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!
I’m a sucker for horror movies that are polarizing audiences, so when I heard about the new Netflix movie, “Things Heard & Seen” I had to see what all the fuss was about for myself!
First, the IMBD Description: “An artist relocates to the Hudson Valley and begins to suspect that her marriage has a sinister darkness, one that rivals her new home’s history.”
I must say, I was a little daunted by the fact that the movie is 2 hours long. Since horror and suspense are difficult things to maintain, I prefer these types of movies when they’re on the shorter side (ideally 80-90 minutes), but this one did not drag at all for me. I was fully entranced by the careful character studies in this film – no one is quite what they seem and each character (except perhaps the villain) is painted in a way that shows a lot of depth.
The setting was perfect – a haunted house that seemed to serve as a metaphor for the protagonist’s own unsettled feelings.
I wouldn’t say that this one is scary. It feels more like an artful mystery which analyzes gender roles and toxic relationships. Amanda Seyfried does a great job as the main character with understated loneliness and repression. James Norton is also fantastic at playing her husband and foil, a man whose secrets and darkness seem boundless by the end.
To avoid giving too much away, I will say that this one has a weird ending that leaves a bit to the imagination. For those who have read the novel the movie is based on (All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage) the ending is a bit different from its source material. In fact, this is a rare occasion where I think I actually enjoyed the movie more than the book!
Overall, I would definitely recommend this movie to people who like character-driven psychological suspense. Horror purists might find it a bit too mellow, and action-lovers may find it too leisurely paced.
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.
‘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!
Today marks my first day of being 29! I can’t believe I only have one year left of my 20s! To celebrate, I wanted to offer my book Suburban Secrets for FREE from September 25th – 27th. Head on over to Amazon to claim your free copy!
Suburban Secrets is available on Amazon for $2.99 (or FREE if you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber!)
Here’s the description from Amazon: “Angela Carmichael feels like an imposter in her idyllic neighborhood. Surrounded by seemingly perfect families, Angela is just doing her best to stay afloat as a single mother and freelance writer. But when a neighborhood boy goes missing, and danger seems to lurk behind every white picket fence, Angela becomes determined to uncover the secrets and lies of her community in order to keep her daughter safe.”
If that sounds like it might be something that would interest you, I hope you’ll consider getting a copy!
I’d love to share a bit about this experience. This project began in grad school and was born out of my love of mystery and my fear of motherhood. I think that being a parent is probably the hardest job in the world, so I really wanted to explore that throughout this mystery. Full disclosure: I am not a parent, so this is very much my way of experiencing something I’ve really only observed.
Here’s the Amazon description of the book: “Angela Carmichael feels like an imposter in her idyllic neighborhood. Surrounded by seemingly perfect families, Angela is just doing her best to stay afloat as a single mother and freelance writer. But when a neighborhood boy goes missing, and danger seems to lurk behind every white picket fence, Angela becomes determined to uncover the secrets and lies of her community in order to keep her daughter safe.”
I hope you’ll consider getting a copy if this sounds intriguing to you!
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!