Wednesday, July 10, 2024

{I've Been Reading} On The Surface

On the Surface by Rachel McGuire

I started reading this book early in the morning and after a few chapters was seriously considering whether I could cancel my plans for the rest of the day and keep reading. Sailing with the Foxes is a small Youtube channel telling the story of two cruisers, Dani and Sawyer, and their trip around the world. They're broke and haven't made it very far, but the two have big plans. After blacking out at a late night party, Sawyer wakes up alone in the cabin of their boat with no idea how he got back aboard. Dani has vanished, leaving behind her passport, camera, and other valuables. Immediately, rumors begin to fly. Did Dani drown during one of her daily swims? Did she flee an abusive relationship? Did Sawyer kill her? If this is reminding you of recent news stories, the characters in the book make that same comparison. I had some guesses about Dani's fate and wasn't completely wrong, but the plot was a lot more complex than I first expected it to be. I absolutely LOVED this one! 

What Fire Brings by Rachel Howzell Hall

The setting is what really creates the tension in this thriller. Topanga Canyon is a tinder box with one road in and out and it's fire season. Bailey Meadows has just moved in with author Jack Beckham, posing as an author-in-residence while she's really a private investigator in training, there to investigate a disappearance in the canyon. There are a lot of missing women in this book, both in real life and in Jack's novels.  At times, I struggled to keep them all straight. The author did an amazing job of depicting the fear that comes with approaching wildfires and some of the revelations at the end were completely unexpected. 

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

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

{I've Been Reding} Incidents Around the House

 Incidents Around the House by Josh Malerman 

This horror novel really got to me. There's one scene in particular that I don't think I'll forget any time soon, especially not when I'm making my way from room to room after everyone else in the  family is asleep. It's told entirely from the point of view of a little girl who has been refusing to let her imaginary friend, Other Mommy, into her heart. Bela doesn't understand what the woman who slips out of her closet at night wants from her, but she knows that it would be a bad idea to say yes. Watching her parents through Bela's eyes as they begin to realize that there's a presence sharing their house with them is a wonderfully creepy experience.

The Mother by Valerie Keogh

When her husband says they need to talk, Sarah expects him say wants our of their marriage. It's what she's been about to say herself. Instead, he suggests that they have a baby and she....somehow....agrees to his plan. I love domestic thrillers that focus on motherhood and this one went in an entirely unexpected direction. It was an entertaining, fast paced read that kept me guessing what was going to happen next. 

Murder Buys a One Way Ticket by Laura Levine

The Jaine Austen mysteries are always fast paced and fun. It's absolutely guaranteed that Jaine will find herself in embarassing and humorous situtions, and that her cat, Prozac, will add to the chaos. This time she's been hired to ghost write an excercise manual, despite the fact that she can't name or locate  a single muscle in her own body. Fitness guru Chip Miller was looking for an out of shape writer just like her -- after all, she's his target audience for the book. Jaine finds herself (and her cat) on Chip's private train, along with a lot of people who want him dead. Then she finds his body. There are also emails to Jaine from her mother and father, this time detailing a feud involving Elvis and Betsy Ross. I found myself laughing out loud more than once and can't wait to read more about Jaine and her cat. 

Come Shell or High Water by Molly MacRae

There's a lot to love about this cozy mystery. It has an amazing setting, an intriguing premise, and a great cast of characters. I did struggle to get through the first few chapters. feeling like I'd missed important information. It's the first book in the series, but protagonist Maureen Nash is suffering from electrocution and a concussion. She's confused and she's also not telling her new neighbors exactly why she came to Ocracoke Island just before a hurricane hit. Once I'd verified that I hadn't missed previous books and realized that things weren't supposed to be clear, I started enjoying the read a lot more and I can't wait to spend more time on the island with Maureen and her friends and family. 

An Art Lover's Guide to Paris and Murder by Dianne Freeman

Once again, I plunged into a series because the description of this one sounded so intriguing. It's set in Paris in 1900, at the World's Fair and involves artists and I'm not patient enough to read six previous books just so I can get to this one (although after reading this one, I plan to double back and catch up.) Historical cozies are rapidly becoming some of my favorite reads and this one is no exception. Theplot took some unexpected turns and the setting absolutely fascinated me. I know I've missed lots of back story about the characters, but was able to enjoy the book without worrying too much about what I didn't know. 

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

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

{I've Been Reading} We Used to Live Here

 We Used to Live Here by Marcus Kliewer

I can't gush enough about how much I loved this book. The premise is delightfully creepy, but there's so much more here than the book's description promises -- and I don't want to spoil any of it. Charlie and Eve are a perfect couple, with great chemistry. They plan on refurbishing and flipping the sprawling old house they just bought. The family that shows up at their door is just normal enough that I can almost understand why Eve overcame her reluctance and let them in for what was only supposed to be a few minutes. I know, I just said another book was one of the best horror novels I'd read in a long time -- so is this one. It looks like 2024 is a great year for horror novels!

The Nature of Disappearing by Kimi Cunningham Grant

The first few pages of this thriller, with their vivid descriptions of Emlyn and her job as a fishing guide pulled me in immediately. She's confident and likable and when she sets offf with her ex-boyfriend in search of an estranged friend who disappered from her #vanlife adventure without warning, it makes sense. Something obviously went wrong between Emalyn and Tyler to cause their breakup, and something caused Emalyn and her friend, but that's revealed gradually through flashbacks. I felt like I was reading about real people making real decisions and the plot didn't go in the direction I expected it to. 

Now You See It by Carol J. Perry

Lee Barrett is getting used to her new role as "Historical Documentary Chief Executive" for WICH-TV, gathering footage for a documentary about the Seafaring New England exhibit at a new museum.  After the driver of an armored truck is murdered while delivering a shipment of artifacts, she becomes involved in the investigation. What's interesting about this one is how far removed Lee is from the murder. Her police detective husband provides her with details, but she didn't know the victim and her only ties to the case are as a television reporter. She does spend a lot of time with the suspects and the solution to the mystery is a satisfying one, with clues along the way that will make sense by the end. This is a well established series and obviously there's a lot I don't know about the characters and their history and relationships, but the author makes it easy to jump right in without a ton of back story. There are some fun supernatural elements, including the visions that Lee sees in reflective objects and a model ship that appears to be haunted. 

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

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

{I've Been Reading} Do What Godmother Says

The Last Note of Warning by Katharine Schellman

At night she Vivian Kelly works in a speakeasy, serving drinks and dancing until sunrise. It's the 1920s so the drinks she serves are illegal and the stakes are high -- but the trouble she finds herself in stems from her reputable day job, making deliveries and alterations for a dressmaker. I absolutely loved this historical mystery. If Vivian fails to solve the murder, it will be devastating for herself and her family. The risks she is taking are real and the suspense kept me turning pages late into the night. It's the third book in the series, but there's enough backstory woven in that I was never confused (although references to previous events definitely have me wanting to track down the first two books!) 

Do What Godmother Says by L.S. Stratton

The portrait has hung in Shanice's grandmother's bedroom for as long as she can remember. It's part of her family history, but until her grandmother gives it to here while they're preparing the house to sell, she's never researched the artist or asked any real questions about it. This thriller tells the parallel stories of Shanice in the present day and the artist, Estelle, in 1927. I loved the historical details, the elements of spiritualism and the occult, and the building suspense as both Estelle and Shanice struggle with what they've become caught up in. 

A Twinkle of Trouble by Daryl Woods Gerber 

The fifth Fairy Garden mystery is fast paced and fun. Fiona is just back from visiting her mother in the fairy realm and Courtney is keeping busy with the Summer Blooms Festival and her shop. I enjoyed spending more time with Courtney and her friends and the mystery was intriguing. 

Irreplaceable by Nolon King with Lauren Street 

Nina Turner is obsessed with true crime podcasts, but she doesn't immediately recognize her new home as the site of a notorious murder. Once she puts the pieces together, she falls even more in love with the property. The plot alternates between Nina and her husband, who knew exactly what he was moving them into and has his own undisclosed motives. This one was a fun and entertaining read. As Nina made discoveries in the house,  I felt like I was puzzling my own way through the place's awful history forming and revising theories about what happened years earlier. 

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

Wednesday, June 05, 2024

{I've Been Reading} Over the Edge

 Don't Let Her Stay by Nicola Sanders 

Stay at home mom Joanne is finally feeling like she's got things under control, with a new job working remotely for her former employer and a perfect nanny lined up to help her our a couuple of days  a week. Then her adult stepdaughter moves in without warning, insisting that she'll take care of the baby. This starts out like a run of the mill domestic thriller, but the last half of the book is a wild ride that will keep you wondering who and what to trust. 

Over the Edge by Kathleen Bryant

After discovering a body in a remote canyon, former journalist Del Cooper begins to investgate how Franklin, a homeless man from Sedona, wound up so many miles from town and who would have murdered him. This thriller focuses heavily on the local politics and land deals, to the point that I found myself forgetting about the murder. Sedona is one of my favorite places and I enjoyed the chance to revisit in book form, but didn't love the mystery element. 

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

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

{I've Been Reading} Eleven Huskies

 Eleven Huskies by Philipp Schott

This one didn't hold my attention the way that Six Ostriches, the second book in the series, did. Of course I was worried about the poisoned dogs, but the actual murders? Those were felt like an isolated event that had little to do with Peter and his wife's canoe trip. What did pull me in and keep me turning pages was a harrowing scene about halfway through the book. Suddenly I was very interested in what was going to happen next. I love the characters and the way they feel more like real people than your usual cozy mystery protagonists, but I can barely remember who died or why they were killed. 

The Small Museum by Jody Cooksley

Be forewarned -- this historical mystery is incredibly dark and will keep you hooked until the end. A young woman is abruptly married off to a respected doctor in London, suddenly isolated from her family and familiar surroundings. Her sister in law and the housekeeper control her clothing, her meals, even her actions, and she rarely sees her new husband.  As she begins to convince him that her skills as an illustrator could be useful to him and gets her first glimpses into his cabinet of curiosities, the plot shifts to a courtroom scene where Maddie is on trial for something awful. This book completely captured my imagination and I couldn't put it down.  

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

Monday, May 06, 2024

{I've Been Reading} The Deepest Lake

 I've lost track of how many thrillers I've read where a family member travels to an isolated retreat to uncover what really happened to a loved one. It's a common plotline and one that I tend to enjoy. The Deepest Lake is one of the best. By the time that Rose applies for the memoir writing retreat under her maiden name, she's already done everything she could to find out what really happened to her daughter. There was a police investigation. She hired a private investigator. Chapters alternate between Rose's search for information and Jules' experiences when she was on the property a few months earlier. I love the way the author contrasts mother and daughter's approaches to travel in a foreign country. They're both likeable characters and as the plot unfolded I got more and more worried about them. It's a suspenseful, enjoyable read that I definitely recommend. 

Disclosure -- The publisher sent me an advance review copy. 

Wednesday, May 01, 2024

{I've Been Reading} The Alone Time

 The Alone Time by Elle Marr

It's been twenty-five years since twelve-year-old Fiona and seven-year-old Violet spent twelves weeks alone in the wilderness of Washington State. The sisters somehow survived the small plane crash that killed their parents and then lived alone for months alone one the mountainside. As adults, they're estranged from one another, until a woman claiming to be their father's mistress starts making the rounds on social media, claiming that she knows details about the plane crash. A documentary film crew has appproached them both, wanting to tell their side of the story. I really didn't care for this one. The book keeps hinting that something awful happened there on the mountainside, something that Fiona and Violet don't want made public, but the flashback scenes are frustratingly vague except for hinting at the one awful thing that obviously must have happened.  When the real twists are revealed, they're...unexpected, to say the least. 

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

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

{I've Been Reading} Murder in Rose Hill

A Flicker of a Doubt by Daryl Woods

This was probably my least favorite book in the series ao far. More is revealed about Fiona the fairy and her life beyond Courtney's garden and Carmel-by-the-Sea, which I enjoyed.  Fiona is as spunky as ever, but she's maturing a bit and learning some self control There's a whole lot going on with the murder investigation but I never quite got caught up in the plot, unlike the second book which managed to hold my interest with pickleball, of all things.  

 Making Fairy Garden Accessories by Anna-Marie Fahmy and Andrew Fahmy

I'm so intrigued by this book! Fairy gardens have always looked like a lot of fun, but I couldn't justify the purchase of the little resin houses and figurines I keep seeing in stores. The authors show you how to DIY houses, doors, furnishings, and accessories and how to weather treat them for sheltered outside display. For someone who already has a stash of crafting supplies, it seems like it would be easy to branch out and experiment with fairy gardens. 

Murder in Rose Hill by Victoria Thomson 

Midwife Sarah Malloy and her private investigator husband are hired to investigate the death of a young woman who was writing a magazine article on the dangers of patent medicines. This is the twenty-seventh Gaslight Mystery, which means I've missed a lot of history between the characters, but it was easy enough to jump in. The historical setting was fascinating with lots of details about the patent medicine insdustry and every day life. I'm used to mysteries that stick with one main protagonist -- this one was all over the place, jumping between Sarah and her husband and their family and employees as they all played a part in the investigation. 

Four-Alarm Homicide by Diane Kelly 

Whitney and her cousin have barely started converting a historic firehouse into a private residence when an older lady aproaches them about the dilapidated townhouse attatched to her own home. The owners have passed away and their adult children are doing nothing to preserve the structure. Whitney and Buck quickly decide to take on the extra project. As soon as the quit claim deeds are signed, they're dealing with angry criticism from neighbors who felt entitled to buy the house for themselves. There's murder and vandalism and the mystery is completely engaging. I've missed a couple of previous books in the series but was able to follow everything just fine. I definitely need to go back and read about their motel project. 

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

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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