Book Review

Last-Minute Gift Guide for Book Lovers

Happy Christmas Eve!! I hope everyone has wonderful holiday plans with family and friends, but if you’re still looking for a last minute gift for a book lover in your life, here’s a guide for an awesome book in several popular genres:

For the Mystery Lover: The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

This re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes is a fantastic read that’s sure to appeal to fans of Holmes and all types of traditional mysteries.

For for History Lover: The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

This book shows the devastating aftermath of World War II by following the lives of three widows who have been forever changed by the war.

For the Romance Lover: Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

When ordinary Louisa Clarke becomes the caretaker of a paraplegic man, she discovers how stagnant her life has become and finally learns the power of true love.

For the Fantasy Lover: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

In this book, a truly magical circus becomes the stage for a competition to see which magician has learned to be the very best, but even the players don’t know what’s really at stake.

For the Science Fiction Lover: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Video games and reality collide in this coming-of-age book about a virtual reality scavenger hunt with real-world implications for its players.

For the Horror Lover: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Is nature or nurture to blame in this tale about the aftermath of a school shooting and the mother who has to come to grips with what her son has done.

For the Contemporary Fiction Lover: The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

When their inheritance is threatened, the Plumb siblings must come to terms with their financial and personal mistakes and decide how to change their own fate.

For the Nonfiction Lover: In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides

This book chronicles human strength and resiliency while exploring the aftermath of the sinking of the USS Jeannette.

I hope this list can help you pick a gift for a loved one or even inspire you to pick something up for yourself. Have a very Merry Christmas!

-XO

Tiffany

Book Review

Cozy Corner: Hannah Swensen Mysteries 

The closer it gets to Christmas, the cozier my reading habits get! It’s just the happy time of year where I want to read lighthearted, fun things, so I’ve been reading a lot of the Hannah Swensen Mysteries by Joanne Fluke!

33443

These books are absolute mind candy! They revolve around Hannah Swensen, the owner of the Cookie Jar bakery in idyllic Lake Eden, Minnesota. The 22nd book in this series will be coming out next year, so it’s quite well established as a series and has even resulted in a series of films on the Hallmark Channel based on these books (starring the delightful Alison Sweeney).

This series contains all of the typical traits of cozy mysteries: a relatable and down-to earth sleuth, a feline companion, a mildly dysfunctional but loving family, small-town charm, and a love triangle! Hannah expertly navigates her bakery business and amateur sleuthing as she tries to find justice for anyone murdered in quaint Lake Eden. The cast of side characters like the helpful Norman the dentist, the dashing cop Mike, Hannah’s fun best friend/sister, and her overbearing mother all make for a great series. I’d say that the mysteries in this series really take a backseat to the atmosphere and charm of the setting and characters. If you’re looking for an escape from reality and want something ultra-cozy, I would definitely recommend this series!

Book Review

Series Review: In Death by JD Robb 

Recently, I’ve become really enamored by the romantic suspense genre. There’s just something so great about the escapism that romantic suspense can provide, and it’s quickly becoming one of my great guilty pleasures. One series that I’m really loving at the moment is the In Death Series by J.D. Robb (a pen name of Nora Roberts).

479309

This series begins with the book Naked in Death and the 46th book in the series is slated to come out next year. So, if you like a long series, this one might be for you! This series takes place in the near future (the middle of the 21st century) and follows lieutenant Eve Dallas, a New York City cop. While the series does take place in the future, it’s not overly futuristic and I wouldn’t ever classify these as remotely science fiction. Rather, these books are crime-focused in a gritty, noir atmosphere where a tough as nails protagonist kicks butt by day and finds love by night with an enigmatic Irish billionaire and businessman.

I really love Eve as a protagonist. She is tough and has such raw passion for her job which is fueled by the memories of her abusive childhood. However, she finds love and healing from the wounds of her past. Now, I’m not ready for book 46 (I’m just on book 13) but I’m still loving this series and it doesn’t seem to be losing steam yet. Unlike other series where there is a dramatic love triangle that never seems to end, Eve and her relationships really grow and progress over the course of the series. Because of this, I definitely recommend reading these books in order.

This is a great series for anyone looking for a an exciting but somewhat dark mystery series filled with romantic suspense. I highly recommend it!

Book Review

Cozy Corner: Booktown Mysteries 

Welcome to another edition of Cozy Corner. As fall approaches, I am really getting into the mood for more lighthearted books, especially ones with great settings and puzzles to solve. I think one of the reasons that I love cozy mysteries is that they often are more focused on solving a puzzle than action and suspense. One series I’ve been really enjoying recently are the Booktown Mysteries by Lorna Barrett.

2586724

These are charming books (for the most part – book 3 gets a little preachy). They take place in an idyllic little New England in town filled with genre-specific bookstores. Tricia Miles, the owner of the mystery-themed book store, stumbles upon dead bodies and uses her intuition and all she’s learned from her beloved books to crack the cases. She is a straight-laced person who I can really relate to. Her sister Angelica is her opposite but I really like her character too. The dynamic between the two sisters can be both heartwarming and humorous at times, and even their occasional friction is entertaining.

There are some great side characters too. I love Grace and Frannie especially. They add more entertainment and are very distinctive. I even really enjoy Tricia’s sparring with Sheriff Adams. I will admit though that I loathe the character of Ginny whose whining wears thin. I’ve been listening to these audiobooks and I find myself tuning out during her scenes, but overall there’s a great cast of characters here.

The setting of these stories is wonderful. It’s a cozy New England town that kind of reminds me of Cabot Cove. This is a place that would absolutely love to visit! I love cozies that take place in New England because I would love to live in New England (specifically Boston area) if I wasn’t such a wimp in winter.

The mysteries themselves are very well-plotted, especially for a cozy. There are lots of clues interspersed everywhere and it’s fun to try to figure out who committed the murders. In a lot of cozies, readers kind of bumble along and enjoy the ride while the amateur sleuth unbelievably uncover the murderer’s identity by happenstance, but these are very well-conceived puzzles.

If you’re looking for a new cozy series, I highly recommend this one!

 

Book Review

Cozy Corner: Agatha Raisin by M.C. Beaton

It’s time again for another installment of Cozy Corner! This time, I am recommending the fabulous Agatha Raisin series by M.C. Beaton. This series is set in the English Cotswolds where retired PR guru Agatha Raisin is struggling to enjoy her retirement and winds up becoming an amateur sleuth and solving lots of village murders.

139176

This series is one of my favorite guilty pleasures, and I’ve been listening to a lot of the audiobooks recently (read by Penelope Keith who does an amazing job). I love Agatha as a protagonist. She’s endearing but very flawed which makes her both funny and relatable. Agatha can be petty, vain, and jealous, but she also has a big heart and a lot of wit. I love following her and the cast of side characters (especially Bill Wong and Toni Gilmour).

The mysteries themselves are not always the coziest, especially in the later books. While I would absolutely classify this series as a cozy series, there is occasional foul language, reference to sex, and some of the deaths are described in grisly detail. That being said, there’s still a light, whimsical tone in the books and Agatha is an amateur detective. These are two big parts of traditional cozies.

There is a companion television series that recently came out in the US, and it was just as fun as the books! I think I’ve seen every episode three times already, which is kind of insane actually. So far, only one season has aired, but I desperately hope that they make a second season. Agatha is played wonderfully by Ashley Jensen, who was the seamstress sidekick in Ugly Betty.

Some cozy series can be read in any order, but I would highly recommend these being read in the order they were published. While Agatha never seems to age, the drama of her personal life is complicated and will make more sense if the books are read in order. If you’re looking for something British and cozy and funny, I definitely recommend this book series and the TV show!

Book Review

Book Review: Come Sundown by Nora Roberts

I’ve recently been trying to expand the types of books I read. As part of this experiment, I decided to try some Nora Roberts books. I had always avoided her books because I don’t love books with lots of romance, but I ended up really liking several of her books because there are elements of other genres too. Her latest book, Come Sundown, is a novel of romantic suspense, and I really enjoyed it!

31415529

This novel takes place on a ranch in Montana, where a woman named Alice disappeared years ago. She is assumed to have run away, but when she suddenly shows up in a disheveled state, they realize that she’s been held captive somewhere nearby for all these years. There’s a mystery here as they try to figure out who is responsible, but there’s also a lot of internal conflict as Alice has to try to cope with what has happened to her, and her family has to readjust to her sudden reappearance as well as the fear that this could happen again if they don’t find the man responsible.

I really enjoyed reading this book, although it was hard to read in some parts because of the captivity subject matter. I definitely thought this was one of Nora Robert’s darker books. There are elements of romance for some of the characters, but they definitely take a back seat to Alice’s story and journey. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who enjoys romantic suspense, and for anyone who enjoyed the book Room by Emma Donoghue (which has similar subject matter).

Book Review

Book Review: Watch Me Disappear 

Thanks to Netgalley for a copy of the forthcoming book Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown.

32740062

This was a great, character-driven mystery that centers around the disappearance of Billie, a mother who has disappeared after going on a hike. Her daughter Olive is trying to cope with her disappearance when she begins to hallucinate that she is seeing her mother alive. She and her very worried father then try to unravel what has happened and what is real.

I found this to be a great balance of fast-pace and insightful character development. Olive was a character that you could definitely root for. I wanted her to find out what was going on so that she could find the closure she desperately needed. Her father Jonathan was also a great character. He seemed very realistic, flaws and all, but he was someone I found myself wanting to know more about.

I can’t get too much into the plot without revealing anything, but I will say that I found the plot progression and end to be quite satisfying. Overall, I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who liked The Girl on the Train or Gone Girl. This one definitely had that sort of vibe, although I found this one less dark and with more likeable characters.

Finally, happy Independence Day to any of my fellow Americans who might be reading this! I hope that you’re having a fun holiday with friends and family.