Love Heart Lane @ChristieBarlow @HarperImpulse #snowdays

Finally! The world outside my window resembles the sparkling snow on my blog. I was beginning to wonder if winter ever was going to arrive in the Midwestern US!

Now, with the snow gently falling and everyone snuggled around the fire, it is the perfect time to read some winter cozies and I have the perfect one for you today – Love Heart Lane by Christie Barlow.

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Felicity “Flick” Simons is a bit fed up with her London retail job, more than a bit homesick for the Scottish highlands she has left behind and feeling like a loner in London despite being surrounded by throngs of people. When she receives the devastating news of her grandmother’s death, she decides that it is past time to travel home to Scotland for a few weeks no matter the reasons she left it all behind nearly a decade ago. However, her arrival home is anything except welcoming as she lands in her village in the middle of one of the worst snow storms in ages followed by a torrential rain storm that washes out the town’s bridge, cutting it off from the civilization and supplies that lie on the other side of the river. An avalanche of emotional and physical needs swarm Flick as she is forced to confront the loss of her grandmother, the closure of their family’s tea shop, the life and love she gave up so many years ago, the friends she once left behind and a village that must cope with a dwindling supply of food and coal. Can Felicity set aside her personal angst and lead her community forward? Will it be enough to save her tiny village?

Love Heart Lane is a wonderful book about community, resilience of the heart, friends and neighbors who rally together to help one another in a time of great need. While there is romance, and it is referenced often, this book is not a “rom-com” as it is billed. There is a lot of tragedy, death, and heartbreak, some of which is dealt with realistically and some of which is brushed over a little too easily – which can be somewhat expected in a cozy. However, what Love Heart Lane does have in abundance is hope and friendship and messages of second chances which, I like to believe, is something we all need to believe can be a reality for us all. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Love Heart Lane and recommend it for those who enjoy a heartwarming, cozy read. This is the first book in a series and I’m truly looking forward to the next so I can catch up with the delightful characters whom I’ve come to know and adore.

I’m grateful to @HarperImpulse, #Netgalley and #ChristieBarlow for my copy of Love Heart Lane available now.

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The Stranger Diaries @EllyGriffiths

Elly Griffiths has woven together a tale of gothic suspense, psychological terror and marvelous detective work and thrown in a full measure of classical literature, all of which create a beautiful tapestry called The Stranger Diaries. Whew.

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If you think that opening line was a lot to absorb, just wait until you read the book. I’m still trying to untangle my mind from the who’s and who’s nots and what’s real and what’s not! For someone who had an imaginary playmate until she was 10 years old and still has a crush on Harry Bosch, whom I’ve been told is not a real person, trying to decipher a book within a book within a book written by fictional character written by an author with a nom de plume was a lot to comprehend. But, hand on heart, this book – The Stranger Diaries – was worth every single moment spent reading it. It is fantastic!

The book opens with a line from “The Stranger,” a gothic short story written by RM Hammond, whom our main character, Clare, is studying in hopes of writing a book about his life and works.

“If you’ll permit me,” said the Stranger, “I’d like to tell you a story.”

Clare is an English teacher at a school that is nestled in the old home where Hammond once lived. Her fellow teacher and best friend, Ella, is found stabbed to death with a note lying next to her body which reads, “Hell is Empty,” also a line from Hammond’s book. As The Stranger Diaries continues, the body count rises as does the spooky, creepy factor of the entire tale. Folded within the story itself is the re-telling of The Stranger and the more we as readers learn, the more similarity there is between current events and the haunting, gothic tale of the past. <shivers>

The Stranger Diaries reads, at once, both as a ghost story and a gothic suspense. The writing is marvelous, intelligent and might possibly have you scrambling to look up classical literature references along the way. (Note: Hammond is a fictional writer, much to my dismay.) I loved all of the characters, except the ex-husband and even he was the perfect ex. In all, this is a terrific mystery, ghost story, gothic tale that crosses multiple genres and can enjoyed by many. I highly recommend it.

Thank you to #Edelweiss, #HoughtonMiflinHarcout and #EllyGriffiths for my copy of The Stranger Diaries. 

 

A Slice of Magic @AG_Mayes

A Slice of a Magic is, yes, a magical, sweet story that will leave you hungry for more….

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Over the holidays I grew accustomed to peppering light, happy books throughout my rather grim readings and found, after the first of the year, that I missed the lighter diversions. It was a habit that I didn’t want to give up just because the holidays had ended. Luckily, I found a wonderfully delightful book to fill the niche: A Slice of Magic. 

Susanna hasn’t heard from her favorite aunt, Erma, in twenty years – not since her aunt suddenly disappeared from her life – but now she has received an urgent message begging Susanna to come and help Erma at her pie shop. Taking a leave from her job, out of curiosity about her aunt’s past as well as her current situation, Susanna heads out to the town of Hocus Hills only to discover that her aunt is no where to be found. She has left Susanna to run the pie shop and unravel the mystery of her aunt’s disappearance – again.

This is, at once, a wonderfully charming cozy mystery as well as the age old tale of a family in need of forgiveness and second chances. It is filled to the brim with quirky characters whom you will adore, conniving ones you will love to hate and a pooch that will steal your heart. There also is a fair amount of magical influence throughout Hocus Hills that makes the town sparkle and entice you to come back for more. While this is a cozy read, there is plenty of substance within the somewhat brief storyline to make it a satisfying read. I definitely will be back for another visit to Hocus Hills!

Thank you to #Netgalley, @HarperImpulse and @AG_Mayes for my copy of #ASLICEOFMAGIC

 

More Than Bones @CraigDSinger

More Than Bones will take you on a roller coaster ride that you won’t soon forget! It was not at all what I was expecting but far exceeded all of preconceived silly ideas! A tale of self-exploration with a steep learning curve, it is a perfect read to start your new year!

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Dr. Emily Norton has relocated to Baltimore to begin her residency program at a Catholic hospital in order to be closer to her fiancé. She has rented a room – the attic space – in a gorgeous older home owned by a rather odd, effusive gentleman also named Norton – his first name, not last – and immediately is charmed by the elderly next door neighbor, Frank, who insists on gifting her a large, rather chunky, but quite expensive amulet that is hanging around his cat’s neck. It’s all rather strange, I know, but told in a such an amazing manner that you get wrapped up in the story from the very first line. Trust me! The amulet comes with a warning never to take it off – ever! Of course, Emily’s only faith is in science and facts and she promptly hangs the necklace on her skeleton – a gift from her new landlord. She has lived her life having religion crammed down her throat and the only thing she believes in is the here and now – thank you very much. Aaaahhh, but soon Emily finds herself without a fiancé, friendless, in the middle of a city-wide scandal, jobless and the “bad luck” is increasing by the day. Finally, she puts the amulet on and, voila, her luck begins to change. Or does it?

While on the surface this appears to be a story of magical realism, a story about a magic amulet that has brought good fortune to its owners throughout history, it is more the tale of a person being the master of their own fate, of coming to terms with their own beliefs, either with or without religion, either with or without science, and what consequences those beliefs might lead to in our lives. It the coming of age story of a young woman who has been raised without a mother by a somewhat tyrannical father who has to find her own way as an adult. It a story of which I am quite familiar and many of the questions that Emily was asking herself were ones I have grappled with over my own lifetime.

The characters in More Than Bones are hilarious, quirky, humorous, hateful, vibrant and I loved them all – even Norton’s mother! Singer does an amazing job creating people that I feel like I have known my entire life. In fact, I think I have known someone just like them. There are so many areas covered from science to religion, suicide to health care, the LGBTQ community to breast cancer and yet each one of these topics is handled with a deft hand. I was raised on southern literature with eccentric characters from Flannery O’Connor and Fannie Flagg to Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. More Than Bones reminded me of all of the good qualities of that genre – the humorous, somewhat over-the-top characters mixed with hell-fire and brimstone religion pulling against the modern world of science and religion – all combined to make a thoroughly marvelous, enjoyable, thoughtful book, one that I highly recommend!

Thank you to #Netgalley, #TwinRabbitBooks and #CraigDavidSinger for allowing me to read this amazing book!

 

Fairwood #EliYance

Fairwood is a modern day Bonnie and Clyde with a darkness so dark it gives noir a new meaning.

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If Wayward Pines and Lost had a lovechild, it would be Fairwood, a twisted tale of suspense. Dexter and Pandora are on the run from the law. They are bandits, bank robbers who, at one time were notoriously celebrated for their feats, but now have made a fatal mistake and need they to hide to stay alive. They discover the town called Fairwood, a small, rural community with little – okay, no – technology and it appears to be the perfect place to hide. However, what they have run to may be far more terrifying than what they have run from. This storyline alternates with that of a very burned out cop who is somewhat on their tail. Eventually his narrative intertwines with theirs in a shocking way that you must read to find out what happens!

Fairwood is a masterfully told story that is unlike any I have read before. Yes, I read Wayward Pines and I have read some similar books but none took me to the psychological places that Fairwood did or surprised me the way Eli Yance managed to do. Yance is a gifted storyteller who teeters between genres much like Stephen King did in his beginning: horror, paranormal, thriller, suspense – where the reader questioned themselves and reality but couldn’t put down the book – and you will not be able to put down Fairwood either. If you like any of these genres then you truly will enjoy Fairwood!

Thank you to #Edelweiss and #EliYance for my advance copy of the reprint of #Fairwood.

The Shop Girls of Lark Lane @PamHowes

The Shop Girls of Lark Lane will tug at your heart-strings once again as we catch up with Alice and the gals of Lark Lane

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This is the second book in a series and  as the book opens, we find the war is over and the men are returning home. Alice, who was introduced in the first book, is reunited with her husband who is seeing his daughter for the first time. She isn’t exactly happy to share her mum with this new man and makes their adjustment rather difficult. But then, there are difficult adjustments for everyone as the women give up their factory jobs and independence and settle back into domesticity. Tragedy, sadly, does not escape Alice in this saga and her story holds more tears for her and requires much courage as she finds herself alone once again.

Although The Shop Girls of Lark Lane is part of a series, I had no trouble at all reading it as a stand alone. I suspect that it helped that I didn’t have preconceived ideas about certain characters, especially as they evolved into rather unsavory sorts as the book progressed It did start off rather slowly which, I think, partly was due to the fact that the author was laying down a lot of background information so that readers could catch up from the first book. A quarter of the way in I was hooked completely and fell in love with the characters, Alice in particular, and their stories. Normally I’m not a fan of this era but this tale was well told with a lot of historical detail and human emotions. If you enjoy historical fiction then you will like The Shop Girls of Lark Lane which is available now.

Thank you #Netgalley, #Bookouture and #PamHowes for my copy of this terrific book. The first in the series is titled #TheFactoryGirlsofLarkLane

Forget You Know Me @jessicastrawser

When a video call between friends captures a shocking incident no one was supposed to see, the secrets it exposes threaten to change their lives forever.

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I have read and loved both of Jessica Strawser’s previous novels and knew that I would enjoy reading Forget You Know Me as well. I wasn’t wrong! From the first chapter to the end, the book had me hooked and greedily wanting more! While many erroneously believe that this is a thriller, the thing I’ve learned about Strawser is that, while the suspense is there, it is not the focal point of the story – the characters are where the interest lies and what makes you furiously read to the end. This is definitely a women’s fiction/general fiction, literary novel.

The story begins with two childhood friends making a video call. Their friendship, once forged of steel, is now weakening as both women deal with their own, very different adult lives. Neither wants to give up on what they had when they were younger, but neither do they know how to re-connect. It is during this video call, the call that they both hope will strengthen their friendship once more, that Liza sees a masked intruder in her friend’s home while her friend, Molly, is away from her computer to tend to her child. As Liza frantically calls 911, Molly is upstairs, unaware that anything has happened. When she returns, the laptop is closed and the police are banging on her door. Liza, terrified because her friend will not return her calls, hops in the car and drives from Chicago to Ohio to check on her friend, who, upon her arrival slams the door in her face. ??? Not what Liza expected at all. The story continues to unfold from each friend’s perspective. We learn about their fears, worries, trials and tribulations, marital problems, health problems – you know, all of the things that we all deal with every single day. Yet, somehow, Strawser makes their story so incredibly compelling that the reader becomes invested in their lives and the outcome of this harrowing event.

I will admit that there are some minor flaws in the storyline and some very nit-picking details that had me scratching my head at times. There also were many occasions that I wanted to reach into the book and slap all of the characters for being so stubborn and uncommunicative because, ultimately, all of their problems revolved around miscues, assumptions and miscommunication. Don’t people just talk to one another any more? Well, that is the question that this book will have you asking yourself. Ultimately, this is a book about friendships that come and go, old and new. It is about commitment and what it takes to make any type of relationship work. Most importantly, it is about bonds that we forge – human to human – what it takes to nurture them, strengthen them and when to know to break them for our own well-being. Forget You Know me is a strong, character driven tale in which Strawser deftly guides you along as you explore these characters’ lives, their quirks, pain and joy.

Forget You Know Me has repeatedly been listed as a “must-read” book for this winter and I have to say that I wholeheartedly agree. Strawser is an author that I know I can count on for a very good, well written, beautifully told story.

Immense thanks and gratitude to #Netgalley, @JessicaStrawser and @StMartinsPress for my advanced copy of this amazing book.