Flashback Friday

Flashback Friday
Flashback Friday

Thursday, July 29, 2021

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh -Feature and Review



 



ABOUT THE BOOK:


For fans of Gillian Flynn and Daniel Woodrell, a dark, gripping debut novel of literary suspense about two mysterious disappearances, a generation apart, and the meaning of family-the sacrifices we make, the secrets we keep, and the lengths we will go to protect the ones we love.

The Dane family's roots tangle deep in the Ozark Mountain town of Henbane, but that doesn't keep sixteen-year-old Lucy Dane from being treated like an outsider. Folks still whisper about her mother, a bewitching young stranger who inspired local myths when she vanished years ago. When one of Lucy's few friends, slow-minded Cheri, is found murdered, Lucy feels haunted by the two lost girls-the mother she never knew and the friend she couldn't protect. Everything changes when Lucy stumbles across Cheri's necklace in an abandoned trailer and finds herself drawn into a search for answers. What Lucy discovers makes it impossible to ignore the suspicion cast on her own kin. More alarming, she suspects Cheri's death could be linked to her mother's disappearance, and the connection between the two puts Lucy at risk of losing everything. In a place where the bonds of blood weigh heavy, Lucy must decide where her allegiances lie.



READ AN EXCERPT:



MY REVIEW:






The Weight of BloodThe Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh is a 2014 by Spiegel & Grau publication.

Sixteen- year -old, Lucy Dane, has lived in the shadow of Lila, her beautiful mother, who disappeared when she was a child. Many folks in Henbane, believed Lila was a witch, and those rumors are still whispered about behind Lucy’s back. If her mother’s disappearance wasn’t enough to cope with, years later, her friend Cheri also disappeared.

When Cheri’s body was found, Lucy stumbles across a startling discovery that could be a clue to Cheri’s murder. This prompts Lucy to start asking questions, and do a little investigating on her own. Her unwanted snooping uncovers disturbing information about her mother, leading Lucy to believe the two cases could be connected…

This, believe it or not, is McHugh’s debut novel!! I was impressed by her other books, and knew I needed to circle back and read this one too.

McHugh has an amazing gift of creating a taut atmosphere. This story grabbed me right from the start and I had a really hard time putting it down.

The story develops across two timelines and dual first-person narratives, gradually piecing together the events of the past and connecting them to the present. The suspense is gripping, the story is both riveting and heart wrenching.

Overall, McHugh’s debut is every bit as riveting as her follow up novels. If you like dark, compelling thrillers written with a literary tone, this is a book, and an author, you’ll want to try.

4+ stars

GRAB A COPY HERE:



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Laura McHugh is the author of The Weight of Blood, winner of an International Thriller Writers Award and a Silver Falchion Award for Best First Novel, and the Missouri Author Award for Fiction. The Weight of Blood was named a Best Book of the Year by BookPage, the Kansas City Star, and the Sunday Times (UK), and was also nominated for an Alex Award, Barry Award, and GoodReads Choice Award (Best Mystery and Best Debut). Her novel Arrowood was a finalist for the 2017 International Thriller Writers Award for Best Novel, and The Wolf Wants In was named one of the best books of 2019 by Library Journal. What's Done in Darkness will be published June 22nd, 2021.

A lifelong Midwesterner, McHugh lives in Missouri with her husband and children.


Sunday, July 25, 2021

Murder She Wrote: A Killing in a Koi Pond by Terrie Farley Moran- Feature and Review


ABOUT THE BOOK:

When a friend's husband dies while Jessica Fletcher is in town visiting, Jessica's vacation turns into a murder investigation in this latest entry in the long-running USA Today bestselling series.

After traveling to Bethesda for a mystery writers' conference, Jessica Fletcher decides she's earned a vacation and takes a train to Columbia, South Carolina, to visit her old college friend Dolores, who has recently married her third husband, Willis Nickens, a wealthy and cutthroat businessman. They've moved into an opulent historic home with plenty of space for guests, and Jessica is ready for a week of shopping, gossiping, and relaxing at the grand estate.

But the morning after she arrives, Jessica discovers Willis facedown in the koi pond, and despite what the police think, she's sure foul play is involved. She hadn't known Willis long, but it's clear to her that he didn't concern himself with making friends. The question isn't if her friend's husband was murdered, but by whom.




 MY EXCERPT:



MY REVIEW:

Murder, She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond (Murder She Wrote Book 53)Murder, She Wrote: Killing in a Koi Pond by Jessica Fletcher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars



Murder, She Wrote: Killing in Koi Pond by Jessica Fletcher and Terrie Farley Moran is a 2021 Berkley publication.

In this 53rd installment, Jessica is on one of her many trips away from Cabot Cove. This time she’s off to South Carolina for a small vacation, where she plans to visit Delores, an old college friend.

Delores is blissfully happy in her third marriage, but her happiness is short lived, when Jessica discovers her husband, Willis, dead in the Koi Pond. Jessica immediately suspects foul play, but unfortunately, she has a hard time convincing law enforcement to dig a little deeper. But once it has been established that Willis was indeed murdered, there seems to be no shortage of suspects….

Including Delores!

This is Moran’s first book in the MSW series, and it is the first book I’ve read in the series since 2018. If you are wondering if that is a coincidence- it’s not- and we’ll just leave it at that.

I am so happy the writing is back within the cozy format, and Jessica’s character traits are back to normal.

While I want the series to retain the charm we grew to love through the television series, and keep all the recurring characters, and their unique personalities and mannerisms pretty much the same, in that regard, that is not to say Jessica must stay in her quaint 1980s bubble.

Moran brings her up to date a bit, technology wise, while remaining true to everything else we love about this series- and I think it's about time.

Another thing that is back to normal is the pacing. If you remained loyal to the series, even after Donald Bain's death, you might need to adjust yourself back from the tempo of a thriller to the stride of a cozy- but that's as it should be- and I for one am happy to see the author reign that back in.

When it came to the plot and execution, it is possible Moran played it a little too safe. There were a few warbles, but overall it was a solid mystery.

I’m quite pleased with this addition to the series. Hopefully, I can go back to auto adding MSW to my TBR list again!!

4 stars


GRAB A COPY HERE:


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Terrie Farley Moran is the bestselling author of the Read 'Em and Eat cozy mystery series including the Agatha Award winning Well Read, Then Dead. Along with Jessica Fletcher, she co-writes the Murder She Wrote mystery series. She also co-writes the Scrapbooking Mysteries with Laura Childs. Terrie's short mystery fiction has been published in Ellery Queens Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Mystery Weekly and numerous anthologies. "A Killing at the Beausoleil" was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best Short Story. "Inquiry and Assistance" received the Derringer Award for Best Novelette. You can find Terrie on Facebook or on her website at www.terriefarleymoran.com





Jessica Fletcher (born Jessica Beatrice MacGill, and writes under the initialed J.B. Fletcher) is a fictional character from the US television series Murder, She Wrote.


Thursday, July 22, 2021

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas- Feature and Review


ABOUT THE BOOK:


 With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society. But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.


When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her.

But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.
 


 READ AN EXCERPT:

Devonshire, England

 

1886

 

Had anyone told the Honorable Harrington Sackville that the investigation into his death would make the name Sherlock Holmes known throughout the land, Mr. Sackville would have scoffed.

 

He had never heard of Sherlock Holmes. But more importantly, he despised the idea of death. Of his death, to be precise—others could die as they wished.

 

He loathed old age almost as much: that long, vile decline into helplessness halted only by the final breath, falling like a guillotine blade.

 

And yet his reflection in the mirror made it increasingly difficult to tell himself that he was still a young man. He remained a fit man, a handsome man, but the skin beneath his jaw sagged. Deep grooves cut into the sides of his mouth. Even his eyelids drooped, heavy from the passage of time.

 

Fear hooked through him, cold and sharp. Every man was afraid of something. For him, death had long loomed as the ultimate terror. A darkness with fangs.

 

He turned away from the mirror—and the unwelcome thoughts that always simmered these days a scant inch beneath the surface. It was summer. The glow of twilight suffused the house. From his perch on the headlands, the bay blazed with the flame of the setting sun. A hint of salt fragranced the breeze that meandered in; the top note of that perfumed air was tuberose, bulbs of which he had imported from Grasse, in the south of France.

 

But a storm was coming; inky clouds gathered at the edge of the sky . . .

 

He inhaled deeply. No, he must not let his mind wander to shadowy places. Recent weeks had been difficult—the events in London particularly distressing—but in time things would improve. He still had many good years left to relish life, and to laugh at death and its still distant grasp.

 

No premonitions crossed his mind that death was to have him by morning.

 

But have him it would—and the last laugh.

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

London

 

On the day Mr. Harrington Sackville met his darkness with fangs, certain parties in the know were bracing for—and eagerly anticipating—a major scandal involving the youngest member of the Holmes family.

 

Lord Ingram Ashburton did not share in their anticipation. The idea that such a catastrophe could come to pass had haunted him for days. He did not yet know that Holmes was already doomed, but a sense of dread had been growing in him, a tumorlike weight on his lungs.

 

He stared at the envelope on the desk before him.

 

Mr. Sherlock Holmes,

 

General Post Office,

 

St. Martin’s Le Grand,

 

London.

 

Any idiot could see the frustration that seethed with every stroke of the pen—at several places the nib had nearly torn through the linen paper.

 

The writing on the note next to the envelope was equally agitated.

 

Holmes,

 

Don’t.

 

And if you must, not with Roger Shrewsbury. You will regret it relentlessly.

 

For once in your life, listen to me.

 

He dropped his forehead into his left palm. It would be no use. Holmes would do as Holmes pleased, carried along on that blitheness born of extraordinary ability and favorable circumstances.

 

Until disaster strikes.

 

You don’t need to let it happen, said a voice inside him. You step in. You give Holmes what Holmes wants.

 

And then what? Then I carry on and pretend it never happened?

 

He stared out of the open window. His unimpeded view of the sky appeared as if seen through a lens that had been smudged with a grimy finger—a polluted blue, a fine day for London. Peals of irrepressible mirth rose from the small park below—his children’s laughter, a sound that would have brought a smile to his face on any other day.

 

He picked up his pen.

 

Do not do anything without first consulting me again.

 

Please.

 

Was he acquiescing? Was he jettisoning all caution—and all principle as well?

 

He sealed the unsigned letter in the envelope and walked out of his book-lined study, envelope in pocket. He was scheduled to give an archeological lecture in the evening. But first he wanted to spend some time with his daughter and son, rambunctious children at the peak of their happy innocence.

 

After that he would decide whether to post the letter or to consign it to the fire, like the dozen others that had preceded it.

 

The front door opened and in came his wife.

 

“Afternoon, madam,” he said politely.

 

“My lord.” She nodded, a strange little smile on her face. “I see you have not heard about what happened to your favorite lady.”

 

“My favorite lady is my daughter. Is anything the matter with her?”

 

He kept his voice cool, but he couldn’t stop the hair on the back of his neck from standing up: Lady Ingram was not talking about their child.

 

“Lucinda is well. I refer to . . .” Her lips curled with disdain. “I refer to Holmes. Your Holmes.”

 

“How dare you humiliate me this way?” Mrs. Shrewsbury rained down blows on her husband. “How dare you?”

 

The painted French fan, folded up, made for a surprisingly potent weapon—a cross between a bolt of silk and a police baton. Roger Shrewsbury whimpered.

 

He didn’t understand the way her mind worked.

 

Very well, he had committed an unforgivable error: The night before he’d been so drunk he mistook his wife for Mimi, his mistress, and told the wife what he was going to do this afternoon with Charlotte Holmes. But if Mrs. Shrewsbury hadn’t wanted him to deflower Miss Holmes, why hadn’t she smacked him then and there and forbidden him to do anything of the sort? Or she could have gone ’round to Miss Holmes’s and slapped her for not having a higher regard for her hymen.

 

Instead she had mustered a regiment of sisters, cousins, and friends, set his mother at the helm of the entire enterprise, and stormed the Bastille just as he settled into Miss Holmes. So how could she accuse him of humiliating her, when she was the one who had made sure that a good dozen other women saw her husband in flagrante delicto?

 

He knew better than to give voice to his thoughts. After twenty-six years as Lady Shrewsbury’s son and three as Anne Shrewsbury’s husband, he’d learned that he was always wrong. The less he said, the better.

 

The missus continued to hit him. He wrapped his arms around his head, made himself as small as possible, and tried to disappear into a nice memory, a time and a place in which he wasn’t a bounder twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year.

 

Lady Shrewsbury frowned mightily at the young woman who sat opposite her in the brougham. Charlotte Holmes was still, her face pale but composed.

 

Eerily composed, given she was now ruined beyond repair.

 

So composed that Lady Shrewsbury, who had been prepared for any amount of hysterical sobbing and frantic pleas, was beginning to feel rattled—a sensation she hadn’t experienced in years.

 

Lady Shrewsbury had been the one to throw a sheet over the girl. She had then ordered her son to go home with his wife, and the rest of the women to disperse. Miss Holmes had not trembled in a corner, her hands over her face. Nor had she stared numbly at the floor. Instead she had watched the goings-on as if she were a mere bystander, one whose own fate had not in the least taken an unthinkable turn. As Roger was shoved out by his wife, Miss Holmes glanced at him, without anger, loathing, or any reflection of his helplessness.

 

It had been a sympathetic and apologetic look, the kind the ringleader of a gang of unruly children might give one of her followers, after she had got the latter into unlimited trouble.

 

Lady Shrewsbury had fully expected this bravado to disintegrate once the others had gone. She was famous for her sternness. Roger, whenever he found himself alone with her, perspired even when she hadn’t planned to inquire into what he had been doing with himself of late.

 

But her formidableness had no effect on Charlotte Holmes. When the gaggle of eyewitnesses departed to spread the salacious story in drawing rooms all over London, Miss Holmes, instead of dissolving into tears, dressed and ordered a considerable tea service.

 

Then, under Lady Shrewsbury’s increasingly incredulous gaze, she proceeded to polish off a plate of plum cake, a plate of cherry tartlets, and a plate of sardine and toast. All without saying a single word, or even acknowledging Lady Shrewsbury’s presence.

 

Lady Shrewsbury controlled her vexation. Silence was one of her greatest weapons and she would not be goaded into abandoning that strategic advantage. Alas, her magnificent silence had no effect on Charlotte Holmes, who dined as if she were a queen and Lady Shrewsbury a lowly lackey, not worthy of even a spare glance.

 

When the girl was ready to leave, she simply walked out, forcing Lady Shrewsbury to catch up. Again, as if she weren’t a strict moral guardian escorting a fallen woman to her consequences, but a simpleminded maid scampering behind her mistress.

 

The silence continued in the brougham. Miss Holmes studied the carriages that clogged the street—shiny, lacquered town coaches jostling for space amidst long queues of hansom cabs. From time to time her gaze fell on Lady Shrewsbury and Lady Shrewsbury had the distinct sensation that of the two of them, Miss Holmes considered Lady Shrewsbury the far stranger specimen.

 

“Have you nothing to say for yourself?” she snapped, unable to stand the silence another second.

 

“For myself, no,” Charlotte Holmes said softly. “But I hope you will not be too harsh on Roger. He is not to blame for this.”

 

Inspector Robert Treadles of the Metropolitan Police always enjoyed an outing to Burlington House, especially to attend Lord Ingram’s lectures. They had met via a shared ardor for archeology—Lord Ingram had sponsored Treadles’s entry into the London Society of Antiquaries, in fact.

 

But this evening his friend was not himself.

 

To the casual observer, his lordship would seem to command the Society of Antiquaries’s meeting room, thorough in his knowledge, eloquent in his presentation, and deft with a touch of dry humor—his comparison of the ancient family strife caused by variation in size and ornateness of each member’s jeweled brooches with the modern jealousy aroused by the handsomeness of a sibling’s new brougham drew peals of laughter from the audience.

 

To Inspector Treadles, however, Lord Ingram’s delivery had little of its usual élan. It was a struggle. A futile struggle, moreover: Sisyphus pushing that enormous boulder up the hill, knowing that it would roll away from him near the top, condemning him to start all over again, ad infinitum.

 

What could be the matter? Lord Ingram was the scion of a ducal family, an Old Etonian, and one of the finest polo players in the world. Of course Inspector Treadles knew that no one’s existence was perfect behind closed doors, but whatever turbulence Lord Ingram navigated in his private life had never before been made visible in his public demeanor.

 

After the lecture, after the throng of admirers had dispersed, the two men met in a book-lined nook of the society’s soaring library.

 

“I’d hoped we could dine together, Inspector,” said Lord Ingram. “But I’m afraid I must take leave of you very soon.”

 

Treadles was both disappointed and relieved—he didn’t think he would be able to offer Lord Ingram much consolation, in the latter’s current state.

 

“I hope your family is well,” he said.

 

“They are, thank you. I’m obliged to pay a call on short notice, that is all.” Lord Ingram’s words were calm, yet there was a hollowness to his tone. “I trust we shall have the pleasure of a more leisurely meeting in the not too distant future.”

 

“Certainly, my lord.”

 

Inspector Treadles did not mean to delay his friend, but at that moment he remembered his other purpose for being at Burlington House this evening. “If it isn’t too much trouble, sir, may I ask you to convey a note to Holmes? I’m most grateful for his assistance on the Arkwright case and wrote a few lines to that effect.”

 

“I am afraid that would be impossible.”

 

Inspector Treadles almost took a step back at his friend’s expression: a flare of anger that bordered on wrath.

 

“I understand that you are engaged this evening, my lord,” Treadles explained hesitantly. “My note requires no haste and needs be relayed only at your lordship’s convenience.”

 

“I’m afraid I didn’t make myself clear,” said Lord Ingram. All hints of rage had left his countenance. His eyes were blank, the set of his jaw hard. “I can’t—nor can anyone else—convey any notes to Holmes. Not anymore.”

 

“I—I don’t—that is—” Treadles stuttered. “Has something terrible happened?”

 

Lord Ingram’s jaw worked. “Yes, something terrible.”

 

“When?”

 

“Today.”

 

Inspector Treadles blinked. “Is . . . is Holmes still alive?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Thank goodness. Then we haven’t lost him completely.”

 

“But we have,” said Lord Ingram, slowly, inexorably. “Holmes may be alive, but the fact remains that Holmes is now completely beyond my reach.”

 

Treadles’s confusion burgeoned further, but he understood that no more details would be forthcoming. “I’m exceedingly sorry to hear that.”

 

“As am I, to be the bearer of such news.” Lord Ingram’s voice was low, almost inaudible.

 

Treadles left Burlington House in a daze, hounded by dozens of unhappy conjectures. Had Holmes leaped from a perilous height armed with nothing but an unreliable parachute? Had he been conducting explosive experiments at home? Or had his brilliant but restless mind driven him to seduce the wrong woman, culminating in an illegal duel and a bullet lodged somewhere debilitating but not instantly lethal?

 

What had happened to the elusive and extraordinary Sherlock Holmes?

 

Such a tragedy.

 

Such a waste.

 

Such a shame.


MY REVIEW:

A Study in Scarlet Women (Lady Sherlock, #1)A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas is a 2016 Berkley publication.


Charlotte Holmes never wanted the traditional life of marriage and children. Her plan to save herself from such a fate left her in ruins, kicked out of society, and onto the streets, to fend for herself.

When three deaths occur in quick succession, Charlotte’s sister and father are prime suspects. Charlotte, with the help of her new widowed companion, a police inspector, and an old love interest, launches her own investigation, under the presumed name of Sherlock Holmes.

While Charlotte must continue to adhere to societal norms, her alter ego opens doors and passageways for her to bypass those limitations, allowing her to solidify the uncanny reputation of the great detective- Sherlock Holmes…

I read the fourth installment in this series a while back and became an instant fan, despite not knowing the entire backstory. The hints about Charlotte’s past compelled me to read the previous three installments before tackling the fifth installment. I’m so glad I did!

There are so many various Sherlock Holmes pastiches out there, some good, some not- but I always think it wise to approach such an artistic liberty with a legendary character with some skepticism. I see that the author has been quite respectful of Holmes’ observation skills, and has Charlotte expound on how she came to have such an unusual, almost spooky, talent. Thomas cleverly, and skillfully, flips the genders of familiar characters, which is absolute genius, and works beautifully!

In Charlotte’s first case, she gets a crash course in real life, learns some painful truths about her parents, and manages to solve three murders. I have a little more insight into Charlotte’s character now that I know her background and how she managed to become 'Sherlock Holmes' and how she came to know the recurring characters, or her history with them.

I am looking forward to seeing how Charlotte’s character develops from here, but, of course, let’s not forget the mysteries- which is what we came here for! The case in this book was very well constructed- and executed, and I’m looking forward to seeing the amazing Holmes solve more mysteries, along with and her supporting cast!

4 stars

GRAB A COPY HERE:






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Sherry Thomas writes both historical romance and young adult fantasy.

On the romance side, she is one of the most acclaimed authors working in the genre today, her books regularly receiving starred reviews and best-of-the-year honors from trade publications. She is also a two-time winner of Romance Writers of America's prestigious RITA® Award.

On the young adult fantasy side, there isn't much to report yet, her debut book, THE BURNING SKY, book 1 of the Elemental Trilogy, has received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and been named to the Autumn '13 Kids' Indie Next List.

Sherry writes in her second language. She learned English by reading romance and science fiction--every word Isaac Asimov ever wrote, in fact. She is proud to say that her son is her biggest fanboy--for the YA fantasy, not the romances. At least, not yet...


Tuesday, July 20, 2021

A Murder on Jane Street by Cathy Cash Spellman- Feature and Review


ABOUT THE BOOK:

A brutal murder.
A heinous secret.
A deadly conspiracy.


The brutal murder of the little old lady next door puts FitzHugh Donovan on the case. A retired New York City Police Chief, he knows a cover-up when he sees one and his Irish Cop conscience can't let that happen.

Now, Fitz, his family and his quirky band of Bleecker Street Irregulars are ensnared in the bizarre secret the woman died to protect.

Is this a cold case turned hot again, or an unspeakable conspiracy that could alter the course of history?

Fitz doesn't yet know how high the stakes are, that failure isn't an option, and that the little old lady was so much more than she appeared. But he's trying to keep everyone alive long enough to find out.

Characters you’ll care about, dark shocking secrets, and disturbing similarities to today’s political scene, will keep you turning pages to an ending you won’t see coming.




 MY REVIEW:

A Murder on Jane StreetA Murder on Jane Street by Cathy Cash Spellman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Murder on Jane Street by Cathy Cash Spellman is a 2019 The Wild Harp & Co. Publication.

An unusual thriller-

Fitzhugh Donovan, a retired NYPD chief, is now a bookstore owner, primarily catering to crime fiction readers. Through this avenue he becomes acquainted with his elderly neighbor. But when the old woman asked Donovan to come to her home, saying she thinks she is in danger, he arrives too late- the woman had already been savagely murdered.

Now he and his family apply all the resources at their disposal, including some unorthodox ones pertaining to psychic intuitions, to find out why anyone would want to kill their neighbor. What they uncover is a shocking discovery that could affect the future power structure of the country and will put the entire Donovan family in extreme danger.

This is a book that has been hanging out on my TBR list for a couple of years. I had forgotten about it until I started culling through my TBR list this year.

Although the synopsis is intriguing, based on the cover and title, I was expecting a standard mystery, with no expectations beyond that. Although I knew the book would remain my list, I felt compelled to read this one sooner, rather than later.

As it turns out, my instincts paid off- but I was still taken by surprise when the plot turned towards a very dark period of history, and reveals a shocking conspiracy that leads right up to the present day.

The plot was strong, dark and highly suspenseful, but the author occasionally added elements that stole some of that intensity. In this case, the paranormal aspects didn't really fit with the story line, and I thought the book would have been better without them.

There were a few times when suspension of believe is called upon, but, other than that, I got a little more from this mystery than I had bargained for. I would love to see this team of sleuths work together again someday!

*Note- I noticed that some folks were categorizing this book as a cozy mystery. I would urge caution if you are a regular reader of that genre, as the only thing constituting such a label is the amateur sleuths.

Other than that one technicality, the plot is darker than most cozies, and there is some references to torture and violence some cozy fans might not be accustomed to.

That said, this is a very good mystery most crime fiction readers will enjoy!

GRAB A COPY HERE:




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Cathy Cash Spellman is a best-selling author of multiple books that have been on The New York Times Bestseller List and International Bestseller lists, in both hardcover and paperback. Her books have been sold in 22 countries. Bless the Child, starring Kim Basinger and Jimmy Smits, has developed a cult following since it's Paramount release in 2000.



Sunday, July 18, 2021

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner - Feature and Review


ABOUT THE BOOK:

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of the “nothing short of brilliant” (PeopleMrs. Everything returns with an unforgettable novel about friendship and forgiveness set during a disastrous wedding on picturesque Cape Cod.

Six years after the fight that ended their friendship, Daphne Berg is shocked when Drue Cavanaugh walks back into her life, looking as lovely and successful as ever, with a massive favor to ask. Daphne hasn’t spoken one word to Drue in all this time—she doesn’t even hate-follow her ex-best friend on social media—so when Drue asks if she will be her maid-of-honor at the society wedding of the summer, Daphne is rightfully speechless.

Drue was always the one who had everything—except the ability to hold onto friends. Meanwhile, Daphne’s no longer the same self-effacing sidekick she was back in high school. She’s built a life that she loves, including a growing career as a plus-size Instagram influencer. Letting glamorous, seductive Drue back into her life is risky, but it comes with an invitation to spend a weekend in a waterfront Cape Cod mansion. When Drue begs and pleads and dangles the prospect of cute single guys, Daphne finds herself powerless as ever to resist her friend’s siren song.

A sparkling novel about the complexities of female friendship, the pitfalls of living out loud and online, and the resilience of the human heart, Big Summer is a witty, moving story about family, friendship, and figuring out what matters most.
 


LISTEN TO AN EXCERPT:

 



MY REVIEW:


Big SummerBig Summer by Jennifer Weiner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner is a 2020 Atria Books publication.

A Big Summer Hit!!

A nasty fight between Daphne and her best friend, Drue, leads to a six- year estrangement. Daphne is now a plus-size Instagram influencer and has come a long way since her days of hero worshipping her rich and glamourous friend.

But, when Drue comes barreling back into her life, begging her to be the maid of honor at her wedding, Daphne, against her better judgement, decides to give Drue one more chance.

Besides, she’s been invited to Cape Cod for a wedding party, which could give her online presence a major boost, and there is sure to be a few eligible men in attendance, too.

Little did she know that the weekend events would change her entire perspective on many things, including family and friendship.

This is my first book by this author- though I have had a few of her books on Kindle for a while now. This one got some buzz last summer-but the wait list at the library was so long, I put it on a back burner for a while. Now, a year later, I’m finally getting around to reading it.

This book took me a little by surprise. I do remember reading some reviews for the book- after all, that is what convinced me to add the book in the first place, but I didn’t refresh my memory before I started reading. It was like going in blind- and it worked out perfectly.

Things were going along pretty much as I expected, and I was enjoying the book well enough. I appreciated the way the plot exposed the mindset of reality shows/ social media/ influencers/ and how Daphne was seeing Drue through a more mature lens.

Then the story took a dark turn I didn’t see coming- and suddenly I was no longer reading a chick-lit novel or contemporary fiction- I was reading a mystery/thriller too! Awesome!! What a great combination- Almost-like romantic suspense got a refreshing reboot!

I loved how Daphne’s character grew, the way she learned to appreciate how rich she really was, how grateful she was for all the blessings she had overlooked. She saw how sometimes other's lives aren't as charmed as they appear. She owned her own flaws, acknowledging the things she took for granted, and came away with a new outlook on life.

While I would say I’m probably a little older than the targeted audience for this one- I really liked the book and will definitely read more books by this author!

4 stars

*Note: Content advisory- I have some online book pals who, like me, prefer the sensual scenes remain behind a closed door- So beware- this novel has some explicit sex scenes- one that seemed to go on forever- especially since I was listening to the audio version at the time and couldn’t just skip past it as I would if reading on my Kindle. I personally don’t feel the added details were necessary to the plot, but I suppose that’s a matter of taste. Just giving you a heads up.



GRAB A COPY HERE:



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:




Jennifer Weiner is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of sixteen books, including Good in Bed, The Littlest Bigfoot, and her memoir Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing. A graduate of Princeton University and contributor to the New York Times Opinion section, Jennifer lives with her family in Philadelphia. Visit her online at JenniferWeiner.com


Friday, July 16, 2021

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- The Traveling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa, Philip Gabriel (Translator) - Feature and Review



ABOUT THE  BOOK:


Sometimes you have to leave behind everything you know to find the place you truly belong... 

Nana the cat is on a road trip. He is not sure where he's going or why, but it means that he gets to sit in the front seat of a silver van with his beloved owner, Satoru. Side by side, they cruise around Japan through the changing seasons, visiting Satoru's old friends. He meets Yoshimine, the brusque and unsentimental farmer for whom cats are just ratters; Sugi and Chikako, the warm-hearted couple who run a pet-friendly B&B; and Kosuke, the mournful husband whose cat-loving wife has just left him. There's even a very special dog who forces Nana to reassess his disdain for the canine species.

But what is the purpose of this road trip? And why is everyone so interested in Nana? Nana does not know and Satoru won't say. But when Nana finally works it out, his small heart will break...
 



 


MY REVIEW: 


 The Travelling Cat ChroniclesThe Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa, Philip Gabriel (Translator) is a 2018 Viking publication. (Originally published in 2012).

An emotional, poignant story featuring an amazing cat named Nana-

Nana is a stray cat who enjoys sleeping in the sun on the hood of a van, and tolerating humans if necessary, especially if he is given crunchy bits to eat.

But, when tragedy strikes, by way of getting hit by a car, Nana is taken in by the human, Satoru, the van owner who leaves him food. Satoru names him Nana, because his crooked tail is shaped like the Japanese number seven. They have some great times together, but suddenly, after several years, Satoru, must re-home his beloved cat.

So, he goes on a journey with Nana, to find him a new home.

The journey takes us back in time to Satoru’s childhood where we learn about his life and his friendships and relationship with a cat he knew before he had Nana, for whom he still mourns. He gets to reconnect with old friends, but has a hard time finding someone who can take Nana.

Nana is our storyteller and narrates this journey in a way only a cat could. If you are a cat lover, you will know exactly what I mean. Nana, of course, knows in his infinite wisdom, the lessons that will enlighten Satoru, and the reader, upon his journey.

This is such a wonderful fable, despite the tearjerker premise, centering on friendship, and human connections. Satoru may have led a life of isolation, but he is a such a warm -hearted man, and of course I recognized in him a fellow ‘cat person’, which endeared him to me, even more. But, perhaps to those who may feel cats are too aloof for your taste, this book dispels that notion, in countless ways.

We realize right away that Satoru is helping Nana, taking care of him even before his accident, giving him a very nice, pampered life. We see what a gentle soul, he is, despite some very difficult times in his life. But it is what Nana does for Satoru that is at the heart of the story. What Satoru learns on their journey and how Nana remains his best friend, is loyal to him in all ways, and eternally grateful, will bring tears to your eyes.

Yes, this story is sentimental and bittersweet, but the message is profound, despite or maybe because of its simplicity, and will resonate with pet lovers of all stripes, but certainly to those who have a truly special bond with their feline companions.





GET YOUR COPY HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/Travelling-Cat-Chronicles-Hiro-Arikawa-ebook/dp/B07BJL55TB/



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Hiro Arikawa (有川浩 Arikawa Hiro, born on June 9, 1972) is a Japanese writer. She is from Kōchi Prefecture. She is known for Library War (図書館戦争 Toshokan sensou). Library War won the Seiun Award in 2008.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

What the Devil Knows- by C.S. Harris- Feature and Review


ABOUT THE BOOK:

Sebastian St. Cyr thought a notorious serial killer had been brought to justice until a shocking series of gruesome new murders stuns the city in this thrilling historical mystery from the USA Today bestselling author of Who Speaks for the Damned.

It's October 1814. The war with France is finally over and Europe's diplomats are convening in Vienna for a conference that will put their world back together. With peace finally at hand, London suddenly finds itself in the grip of a series of heinous murders eerily similar to the Ratcliffe Highway murders of three years before.

In 1811, two entire families were viciously murdered in their homes. A suspect--a young seaman named John Williams--was arrested. But before he could be brought to trial, Williams hanged himself in his cell. The murders ceased, and London slowly began to breathe easier. But when the lead investigator, Sir Edwin Pym, is killed in the same brutal way three years later and others possibly connected to the original case meet violent ends, the city is paralyzed with terror once more.

Was the wrong man arrested for the murders? Bow Street magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy turns to his friend Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, for assistance. Pym's colleagues are convinced his manner of death is a coincidence, but Sebastian has his doubts. The more he looks into the three-year-old murders, the more certain he becomes that the hapless John Williams was not the real killer. Which begs the question--who was and why are they dead set on killing again?
 

 LISTEN TO AN EXCERPT:



MY REVIEW:

What the Devil Knows (Sebastian St. Cyr, #16)What the Devil Knows by C.S. Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What the Devil Knows by C.S. Harris is a 2021 Berkley publication.

When a magistrate and a seaman are both murdered in a similar fashion, using the same modus operandi as the Ratcliffe Highway Murders, three years prior, Sebastian is asked to aid in the investigation. The case is especially tricky as The Highway murderer was presumably caught- but committed suicide. It then stands to reason that this present- day killer couldn’t be the same person- right?

What connection does a magistrate, a seaman, and the violent murders of two families have in common? Sebastian soon begins to uncover a web of corruption designed to protect the hierarchy and continue to greedily line the pockets of the affluent…

This installment in the long-running series is very complex! It’s a smart, carefully crafted plot and commanded my undivided attention. As always, the vivid descriptions help to create the palpable atmosphere that makes this series so effective. I’m also on pins and needles about the developments with Hero’s father and the news concerning Sebastian’s mother.

The mystery was one of the better ones in the series- the intrigue, social commentary, and the fabulous characterization keep this series at the top of my favorites list!

GET A COPY HERE:



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:





C. S. Harris, aka Candice Proctor, is the USA TODAY bestselling author of the Sebastian St. Cyr mystery series, the C. S. Graham contemporary thriller series, seven historical romances,, and the standalone Civil War historical GOOD TIME COMING. An Air Force brat who grew up exploring castles in Spain and fishing in the mountains of Oregon and Idaho, Candy later worked as an archaeologist and earned a PhD in European history. A former academic who has lived all over the world, she now makes her home in New Orleans with her husband, former intelligence officer Steven Harris. Visit her website at www.csharris.net.

Friday, July 9, 2021

The Book of Unknown Americans- by Christina Henriquez- Feature and Review



ABOUT THE BOOK:


A dazzling, heartbreaking page-turner destined for breakout status: a novel that gives voice to millions of Americans as it tells the story of the love between a Panamanian boy and a Mexican girl: teenagers living in an apartment block of immigrant families like their own.

After their daughter Maribel suffers a near-fatal accident, the Riveras leave México and come to America. But upon settling at Redwood Apartments, a two-story cinderblock complex just off a highway in Delaware, they discover that Maribel's recovery--the piece of the American Dream on which they've pinned all their hopes--will not be easy. Every task seems to confront them with language, racial, and cultural obstacles.

At Redwood also lives Mayor Toro, a high school sophomore whose family arrived from Panamá fifteen years ago. Mayor sees in Maribel something others do not: that beyond her lovely face, and beneath the damage she's sustained, is a gentle, funny, and wise spirit. But as the two grow closer, violence casts a shadow over all their futures in America.

Peopled with deeply sympathetic characters, this poignant yet unsentimental tale of young love tells a riveting story of unflinching honesty and humanity that offers a resonant new definition of what it means to be an American. An instant classic is born.


LISTEN TO AN EXCERPT:





MY REVIEW:


The Book of Unknown AmericansThe Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez is a 2014 Knopf publication.


I’ve been looking to expand my reading repertoire lately, so while browsing through the literary offerings, I came across this book. Checking this book out is like doing a 180 for me as I usually stick pretty close to my preferred genres.

But, something about it spoke to me and so I decided to give it a try.

So often we hear about laws, and issues, and the numbers surrounding immigration without stopping to consider the human element.

This book puts names with faces, and finally humanizes the population of people who come to this country for various reasons, hoping for a better way of life.


When Maribel Riveras suffers a traumatic brain injury, her family moves to America to enroll her in a special school in hopes she will eventually regain all she lost in the accident.

Fifteen year old Mayor Toro has lived in America his entire life, but his family is from Panama. He and Maribel strikes up a friendship which eventually turns into a sweet and tender love story while their parents struggle with the decision they made to make America their home.

While the topic of immigration is one that is sure to spark instant and heated debate, especially during after the election, this book is not a political novel, it is just a story that paints a vivid portrait of the way of life many immigrants face after moving to America.

There are inspired moments amid the bittersweet and poignant realities, and will really make you stop and consider things from an entirely different perspective.

I admired the families that were represented in this story, and recognized in them the same qualities as most Americans possess. They worked hard to provide for their families, they had hopes and dreams, went through good times and bad, but mostly they wanted to give their children a better way of life, something which I think we all strive for.

The love story between Maribel and Mayor is especially touching and despite the animosity and stubbornness, his father exhibited, Mayor followed his heart, and his attention to Maribel was what brought about the biggest improvements for her.

Although the story was not necessarily one that left me feeling upbeat or all that hopeful in the end, it did enlighten me, and is very thought provoking.

I can see why this story as garnered such critical acclaim and I have to say I am pleased I took a chance on it.

GET YOUR COPY HERE:

https://www.amazon.com/Book-Americans-novel-Vintage-Contemporaries-ebook/dp/B00H6JFIGO/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-book-of-unknown-americans-cristina-henr-quez/1118327260

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Cristina Henríquez is the author of the novel The Book of Unknown Americans, forthcoming in June 2014, as well as the novel The World in Half, and the short story collection Come Together, Fall Apart, which was a New York Times Editors' Choice selection. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, American Scholar, Glimmer Train, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, AGNI, and the Virginia Quarterly Review, where she was named one of "Fiction's New Luminaries." She is also the recipient of an Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation Award. Henríquez lives in Illinois.