#NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Crime, Dectective, Fiction, TBR Tuesdays

#TwoforTuesday #TheRunaway #OneLittleSecret

Riveting and captivating mysteries is the genre to which I always find myself returning. The Runaway by Ali Harper and One Little Secret by Cate Holahan are two marvelous books that exemplify this genre so well.

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The Runway is the second book in a series revolving around two young, female private investigators who run an agency specifically searching for missing persons. The gals from No Stone Unturned have, so far, only has solved one case but soon they find themselves with two complicated jobs – a missing boyfriend and a cold case involving a woman who never was identified. Each of these cases leads the women into areas they never have gone before, from flats for the extremely wealthy and well-known, to freestyle “raves” in open fields. As the evidence begins to mount, they soon discover that neither case is at all what it appeared to be and that discovery can, and does, lead to dangerous conclusions.

The Runaway is very “in the now” book. This is not your stodgy old mystery novel but rather a very current, realistic one with characters that are flawed, young and extremely capable. The vernacular is edgy, the characters are young and feisty as hell. You know I love books with strong female leads and Jo and Lee are about as strong and urbane as they come.

“Women aren’t taught to fight; they aren’t taught to stand their ground. Women are taught…. to run.”

These women do NOT run, they are not afraid and they definitely stand their ground. I loved them! I loved the book! While this is the second in the series, it reads as a stand alone quite well. I read it before I read the first in the series and, while I understand more about the women, I never felt lost while reading The Runaway. If you like mysteries with strong female leads the I cannot recommend The Runaway highly enough!

ONE LITTLE SECRET by Cate Holahan

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Over the summer I fell into a reading slump. I was behind in everything – reading, reviewing, commenting – and I truly felt as though I needed to throw in the towel as a blogger and reviewer. And then I read One Little Secret. It completely turned everything around for me! I read the entire book within hours and immediately went on a search for all of Cate Holahan’s books. I downloaded them and read them all as well. I was a fan! I was also out of my slump. Do I need to say more!?

Fine. One Little Secret is a marvelous “locked-room mystery.” Susan wanted nothing more than a peaceful get-away at the beach. She invited a few other couples to join her and her husband at a beach house rental. Susan thought it would be a dream vacation for them, a time of fun and games and a way to reconnect with one another. She thought wrong – deadly wrong. A night of drinking leads to diminished inhibitions, secrets are revealed and the next morning one of them is found dead on the beach. Who wanted this person dead and why, more importantly how?

One Little Secret is well written, suspenseful to the end and is one of the best “locked room” mysteries I’ve read in a while. It very easily could have slipped into campy but the craftily worded plot never allows it to go there. While many have called this a “summer beach read” because it set at a holiday house at the beach, this is a mystery that will be a good read any time of the year. When you’re finished with this one, go find Holahan’s other books. You will enjoy them as well!

Thank you #Netgalley, @CrookedLaneBooks, and @HarperImpulseandKillerReads for my copy of these terrific books.

 

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#historical fiction, #NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Domestic Drama-Dysfunctional Families, Fiction, Recent Reads, Rapid Reviews, Thriller

Saturday Shorts: #Bethlehem #SixthWickedChild#HerSistersSecret

Recent and Rapid

In my attempt to catch up on all of the reviews I missed while out sick (months ago, I’m good now) I’m writing some rather brief reviews of the books I read/listened to while away. Okay, they’re brief in comparison to what I normally write, recognizing that for some, they still are full reviews.

BETHLEHEM by Karen Kelly

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Honestly, I would love to have that cover in a frame in my Victorian house. I think it’s gorgeous! That also sums up my thoughts about the book – beautiful! As you know, this is the favorite era in US history – the Gilded Age as industry and new inventions are just beginning to flourish but the mass corruption hasn’t quite taken hold. The novel, however, has a dual timeline as it spans the multi-generational story of a family in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the second of which is the 1960s. Bethlehem is a tale of family secrets, heartbreak, survival and, most of all, love. Kelly has created characters that truly represent a generation as a whole and families in general. Most of all, it is a story of forgiveness and is one from which I think many readers and their families might benefit.

Bethlehem is shelved as “historical fiction,” and it is that but so much more. I’ve read where others have suggested that it be classified solely as “women’s fiction,” but that is selling the book short. Not every historical novel has to deal with major, monumental events in history, nor should they. It is the basic human story that has to be told or else we, as a people, tend to gloss over our past. Families are history. Every day mundane tasks are history. It is how we learn from the past so that we may do better in the future and to that end, Kelly has given us a marvelous example, a wonderful read. This is a must-own book for my shelves and I hope it will be a “must-read” for each of you.

THE SIXTH WICKED CHILD by J.D.Barker

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The Sixth Wicked Child is the action packed conclusion to JD Barker’s 4MK trilogy. If you have not read The Fourth Monkey and The Fifth to Die, do not read this one until you have done so. There is absolutely no way to fully understand the plot or the characters without reading the entire series. Unfortunately, I wish I had stopped at The Fourth Monkey. I thought it was one of the best books I ever had read. Not just thriller or horror or fiction, but one of the best in general. The characters were witting, biting, mysterious and thrilling. I loved the dialogue, the intelligence that went into the writing. Simply stated, I loved The Fourth Monkey! I was sorely disappointed with The Fifth to Die and, had The Sixth Wicked Child not been the conclusion, I would have passed on it entirely. The wit, the marvelous dialogue, the humor and the intellect were missing from the second and third installments.

In The Sixth Wicked Child, we pick up exactly at the cliffhanger of the second book. As it progresses we – and they – are presented with “facts” that show both Detective Porter and Anson Bishop as the possible serial killer. In addition, the girls who were rescued at the end of The Fifth to Die were injected with what is believed to be deadly contagion. Half of Porter’s team is in lock-down at the hospital and the other half, including the FBI, are on a manhunt for Porter. If this sounds confusing and conflicting that is because it is! There was so much information stuffed into this novel and so many questions to be answered that adding the contagion seemed like too many pieces of pie after a huge holiday meal. By the end of the book, I just wanted it to end, to give me the answers I needed to feel satisfied with the series, but no, it just kept going. The ending finally came with a “surprising twist!” Two surprises actually. Both of which were so incredibly unbelievable that I just shook my head in sadness. All that I had come to know and love about J.D.Barker’s writing was undone by the last chapters of the book. I detest twists that you know are just there for shock purposes. I also detest vigilante justice. That’s all I will say. If you like this series then I know you’ll read the conclusion. If you haven’t read the series – stop after the first. You will be glad you did.

HER SISTER’S SECRET by E.V. Seymour

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Her Sister’s Secret by E.V.Seymour begins with a woman killed in a car crash. We read her emotions, thoughts, fears and anguish as the car careens into another. We suspect, and eventually so do the police, that this was no accident and the driver intentionally killed herself via the fatal crash. But that is just the beginning to the twists, secrets and questions that we encounter within.

There are three Napier siblings – one is perfect and adored, one struggles to live up the image her sister has set while never quite achieving that goal in the eyes of their parents. The third doesn’t even try to meet the parental expectations and is now a recovering addict. When the perfect sibling dies in this car crash, one sibling withdraws back into their addiction and the other, Molly, goes on a quest to learn the truth. Why would her perfect sister with a perfect husband and perfect life kill herself – and did she intentionally attempt to kill the other driver as well? As Molly searches for the truth, she discovers more questions and secrets than anyone, including herself, are prepared to answer.

Everything about Her Sister’s Secret was interesting: the characters were complex, the writing was exceptional and the plot was riviting. There were plenty of red herrings to keep me guessing how the ending would play out. I had my own suspicions, but the nuances of the story line kept me intrigued to the very end. This is exactly how thrillers and suspense should be written. If you haven’t picked up Her Sister’s Secret yet, then I highly encourage you to do so.

And those are my “shorts for Saturday.” Have you read these three, one or all? What did you think about them? Let me know. As always, I’m appreciative to #Netgalley for my copies of these books and to @StMartinsPress and @HarperImpulse as well as to the authors who make it all possible. Happy Reading!

 

#NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Fiction, RomCom, Tags and Challenges

Two for Tuesday Part Two: Bridesmaids by @ZaraStoneley

cover152396-mediumA wedding you’ll never forget and a Rom-Com you won’t want to miss, Bridesmaids is the must-read, hilarious book for this summer! 

 

I fell in love with Zara Stoneley over the holidays with her fabulous book, No One Cancels Christmas, and had a feeling that I would really like her newest book, Bridesmaids. I was absolutely right, except I had no idea how much I would enjoy this delightful story and the characters involved – including the precious kitty who will steal your heart!

There are four school mates, four friends and four members of the bridal party and lots and lots of secrets. Not all of the school mates are friends with each others. Not all of them are privy to each other’s secrets and not all of them are happy for the bride to be. Now they have all come together for the hen party and wedding and what a wedding this one will turn out to be!

Jane is our protagonist around whom most of the secrets flow. Not everyone likes Jane, but it appears that everyone talks to her, although what she hears is not always what is true. Sometimes Jane interprets things according to her own conflicted past. Rachel is the bride to be and so happy that she is oblivious to much of what is swirling around her: a fiancé who has secrets of his own, Jane who is struggling after her own failed engagement, and two bridesmaids who cannot stand to be in the same room at the same time. They are Maddie and Sally – one is married to the other’s old boyfriend and the other never gave up hope of rekindling that flame. And then there is Beth – the outlier, single, new mom whose secret makes all other secrets look like child’s play. Welcome to the wedding! Enjoy the ride!

When British Rom-Coms are done well, they are witty, smart, sharp and laugh-out-loud hilarious. Bridesmaids is all of that and more! I, quite literally, found myself laughing so hard  at Jane and her friends, crying at times and then cheering for them at the end in a way that I seldom do for women’s fiction or “chick lit.” Zara Stoneley writes her books in such a way that each character has a very vivid personality and is relatable to someone that you know or have known in your life. You find yourself saying “oh yeah, I completely understand,” right along with the characters in the book. They are very real people while you are reading along with them. More importantly, though, Stoneley creates a story that is more than humorous. All of these characters are going through very complex issues in their lives from broken engagements to job insecurity to single parenthood and broken dreams. We watch as they slowly grow, come to subtle realizations about the next steps in their lives and become stronger as women – and men – so that by the end of the book you are as happy as they are with the way things turned out for their lives. It does have a happy ending although, wow, I wasn’t sure we ever would get these gals to that point!

If you loved Stoneley’s holiday tale or are looking for a delightful, heart-warming summer read, then this is the perfect choice for you. I absolutely adored it!

Thanks so much to #Netgalley, @HarperImpulse and #ZaraStoneley for my copy of #Bridesmaids. amazon

 

#NGEW2019, Book Reviews, Fiction, Tags and Challenges, Women's Fiction-Interests

Dear Rosie Hughes @Melanie_Hudson

Those of us who write book blogs obviously adore reading, literally consume books, or we would have blogs about sports or politics or some other random interest instead. Often I find myself writing about how much I “love” a book and how terrific it is – and it is – because it is rare that I don’t thoroughly enjoy a book with its power to transport me to a different place or another time, to escape for just a little while. So when a book comes along that genuinely surprises me, catches me off-guard and completely rocks me to my core, often I am left speechless. Such was the case with Dear Rosie Hughes, a beautiful book written by Melanie Hudson. I finished this book very early on Christmas morning before anyone else was awake. The family woke to find me sitting in front of the fire bawling my eyes out wondering what, on earth, was the matter with their poor old mom! It has taken me several weeks to compose myself and my thoughts well enough to write this review and even now I know I will not do it justice.

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When I received Dear Rosie Hughes I assumed it was a sweet, cozy read. The cover is cute, the premise is precious. Two adult women who have been lifelong friends since childhood fell out of touch over something that happened in their early adulthood. When Rosie signs up to go to the Persian Gulf as a meteorologist, she and Aggie begin writing to one another again – just to pass the time while Rosie is away. The book itself is a series of letters between Aggie and Rosie, Rosie and her parents, Rosie’s fellow soldier and Aggie, and various other peripheral characters that come in and out of their lives throughout the story. As the book unfolds we learn more about each of the women, their relationships with one another, with their parents, their town, with Rosie’s husband whom she may or may not be divorcing, the child Rosie lost and Aggie’s myriad of interesting dates. We watch as Rosie first adapts to life in the desert, then becomes dejected as the truth is revealed about why they actually are there, her horror as the war begins, her struggle as one of the few women in the camps. We read about Aggie who uses humor, hysterical, laugh-out-loud humor, to cover her pain of rejection that she has suffered throughout her life and we see her growth as she takes on the responsibility of writing her own book as well as running a café in Scotland. The growth in friendship and maturity for everyone involved is a beauty to read and behold as it unfolds.

As I began reading, I was somewhat dismayed that the entire book was nothing except correspondence between various people but as I continued reading I realized that this truly was one of the most intimate methods of communicating thoughts and feelings that I’ve ever come across in fiction. By the time I concluded the book, I was so completely and utterly invested in these characters’ lives that I felt as though they were my friends, my daughters, my son, my town. Perhaps it is because my husband was in the military and we were involved in the Persian Gulf, the first one not the second, and we had friends who fought and who died there. Perhaps the relevancy was so close to me that I identified with the hope, the joy and the pain. Or, perhaps, Hudson captured it all so perfectly that we all can identify with these women and their friendship, their family, and their loss. Regardless of why this book affected me so deeply, I only know that it did and it is, by far, one of the very best books I have read in a long time. If you don’t read another book that I recommend in 2019, please read this one. Rosie and Aggie’s story are waiting for you.

My eternal gratitude to @Netgalley, @HarperImpulse and @Melanie_Hudson for allowing me the honor of reading #DearRosieHughes

Book Reviews, Fiction, RomCom

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.

Book Reviews, Fiction

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

 

RomCom

The Little Book Café: Amy’s Story @Georgiawrites #GeorgiaHill

Georgia Hill is back with another installment in her series, The Little Book Café, and I couldn’t be more thrilled!

cover151173-mediumHill features a different character in each of her books. This time it is Amy’s Story. We were first introduced to Amy in book one where she was being mistreated by the book’s main character, Tash. I identified at once with Amy who has an overbearing, often very cruel mother who spends her time belittling her daughter’s very existence. Amy was left at the alter and her self-esteem is, quite nearly, non-existent. She runs the bookshop that is attached to the bakery in her town and has made quite a success of the shop and her small book club. When a new author comes to town to write his next book, Amy doesn’t dare allow herself to have feelings for him, this charming, beautiful Irish man; but, fates just might have other ideas for Amy.

The Little Book Café is a delightful series, full of quick wit, extremely relatable characters and situations that are utterly identifiable. It is a very short book, as are each of the books in the series, and will actually leave you wanting to know more about Amy and her friends in Berecomb. This is a good sign for me – when I want to read more, know more, experience more from a book and its characters. Naturally, after reading Amy’s Story, I had to go back and read the first two books in the series and they were equally fun and witty! This book is set in autumn and is a perfect read for this time of year as we are nestled between Halloween and Christmas stories. It also can be perfectly read as a stand alone – but I promise you will want to read them all! This is the perfect story when you have just a little bit of time and want something uplifting and happy to read! Go ahead, enjoy!

Thanks so much to #Netgalley, @HarperImpulse and to Georgia Hill for my copy of #TheLittleBookCafeAmysStory!