Posted in Reviews

Review of Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

*****5 stars

If I could give this book more than 5 stars, I would. It was excellent, and I’m embarrassed to admit that it’s the first book I’ve read by this popular author. I read it for a library book club and wasn’t sure how I would feel about it. I found the story picked up for me toward the middle. From that point on, I couldn’t put it down.

The story centers around two sisters, Meredith and Nina, and their relationship to their parents. The sisters have very different personalities. Meredith helps her father run the family business, an orchard, along with her husband, Jeff. Their grown children are in college. Nina is a photojournalist who travels to war-torn countries and has won awards for her photography. In her late thirties, she still hasn’t settled down but has an Irish boyfriend.

The women share a great love of their father but have not had a close relationship with their mother, Anya, who they know little about except that she’s Russian. The closest they’ve been to her is when she’s told them a fairytale about a peasant girl and a prince. But when Meredith staged a play about the fairytale, Anya reacts angrily and refuses to continue the tale. When their father dies, he asks them both to take care of Anya and requests that Nina ask her mother to tell the whole fairytale. Nina has no idea why but wants to satisfy his dying wish.

The story then alternates between the present and Anya’s recitation of the fairytale. Without giving spoilers, the sisters discover that there’s more to the fairytale than they believed. Once told, it changes their view of their mother and their relationship with her, with their loved ones, and with each other.

I loved the way the “fairytale” was told, the depiction of Russia during Stalin’s reign and World War II, and the way the author captured the beauty and vastness of current-day Alaska in the final part of the book. I recommend this highly for historical fiction fans and those who enjoy relationship stories. Don’t forget to bring a tissue with you as you read because you’ll shed tears of both sadness and joy. This will be a book you won’t quickly forget and one that is great for discussion.

 

 

Posted in Reviews

Review of The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz

*Note: This book was an advanced reader’s copy from Net Galley. It will be published on February 21, 2023, and is available for pre-order on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Writing-Retreat-Novel-Julia-Bartz-ebook/dp/B0B3Y84THW/

****4 stars

This book disappointed me, although some readers may enjoy it. I read it because I like fictional stories about authors. It started out with an interesting theme. A famous horror writer sponsors a writing retreat for young female authors at her secluded home. After reading samples of their writing, she chooses six women under thirty. Alex, a fan of Rosa Vallo since reading one of her bestselling books as a teen, ends up taking the place of one of the retreat members even though she’s thirty-years-old and is suffering from writer’s block. Alex is unaware that another retreat member is her previous best friend, Wren. After they broke up, Wren was accidentally injured at a party that Alex attended. Alex has blamed herself for Wren’s injury since. When they’re reunited at Rosa’s mansion, they initially regard one another with animosity. That changes when incidents occur that cause both women to realize the pettiness or their hostility toward one another.

A central theme to the book involves the history of Rosa’s home and how the previous occupants, a woman named Daphne and her husband Horace, were found brutally murdered in the 1800’s.. Daphne had been involved in spiritualism that her husband didn’t condone and was rumored to have conjured up an evil spirit. Alex uses these characters and background for the work-in-progress Rosa requests of the retreat members who must each submit a certain word count each day to participate in a contest where the winner will be published by Rosa’s publisher.

Without giving away the twists, this book contains elements of the supernatural, lesbianism, and how far an author will go to become famously published. Not recommended, but everyone, but some will find it a unique read.

Posted in Reviews

Review of Cowboys and Chaos, Magical Mystery Book Club #3 by Elizabeth Pantley

*****5-stars

This is another delightful addition to Elizabeth Pantley’s Magical Mystery Book Club cozy mystery series that features a group of book club members who go into cozy mystery books to solve mysteries. In this story, Paige and her aunt Glo, along with the members of their book club including Frank, the talking cat, end up in an old western town where they’re reunited with GeeGee, the owner of the bookstore that was bequeathed to Paige and Glo upon her death, but GeeGee didn’t die. She simply retired into a 3-book series set in the Old West.

The murder that the book club members must solve this time is that of Mollie, the saloon girl who, not realizing she’s died, is a ghost that only they can see. Plot twists abound in this imaginative and fun tale. If you haven’t read the first two, I’d highly recommend it, although you won’t have trouble following this third installment on its own.

You can pick up your copy here: https://www.amazon.com/Cowboys-Chaos-Magical-Mystery-Book-ebook/dp/B0BB1HS7XL/

Posted in Reviews

Review of It Ends at Midnight by Harriet Tyce


*Note: This book was an advanced reader’s copy from Net Galley. It will be published on February 21, 2023, and is available for pre-order on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Ends-at-Midnight-Harriet-Tyce/dp/1728263840/

*****5 stars

This was a hard book to put down.. I loved the way the author didn’t reveal the victims until the end of the story and how she featured triple twists to wrap up things. I didn’t guess who-done-it or who the victims were, which is a rarity for me.

This book starts on New Year’s Eve in Scotland (hogmanay as it’s called there). Two people, a man and a woman, are found impaled on fence stakes outside a house at which a party has taken place. Readers are priivvy to the dying thoughts of the victims throughout the book as it alternates from that time backwards.

Sylvie, a lawyer, is the main character. When she learns her best friend, Tess, has an inoperable brain tumor, she agrees to inform Tess’ husband and also help Tess locate a childhood friend whom Tess wants to make amends with for something they both did to her back in their school days.

As the plot moves forward to New Year’s Eve when Tess plans to renew her vows with her husband at a house where Sylvie’s boyfriend, a caterer, will be arranging the food, Sylvie has flashbacks to the event she’s tried to erase from her mind for twenty years.

The title of the book is appropriate, as the final scenes of the story take place as New Year’s Eve turns into New Year’s Day. My only criticism of the book is that the characters aren’t too likable, but the ending more than makes up for that. I recommend this to fans of Gone Girl and other dark fiction tales.

Posted in Reviews

Review of The Wishing Game by Meg Shaffer

*Note: This book was an advanced reader’s copy from Net Galley. It will be published on May 30, 2023, and is available for pre-order on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Wishing-Game-Novel-Meg-Shaffer-ebook/dp/B0BHD79NZ9/

*****5-stars

The reclusive and very rich children’s book author, Jack Masterson, is writing again after a long dry spell. On his private island, Clock Island, named for his book series, he’s devised a contest for four adults who once ran away from home to visit him. The prize is the only copy of his new book, valued at six figures. One of these people, Lucy, a teacher’s assistant, desperately wants to win the contest, so she can afford to foster a young boy and eventually adopt him.

When Lucy arrives on the island and meets the other contestants, she also meets Masterson’s book illustrator with whom she becomes attracted. The contest involves several difficult puzzles. Lucy starts out ahead by solving the first but then falls behind. The only way she can win is to solve the last puzzle.

What I liked about this book was the backstory about the author and illustrator as well as that of Lucy and her young friend. The writing was enchanting with touches of fantasy and whimsy that reflected the best quality of children’s books in an adult novel. I recommend this read to those who enjoy a sweet story and a happy but not necessarily obvious ending.

Posted in Cozy Mystery, Paranormal, Reviews

Review of the Minuscule Mansion of Myra Malone by Audrey Burges

*Note: This book was an advanced reader’s copy from Net Galley. It will be published on January 24, 2023, and is available for order on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Minuscule-Mansion-Myra-Malone/dp/0593546474

****4 stars

If you’ve ever had a dollhouse or been enchanted by miniatures as I have, you would enjoy this book about Myra Malone who inherits a dollhouse she calls a mansion after her grandmother dies in a car crash in which Myra is severely injured and deformed. Myra becomes a recluse, but a friend helps her find meaning to her life by sharing her hobby of miniatures on social media where she gains worldwide fans including a man across the country whose house has an eerie similarity to the rooms of her “mansion.”

I found this story charming, and I liked the paranormal element. However, I felt some of the loose ends weren’t tied up as well as I’d hoped. If you’re a fan of miniatures and sweet love stories with a supernatural theme, you’ll enjoy this book.

Posted in Reviews

Review for Verity by Colleen Hoover

*****5 stars

Working as a librarian at a public library, I’ve been having more and more requests for books by this author, so I wanted to see what all the hype was about. After reading Verity, I’m not at all surprised at Colleen Hoover’s popularity.

I enjoy reading a variety of genres. Verity is dark fiction at its best. It reminded me of Gone Girl, although it’s a totally different story. Told in first person by Lowen Ashleigh, an undiscovered writer who has a chance meeting with Jeremy Crawford, the husband of bestselling author, Verity Crawford. The chance meeting turns into an offer between Lowen’s agent and Jeremy who is seeking someone to write the last three books of his wife’s series while she is recovering from a car accident.

Verity accepts the generous offer despite the fact that she’s not sure she’s up to the job. When she arrives at the Crawfords’ home, she’s surprised at the extent of Verity’s injuries and discovers an unpublished manuscript of her autobiography that contains some disturbing facts about her relationship with her husband and the death of her twin daughters.

Lowen becomes involved romantically with Jeremy and continues reading his wife’s autobiography while she attempts to finish writing Verity’s series narrated by the villian.

I had a hard time putting this book down. It was well written and featured a wonderful twist. If you enjoy dark fiction, psychological mysteries, and books about authors, you will love this novel. It definitely lives up to the hype.

 

Posted in Horror, Reviews

Review for Malice House by Megan Shepherd

*Note: This book was an advanced reader’s copy from Net Galley. It will be published on October 4, 2022, and is available for order on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Malice-House-Megan-Shepherd-ebook/dp/B09VHD298B/

****4 stars

Malice House by Megan Shepherd

If you’re looking for a new Halloween read, look no further. The premise of this book is a curse on a family that allows them to bring alive monsters from their writing and artwork.

Haven Marbury, a children’s book illustrator, is the daughter of bestselling author Amory Marbury. When he dies, she goes to his secluded home in the small town of Lundie Bay to clear it out.

While going through her father’s papers, Haven finds an unpublished manuscript that was written while her father suffered from dementia. Unlike his award-winning style, the manuscript appears to be a horror novel featuring an assortment of monsters. Haven adds her own drawings of the monsters to the manuscript, hoping to sell it. She shares the unpublished book and her artwork with the members of the Ink Drinkers, a literary club of which her father was a member and who work in a nearby bookstore. The club members reject her drawings, but one of them, a young woman named Kylie, befriends her..

As strange murders occur in town, including that of her father’s housekeeper, an officer suspects Haven may be involved, as the killings are like those in one of her father’s books. Haven grows close to her father’s neighbor, Rafe, an heir to a peanut butter fortune until she discovers some grisly items that he’s hiding.

This book is a perfect October/Halloween read. The monsters are well depicted, and there are quite a few twists to satisfy a reader. I would recommend, however, not to read it at night with the light off.

Posted in Reviews

Review for The Cloisters by Katy Hays

*Note: This book was an advanced reader’s copy from Net Galley. It will be published on November 1, 2022, and is available for order on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Cloisters-Novel-Katy-Hays-ebook/dp/B09ZVJX964/

****4 stars

THE CLOISTERS BY KATY HAYS

After her father’s death, Ann Stillwell leaves the small town of Walla Wall, Washington for a job at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. But upon arriving, she is told that there isn’t a spot for her there. Instead, she is offered a position at the Cloisters, medieval museum. She works for Patrick, the museum’s curator, and with Rachel who becomes a very close friend. She also meets the gardener, Leo, to whom she becomes attracted.

During after hours at the museum, Ann leans that Rachel and Patrick read tarot cards. Patrick seeks the last card of a rare tarot deck to complete the set. He hopes to obtain this from an antique dealer. Ann comes upon the card accidentally and confides in Rachel that she’s found it. The two plan to capitalize on the find but wait for the right time to do so.
As Ann and Rachel grow closer because of their shared secret, Ann and Leo drift apart. Ann meets up with an old friend from her hometown who tells her some disturbing things about Rachel. While Ann doesn’t believe them, she is still concerned that she may not know her friend as well as she thinks.

One night, Ann joins Patrick, Rachel, and Leo in reading the tarot cards. This time, they ingest a mixture prepared by Leo that contains a small amount of a Belladonna plant that is poisonous in a higher concentration. They seek to achieve a state of enlightenment to help them receive the messages of the cards. The next day, Patrick is found dead,

Without giving away the rest of the book and the twists that follow, I would recommend this novel to those interested in divination arts, medieval history, and mysteries. I found the pace of the chapters leading up to the murder somewhat slow. After that point, the story really picked up.

Posted in Reviews

Review for The Favor by Nicci French

*Note: This book was an advanced reader’s copy from Net Galley. It will be published on October 18, 2022, and is available for order on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Favor-Novel-Nicci-French-ebook/dp/B09QMGRD8F

****4-stars

What would you do if someone you dated in high school turned up out of the blue ten years later and asked you to do them a favor? That’s the premise of The Favor by Nicci French.

Jude was in love with Liam as a teenager. He was her first lover. But when they are involved in a car accident together with some friends, their relationship comes to an end. Liam disappears from Jude’s life. She goes on to medical school and becomes a doctor. One day, Liam visits the hospital and tells her he needs her help with a favor but won’t tell her what the favor entails except that she needs to meet him at a secluded cabin that weekend. He requests that she not tell anyone including her fiancee.

While Jude is hesitant to help, she feels bad for Liam because her life seems to have gone more smoothly than his has. But the truth is that she’s kept a lie from her family and fiancee for a decade. The lie involves the accident in which Liam was blamed for drunk driving.

When Jude arrives at the cabin, she waits for Liam who is scheduled to meet her there by train. He never shows up. She later discovers the reason for his absence. Liam was murdered miles away, and the police question Jude’s story about the favor she was asked by a man she hadn’t seen in ten years.

Jude’s life then falls apart as she is mentioned in the news, and her fiancee leaves her because he believes she was still seeing Liam. As the story progresses, we learn some things about Liam and his family when Jude meets his wife, young son, brother, and other occupants of the house where he lived.

The mystery of Liam’s murder is eventually solved with a twist. If you like psychological thrillers, you will enjoy this book.