I have been reading a lot of stand-alone thrillers and suspense books lately, and I am excited to share some of the best ones with you! While these certainly have mystery elements to them, the main focus of these books is the tension created by the plots, and these are sure to grip you from start to finish!
First up is The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth. I really loved this one! It’s an intricately plotted domestic thriller about two sisters named Rose and Fern. Both sisters are narrators of this book, and it was fun to figure out which, if either, was the more reliable narrator. As the present plot unfolded, the book also sheds light on the past. And as present-drama and past-secrets collide, I was on the edge of my seat. I am a big fan of Hepworth and can’t wait to read more of her books.
Next is The Last Flight by Julie Clark. If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be “stressful” (but in a good way!) This was an incredibly gripping book! Again, there are two viewpoints we follow in this book – Claire and Eva. Both women, who only meet briefly, are desperate to escape their circumstances. But when they attempt to swap lives, both of their dark secrets continue to cause problems. There were lots of fun twists and turns in this one!
Finally, there’s For Your Own Good by Samantha Downing. This book features a true anti-hero: Teddy Crutcher, a teacher at a prestigious school who enacts his own form of justice as he tries to teach those around him a lesson by very dubious means. The characters in this book were absolutely fascinating, and while the plot was more straightforward than mysterious, I really enjoyed the tension and slow build. I would definitely recommend this one to people who like character-driven suspense.
Have you read any of these or do you have a thriller you want to share? Be sure to let me know in the comment section!
Winter always makes me want lots of cozy mysteries on my Kindle! There’s something so wonderful about the fun small towns and amateur sleuths. Recently, I’ve been binge reading the Country Store Mysteries by Maddie Day and I highly recommend them!
The first book in the series is Flipped for Murder. It stars Robbie Jordan who recently moved back to a small town in Indiana to open her own restaurant/country store Pans ‘N Pancakes. Robbie is a great protagonist with an interesting backstory and a lot of great personality. Day does a wonderful job at creating this character as well as many memorable side characters. With each book, I look forward to diving back in to this little town and spending more time with these characters. The mystery plots are pretty standard for the cozy genre, and I appreciate that they move quickly and remain engaging throughout the series. Overall, I highly recommend this one – just prepare yourself to be hungry after reading Day’s descriptions of all the food that Robbie cooks in her restaurant!
Have you read this series or are you loving a different cozy series this weekend? Be sure to let me know in the comment section!
It’s been a while since I reviewed a book or series, but there’s one series in particular that I definitely wanted to share! I have been loving the Maggie Hope Mysteries by Susan Elia MacNeal. These are historical mysteries set during World War II that feature a young woman, Maggie Hope, a British-born American who becomes a codebreaker and spy. The first book in the series is Mr. Churchill’s Secretary.
This is a pretty long-running series. It has 10 books that have already been published and surely more are on the way. I am halfway through the series, and I think they just keep getting better and better. Maggie is a fantastic heroine who really grows and evolves throughout the series (which means, you definitely should read them in order to get the full impact of her character development!) She is smart and engaging and I adore following her on her many WWII adventures.
Also, while this is definitely not a cozy series, I appreciate that there are some lighthearted moments in each of the books, which balances out the serious war subject matter. I don’t know about you but WWII books can really get me depressed but these balance out the facts with some fun fictional scenarios that are probably a touch beyond what is realistic. Still, I love that each book features at least one very important real historical figure.
If you are a fan of mysteries and history, I absolutely recommend this series. They’re truly some of the best I’ve read. They’re fun and adventurous but are firmly grounded in actual historical events. The characters are refreshing and lively, and they also grow in believable and meaningful ways throughout the series.
Have you read this series or do you love a different historical mystery series? Be sure to let me know in the comment section!
Yesterday was my 30th birthday, and to celebrate, I wanted to share my top 5 favorite books of all time with you!
First up is The Elegence of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. I love this part of the description on Goodreads: “A moving, funny, triumphant novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.” That definitely sums it up. I loved the explorations of art and philosophy in this book as well as the unlikely friendships and beautiful descriptions.
Next isJane Eyreby Charlotte Bronte. This is absolutely my favorite classic. Jane is my favorite literary heroine. Even though I read this one differently than I did when I was younger (Mr. Rochester no longer feels like a romantic hero to me), I still love Jane and her fearlessness and recklessness as she forges her own path in the world and overcomes the odds stacked against her.
Third is A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, described by some as the adult version of Twilight. When I first read this book, I had some issues with it (Matthew’s possessiveness), but it became clear that I couldn’t stop talking about it. Since then, I’ve probably read it five more times and have fallen in love with this story of witches and vampires. I love the science and history described in the series – it really sets this apart from the rest of the romantic fantasy out there.
Next is Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. When I first read this one, I couldn’t put it down. I was obsessed with the exploration of motherhood and the way the mystery unfolded. To this day, it’s one of the books I recommend most when I’m working at the library. It’s fast-paced and easy to discuss, which makes it perfect for book clubs. I’ve read all of Moriarty’s books and this is hands down my favorite.
And lastly, there is Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. The descriptions of nature in this book are truly unparalleled, but I was also instantly drawn into the story about Kya. I loved the way the story unfolded, and I constantly recommend this one at the library as well. This was the rare book where I felt sad when it was over because I’d never be able to read it for the first time again. Still, I’ve enjoyed many subsequent readings.
What are some books that have stayed with you over the years? I would love to know! Feel free to send me recommendations in the comments section!
I’m absolutely a series binger when it comes to books. When I stumble upon a series that I love, I typically will read them one after the other until I either finish or tire of them. Recently, I fell in love with the Ruth Galloway Mysteries by Elly Griffiths. These books feature Ruth Galloway, a forensic archaeologist, who frequently helps the Norfolk police solve murders (both past and present!)
The series starts with The Crossing Places, where Ruth is tasked with helping the police in a decade-old case when a new girl goes missing in an eerily similar way. These are pretty standard detective stories. Ruth is an expert in her field, and she teams up with Detective Harry Nelson to show how the past can continue informing the present.
The plots themselves are very fresh and interesting. A lot of the details rely on forensic science, historical references, and obscure literary references. There’s a lot of danger, and while these are not overly gory or scary, they’re also definitely not cozy.
I think what I like most, though, is the personal drama. A lot of the characters make bad or dramatic decisions, and while their personal lives are not necessarily believable, they are super interesting. This aspect probably won’t appeal to everyone, but if you like balancing a tense mystery with a dash of soap opera, you might want to give this series a try!
Currently, there are 13 books in this series with another one slated to come out next year. I’ve read 12 (still waiting for my library copy of the latest one to arrive!) and I’m still excited about this series. Not all of the mysteries are winners, but the vast majority are. They don’t feel formulaic, and they’re pretty quick reads too.
Have you read this series? Be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comment series!
Winter is finally over! 2021 has been a weird year so far – too much snow, an ongoing pandemic, and a lot of time to pause and reflect on what is important and what is not. I haven’t been blogging/writing/publishing as much during the winter season, which seems apt. It’s an icy time of hibernation for a lot of creatures. But now spring is here and with it comes renewal and the light of hope for better times to come.
So, while I don’t have a lot to share regarding new projects, I thought I’d share some books I’ve read this winter that were the most enjoyable. They’re all mysteries since that’s definitely what I’ve been gravitating towards. All of the descriptions have been taken from Goodreads:
The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen: A killer who targets lone women, who breaks into their apartments and performs terrifying ritualistic acts of torture on them before finishing them off. His surgical skills lead police to suspect he is a physician – a physician who, instead of saving lives, takes them. But as homicide detective Thomas Moore and his partner Jane Rizzoli begin their investigation, they make a startling discovery. Closely linked to these killings is Catherine Cordell, a beautiful doctor with a mysterious past. Two years ago she was subjected to a horrifying rape and shot her attacker dead. Now the man she believes she killed seems to be stalking her once again, and this time he knows exactly where to find her…
A Hex for Danger by Esme Addison: The annual Mermaid Festival is the setting for Esme Addison’s sunny-yet-sinister second Enchanted Bay mystery, perfect for fans of Heather Blake and Bailey Cates. The small town of Bellamy Bay has its share of skeletons in its closet, but it isn’t used to bodies turning up in the local history museum. After all, this coastal North Carolina town is much like any other…except, of course, for the mermaids. Helping to run the family business, an herbal apothecary while keeping her supernatural secret hidden is no easy feat for water witch Aleksandra Daniels. But somehow she’s still found time to help her friend Celeste, who has her own Caribbean mermaid heritage plan the annual Mermaid Festival. As fun-seekers throng the beaches, Alex gets to know and is intrigued by renowned artist Neve Ryland, who’s in town to decorate the local park with a mermaid-themed mural. Celeste, however, is less enamored with the artist, as Neve has been spending entirely too much one-on-one time with her boyfriend Jasper, director of Bellamy Bay’s history museum. Then, a reception for Neve ends abruptly when the artist is found dead in his office.The police investigation nets Celeste who asks Alex to find the true culprit. With the help of her magically-inclined aunt and cousins, Alex dives in to clear her friends name. But there was more to Neve Ryland than met the eye…and Alex fears she may be in way too deep. Will she catch the crook or be next on the hook?
The Black Echo by Michael Connelly: For maverick LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch, the body in the drainpipe at Mulholland Dam is more than another anonymous statistic. This one is personal…because the murdered man was a fellow Vietnam “tunnel rat” who had fought side by side with him in a hellish underground war. Now Bosch is about to relive the horror of Nam. From a dangerous maze of blind alleys to a daring criminal heist beneath the city, his survival instincts will once again be tested to their limit. Pitted against enemies inside his own department and forced to make the agonizing choice between justice and vengeance, Bosch goes on the hunt for a killer whose true face will shock him.
Classified as Murder by Miranda James: Aging eccentric James Delacorte asks Charlie the librarian to do an inventory of his rare book collection—but the job goes from tedious to terrifying when James turns up dead. Relying on his cat Diesel to paw around for clues, Charlie has to catch the killer before another victim checks out.
Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell: Four women with nothing in common, united only in death. Four brutalized victims of a brilliant monster – a “Mr. Nobody”, moving undetected through a paralyzed city, leaving behind a gruesome trail of carnage . . . but few clues. With skilled hands, an unerring eye, and the latest advances in forensic research, an unrelenting female medical examiner – Kay Scarpetta – is determined to unmask a maniac. But someone is trying to sabotage Kay’s investigation from the inside. And worse yet, someone wants her dead . . .
What have you been reading this winter? Has it been a time of slow growth and reflection for you too? Feel free to let me know in the comment section.
What a weird year this has been! I’m sure I’m not the only one who would prefer to never repeat a year such as this one. Thankfully, though, I did have a lot of time to read this year (both new books and some re-reads of favorites!) Here are the best books I read (or re-read) this year:
Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu
Goodreads Description: Willis Wu doesn’t perceive himself as a protagonist even in his own life: he’s merely Generic Asian Man. Every day, he leaves his tiny room in a Chinatown SRO and enters the Golden Palace restaurant, where Black and White, a procedural cop show, is in perpetual production. He’s a bit player here too. . . but he dreams of being Kung Fu Guy—the highest aspiration he can imagine for a Chinatown denizen. Or is it? After stumbling into the spotlight, Willis finds himself launched into a wider world than he’s ever known, discovering not only the secret history of Chinatown, but the buried legacy of his own family, and what that means for him, in today’s America.
My Thoughts: This book was the well-deserved winner of the National Book Award this year. It is one of the most unique books I’ve read. Partially in second person and partially written with script-esque dialogue, this is a strange but engrossing reading experience all about the harmful impact of internalizing and externalizing stereotypes.
When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy
Goodreads Description: Seduced by politics and poetry, the unnamed narrator falls in love with a university professor and agrees to be his wife, but what for her is a contract of love is for him a contract of ownership. As he sets about reducing her to his idealised version of a kept woman, bullying her out of her life as an academic and writer in the process, she attempts to push back – a resistance he resolves to break with violence and rape. Smart, fierce and courageous When I Hit You is a dissection of what love meant, means and will come to mean when trust is undermined by violence; a brilliant, throat-tightening feminist discourse on battered faces and bruised male egos; and a scathing portrait of traditional wedlock in modern India
My Thoughts: This one was very difficult to read but I couldn’t put it down. The raw, vulnerable honesty was such a necessary addition to the wider societal conversations about domestic violence.
The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
Goodreads Description:Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the ’90s about a women’s book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious and handsome stranger who turns out to be a blood-sucking fiend.
My Thoughts: This was a really fun book! It is an exciting mystery combined with a lot of interesting character development. I loved the exploration of the female friendships.
Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz
Goodreads Description:Postcolonial Love Poem is an anthem of desire against erasure. Natalie Diaz’s brilliant second collection demands that every body carried in its pages—bodies of language, land, rivers, suffering brothers, enemies, and lovers—be touched and held as beloveds. Through these poems, the wounds inflicted by America onto an indigenous people are allowed to bloom pleasure and tenderness: “Let me call my anxiety, desire, then. / Let me call it, a garden.” In this new lyrical landscape, the bodies of indigenous, Latinx, black, and brown women are simultaneously the body politic and the body ecstatic. In claiming this autonomy of desire, language is pushed to its dark edges, the astonishing dune fields and forests where pleasure and love are both grief and joy, violence and sensuality.
My Thoughts: This was the best poetry collection I read this year. The poems were exquisite and showed a lot of range when it comes to both theme and emotion. I can’t wait to read more from this poet!
My Friend Anna by Rachel DeLoache Williams
Goodreads Description: Vanity Fair photo editor Rachel DeLoache Williams’s new friend Anna Delvey, a self-proclaimed German heiress, was worldly and ambitious. She was also generous. When Anna proposed an all-expenses-paid trip to Marrakech, Rachel jumped at the chance. But when Anna’s credit cards mysteriously stopped working, the dream vacation quickly took a dark turn. Anna asked Rachel to begin fronting costs—first for flights, then meals and shopping, and, finally, for their $7,500-per-night private villa. Before Rachel knew it, more than $62,000 had been charged to her credit cards. Anna swore she would reimburse Rachel the moment they returned to New York. Back in Manhattan, the repayment never materialized, and a shocking pattern of deception emerged. Rachel learned that Anna had left a trail of deceit—and unpaid bills—wherever she’d been. Mortified, Rachel contacted the district attorney, and in a stunning turn of events, found herself helping to bring down one of the city’s most notorious con artists.
My Thoughts: This was a fascinating memoir about a woman who was conned by someone who she thought was one of her best friends. I remembered hearing about Anna Delvey’s trial a while back, and I really enjoyed learning more about this case. I think two tv shows about this are currently in-development, and I’ll absolutely be watching those too!
Did you have more time to read in 2020? What are your top picks for this year? Be sure to let me know in the comment section!
‘Tis the season for holiday reading! There’s less than two weeks until Christmas, and if you’re in quarantine or avoiding social things due to the pandemic, why not spend the extra time curled up with a cozy Christmas-themed murder mystery? Here are some of my top picks:
Kissing Christmas Goodbye by M.C. Beaton
Goodreads Description: Agatha Raisin is bored. Her detective agency in the Cotswolds is thriving, but she’ll scream if she has to deal with another missing cat or dog. Only two things seem to offer potential excitement: the upcoming Christmas festivities and her ex, James Lacey. This year she is sure that if she invites James to a really splendid, old-fashioned Christmas dinner, their love will rekindle like a warm Yule log. When a wealthy widow hires Agatha because she’s convinced a member of her family is trying to kill her, Agatha is intrigued—especially when the widow drops dead after high tea at the manor house. Who in this rather sterile house, complete with fake family portraits, could have hated the old lady enough to poison her? Agatha sets out to find the murderer, all the while managing a pretty, teenage trainee who makes her feel old and planning for a picture-perfect Christmas, with James, all the trimmings, and perhaps even snow.
The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen
Goodreads Description: On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me—well, actually, my true love, Darcy O’Mara, is spending a feliz navidad tramping around South America. Meanwhile Mummy is holed up in a tiny village called Tiddleton-under-Lovey with that droll Noel Coward! And I’m snowed in at Castle Rannoch with my bumbling brother, Binky, and sourpuss sister-in-law, Fig. So it’s a miracle when I contrive to land a position as hostess to a posh holiday party in Tiddleton. The village is like something out of A Christmas Carol! But no sooner have I arrived than a neighborhood nuisance, a fellow named Freddie, falls out of a tree dead. On my second day, another so-called accident results in a death – and there’s yet another on my third. Perhaps a recent prison break could have something to do with it…that, or a long-standing witch’s curse. But after Darcy shows up beneath the mistletoe, anything could be possible in this wicked wonderland.
I Am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley
Goodreads Description: It’s Christmastime, and the precocious Flavia de Luce – an eleven-year-old sleuth with a passion for chemistry and a penchant for crime-solving – is tucked away in her laboratory, whipping up a concoction to ensnare Saint Nick. But she is soon distracted when a film crew arrives at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ decaying English estate, to shoot a movie starring the famed Phyllis Wyvern. Amid a raging blizzard, the entire village of Bishop’s Lacey gathers at Buckshaw to watch Wyvern perform, yet nobody is prepared for the evening’s shocking conclusion: a body found, past midnight, strangled to death with a length of film. But who among the assembled guests would stage such a chilling scene? As the storm worsens and the list of suspects grows, Flavia must use every ounce of sly wit at her disposal to ferret out a killer hidden in plain sight.
A Little Yuletide Murder by Jessica Fletcher and Donald Bain
Goodreads Description: Jessica Fletcher is planning to spend a cozy Christmas in Cabot Cove. But when Rory Brent is found shot to death on his farm, there will be no peace on earth until his killer is found. Snooping into the small town’s past for a motive, Jessica is determined to deliver the killer before Christmas. The trouble is, the next sound she hears this silent night may be a scream—her own…
Plum Pudding Murder by Joanne Fluke
Holiday business is booming at Hannah Swenson’s Cookie Jar pastry shop, but the mysterious murder of “Lunatic Larry” Jaeger puts a serious crimp in the season of good cheer. From the looks of it, Larry had as many enemies as Hannah’s sugar cookies have sprinkles. With the 12 days of Christmas ticking down and cookie orders piling up, tracking down the killer won’t be easy.
I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season! I know it’s been unusual and perhaps a little lonely for many of us, but there’s still a lot of Christmas magic all around. Do you have a great Christmas book you’ve read this year? Be sure to let me know in the comment section!
While I haven’t been particularly eager to read horror with all that’s going on in the world, I did receive a copy of Brian Moreland’s new novel Tomb of Gods from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I was immediately curious about it because of my deep-rooted love of Egyptian mythology, so I figured it was worth the risk of more nightmares in order to delve into that world for 288 pages.
Overall, I give this one 5 out of 5 stars! It’s rare that a book sucks me in and refuses to let me go. From the moment I started reading, I absolutely needed to know what was going to happen next. While the first few chapters are a slower introduction to the situation and characters, this one quickly turns into a high-octane race of an adventure. There were major Indiana Jones vibes during a lot of the novel, so I can only hope that someday this will be optioned into a movie!
As far as the characters go, they were very well-drawn. The protagonist Imogene is complicated and interesting, and as the novel progresses, we learn a lot about the things that haunt her and the rest of the characters. While I don’t want to risk giving too much of the plot away, I will say that I liked how each character had their own baggage that had to be addressed in one way or another throughout the course of the story. However, Imogene was the very heart of the story for me, and I felt good about rooting for her during this adventure.
Plot-wise, there are plenty of twists and turns. If you’re a fan of mythology like I am, then you will enjoy the various ways that Ancient Egyptian beliefs and culture play out. What starts out as a classic archaeological excavation story quickly turns into something much more sinister and complex.
I’m not sure what more I can say without risking oversharing plot details! This is one where you don’t want any spoilers for sure. It’s a fun and creepy adventure jam-packed with interesting characters and extremely creative events. If you’re a fan of horror, Ancient Egypt, and/or the Indiana Jones films, you’ll definitely want to check this one out!
It’s no secret that I love a good cozy mystery! They’re usually fun, fast reads with an idyllic setting and a quirky cast of characters. Even though the main character is typically solving a murder, there’s usually nothing vulgar or gory in the descriptions and the reader always knows there will be a happy ending. In these scary and uncertain times, I’ve been reading cozy mysteries mostly for that guaranteed happy ending as well as the brief escape from reality. So, I wanted to share my top cozy mystery suggestions for this continued quarantine/pandemic time:
The Agatha Raisin cozies are probably my favorite (especially the audiobooks read by Penelope Keith!) Agatha is a bit unlikable but in a funny and endearing way. I love following her antics just as much as exploring the murder mysteries in this series. Also, the Cotswolds is an amazing setting – each book make me want to move to a cozy village in the English countryside!
This book features library director Lindsey who has to clear the good name of her children’s librarian who is accused of murder. This was the first cozy series I started reading (right after college) and it’s still going strong. The coastal small town setting is super charming, and I love the romantic story elements too. Plus, this one feels extra special to me since I also work in a public library!
In this series, protagonist and baker Katie moves to Savannah to help with her aunt’s bakery and discovers she comes from a magical family. I love the blend of magical elements and baking – plus, this series has a love triangle that actually intrigued me instead of irritating me. The world-building in this series is great, and I have enjoyed learning more about the magic right alongside Katie as she’s exploring her heritage. Of course, Katie is always solving murders too!
This knitting-themed cozy series is another fun addition. When the newest member of Pamela’s knitting circle is found dead and impaled with a knitting needle, Pamela has to solve the murder. This one has a slower pace, but I have definitely still enjoyed the series – in fact, the slower pace makes it feel extra cozy. I like that Pamela is an older protagonist who still seems very believable. Plus, I enjoy the descriptions of yarn and knitting since it’s a hobby of mine too!
Georgie is one of my favorite protagonists! In this historical cozy series, Georgie is related to royalty but is far enough removed from the crown that she struggles to have money. So, she puts her ingenuity to the test and ends up solving a bunch of murders (and making a living while she’s at it). Georgie is both spunky and kind-hearted, and I adore the rest of the cast of characters in this series, especially the mysterious Darcy, Georgie’s genial grandfather, and Georgie’s flamboyant best friend Belinda.
I hope you enjoy these cozies if you decide to give them a try! What have you been reading during the pandemic? Be sure to let me know in the comment section!