers provided me with advance review copies. 

Wednesday, January 03, 2024

{I've Been Reading} The Yacht

 The Yacht by Sarah Goodwin

The morning after an exclusive New Year's Eve party on a luxury yacht, six friends awaken to find the boat drifting in the middle of the ocean with no fuel, no way to contact the outside world, and very little food or water. Then one of them goes missing. I loved the premise, but the book gets off to a very slow start. The characters, except for one, are extremely wealthy and superficial. Most of them are mean. They're not resourceful when it comes to surviving the situation they find themselves in.   Midway through, the suspense starts to pick up and I found myself enjoying the read, but I struggled to get that far and didn't enjoy this one nearly as much as I enjoyed Stranded by the same author.  

Disclosure -- The publisher provided me with an advance review copy. 


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