Monday, January 11, 2021

Top Ten Reads of 2020

2020 - I almost feel like just saying the year out loud is all that needs to be said.  This past year was an experience that I hope and pray we don't repeat.  My reading suffered at times more often than not.  I still had an amazing year quality wise - according to Goodreads my average rating was 4.3 - which feels about right when I think about it.  I have a tendency to set books aside that aren't working for me rather than finishing (and hating) them.  I finished 59 books total for the year which is on the lower side (according to Goodreads this ties my lowest year of reading since I've been keeping track on there which was back in 2017).  Living through a pandemic just meant that I was unable to concentrate on reading like I usually do - it is what it is.  I did read some really great books though that I'm excited to share about with all of you.  Here are the ten best books that I read in 2020:

Long Bright River by Liz Moore - This book deserves ALL of the hype that it received this year in my opinion.  What do you say about a book like this?  It was outstanding.  I fell into the pages of this book and was absolutely swept away.  The author brought the characters to life in a way that has me still thinking about them...still thinking about how realistic their struggles were and how true to life they are for so many....just wow!  This is a book that deserves to be talked about and widely read. I cannot wait to see what Liz Moore comes up with next!

In the Dark by Loreth Anne White - This book on the other hand didn't get the hype that it deserved in my opinion.  DON'T MISS OUT ON THIS AMAZING BOOK!  This book is the best tribute to Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None that I've read (besides the original book itself of course).  I loved this one so much that I instantly added ALL of this author's backlist to my TBR.  READ this book if you enjoy isolated mysteries that keep you guessing the entire time in the best of ways!

When You See Me by Lisa Gardner - Four books into this series and this author can do NO wrong in my opinion!  This mystery series is one of my absolute favorites because every book has been such a page turner filled with suspense!  I don't think that you have to start all the way at the beginning with book one (I didn't) but would suggest starting with the 1st book featuring Flora Dane which is Find Her.  This book gave us so many answers in regards to Flora which has me itching to see where the series goes next.  SOO GOOD!

The Good House by Tananarive Due - Wow!  This book absolutely blew me away in the best of ways.  Stephen King who?  Kidding - sort of - not really.  In all seriousness, I cannot begin to comprehend how more people aren't talking about this author and this book.  It's horror which I know isn't for everyone (it does have truly scary moments) but there is so much more to it.  Out of all of my favorites of the year - this is the one that I keep recommending over and over again in the hopes that many other readers will find it and love it like I did! I will be reading more by this author in 2021!

The Shape of Family by Shilpi Somaya Gowda - This book was another one that I felt flew under the radar (of bookstagram at least) which is an absolute shame!  This book was gorgeously heartbreaking at times and hopeful at others.  It had characters that I STILL think about and a storyline that I won't forget about anytime soon.  I need to read EVERYTHING else that this author has written!

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James - This book was one of the creepiest books I read all year (alongside The Good House of course).  This book was both dark and atmospheric making it a VERY suspenseful read.  And within the pages of this book the author manages to look at both violence against women and how victims are viewed in society by the way they lived.  Wow!  This is another author where I'm going to need to read EVERYTHING that she has written because this book was so damn good!

The Suicide House by Charlie Donlea - This is the 2nd year in a row that this author has made my top reads list of the year.  This book was page turning suspense at its finest!  I loved that in this book we were given the chance to learn more about Rory and Lane but was written where it could also be read as a standalone (I do recommend starting with Some Choose Darkness though if possible).  This book was a dark and thrilling read that I couldn't get enough of!

Don't Look For Me by Wendy Walker - This is my 1st book by this author but certainly won't be my last!  This book was a page turning, anxiety filled ride that I couldn't get enough of.  The author also really looks at a mother's grief over the loss of a child which wasn't always easy to read but yet... (I'm noticing a theme here of loving thrillers that take a look at some deeper issues as well).  I'm so excited to have found this author and will be checking out her entire backlist!

And Now She's Gone by Rachel Howzell Hall - This book was made my top reads of the year list easily!  There is just something about the way that this author writes that I just cannot get enough of.  It's the rhythm...the way that she keeps me guessing at every turn of the page...and the imperfections of her characters that keeps me coming back for more.  I'm determine to read this author's entire backlist which is why I'm already reading another of her books currently.

The Dead Season by Tessa Wegert - I actually read both books in this series (this is the 2nd) in 2020.  I've seen Death in the Family on a lot of favorites of the year list but for me this book is where it is at.  This book was a slow burning mystery filled with suspense in the best of ways.  I was absolutely there for the ride that the author was taking me on every step of the way.  I highly recommend both books in this series and I will be impatiently waiting for book three!

Looking back, I really did have such an amazing year of reading really great books.  There are at least six more books that could have been on this list.  Honorable mentions include the following - A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight, Cut to the Bone by Ellison Cooper, Revolver Road by Christi Daugherty, Shatter the Night by Emily Littlejohn, All The Best Lies by Joanna Schaffhausen, and Tuesday's Gone by Nicci French.  I could keep going which says it all.  

What book or books were your favorites of 2020?

Monday, January 4, 2021

January Books I'm Excited About...

I thought it would be fun in 2021 to share some of the books that I'm really excited about each month!  Let's acknowledge the fact that this is most likely not ALL of them.  I really get excited/want to read WAY more books than I actually even read in a year.  Story of a mood reader I guess....and someone that literally wants to read ALL of the books!  This list might even help me prioritize the books that I want to read but that remains to be seen (as I'm writing this first post in 2020).  Here are just some of the books releasing in January that I am most excited about (with the disclaimer that I have no idea if publishing dates will be moved all around like they were in 2020):

Before She Disappeared by Lisa Gardner is a new standalone that I am SO excited about.  This is labeled as "a propulsive thriller featuring an ordinary woman who will stop at nothing to find the missing people that the rest of the world has forgotten."  YES PLEASE!

If I Disappear by Eliza Jane Brazier has such a gorgeous cover!  This book is described as "When her favorite true crime podcast host goes missing, an adrift young woman plunges headfirst into the wild backcountry of Northern California and her own dangerous obsession."  I'm here for it!

Every Waking Hour is the 4th book in Ellery Hathaway series which is an absolute favorite of mine.  I don't care what this one is about - I'm going to read it!

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins has already been getting some pretty great reviews that I've seen.  This is all I needed to hear before I wanted to pick it up: "A delicious twist on a Gothic classic, Rachel Hawkins's The Wife Upstairs pairs Southern charm with atmospheric domestic suspense, perfect for fans of B.A. Paris and Megan Miranda."

Bloodline by Jess Lourey sounds like a darker thriller which I can never resist.  This description has me itching to pick it up: "
Perfect town. Perfect homes. Perfect families. It’s enough to drive some women mad…"

In the Garden of Spite by Camilla Bruce sounds SO good!  It's described as "An audacious novel of feminine rage about one of the most prolific female serial killers in American history--and the men who drove her to it."

The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous is the newest book by an author that I've been wanting to try.  This book is listed as "The USA Today bestselling author of The Au Pair returns with another delicious, twisty novel--about a grand estate with many secrets, an orphan caught in a web of lies, and a young woman playing a sinister game."

A Crooked Tree by Una Mannion is one of those books that as soon as I read the description was instantly added to my TBR.  I NEED to know what happens in this book!  "A haunting, suspenseful literary debut that combines a classic coming of age story with a portrait of a fractured American family dealing with the fallout of one summer evening gone terribly wrong."

What book or books are you looking forward that are releasing in January?

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Mini Reviews (Jill Shalvis, Ellison Cooper)

Summary from Goodreads:

"Brynn Turner desperately wishes she had it together, but her personal life is like a ping-pong match that’s left her scared and hurt after so many attempts to get it right. In search of a place to lick her wounds and get a fresh start, she heads back home to Wildstone.

And then there’s Kinsey Davis, who after battling serious health issues her entire twenty-nine years of life, is tired of hoping for . . . well, anything. She's fierce, tough, and pretty much the opposite of Brynn except for one thing: they're half-sisters. Kinsey is keeping this bombshell, and a few others as well. Long time frenemies from summer camp, there’s no way she’s going to tell Brynn they’re related.

But then Brynn runs into Kinsey's lifelong best friend, Eli, renewing a childhood crush. He’s still easy-going and funny and sexy as hell. When he gets her to agree to a summer-time deal to trust him to do right by her, no matter what, she never dreams it’ll result in finding a piece of herself she didn’t even know was missing. She could have a sister, love, and a future―if she can only learn to let go of the past.

As the long days of summer wind down, the three of them must discover if forgiveness is enough to grasp the unconditional love that’s right in front of them."

My Thoughts:

It kind of feels strange to be writing my thoughts on The Summer Deal when there is snow on the ground but that's what happens when you fall behind on reviews.  I started the year off reading and enjoying Almost Just Friends which is the 4th book in the Wildstone series by Jill Shalvis (this is book five).  I really enjoyed that one so was excited to pick this one up - and it was just as delightful as I had hoped.  This is one of those books where I just loved each and every one of the characters (even when they acted in ways that frustrated me).  They all just felt so real with their worries, imperfections, and hopes.  There is a lot going on in this book which made for a fast paced read.  I was constantly wondering when and how Brynn would find out that she had a half sister - and that it was Kinsey (not a spoiler - it's in the summary of the book).  I also adored Brynn's two moms.  The parts of this book where they were involved had me grinning the entire time.  I loved the romance and chemistry that was building between Brynn and Eli.  But what I really loved the most about this book was Kinsey and her not a relationship with Dek (it's been a few months so correct me if I'm misremembering his name).  I LOVED these two together so much, and all I wanted was for them to figure out their relationship and for Kinsey to finally let him into her life all of the way.  Ugh!  It was just so good and despite the fact that Brynn and Eli were both really great - these other two were the ones I was rooting for the most.  There were a lot of serious moments in this one so make sure you check out the content warnings.  My one and only complaint was the lack of communication at times between the characters kind of made me crazy at points.  That being said, I really enjoyed this one overall and cannot wait to read more of the books in this series.  I believe there is a new one coming out in January and I will be all over it!

Overall, this is a series and book that I couldn't help but enjoy.  It was the perfect change of pace between the mysteries and thrillers that I normally pick up.  There is just something about the way that Jill Shalvis writes characters that I cannot seem to get enough of.  I love watching the characters work through their issues and find love with one another.  It's delightful!  I would recommend this book to fans of romance (especially contemporary romance) and also those readers who enjoy women's fiction.  Recommended!

Bottom Line:  A delightful read with characters that I still haven't forgotten about months later!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher and NetGalley.  Honest thoughts are my own.

CW: Organ failure, illness, abusive relationships

Summary from Goodreads:

"After grieving the death of her fiancĂ© and almost losing her job, Agent Sayer Altair is finally starting to rebuild her life. Her research into the minds of psychopaths is breaking new ground and her strange little family is thriving. But Sayer’s newfound happiness is threatened when she is called in to investigate a girl’s body left inside a circle of animal figurines below a cryptic message written in blood. When they discover that the dead girl is one of twenty-four missing high school students, Sayer quickly realizes that nothing in this case is what it seems.

As the investigation draws her in to a tangled web of fake identities and false leads, the trail soon begins to point directly to her own life. Now, Sayer must confront her painful past to uncover her connection to the deranged killer if she hopes to save the missing teens and protect everything that she loves."

My Thoughts:

This series is one of my absolute favorites!  It's also the 3rd book in the series so it is definitely going to be a bit difficult to talk about without sharing spoilers.  I had been looking forward to this book for months and it was completely worth the wait!  The things about all of the books in this series is that they are just so hard to put down!  The premise of this one had me hooked from the very beginning.  Twenty-four missing high school students that were supposed to be on a school trip - it was a suspenseful setup.  But what I didn't expect (but loved) was how much this book tied in elements from her two previous books.  I won't say any more because I don't want to spoil anything but WOW.  Does this author know how to pull the rug from under you or what?  And then the way this book ended....PLEASE tell me that we will be getting a 4th book in the new year because I NEED it!  Need it.  I flew through the pages of this book just as I have done with the previous two books.  My favorite of the series so far still remains as Caged but all three of these books were standout reads for me.  If you haven't checked this series out yet, then what are you waiting for?!?  It's SO good - you won't regret reading these.  I do suggest reading them in order because there are things that happen in each book that carry over into the other books.  

Overall, I cannot say enough good things about this series or really even this book!  We got a lot more than I expected with this one which I really enjoyed.  I'm itching to get my hands on book four - it's going to be a long wait for that one but I will be first in line to read it.  If you enjoy police procedurals (this is FBI so not quite the same) and darker mysteries, I definitely would say to give this series a try.  This author is on my must read list where I will read anything/everything that she writes.  Highly recommended!

Bottom Line:  Another really great addition to one of my very favorite mystery series!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher and Netgalley. I ended up reading a copy courtesy of my local library.  Honest thoughts are my own.

CW: Violence, Harm to teenagers, kidnapping, child's death.


Monday, December 14, 2020

Mini Reviews (Anne Frasier, Kristen Lepionka)


Summary from Goodreads:

"No one is more familiar with Savannah's dark side than homicide detective and native resident Elise Sandburg. She's been haunted for years by her own mysterious past: she was abandoned as a baby in one of the city's ancient cemeteries, and it's rumored that she is the illegitimate daughter of an infamous Savannah root doctor. The local Gullah culture of voodoo and magic is one that few outsiders can understand, least of all Elise's new partner. Now someone is terrorizing the city, creating real-life zombies by poisoning victims into a conscious paralysis that mimics death. As the chilling case unfolds, Elise is drawn back into the haunted past she's tried so hard to leave behind."

My Thoughts:

Play Dead was the perfect book to pick up when I was starting to go through a reading slump.  There is just something about Anne Frasier's books that never fails to draw me in.  I've read two other books in her Jude Fontaine mystery series (and loved them both) so was excited to give one of her other series to try.  Her books always seem to have darker elements to them which never fails to make them hard to put down.  In this book, Frasier includes voodoo elements that give the book a darker and creepier edge.  I really liked Elise as the main character.  There is just something that I enjoy about mysteries featuring strong female main characters where there is a hint of mystery to the main character.  With this book, there are questions of Elise's parentage as she was adopted as a baby and there are rumors that she is the daughter of a well known root doctor.  I also really liked the storyline featuring Elise's new partner and his past history.  This was such a fast-paced mystery because there were these other smaller side mysteries going on.  My attention was engaged the entire time and that was exactly what I needed when I had been feeling so slumpy previously.  I especially liked the ending of this book because I thought that I had it all figured out but the author managed to surprise me.  I'm really looking forward to picking up the second book in this series in the very near future!

Overall, I really enjoyed my time with this book!  I'm glad that I finally decided to dive into Frasier's backlist a bit and am really looking forward to reading that second book soon.  At this point, I basically plan on reading everything and anything that she writes because I've loved everything that I've read by her so far!  I would recommend this book to fans of atmospheric mysteries and to those readers who enjoy darker police procedurals.  Highly recommended!

Bottom Line: Another really great read by an author that is fast becoming a favorite of mine!

Disclosure:  I read this book through Kindle Unlimited.  Honest thoughts are my own.

Summary from Goodreads:

"Nobody knows what happened to Sarah Cook. The beautiful blonde teenager disappeared fifteen years ago, the same night her parents were brutally murdered in their suburban Ohio home. Her boyfriend Brad Stockton—black and from the wrong side of the tracks—was convicted of the murders and is now on death row. Though he’s maintained his innocence all along, the clock is running out. His execution is only weeks away when his devoted sister insists she spied Sarah at an area gas station. Willing to try anything, she hires PI Roxane Weary to look at the case and see if she can locate Sarah.

Brad might be in a bad way, but private investigator Roxane Weary isn’t doing so hot herself. Still reeling from the recent death of her cop father in the line of duty, her main way of dealing with her grief has been working as little and drinking as much as possible. But Roxane finds herself drawn in to the story of Sarah's vanishing act, especially when she links the disappearance to one of her father’s unsolved murder cases involving another teen girl."

My Thoughts:

I really, really enjoyed The Last Place You Look!  I love a good mystery series featuring a female lead (are you seeing a theme here?) so this series has been on my radar for awhile now.  I'm glad that I finally picked this one up because it was one that I didn't want to set down.  Sometimes I feel like you just read a book and from the very beginning know that its going to be a book that you love.  That was definitely the case for this one.  From the very beginning of this book, I was intrigued and curious about what had happened to Sarah.  Could she really be alive after so many years?  Would Roxane be able to find her if she was?  Those questions swirled in my head throughout the entire book.  And let me tell you that I didn't see the end of this book coming by a mile.  Wow!  That's all I have to say about that.  I will say that I really enjoyed Roxane as a main character.  She is struggling with the grief over her father's death and also has a lot of struggles with alcohol.  She felt like a real person that I could identify with as the reader not because I am like her but more because of her imperfections.  I understood those imperfections and the fight to get your life back under control.  I loved that Roxane never seemed to give up no matter what life was throwing at her.  I'm so eager to continue on with this series and plan on doing exactly that in the new year!

Overall, I highly recommend checking out this series if you haven't yet!  I really enjoyed my time with this one and cannot wait to see what further troubles Roxane finds herself in with future books.  The best part is I believe that I have at least three to four other books to look forward to in this series which has me excited.  I would recommend this book to fans of mysteries and suspenseful reads...especially those readers who prefer reading about a private investigator rather than from a detective's point of view.  Highly recommended!

Bottom Line:  This book is one of my favorite new to me series that I've found in 2020!

Disclosure:  I checked this book out from my local library.  Honest thoughts are my own.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Mini Reviews (Sophie Hannah, Gilly MacMillan)


Summary from Goodreads:

"Hercule Poirot is travelling by luxury passenger coach from London to the exclusive Kingfisher Hill estate. Richard Devonport has summoned him to prove that his fiancĂ©e, Helen, is innocent of the murder of his brother, Frank. There is one strange condition attached to this request: Poirot must conceal his true reason for being there from the rest of the Devonport family.

On the coach, a distressed woman leaps up, demanding to disembark. She insists that if she stays in her seat, she will be murdered. A seat-swap is arranged, and the rest of the journey passes without incident. But Poirot has a bad feeling about it, and his fears are later confirmed when a body is discovered in the Devonports' home with a note that refers to ‘the seat that you shouldn’t have sat in’.

Could this new murder and the peculiar incident on the coach be clues to solving the mystery of who killed Frank Devonport? And can Poirot find the real murderer in time to save an innocent woman from the gallows?"

My Thoughts:

I've been a huge Agatha Christie fan for years with a personal goal of eventually reading everything that she has written (I've got a ways to go in case you are wondering).  I was delighted to hear that Sophie Hannah was continuing the Hercule Poirot series so I jumped at the chance to read this one.  I say this with all respect to Christie and her work - I really couldn't tell the difference.  Hannah has written such a well crafted mystery that I believe Christie would have appreciated herself.  This isn't a book that you will fly through as it is definitely a slow burn.  But it was such an enjoyable ride that this author took me on that I didn't mind the slower pace.  I can honestly tell you that I suspected every character besides of course Poirot and Inspector Catchpool.  There was a variety of characters to suspect and I'm not sure that I liked any of them.  But I did enjoy reading about them and trying to guess if they were the ones behind it all.  And to my delight, I didn't see the ending coming at all.  Looking back, I almost felt like I should have but I didn't.  This was such an amazing tribute to Christie's work and I cannot wait to go back and read the other Poirot books that Sophie Hannah has written!

Overall, I enjoyed this book and am excited that we have more Poirot books to look forward to thanks to this author!  If you are a fan of Christie's books or are a mystery reader, I definitely think that you should give these a try.  I haven't yet read the earlier Poirot books that Sophie Hannah has written and it didn't matter in the slightest.  I would say you could probably treat these as standalones almost but I'm planning on reading those other books now as well!  Definitely recommended!

Bottom Line: An enjoyable mystery that felt like Christie wrote it herself.  I can give it no higher praise!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher.  Honest thoughts are my own.

Summary from Goodreads:

"When her beloved nanny, Hannah, left without a trace in the summer of 1988, seven-year-old Jocelyn Holt was devastated. Haunted by the loss, Jo grew up bitter and distant, and eventually left her parents and Lake Hall, their faded aristocratic home, behind.

Thirty years later, Jo returns to the house and is forced to confront her troubled relationship with her mother. But when human remains are accidentally uncovered in a lake on the estate, Jo begins to question everything she thought she knew.

Then an unexpected visitor knocks on the door and Jo’s world is destroyed again. Desperate to piece together the gaping holes in her memory, Jo must uncover who her nanny really was, why she left, and if she can trust her own mother…"

My Thoughts:

The Nanny was an atmospheric, slow burning read that I enjoyed immensely.  This is one of those books that isn't meant to rush through.  The author takes her time and builds the suspense up layer by layer.  The characters in this one were an interesting contradiction.  I felt like I should like Jo more but I really didn't.  I felt like I shouldn't like her mother but I actually did.  The author does a really great job of slowly revealing their motivations and the truths behind their shared history.  Let me tell you that this was such a great ride!  I love, love, love slow burns where you can just trust the author to tell a really great story.  I didn't know exactly what was coming but I was there for the ride.  And the ending was perfection!  I honestly don't think that this book could have ended any other way.  This is my 2nd book by this author and it won't be my last.  I love the way she builds up suspense in her books and cannot wait to read more by her!

Overall, I enjoyed this book and am eager to read more by this author.  Luckily, I already have another of her books on my shelf to look forward to.  I wouldn't call this book a thriller but instead would label it as suspense.  Go in knowing this book is a slower burn and I think that readers will enjoy it all the more.  I would recommend this book to fans of character driven mysteries and those who enjoy an atmospheric read.  Highly recommended!

Bottom Line:  A slow burning suspenseful read that I really enjoyed!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book from the publisher.  Honest thoughts are my own.  

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Vanishing Falls by Poppy Gee (thoughts)


Summary from Goodreads:

"Deep within the lush Tasmanian rainforest is the remote town of Vanishing Falls, a place with a storied past. The town’s showpiece, built in the 1800s, is its Calendar House—currently occupied by Jack Lily, a prominent art collector and landowner; his wife, Celia; and their four daughters. The elaborate, eccentrically designed mansion houses one masterpiece and 52 rooms—and Celia Lily isn’t in any of them. She has vanished without a trace.…

Joelle Smithton knows that a few folks in Vanishing Falls believe that she’s simple-minded. It’s true that Joelle’s brain works a little differently—a legacy of shocking childhood trauma. But Joelle sees far more than most people realize, and remembers details that others cast away. For instance, she knows that Celia’s husband, Jack, has connections to unsavory local characters whom he’s desperate to keep hidden. He’s not the only one in town with something to conceal. Even Joelle’s own husband, Brian, a butcher, is acting suspiciously. While the police flounder, unable to find Celia, Joelle is gradually parsing the truth from the gossip she hears and from the simple gestures and statements that can unwittingly reveal so much.  

Just as the water from the falls disappears into the ground, gushing away through subterranean creeks, the secrets in Vanishing Falls are pulsing through the town, about to converge. And when they do, Joelle must summon the courage to reveal what really happened to Celia, even if it means exposing her own past…"

My Thoughts:

Vanishing Falls was an atmospheric mystery with a unique setting that had me eager to pick it up.  I've never read a mystery set in the Tasmanian rainforest so a book set there had me instantly intrigued.  Also, that cover is absolutely gorgeous!  Joelle's character though is what made this book standout for me.  She was just one of those characters that I instantly cared about.  There is something different about her that the author never fully explains.  I think that her past has a lot to do with it even though I didn't feel like we were given enough information to fully confirm that.  It's my theory at least (and if you've read this one, let me know if you agree).  Anyways, for me this book was more about the characters than the mystery.  There were a bunch of different characters and for me I enjoyed reading about them and getting to know their motivations behind their actions.  I admit that I wasn't as focused on the mystery itself which isn't a negative at all.  I was curious on what had happened to Celia but early on I had a theory on who was behind it all.  My enjoyment of this book really came from getting to know more about the characters (especially Joelle) and how all of these different tiny details related to Celia's disappearance.  The characters weren't all likable at times but I still wanted to understand them.  I really don't know how else to explain it.  It was just an intriguing, quieter book that I really enjoyed throughout.  I'm looking forward to reading more by this author and seeing what else she has written.  The focus on all of the characters and unique setting really made this book stand out for me.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with this book and definitely plan to read more by this author.  This is more of a slow burn mystery that really focuses on the characters.  I thought that the author did a wonderful job portraying the characters and the struggles that they faced.  I think that mystery readers who enjoy quiet mysteries that are character focused will really enjoy this one.  I was trying to think of another book that I've read to compare this one to but I really can't.  It's unique and a great addition to the mystery genre because of that.  Recommended!

Bottom Line:  A book with characters that I still think about every now and then.  

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher.  Honest thoughts are my own.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Mini Reviews (Wendy Walker, Ellie Alexander)


Summary from Goodreads:

"One night, Molly Clarke walked away from her life. The car abandoned miles from home. The note found at a nearby hotel. The shattered family that couldn't be put back together. It happens all the time. Women disappear, desperate to leave their lives behind and start over. She doesn't want to be found. Or at least, that's the story. But is that what really happened to Molly Clarke?"

My Thoughts:

Wow!  This was such a suspenseful and page turning read!  I cut the above summary short because I feel like it gives too much away to the reader.  Despite the fact that I read the full summary beforehand, this book had me all sorts of tense and anxious.  I started this book off on edge especially as I just knew that some of the choices the main character was making were going to lead to bad things.  It was like watching a horror movie unfold where you yell at the characters for the decisions that they are making.  This book was SO suspenseful that it actually had me anxious while reading it.  There were multiples times that I had to set the book down to give myself a bit of a break.  This book is also a heartbreaking look at grief and how a simple mistake can destroy a family.  I felt for Molly throughout this entire book because what happened to her family had absolutely destroyed her.  I empathized with her as a mother and also understood her even though it is something that I would never want to experience for myself.  And then the ending came with twists and turns that left me off balance.  What a book this was!  

Overall, I enjoyed this book immensely even if it stressed me out while I was reading it.  This was my first book by Walker but it definitely won't be my last.  I actually have a couple of her other books on my shelves already that I'm really looking forward to reading now.  This book has been all over #bookstagram and I can see why!  If you enjoy page turning reads filled with suspense and tension, then this is the book for you.  And after you read it, come talk to me about that ending because...Highly recommended!

Bottom Line:  A heart pounding and intense read that kept me glued to the pages!

Disclosure:  I received a review copy from NetGalley, the copy I read was courtesy of my local library, honest thoughts are my own.

Summary from Goodreads:

"Torte―the beloved small-town bakeshop run by Jules Capshaw―is set to hit the stage. But who would have guessed that murder would makes a surprise appearance?

It’s the role of a lifetime for Jules. The Shakespeare Festival has returned to Ashland, Oregon, for the season and Torte has been cast as the supplier of Elizabethan-era treats for the main event. But on the eve of opening night, a brawl between Jules’s friend Lance, the artistic director, and a strapping young thespian named Anthony almost brings down the house. . .and the next morning, Anthony is dead. Jules knows that Lance loves his drama―and his just desserts―but she also knows that murder is way off-script for him. Now it’s up to Jules to cut through a bevy of backstage betrayals and catty co-stars who all have their own secrets―before the curtain drops on someone else. . "

My Thoughts:

This is the 7th book in the Bakeshop cozy mystery series which is a personal favorite series of mine.  It's been awhile since I last picked up a book in this series but it felt like no time at all.  There is just something about this town, these characters, and these books that I cannot get enough of.  I always read this series wishing that Torte was an actual shop that I could visit because the descriptions of food and dessert never fail to make me hungry.    The mystery is honestly not even the thing that I care about the most with these books.  I will say that I was more invested in this mystery because of Lance being the prime suspect.  I love this character so really wanted to see Jules clear his name.  But for me, it is everything else that really brings this series to life.  It's the delicious descriptions of the food that they are always making and baking in the shop that keep me coming back to this series time and time again.  It's the characters that have really come to life for me seven books into this series.  It's the cozy feel that just makes everything feel okay especially when we are living in the midst of a pandemic.  I really cannot recommend this series enough!

Overall, I enjoyed this book immensely even though it isn't my favorite of the series.  My favorite so far is probably On Thin Icing but that's because I love a good snowstorm mystery.  I don't think that you necessarily have to read this series in order but I would recommend it if possible just because things that have happened in previous books are referenced in later books.  Plus, each book in this series is such a delight that it is completely worth taking the time to read them all!  If you are looking for a cozy mystery series to sweep you away from the every day craziness that we are living through, this is really it!  Highly recommended!

Bottom Line:  Another delightful addition to one of my very favorite cozy mystery series!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher and NetGalley.  Honest thoughts are my own.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Witch Hunter by Max Seeck (thoughts)


Summary from Goodreads:

"A bestselling author’s wife has been found dead in a gorgeous black evening gown, sitting at the head of a formally set dinner table. Her most chilling feature—her face is frozen in a ghastly smile.

At first it seems as though a deranged psychopath is reenacting the gruesome murders from The Witch Hunter, the bestseller written by the victim’s husband. But investigator Jessica Niemi soon realizes she’s not looking for a single killer but rather for dozens of believers in a sinister form of witchcraft.

They know her every move and are always one step ahead. As the bodies start piling up, Jessica knows they won’t stop until they get what they want. And when her dark past comes to light, Jessica finds herself battling her own demons while desperately trying to catch a coven of killers before they claim their next victim."

My Thoughts:

The Witch Hunter was an atmospheric read perfect for this time of year.  This is a book meant to be read on a cold fall day where there is enough bite in the air to show that winter will be here all too soon.  Or this would also be a perfect book to read curled up by the fire on a cold, snowy day.  It just has ALL of the atmosphere which was something I really enjoyed about it.  This book also has a few genuinely creepy parts to it that I didn't see coming.  There is this foreboding atmosphere and then combined with those creepy scenes added up to quite a suspenseful read.  In fact, I really enjoyed my time with this book until the very end.  I won't spoil anything but I honestly don't know how I feel about the ending.  I think that I will know more after I read the next book in this series whenever that releases.  And I definitely really do want to read that next book because there were so many things that I enjoyed about this book.  But I also was left with questions...and enough of them that the ending left me feeling a bit taken aback.  That's the most I will say about it.  I will say that I really liked Jessica as a character and was intrigued by her.  She isn't what she seems and I'm hoping that we will have the opportunity to learn more about her as the series goes on.  Because there are so many questions I have also about her and her past.  It's going to be a long wait for that next book I tell you!  

Overall, I enjoyed this book for the most part although the end left me a bit wanting.  I hope that I was able to convey that there are so many good things about this book regardless of how I felt about the ending.  I'm really glad that this is just the beginning of a series so I can get answers and read more about these characters.  I will definitely be continuing on with this series whenever the next book releases.  I think that readers who enjoy Nordic noir, who enjoy an atmospheric police procedural, and those who enjoy their mysteries with a hint of something more should give this book a shot.  Recommended.

Bottom Line:  A suspenseful and atmospheric read that didn't quite meet my expectations at the end.

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher and NetGalley.  Honest thoughts are my own.

CW: Witchcraft, rape, domestic violence, teeth (I can't say more than that because of spoilers but...), murder

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

And Now She's Gone by Rachel Howzell Hall (thoughts)


Summary from Goodreads:

"Isabel Lincoln is gone.

But is she missing?

It's up to Grayson Sykes to find her. Although she is reluctant to track down a woman who may not want to be found, Gray's search for Isabel Lincoln becomes more complicated and dangerous with every new revelation about the woman's secrets and the truth she's hidden from her friends and family.

Featuring two complicated women in a dangerous cat and mouse game, And Now She's Gone explores the nature of secrets -- and how violence and fear can lead you to abandon everything in order to survive."

My Thoughts:

Wow!  This book was SO, SO good!  In fact, it started my streak of two five star reads back to back which doesn't happen often.  Last year I read and really enjoyed They All Fall Down by this author.  Sidenote: That book is an amazing read as well and is a retelling (not sure if that is the correct term) of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.  I just knew that I needed to read more by this author so I eagerly picked this one up and it didn't disappoint.  One of the things that I enjoy most about this author's books is that there is a kind of rhythm to them.  She doesn't tell you everything all at once which adds to the suspense.  There were numerous times that I was going along reading this book thinking one thing only to realize that it was actually something completely different.  That sounds confusing but it really wasn't.  It's actually perfection in my opinion.  I loved how she managed to play with my assumptions in a way that would lead me down the wrong path.  I never knew what was going to happen or what to expect until the author actually wanted me to.  It was all done just so perfectly!  This isn't an easy read only because it deals with some very serious and dark subject matter (I will have content warnings below).  I still couldn't set this book down though even though there were times where it had my anxiety levels humming.  I loved Gray's character and everything about her.  She wasn't perfect but she was a fighter which kept me rooting for her the entire time.  I would actually love to see this become a series because this book was just that good and so was she as the main character!  This is honestly one of the best mysteries I've read all year!  Read this book and let this author take you for a ride you won't forget about anytime soon!  

Overall, I obviously really enjoyed this one as evidenced by all of my gushing.  I will be searching out Hall's backlist and reading everything else she has written after enjoying these two books so much.  The exciting part as it looks like her other books are part of a series (and you know how much I love a series).  I think that readers who enjoy mysteries where everything is not what it seems, those who enjoy suspenseful reads with strong characters, and those who just love a good thrilling read should pick this book up!  Highly recommended!  Please note that I am not an own voices reviewer so I would also suggest checking out some reviews from own voice reviewers.

Bottom Line:  One of the best mysteries I've read this year - that should tell you everything you need to know!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book thanks to the publisher and NetGalley but I ended up reading a copy from my local library.  Honest thoughts are my own.

CW:  Domestic abuse, miscarriage, domestic violence - these are the big ones but there might be a few others.

Friday, October 16, 2020

The Suicide House by Charlie Donlea (thoughts)


Summary from Goodreads:

"Inside the walls of Indiana’s elite Westmont Preparatory High School, expectations run high and rules are strictly enforced. But in the woods beyond the manicured campus and playing fields sits an abandoned boarding house that is infamous among Westmont’s students as a late-night hangout. Here, only one rule applies: don’t let your candle go out—unless you want the Man in the Mirror to find you. . . .

One year ago, two students were killed there in a grisly slaughter. The case has since become the focus of a hit podcast, The Suicide House. Though a teacher was convicted of the murders, mysteries and questions remain. The most urgent among them is why so many students who survived that horrific night have returned to the boarding house—to kill themselves.

Rory, an expert in reconstructing cold cases, is working on The Suicide House podcast with Lane, recreating the night of the killings in order to find answers that have eluded the school, the town, and the police. But the more they learn about the troubled students, the chillingly stoic culprit, and a dangerous game gone tragically wrong, the more convinced they become that something sinister is still happening. Inside Westmont Prep, the game hasn’t ended. It thrives on secrecy and silence. And for its players, there may be no way to win—or to survive. . . ."

My Thoughts:

I feel like I picked this book up at the perfect time of year for it.  Fall days call for slightly creepy thrillers just like this one!  Last year I read (and loved ) Some Choose Darkness by this author.  This book would actually be considered to be the sequel as it focuses on the same characters but the author stated at the end of this book that he intentionally wrote it so you could read this one as a standalone.  Do I think you should read them both (and in order)?  Definitely!  Only because they are both SO good so it's definitely worth your time!  I'm going off on a tangent here but I love how the author tied the other books he has written together at the end in that same author's note.  It makes me want to go back and catch up on everything else that he has written.  This book though was such a great read!  I picked it up and just couldn't set it down.  The combination of a boarding school, a secret society, the legend of the Man in the mirror, and then all of the mysterious death surrounding that abandoned house had me completely hooked!  The bonus to all of that (which totally would have been enough for me to pick this book up based on all of that alone) was getting to read more about Rory and Lane.  Rory's character is so unique and I was happy to get to read another book focused on her.  We also got to get to know Lane a bit more which was an added bonus.  There is also a true crime podcast aspect to this book that I think that readers will enjoy.  This book was such a page turner!  It's told from multiple viewpoints with short chapters which meant I just kept reading to see what happened next.  There hits one point though where - wham - the author completely pulled the rug out on me and I was here for it!  I loved that I didn't see that piece of the storyline coming at all!  I did feel like I had an idea of who was behind it all halfway through the book but I didn't mind.  There was just enough that I wasn't certain and let me tell you that I was completely compelled to see how it would all turn out regardless.  I really loved this one and cannot wait to read more by this author!

Overall, I definitely recommend checking this one out!  It was just SO good!  I'm really looking forward to going back and reading this author's backlist after enjoying both of the books I've read by him so much.  If you enjoy thrillers that keep you turning the page, this book is one to check out!  Highly recommended!

Bottom Line:  A five star read for me!  That should tell you everything you need to know!

Disclosure:  I received a copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher.  I read a copy courtesy of my local library.  Honest thoughts are my own.

CW:  Suicide, domestic abuse, violence, murder