Book Reviews by Mae Clair: The Garden Party by Grace Dane Mazur #literarysatirefiction

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Recently, a new book store opened up in my area—always a cause for celebration. They’re a discount seller, so they don’t have a huge selection per genre, but what they do have is very affordably priced and they have a nice variety. On my first visit, I picked up several novels in hardback, including The Garden Party. I seem to be hitting on a lot of unusual reads this year, and this one certainly qualifies!

BOOK BLURB:

A rehearsal dinner brings together two disparate families in a sparkling social satire set over the course of a single day.

This enchanting novel takes place in Brookline, Massachusetts, where dinner in the garden is bringing together two families on the night before the wedding that should unite them. The families are not unfriendly but they are shy and leery of each other. The Barlows are a Wall Street Journal-reading family of lawyers steeped in trusts and copyrights, corporations and war crimes, golf and tennis. The Cohens are wildly impractical intellectuals, including a biologist who has studied why scorpions glow in the dark; a social activist who always needs rescuing; and a historian of the cooking of ancient Babylonian who is trying, while hosting the dinner party, to figure out whether Time is really shaped like baklava.

The novel begins with the Cohens brewing morning coffee and considering the work they will have to do to prepare their house and gardens for the dinner, and it ends, late that very night, after a complicated series of fiascoes and miracles. Over the course of the day, it becomes clear that neither family is more eccentric than the other.

Featuring an ensemble cast of exceptionally vivid characters ranging in age from three to the early nineties, Grace Dane Mazur’s wonderfully lyrical novel is an irresistible portrayal of miscommunication, secrets, and the power of love.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I initially picked up this book because I was drawn by the gorgeous cover. Once I read the blurb, I was hooked and ready to crack the cover. I loved the idea of the story playing out over a summer evening with so many differing characters as players. Therein lies the charm and the problem. There are twenty-four people at the garden party, plus a cook and a butler. The author manages to juggle all of these personalities with skill. But although we get glimpses beneath the surface of each, the reader never experiences a deeper connection. Some appear as nothing more than sketches. Each, however—including the children—have a quirk or two that makes for a gathering of eccentrics.

Written in omniscient point-of-view, the book is divided into sections (Arrivals, Drinks, Dinner in the Garden, etc), rather than chapters. I was halfway through the second part before taking note of the structure as the story sucked me under from page one. It’s not a long book, just over 200 pages. Most of the scenes move rapidly but others are dense. I found much of the writing exquisite, appreciating the lyricism of descriptions and unique turns of phrase. Note this example:

Pindar had always felt that there was something fleeting about his daughter, even at twenty-four, as though she were a delicate contraption made of feathers and rubber bands and sails.

And this:

The stairs in the front hall creak as oaken floorboards talk to nails. Walls shift as the day’s warmth rushes out and coolness from the garden flows in to take its place. Couches exhale. In the attic, objects made of suede and velvet stir.

I finished the book in two days, finding myself reluctant to set it aside when other matters called. Were it not for the closing section/chapter this would be a five-star read for me. But all the build-up, all the shuffling of players and personalities, lives knitted together, and others undone toppled into “WTH?” in the final section. I’m not sure why the author chose to end the book as she did. Without a doubt this is a novel to generate book club discussions. I’m not sorry I spent time with the story, only sorry the ending fell flat.

Book Review Tuesday: Hairpin Bridge by Taylor Adams #psychologicalthriller

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I’m back! Hubby and I spent a long weekend in Virginia for a family wedding—a wonderful event that left us with many great memories. I’m so happy for my niece and her new husband, who are now enjoying a long, leisurely honeymoon.

For myself, I’m settling back into my regular routine which includes blog posts and visits. To start, I’m kicking off the week with a NetGalley review on a book that releases today. Taylor Adams blew me away with No Exit, his debut novel. To this day it remains one of my favorite reads, and a book I easily see myself devouring again. Requesting an ARC of Hairpin Bridge, his latest was a no-brainer. Surprisingly, I found this one difficult to review. You’ll see why below.

BLURB:

From the author of the “full-throttle thriller” (A. J. Finn) No Exit—a riveting new psychological page-turner featuring a fierce and unforgettable heroine.

Three months ago, Lena Nguyen’s estranged twin sister, Cambry, drove to a remote bridge sixty miles outside of Missoula, Montana, and jumped two hundred feet to her death. At least, that is the official police version. 

But Lena isn’t buying it.

Now she’s come to that very bridge, driving her dead twin’s car and armed with a cassette recorder, determined to find out what really happened by interviewing the highway patrolman who allegedly discovered her sister’s body.

Corporal Raymond Raycevic has agreed to meet Lena at the scene. He is sympathetic, forthright, and professional. But his story doesn’t seem to add up. For one thing, he stopped Cambry for speeding a full hour before she supposedly leapt to her death. Then there are the sixteen attempted 911 calls from her cell phone, made in what was unfortunately a dead zone.

But perhaps most troubling of all, the state trooper is referred to by name in Cambry’s final enigmatic text to her sister: Please Forgive Me. I couldn’t live with it. Hopefully you can, Officer Raycevic.

Lena will do anything to uncover the truth. But as her twin’s final hours come into focus, Lena’s search turns into a harrowing, tooth-and-nail fight for her own survival—one that will test everything she thought she knew about her sister and herself…

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I loved Taylor Adam’s No Exit and counted it among one of my favorite reads when it was released, so it was a no brainer to request an ARC of Hairpin Bridge. Thank you NetGalley and Joffe Books for my ARC. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to devour it. Unfortunately, unlike No Exit, this wasn’t a homerun. 

Lena Nguyen’s estranged twin sister, Cambry, has committed suicide by jumping from Hairpin Bridge, an old suspension bridge located on a remote section of highway in Montana. Unconvinced her sister truly killed herself, Lena asks the cop who found her body—Ray Raycevic—to meet her and answer questions. The two eventually end up on the bridge where the bulk of the story takes place. 

The narrative alternates between the present, flashback sequences from Cambry, and blog entries and thoughts about Cambry from Lena. Had the story stuck with flashbacks and action in the present, it wouldn’t have floundered. I found the blog entries and Lena’s thoughts about her sister draggy and, at times, confusing. 

The book takes a while to get off the ground. There’s a lot of talking back and forth between Lena and Raycevic with nothing happening. And the near-constant use of first names between two people who had never met grated on my nerves. There was even a point I found myself skimming. 

And then . . .

The Taylor Adams novel I expected kicked in. From the moment a third party is introduced into the story, it’s a freight-train ride until the end. The second half is an anxiety-fueled rollercoaster brimming with twists, turns, and nail-biting action. I encountered things that repulsed me and things that had me on the edge of my seat. Part cat-and-mouse, part explosive confrontation, the conflict kept me glued.

As with No Exit, this book would make an exceptional movie (fingers crossed and hoping). The ending was stellar, tying up multiple threads along with a surprise I didn’t expect. Were it not for the slow start and the intrusive blog entries I’d give Hairpin Bridge 5 stars. As it stands, I’m going with 3.5 rounded up to 4 for review purposes. 

To read or not to read: READ!!! The last half makes the whole thing worthwhile. 

Release Date is Today | Purchase from Amazon

Book Reviews by Mae Clair: The Edge of Fear by Maura Beth Brennan #domesticthriller @maurabeth2014

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It’s pool weather, which means I’ve been doing a lot of reading. It won’t happen often, but, yes this is my third book review post this week. My husband and I are traveling this weekend, leaving Friday to attend a family wedding. I won’t be visible after tomorrow until some time next week, so decided to share this today.

I always love when I discover the work of an author I haven’t read before and it resonates strongly with me. Today, I have the pleasure of sharing my review for The Edge of Fear by Maura Beth Brennan. Not only is this a fabulous story, but the character relationships alone kept me flipping pages!

BOOK BLURB:

When you have everything you always wanted, you have everything to lose. 

After years of struggling to overcome her tragic childhood, Hattie has the life of her dreams—a husband, a baby daughter, a beautiful home, and more money than she ever dreamed possible. But lately, a feeling nags at her, a sense of something not-quite-right. Is this just her imagination? Hattie’s family, and her best friend, Celine, keep telling her that it is. 

Meanwhile, Frank, Hattie’s ex-husband, has not fared so well himself. He wants everything, but feels he ended up with nothing. A thought has taken hold in his mind—something that could involve Hattie. How can he make her good fortune pay off for himself? He comes up with a plan—one that will shatter Hattie’s life and bring about her worst nightmare. When the unthinkable happens, Hattie does everything the police advise her to do. But as time passes and her life crumbles around her, it seems everyone fails her—law enforcement, a private detective, even her husband. So Hattie decides to take matters into her own hands. Desperate but determined, and aided by her best friend, Celine, she sets out to take back what is hers.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Hattie is happily married to Eli with a beautiful three-year-old daughter, Lily. But fifteen years ago, she was the wife of Frank, an abusive thug with ties to the mob. Hattie has since fallen into a sizeable inheritance that makes her—and Lily—a target for Frank who needs a payday for a quick escape after crossing a lethal mob boss. Frank abducts Lily from her home in Maine hoping for a million-dollar pay out for her safe return, but circumstances take a turn that has him on the run with Lily, and a co-conspirator, Sharon.

Months past with police investigations going nowhere. Hattie undertakes to devise a plan to get her daughter back safely. With her friend, Celine, she sets out on Frank’s trail, determined to rescue her daughter.

Wow! This is the second book in a series, but it stands fine as a standalone. I didn’t read the first novel, but had no problem following the character relationships and the edge-of-the-seat plot in this one. Hattie is such a relatable character. Her love for Lily shines through in every risky move she undertakes. I also loved her friendship with Celine, and the willingness of both ladies to always be there for each other no matter the circumstance.

The first half of the book is set-up for Lily’s abduction, the second half a nail-biting race with Hattie, Celine, and others tracing Frank’s path with Lily. That course involves a cross-state manhunt, a venture into a remote New Jersey area which the Jersey Devil is said to haunt and underworld figures possibly tied to illegal adoptions or sex trafficking.

This is a clean but high suspense mystery with characters to cheer for. The danger, adventure, and the way puzzle pieces fall into place keep you flipping pages. Even secondary characters get moments to shine. I especially loved Sharon’s stepmother, Rhonda. The ending delivers everything I would hope for, and the writing is polished with an easy flow. Thank you to the author who provided me with a gift copy for an honest review. An easy five stars!

Book Review Tuesday: Cold Dark Night by Joan Hall #mystery #suspense @JoanHallWrites

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Welcome to another Book Review Tuesday. Cold Dark Night is the first novel in Joan Hall’s Legend of Madeira series. It follows her recent novella prequel, House of Sorrow, but you needn’t have read that to enjoy her latest release. Cold Dark Night serves perfectly as a stand alone. For those who read House of Sorrow, you’ll be richly rewarded by how everything fits together in this enjoyable mystery that weaves past and present with author finesse.

BOOK BLURB:

New husband, new house, new town… and a new mystery to solve.

Tami Montgomery thought her police chief husband was going to be the only investigator in the family when she gave up her journalism career and moved with him to Madeira, New Mexico.

But after the historical society asks her to write stories for a book celebrating the town’s one-hundred fiftieth year, she becomes embroiled in a new mystery. If she can’t solve this one, she could lose everything. Her research uncovers a spate of untimely deaths of local law enforcement officials. Further digging reveals a common link—they all lived in the house she and Jason now share.

Tami isn’t a superstitious person, but the circumstances are too similar for coincidence. Then she unearths an even more disturbing pattern. And if history repeats itself, Jason will be the next to die.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Tami Montgomery and her husband, Jason, have just moved to Madeira, New Mexico where Jason has accepted the job as Madeira’s new police chief. They settle into an old Victorian home, which Tami soon learns has an interesting, disturbing history. Several of Madeira’s former police chiefs lived in the house and met with untimely deaths, more than one of them murdered.

As Tami delves deeper into trying to uncover the link between the deaths and her home, Jason has his hands full dealing with a rebellious officer, a string of burglaries, an officer-involved shooting, and the mayor’s interfering wife. There’s also the unexpected arrival of Jason’s estranged father, and the frightening dream visions of danger from Tami’s new friend, Abbey.

I loved the small-town setting of this novel. Hall does a great job of bringing Madeira vividly to life, not only in the present but the past as well. There are several chapters that give readers glimpses into characters from the 1800s, and how their lives will eventually impact what takes place in the present. The author weaves a tale of more than one unsolved murder, doling out clues like breadcrumbs. Another plot thread incorporates lunar folklore and how it may or may not factor into the murders. I especially enjoyed how Hall incorporated those threads into the story, tying everything together for a thoroughly satisfying conclusion.

Bottom line: Cold Dark Night is an intriguing mystery that includes all the elements that make for a page-turning read—wonderful characters, a multi-layered plot, historical elements, and folklore. And easy five stars!

Fiction Book Reviews by Mae Clair: Her First Mistake by Carey Baldwin @CareyBaldwin, The End of Her by Shari Lapena @sharilapena #psychologicalfiction #domesticsuspense

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Today’s reviews include a new-to-me author (and wow, did she nail it!) and an auto-buy author. If you’re a fan of psychological fiction, you’re going to love these. Extra good news—both are are available now, so no waiting to read them!

BOOK BLURB:

I never meant to hurt anyone. All I want is a normal life with friends to call my own. People rarely notice me. Like a ghost, I’m sometimes tempted to rattle a window to get their attention. But tonight isn’t one of those occasions.

Seated alone in an exclusive restaurant I stick out like a bruise on the tender white throat of a lily. And I cannot believe it when, on my way out, I bump into my colleagues having a great time without me. At the center of it all is Celeste Cooper with her shimmering auburn hair and her billion-watt smile. She’s everything that I am not: fearless, pretty, popular.

When she drops her keys, I can’t stop myself. I scoop them up on impulse and hide them in my purse… and now Celeste is missing.

If only I’d called out to her, returned her keys, as I should have.

Wracked with guilt, I join the search, determined to make up for my mistake. But I feel I’m being watched. Is the secret past I have so desperately tried to hide catching up with me?

I know I have to save Celeste, no matter the cost. But if I keep digging, do I risk being dragged back into the dark forever?


MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I was immediately sucked into this book from page one and couldn’t put it down until I finished it. I devoured it in a single day while reading poolside. If you enjoy psychological fiction this is a winner. 

Mia is a fade-into-the-background type of person who makes a bad judgement call when she childishly steals a pair of discarded keys. Celeste, the owner of the keys is a popular, attractive, social butterfly who hails from a wealthy family. When she doesn’t turn up the next day and is reported missing, Mia realizes she could be at fault for something dreadful happening to Celeste. If only she hadn’t taken her keys, Celeste wouldn’t have needed to walk home, making her a target for potential harm.

To atone for her mistake, Mia throws herself into the search for Celeste. In the process, she digs herself into a hole rife with trouble—including a suspicious detective, a potential stalker, an over-protective aunt, nosy reporters, and an odd and unexpected friendship with members of Celeste’s family. 

As with stories of this kind, there are plenty of twists to keep the reader guessing about what is really going on and who is responsible for the string of circumstances that build like dominoes. As conflicted as Mia is, I enjoyed her character, especially seeing her growth over the course of the book. She discovers steel she didn’t know she had, digging into her own psyche as much as struggling to discover what really happened to Celeste. The unraveling of that final plot thread brings shocking revelations and a satisfying conclusion. 

This is an easy read with quick chapters and a writing style that makes it easy to lose yourself in the pages. This is my first book by Carey Baldwin, but it definitely won’t be my last. A solid 5-stars from me.

BOOK BLURB:

A long-ago accident–and a visitor from out of the blue. . .

Stephanie and Patrick are adjusting to life with their colicky twin girls. The babies are a handful, but even as Stephanie struggles with the disorientation of sleep deprivation, there’s one thing she’s sure of: she has all she ever wanted.

Then Erica, a woman from Patrick’s past, appears and makes a disturbing accusation. Patrick had always said his first wife’s death was an accident, but now Erica claims it was murder.

Patrick insists he’s innocent, that this is nothing but a blackmail attempt. Still, Erica knows things about Patrick–things that make Stephanie begin to question her husband. Stephanie isn’t sure what, or who, to believe. As Stephanie’s trust in Patrick begins to falter, Patrick stands to lose everything. Is Patrick telling the truth–is Erica the persuasive liar Patrick says she is? Or has Stephanie made a terrible mistake?

How will it end?


MY REVIEW:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Stephanie and Patrick are parents of two young colicky babies, a situation that has exhausted them both. Even so, they’re managing, and their marriage is secure—at least until Erica, a woman from Patrick’s past shows up with disturbing allegations regarding the death of Patrick’s first wife.

Shari Lapena is one of my auto-buy authors. I especially loved her novels, An Uninvited Guest and The Couple Next Door. I found this book slow to get off the ground, but the deeper Erica forced her way into Stephanie and Patrick’s lives, the stronger the story became. The second half is especially good.

Throughout, it was easy to sympathize with Stephanie and feel her confusion on whether to put her faith in her husband or a stranger with entirely selfish motivations. As the story develops the reader gets a clearer grasp of Erica’s character and her past. The disruption she causes between Stephanie and Patrick takes multiple twists and turns. Lapena keeps the main mystery wrapped tightly until the final stages of the book which brought an ending I didn’t expect. So…slower at the start than I would expect from Lapena, but worth sticking with.

Book Reviews by Mae Clair: The Night She Disappeared by Kevin O’Brien #psychologicalthriller @KensingtonBooks

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If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you probably know I am a dyed-in-the-wool devoted fan of Kevin O’Brien. Time after time, he delivers page-turning releases. The Night She Disappeared is yet another unputdownable book from a master of domestic suspense and psychological thrillers.

BOOK BLURB:

For fans of Gone Girl and of Harlan Coben and Linwood Barclay’s domestic suspense—a gripping novel by New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Kevin O’Brien, in which “the other woman” becomes the prime suspect when the wife goes missing.

Some nightmares you can’t forget

From the depths of sleep, Seattle TV reporter Anna Malone awakens to her phone ringing. She rarely drinks, and this hangover is brutal. Why can’t she shake the feeling that something terrible happened last night? And why can’t she recall any of it?
 
But even worse
What Anna does remember: an awkward restaurant meal with her married lover, Russ Knoll, and his unsuspecting wife, Courtney. Russ’s phone call reveals that Courtney is missing, and as days go by with no trace, he comes under police scrutiny. Anna’s in the spotlight too, thanks to a TV rival with a grudge. Anna’s not proud of her affair, but she and Russ aren’t bad people. They’re certainly not the killing kind.
 
Is the one you can’t remember . . .
Anna already suspected that Courtney—a successful, charming author—might have a darker side. Is she truly missing? Perhaps the sudden disturbances in Anna’s life aren’t accidental after all. But no scenario that Anna imagines can compare to the twisted game unfolding around her, one chilling piece at a time . . .

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Thank you to Kensington Books and NetGalley for my ARC. I am a long-time fan of Kevin O’Brien and think I’ve read nearly every book he’s written. When I saw The Night She Disappeared offered on NetGalley, I immediately requested it. Once again, O’Brien delivers a nail-biter, riddled with twists and turns that race to a stunning conclusion.

Anna Malone is a TV news reporter with a devoted local following. When she makes the mistake of becoming romantically involved with Dr. Russell Knoll, a married pediatrician, her life implodes.

Knoll is married to an up-and-coming author, beloved by the public. When Courtney Knoll vanishes under mysterious circumstances and Anna is unable to recall the events of the night, both she and Russ become suspects in his wife’s disappearance. Add in mysterious phone calls, a stalker, hypnotism, drug-addiction, and a rival reporter with a sensationalized “justice-style” TV program, and there are enough plot threads to spin a thoroughly riveting and complex web.

I waffled back and forth on the suspects in this book. At the end, I was right about one of them but not for the reasons I suspected. O’Brien definitely kept me second-guessing throughout, including not just who was responsible for Courtney’s disappearance, but also whether or not she was the person she presented herself to be. Another mystery–did she simply disappear or was there something more sinister involved?

I loved the use of Seattle landmarks and the “floating houses” where much of the action takes place. The lake setting made for a creepy environment, especially at night when Anna is in her house certain she is being watched. An excellent character, she is flawed in many respects, but as a reader it’s impossible not have sympathy for her despite the mistakes she makes. 

As with all of O’Brien’s stories, this is a page-turner from beginning to end. For anyone who enjoys mysteries with fully-fleshed out characters, tight plotting and suspense that hooks you into reading “just one more chapter” despite a late hour, I highly recommend The Night She Disappeared.

Release Date is July 27 | Pre-order at Amazon

Book Review Tuesday: On the Tip of Her Tongue by Jerry Roth @_JerryRoth_ #supernaturalsuspense

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Hello, and welcome to the first Book Review Tuesday of June—and the first day of June. Pretty clever how that fell into place, huh? 🙂 Today’s review is for a novel that releases next Tuesday on the 8th, but is available for pre-order now. The author provided me with an ARC, which I quickly devoured. I think you’ll want to as well.

BOOK BLURB:

Without your memories, who are you?

When Judy Angel opens her eyes, the nightmare begins. Every shred of the past has disappeared from her mind. Without the help of memories, she must navigate her past and trust that friends and family are truly what they seem.

Finding a message from her younger self, Judy follows the breadcrumbs, sending her down a frightening path, and changing her life forever.

Why did she run away so many years before? Can she trust the visions that haunt her nights? For Judy Angel, every memory is On the Tip of Her Tongue. But will that be enough to save her?

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

As noted in the blurb, the main character in this story has to reconstruct her life through a trail of breadcrumbs. When the novel starts, she has no memory of her past or the people who have factored into her life. Judy is married to Johnny Macklemore, a famous novelist who has asked her to hand-deliver his latest manuscript to his publisher while he attends to other business. Instead, Judy ends up in a hospital, questioning how she got there and failing to recognize her own parents.

When she returns to her childhood home, she discovers her younger self—Judy Angel—has left a series of clues enabling her to begin piecing her life together. Along the course, she will reconnect with past friends and a former fiancé, now a detective. She’ll also encounter Johnny’s parents, and a sister-in-law she never knew existed. Her in-laws are nothing as expected, and Johnny’s sister, Tessa, exists in a non-commutative state, unaware of what takes place around her.

This story has a lot of “legs”—both in the past and present. The plot threads meander, take detours, circle around, then come together in a deftly constructed conclusion. The suspense is slow-build and parts of narrative are woven with magical realism. I have a strange fondness for books that use damaged minds and mental facilities devoted to odd or unusual experimentation. Both lay at the heart of this story, but it’s also a tale of sacrifice, betrayals, and starting over. Particularly touching is Judy’s relationship with her father, Bud, something the reader doesn’t grasp in entirety until the last quarter of the tale.

Two things I positively loved were the author’s use of Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird, and Billy Joel’s song, “Lullaby.” Both show up more than once in the narrative, as does a small stuffed mockingbird that carries meaning for Judy. If you enjoy supernatural suspense with forays into magical realism, this is an intriguing story with plenty of surprises waiting along the way. 4 Stars.

I received a complimentary ARC of this novel for an honest review.


This book was so different and unique in so many ways. I hope you’ll help Jerry spread the news On the Tip of Her Tongue is available for pre-order by using the sharing buttons below. Then hop over to Amazon to reserve your own copy. As always, I wish you happy reading!


NEWSFLASH UPDATE !!!

As per his comment below, Jerry has a special THANK YOU offer for everyone here:
Use the DISCOUNT CODE: TIPOFHERTONGUE21
The code is good on all print versions of “On the Tip of Her Tongue” only on http://www.Jerryrothauthor.com

Fiction Book Reviews by Mae: A Cut Above by Judi Lynn @judypost, Lunar Boogie by C. S. Boyack @Virgilante #bookreviews

Cute striped kitten with open book and eyeglasses lying on white bed

Thanks for joining me for another day of book reviews. I have two fantastic indie releases to share, each part of a series. The first is the debut release for the Karnie Cleaver series, while the second is book number four in the popular Lizzie and the Hat adventures. Obviously Karnie can be read as a standalone, since the series is just starting, but the Hat can as well. Mystery and adventure can be found in both camps!

BOOK BLURB:

Karnie works in her family’s butcher shop. When Donna Amick stalks to the meat display case and tries to pressure her to leave the family business to work for her, Karnie turns her down, flat. But Donna doesn’t like to take “no” for an answer. The next morning, Donna’s body is found behind A Cut Above with a meat cleaver embedded in the back of her head. Detective Carmichael’s top suspect is Sam Lessman, who trained at their shop and then went to work for Donna as a full time butcher. Karnie knows it can’t be him and decides to prove it. Unfortunately, that’s a lot harder to do in real life than it is in the mysteries she reads.

MY REVIEW:

I enjoyed this novel introducing the Karnie Cleaver mysteries by author Judi Lynn. She has a deft pen with cozies, as proven by her Jazzie Zanders series. Lynn scores again with Karnie and her family who own the A Cut Above butcher shop. Once again, Lynn populates her tale with plenty of interesting characters. Aside from Karnie and her family, the reader gets to know several of the customers (regulars) who visit the butcher shop. I love Mrs. Sprunger! Then there’s Matt, the owner of a nearby farm, who is divorced with two small children. It’s clear from the start Matt is set on turning Karnie’s head, but she’s not so easily convinced. As he tells her, she’s “prickly.”

She knows what she wants. She’s happy living alone, working the counter at the butcher shop and producing a video cooking show with tips on how to prepare various dishes using the meats her family sells. Her following is so popular the owner of a new, rival butcher shop tries to lure her away with a chunky salary. Not long after Karnie turns her down, Donna Amick ends up dead, a meat cleaver in the back of her head. Karnie is not a suspect but that doesn’t stop her from trying to discover who is responsible, especially given the woman’s body was dumped behind A Cut Above.

The sleuthing alternates with plenty of family scenes and an evolving relationship between Matt and Karnie. I love his kids, and their dog, Jolly. Isn’t that a great name for a dog?

On the murder end, there are several suspects with motive, plus a second murder to contend with. Then somebody attempts to break into Karnie’s house, and the stakes get higher. The murderer is revealed in a tense and suspenseful moment (some nail biting on my part), and the ending provides a perfect wrap while setting up the characters for more adventure. I for one will be following this delightful series. And as a bonus, the author includes several recipes at the back of the novel. A winner all the way around!

BOOK BLURB:

Lizzie and the hat are back in action, only this time they’re up against the most tragic monster of all, a werewolf.

This adventure is more like hunting an animal, and the werewolf is unlikely to come to any of their musical performances. This puts Lizzie out in the dark corners and wooded areas of the city. It may be more beneficial to get the monster to hunt Lizzie than to stalk him on his own turf. All she has to do is be quicker on the trigger than the wolf is on his feet.

At the same time, the police think they’re after a serial killer. Lizzie tries to keep them alive while also keeping them out of her way. As the body count rises, so do the pressures. It doesn’t help that people are blaming Lizzie and the hat for the killings. This involves an urban myth about them that the locals call Hellpox.

Pull on your boogie shoes and join the hunt. Designed as an afternoon read, this one is tons of supernatural fun.

MY REVIEW:

I’ve followed this series from the start, enjoying the unique blend of superhero antics, supernatural complications, and music a-plenty. Part buddy tale, party mystery, and part adventure, Lunar Boogie is my favorite entry to date for Lizzie and the Hat. This time they’re up against a werewolf on a killing spree, which leads local law enforcement to think they have a serial killer on their hands.

The addition of Joe Yoder, a police lieutenant who talks to his dead wife, brought a new dimension—both on the home front (he misses her terribly) and in crime solving. Normally, the reader witnesses Lizzie and the Hat tracking their quarry, but in this case, we see their progress along with the efforts of the police—and frustrations on both sides. I liked the police procedural element, plus the author’s unique take on werewolves being “the most tragic of all” monsters.

For long time fans of the series, Kevin, the vampire with a lisp, returns for a few scenes and we get more Night Bump Radio (“what goes bump in your night?”). As noted before, Boyack has a vivid and clever imagination. It’s on display here, along with the hat’s trademark snarky dialogue. The banter between Lizzie and her alien sidekick (who has to assume the guise of a hat) is highly entertaining. If you like the supernatural, superheroes, and super snark, grab a copy of Lunar Boogie. You can jump right in without needing to read the previous stories. The author designed it that way. Although the whole series is entertaining, Boyack hit new highs with this one!


5 Stars to Both of These Fun and Adventurous Reads!

Book Review Tuesday: Chasing the Boogeyman by Richard Chizmar @RichardChizmar @GalleryBooks #suspense #metafiction #serialkillers

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over image

Happy Tuesday! For my last Book Review Tuesday of May, I have a fabulous NetGalley read to share. Before I get started, a tip of the hat to Kim of By Hook or By Book for pointing me to this title through her own fantastic review. I count Chasing the Boogeyman as one of my top reads of the year.

BOOK BLURB:

The New York Times bestselling coauthor of Gwendy’s Button Boxbrings his signature “thrilling, page-turning” (Michael Koryta, author of How It Happened) prose to this story of small-town evil that combines the storytelling of Stephen King with the true-crime suspense of Michelle McNamara.

In the summer of 1988, the mutilated bodies of several missing girls begin to turn up in a small Maryland town. The grisly evidence leads police to the terrifying assumption that a serial killer is on the loose in the quiet suburb. But soon a rumor begins to spread that the evil stalking local teens is not entirely human. Law enforcement, as well as members of the FBI are certain that the killer is a living, breathing madman—and he’s playing games with them. For a once peaceful community trapped in the depths of paranoia and suspicion, it feels like a nightmare that will never end.

Recent college graduate Richard Chizmar returns to his hometown just as a curfew is enacted and a neighborhood watch is formed. In the midst of preparing for his wedding and embarking on a writing career, he soon finds himself thrust into the real-life horror story. Inspired by the terrifying events, Richard writes a personal account of the serial killer’s reign of terror, unaware that these events will continue to haunt him for years to come.

A clever, terrifying, and heartrending work of metafiction, Chasing the Boogeyman is the ultimate marriage between horror fiction and true crime. Chizmar’s “brilliant…absolutely fascinating, totally compelling, and immediately poignant” (C.J. Tudor, New York Times bestselling author) writing is on full display in this truly unique novel that will haunt you long after you turn the final page.

MY REVIEW:

Although I’m not a fan of true crime stories, there was something about this book that appealed to me the first time I read a review. Maybe it was the hint of a supernatural/horror element, or maybe the concept of metafiction. I could honestly go rounds with that description and still have difficulty delivering a solid definition. Bottom line, In Search of the Boogeyman is a fictional novel made to read like true crime. The delivery is quite clever, and the story is riveting.

The first few chapters provide background on the central character, where he grew up, why he’s in his present circumstances, etc. etc. and those are almost entirely prose. It took me some settling in to adjust to that pace, but the descriptions about small town life and childhood memories are richly textured and sure to awaken nostalgia. Add in that Edgewood, Maryland is a real town—along with many other places referenced in the novel—and the content begins to feel more factual than fictional. I’ve visited several of the places Chizmar references. By chapter three, I wanted to speed read to the end.

It’s the summer of 1988 and Richard has returned to his hometown just as a murder occurs—unthinkable in a small town like Edgewood. When other murders follow—all young girls, all missing a left ear and posed after death—residents fear a serial killer is on the loose. Dubbed the “boogeyman” the killer seems impossible to catch. Richard finds himself caught up in the search, his path intertwining with a journalist friend and the lead detective on the case. 

I can be squeamish about books with serial killers, but there was nothing overly graphic in this novel. Chills, goose bumps, suspense and tension abound. There are several nighttime scenes that are especially creepy. It’s clear the victims met with violent ends, but gore doesn’t factor into the descriptions which I appreciated. To add to the true crime feel, each chapter closes with photos of crime scenes, town locations, and family photos of the victims. In Chizmer’s skillful hands, the book becomes mystery, thriller, and a haunting tale of small-town life that lingers long after finishing. I also loved the inclusion of an afterward from the author explaining how the book came about and how the photos were developed. Chasing the Boogeyman is definitely among my favorite reads for the year!

Thank you to Gallery Books and NetGalley for my ARC!


Want a good read that will keep you up at night flipping pages? This one surely did! Thanks to NetGalley and my own mammoth TBR, I’ve been binge-devouring books lately. Goodreads tells me I’m nineteen novels ahead in my reading challenge for 2021 (although I did cut it back from last year). As a result, you may start seeing more book reviews from me scattered here and there in the weeks and months ahead. I hope you’ll come back tomorrow when I’ll be sharing my reviews for the first book in a new cozy series, and the latest release in a buddy/paranormal adventure series.

Book Reviews: The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon #GhostFiction

Creative concept of book open on a dock by lake with pages of book part of lake. Sunset setting with ducks on lake

Hi, Friends! Tuesday turned out to be a day that got away from me, so I’m doing my usual book review post today. I should be back on schedule next week. In the meantime, I have a review from one of my auto-buy authors to share. I pre-ordered this book the moment I saw it was available!

BOOK BLURB:
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Invited and The Winter People comes a chilling new novel about a woman who returns to the old family home after her sister mysteriously drowns in its swimming pool…but she’s not the pool’s only victim.

Be careful what you wish for.

When social worker Jax receives nine missed calls from her older sister, Lexie, she assumes that it’s just another one of her sister’s episodes. Manic and increasingly out of touch with reality, Lexie has pushed Jax away for over a year. But the next day, Lexie is dead: drowned in the pool at their grandmother’s estate. When Jax arrives at the house to go through her sister’s things, she learns that Lexie was researching the history of their family and the property. And as she dives deeper into the research herself, she discovers that the land holds a far darker past than she could have ever imagined.

In 1929, thirty-seven-year-old newlywed Ethel Monroe hopes desperately for a baby. In an effort to distract her, her husband whisks her away on a trip to Vermont, where a natural spring is showcased by the newest and most modern hotel in the Northeast. Once there, Ethel learns that the water is rumored to grant wishes, never suspecting that the spring takes in equal measure to what it gives.

A haunting, twisty, and compulsively readable thrill ride from the author who Chris Bohjalian has dubbed the “literary descendant of Shirley Jackson,” The Drowning Kind is a modern-day ghost story that illuminates how the past, though sometimes forgotten, is never really far behind us.

MY REVIEW

Oh, how creepy! I love how Jennifer McMahon weaves spookiness and mystery so deftly in dual timelines. She never disappoints me with her books. Both timelines in this story are engrossing, but I was riveted by the one in the past which centers around a luxury resort hotel. The time period is 1929-1930, slightly before and after the Great Depression. People flock to the hotel, looking for healing. Many swear they’ve been cured of ailments after a dip in a pool on the property, or by whispering a wish to the water. 

This is no ordinary pool. The water is murky and dark and bears a sulfuric, metallic scent. It’s rumored the water gives as much as it takes, and for every wish it grants, payment must be made in kind.

Will and Ethel are newlyweds trying to start a family. Ethel desperately wants a baby, and it seems such a simple thing to make a wish by the water—especially after a dip in the pool heals three cuts on her leg as if they never existed. I loved both Will and Ethel, and was on pins and needles as their life unfolded after Ethel’s wish.

In the present, Jax arrives at her grandmother’s home, Sparrow Crest, once the site of the hotel. She and her sister Lexi spent summers with their grandmother and grew up swimming in the pool. When their grandmother passed away, Lexi inherited the property, but now she’s gone—drowned in the pool. Jax considered Lexi’s mental state precarious but knows her sister was an expert swimmer. Soon after arriving, she discovers bits and pieces of old history Lexi was collecting about the pool and the old resort hotel, along with journal entries and frantic scribblings.

Chapters alternate between Ethel’s POV in the past and Jax’s in the present. Although I was not as invested in Jax’s storyline as Ethel’s, she had some wonderfully goose bump scenes. Like when she’s measuring the depth of the pool at night with a flashlight or when she thinks she hears someone outside and finds wet footprints by the door.

This is an atmospheric read, slowly building suspense. The descriptions of the pool are haunting and dark, the mystery intricate and compelling. I loved how both past and present funnel together in the concluding chapters. The ending was not what I expected, and I had to ruminate on it for a while. Definitely a twist. 4.5 stars rounded up to 5 for review posting.


Jennifer McMahon was the first author I read who used dual timelines in a novel. It was because of The Night Sister, that I chose to use past and present timelines in my Hode’s Hill series.

Like The Night Sister and The Drowning Kind, the three novels that comprise Hode’s Hill—Cusp of Night, End of Day, and Eventide combine mystery and suspense with ghostly elements. In closing, I’m going to offer a shameless plug. If you haven’t read Hode’s Hill, you can pick up all three books in the series for a total of $4.97. Each novel can be read as a standalone, but my publisher currently as a sale going on the whole set.

As always, I wish you happy reading. Be sure to let me know your thoughts on The Drowning Kind, too!