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.