Posted in Book Reviews, Cozy Mystery, Mystery, NetGalley

The Little Bookshop of MURDER by Maggie Blackburn

Summer Merriweather’s career as a Shakespeare professor hangs by a bookbinder’s thread. Academic life at her Virginia university is a viper’s pit, so Summer spends her summer in England, researching a scholarly paper that, with any luck, will finally get her published, impress the Dean, and save her job. But her English idyll ends when her mother, Hildy, shuffles off her mortal coil from an apparent heart attack. Returning to Brigid’s Island, NC, for the funeral, Summer is impatient to settle the estate, sell her mom’s embarrassingly romance-themed bookstore, Beach Reads, and go home. But as she drops by Beach Reads, Summer finds threatening notes addressed to Hildy: “Sell the bookstore or die.” Clearly, something is rotten on Brigid’s Island. What method is behind the madness? Was Hildy murdered?


Little Bookshop of Murder is the first book in a new series by Maggie Blackburn. The story follows Summer Merriweather (no kidding!) as she returns to a small island off the coast of North Carolina after the death of her estranged mother. Upon arriving at Brigid’s Island, Summer finds her mother’s sudden death a little suspicious, so with the help of her aunt Agatha, they start an investigation of their own.

I like to start my reviews by pointing out the positives in a book. This book has all the right elements for a sweet cozy mystery. An excellent (although not novel) premise, a lovely cover, and who can resist books about cute bookstores? So, you are probably wondering why I gave such a dismal rating?

The first issue I had with this book was the fact that I could not relate to nor like Summer. It could be because this is book number one, and the author is rushing to introduce all the main players and somehow forgot to elaborate on her main character. But Summer is just simply put the flattest and most unsympathetic character in this book. Here we have a woman whose mother just died. She spends the entire book reminding us of how hard it is that her mother is dead, however, very little–if any, emotion is elicited from the pages. The reader does not get a feeling that this character is missing her dead mother, nor that she even truly cared about her mother. To make matters worse in the likeability rating, we get information early on in the story that Summer left some poor chap standing in the altar, but very little explanation as to why.

So, after you decide you are just going to ignore the poorly written main character and plow through the rest of the book, what you end up with is a very so-so mystery and a complete feeling of disappointment.

On a more optimistic note, this book is number one in a series, and the author has plenty of chances to make it up in the subsequent installments.

Little Bookshop of Murder is scheduled to be published on July 7th, 2020. I want to thank Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for providing me an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Format: Kindle edition
Published: July 7th, 2020 by Crooked Lane Books
ASIN: B0818ZX2NY
Source: Free copy provided by the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review
Rating: 2 ½ stars
Genre: Mystery, Cozy-mystery
Posted in Book Reviews, Mystery, NetGalley

The Adventure of the Murdered Midwife by Liese Sherwood-Fabre

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Before Sherlock Holmes became the world’s greatest consulting detective…
A Scandal rocked the Holmes family. A cache of documents has been recently discovered detailing, in Sherlock’s own hand, his early forays into a criminal investigation. With The Adventure of the Murdered Midwife, the game begins as Sherlock faces his first case.
Only weeks into his first year at Eton, Sherlock’s father calls him and his brother back to Underbyrne, the ancestral estate. The village midwife has been found with a pitchfork in her back in the estate’s garden, and Mrs. Holmes has been accused of the murder. Can Sherlock find the true killer in time to save her from the gallows?


The Adventure of the Murdered Midwife is narrated in the first person by a young teenager we know as Sherlock Holmes. If an author takes another author’s beloved character to make a spin-off, is that considered a ding in creativity? The jury is still out, in my opinion. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it just doesn’t.

In the case of this book, the story starts with Sherlock, a young teenager, studying at the prestigious Eton College when he learns that his mother has been accused of murdering the village midwife. Holmes and his brother Mycroft return home, and it’s now up to young Holmes, to help prove his mother’s innocence.

Some things worked well in this book. Sherwood-Fabre captured the beautiful, witty essence of Sherlock Holmes and his complicated relationship with his brother Mycroft. Fans of Conan Doyle’s books will quickly recognize Holmes’s sharp, logical mind even at a young age. The mystery, however, left much to be desired. The story starts strong, and somehow the mystery becomes too predictable, and the ending fails to yield the sort of excitement you get with Doyle’s books.

I still recommend this book for both fans of Sherlock Holmes and fans of this genre. This book is volume one in a series, so there is hope that the stories will develop more with future books

The Adventure of the Murdered Midwife is scheduled to be published on June 30th, 2020. I want to thank BooksGoSocial and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Format: Kindle edition, 344 pages
Published: June 30th, 2020 by Little Elm Press
ASIN: B085WB5GGP
Source: Free copy provided by the publisher, BooksGoSocial, and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Mystery
Posted in Book Reviews, Crime, Mystery, Sci-Fi

Lock In by John Scalzi

21418013. sy475 Not too long from today, a new, highly contagious virus makes its way across the globe. Most who get sick experience nothing worse than flu, fever and headaches. But for the unlucky one percent – and nearly five million souls in the United States alone – the disease causes “Lock In”: Victims fully awake and aware, but unable to move or respond to stimulus. The disease affects young, old, rich, poor, people of every color and creed. The world changes to meet the challenge.


Lock In is my sci-fi book club pick for the month of August. I had never read anything by John Scalzi, and I wasn’t very sure where I was getting myself into. I was hooked right from the first pages. The premise that a highly contagious virus, worse than the flu, rendered its victims in a state of “lock in,” where victims are fully awake and aware but unable to move or respond to anything, was an absolutely horrifying concept. Victims of this virus are affected by Haden’s Syndrome, named after Margaret Haden, the first lady of the United States of America. In a way, this book reminded me of the board game Pandemic.

What I found to be a great thing about this book was the fact that this is much more than just a great sci-fi story. I have noticed a trend in mix genres, and I personally love it. However, if you are a hard-core sci-fi fan looking for a typical sci-fi book, Lock In might not be for you.

One of the great things about this story is that it reads much like a crime novel. We follow Chris Shane and Leslie Vann as they investigate what appears to be a Haden-related murder. The suspect is called an “Integrator” — someone who lends their physical bodies to locked in victims.

Part sci-fi and part whodunnit, Lock In is a fast-paced novel that will undoubtedly entertain the fans of both genres.


Format: Paperback336 pages
Published: August 4th, 2015 by Tor Science Fiction
ISBN: 076538132X
Source: Library Loan
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Sci-fi/Crime/Mystery
Posted in Book Reviews, Crime, Mystery, NetGalley

Forgotten Bones by Vivian Barz

42931506When small-town police officers discover the grave of a young boy, they’re quick to pin the crime on a convicted felon who lives nearby. But when it comes to murder, Officer Susan Marlan never trusts a simple explanation, so she’s just getting started. Meanwhile, college professor Eric Evans hallucinates a young boy in overalls: a symptom of his schizophrenia—or so he thinks. But when more bodies turn up, Eric has more visions, and they mirror details of the murder case. As the investigation continues, the police stick with their original conclusion, but Susan’s instincts tell her something is off. The higher-ups keep stonewalling her, and the FBI’s closing in. Desperate for answers, Susan goes rogue and turns to Eric for help. Together they take an unorthodox approach to the case as the evidence keeps getting stranger. With Eric’s hallucinations intensifying and the body count rising, can the pair separate truth from illusion long enough to catch a monster?


Forgotten Bones is not your average crime thriller, and I will go over why. The premise of the book is excellent. Susan, a young detective upon responding to a car accident scene, comes across the body of a young child. Police quickly attributes the crime to a local pedophile. However, Susan is suspicious that there is more to the story and decides to embark on an investigation on her own. Parallel to Susan’s story we meet Eric, a geology professor going through a turbulent divorce who moves to California to get away from his ex-wife who dumped him for his brother.

Eric settles in at the new college and town in an attempt to rebuild his life. Eric is a known schizophrenic, and although he’s entirely compliant to his medication regime, he starts to worry that his illness is getting worse as he starts to have visions of a little boy in overalls. Eric and Susan’s paths will cross, and together, they will fight to discover the truth regarding the death of this little kid.

Barz alternates chapters between Susan’s story and Eric’s story. A technique that for most of the time, tends to chop the flow of the story. The reason this book is not your typical crime/mystery book is the fact that there are no red herrings. What you see, or better yet, who you suspect all along, is in fact, the culprit(s).

By the time I got to sixty percent of the book and had the mystery pretty much figured out, there was very little interest in the rest of the story. I honestly do not understand the author’s intention with making the answers to this crime so visible right off the bat. I kept hoping that the story was going to turn out a bit like a Scooby-Doo cartoon where the obviously mean, greedy, and weird were innocent, and the super lovely characters turn out to be the guilty ones.

Unfortunately, no! This novel was written with the intent to make the guilty quite evident from the start. The pitfall, however, is that once the reader has the mystery figured out there’s very little substance to carry on the rest of the book.

Some important trigger warnings to mention are pedophilia (although not explicit), child abuse, and neglect.

Forgotten Bones is scheduled to be published on August 1, 2019. I would like to thank Thomas and Mercer publishing and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Format: e-ARC, Kindle 298 pages
Published: Expected publication August 1st, 2019 by Thomas and Mercer
ASIN: B07KF46YBG
Source: Free copy provided by the publisher, Thomas and Mercer, and NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Crime, Suspense, Mystery

 

 

Posted in Book Reviews, Mystery, Sci-Fi

Gunpowder Moon by David Pedreira

36692151It’s 2072, and lunar helium-3 mining is powering the fusion reactors that are bringing Earth back from environmental disaster. But competing for the richest prize in the history of the world has destroyed the oldest rule in space: Safety for All. When a bomb kills one of Dechert’s diggers on Mare Serenitatis, the haunted veteran goes on the hunt to expose the culprit before more blood is spilled. But as Dechert races to solve the first murder in the history of the Moon, he gets caught in the crosshairs of two global powers spoiling for a fight. Reluctant to be the match that lights this powder-keg, Dechert knows his life and those of his crew are meaningless to the politicians. Even worse, he knows the killer is still out there, hunting. In his desperate attempts to save his crew and prevent the catastrophe he sees coming, the former Marine uncovers a dangerous conspiracy that, with one spark, can ignite a full lunar war, wipe out his team . . . and perhaps plunge the Earth back into darkness.


In 2072 the moon is populated by several international companies mining the moon’s soil for a substance known as Helium-3, a nonradioactive solar isotope that is easily contained and used to power reactors on Earth.

Caden Dechert is in charge of the American mining company. Things appeared to be running smoothly until one of Dechert’s crew member is found dead. Suspecting that the death was not an accident, Dechert races against time to find out the truth behind this lunar murder.

The gunpowder smell of moondust filled his nostrils, and his head hurt too much to work the mystery.

Gunpowder Moon is my sci-fi monthly book club pick, and I have to say I’m pleased we chose this novel. Sci-fi meets whodunnit mystery, Pedreira’s writing keeps you guessing until the end in this fast-paced story. I particularly enjoyed the tension he built in the book. As for character development, Dechert was by far the best. All the other characters felt a bit flat throughout the story. Pedreira did an excellent job researching the topic and moving the story nicely. This is not a very long book, and at times I wished that the sci-fi parts regarding the moon had been better explored. Overall, Gunpowder Moon was an interesting read.

That’s the moon, commissioner: hours of boredom followed by a few seconds of terror.


Format: Paperback, 289 pages
Published: February 13th, 2018 by Harper Voyager
ISBN: 0062676083
Source: Library loan
Rating: 3 stars
Genre: Sci-fi, Mystery
Posted in 4-Star Rating, Book Reviews, Fiction, Mystery, Psychological Thriller

The Outsider by Stephen King

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When a hideous crime happens to 11-year-old Frank Peterson in the fictitious town of Flint City, police immediately suspects the town’s little league coach Terry Maitland. Maitland is an upstanding citizen of Flint City, and his public arrest causes a significant amount of commotion. On the surface, it seems like a straight forward case and detective Ralph Anderson is confident of his arrest and Maitland’s guilt. But when Maitland comes up with an irrefutable alibi, detective Anderson will have to expand his investigation and face horrifying answers.

I initially struggled with starting The Outsider. I don’t particularly gravitate toward books with themes of sexual violence and rape, especially regarding children. But I couldn’t pass on the opportunity of reading one of Stephen King’s latest books. I love Stephen King’s seemingly easy way he tells his stories, his dark creativity, his wild imagination, and vivid scenes. The Outsider at times reads like an episode of Law and Order, but being Stephen King, you know that is not going to last very long, and pretty soon an element of the supernatural will rear its ugly head.

Although The Outsider is a hefty 560 pages novel, the amount of suspense and horror keeps you well engaged for a good ¾ of the book. The topic of the book, although dark, does not dwell too much on sexual abuse as it does in the investigation process. I didn’t feel the end was necessarily rushed; quite the opposite–he could have shaved off a few pages as it felt like it dragged a bit.

Overall The Outsider does not disappoint one bit, and if anything it solidifies my admiration for an author I’ve been reading for nearly 25 years, and which continues to be in my humble opinion the master of horror. I highly recommend this book to both fans of this genre as well as fans of well-written fiction.


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Posted in ARC, Book Reviews, Mystery, NetGalley, Psychological Thriller

Bring Me Back by B. A. Paris

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A young British couple is driving through France on holiday when they stop for gas. He runs in to pay, she stays in the car. When he returns her car door has been left open, but she’s not inside. No one ever sees her again. Ten years later he’s engaged to be married; he’s happy, and his past is only a tiny part of his life now. Until he comes home from work and finds his new wife-to-be is sitting on their sofa. She’s turning something over in her fingers, holding it up to the light. Something that would have no worth to anyone else, something only he and she would know about because his wife is the sister of his missing first love. As more and more questions are raised, their marriage becomes strained. Has his first love somehow come back to him after all this time? Or is the person who took her playing games with his mind?

Review

Layla and Finn are coming back from a skiing vacation in France when Finn stops at a picnic area to use the restroom. Upon his return, Layla is gone.

The book starts with Finn’s recollections of that night some ten years ago. He gives the impression that the description you read in the book is what was told to the cops at the time, but that in reality, the truth about that night is very different.

Now ten years later, Finn is living with Ellen who just happens to be his missing girlfriend Layla’s sister.

I have to say that I really enjoyed Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris, and Bring Me Back was a book that had a solid four stars for most of the story, then it got to the end and I just could not believe how improbable the ending was. I was truly disappointed with the ending. I thought the story had such a great premise and I was completely hooked. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t believe the ending.

I would like to thank St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


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Posted in ARC, Book Reviews, Cozy Mystery, Mystery, NetGalley

Better Off Read by Nora Page

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When her best hope of saving her storm-damaged library is found murdered, senior librarian Cleo Watkins hits the road in her bookmobile in search of justice. Septuagenarian librarian Cleo Watkins won’t be shushed when an upstart young mayor threatens to permanently shelve her tiny town’s storm-damaged library. She takes to her bookmobile, Words on Wheels, to collect allies and rally library support throughout Catalpa Springs, Georgia. However, Cleo soon rolls into trouble. A major benefactor known for his eccentric DIY projects requests all available books on getting away with murder. He’s no Georgia peach, and Cleo wonders if she should worry about his plans. She knows she should when she discovers him bludgeoned and evidence points to her best friend, Mary-Rose Garland. 

Review

Better Off Read is the first book in the Bookmobile Mystery series. The main character, Cleo Watkins is a librarian who also runs a bookmobile, words on wheels, in the city of Catalpa Springs, Georgia. Cleo is desperately trying to fix the damaged library and prevent the young mayor, Jeb Day, from closing it down. Cleo soon comes across the body of an old patron, Buford Krandall, and evidence seems to point to her friend Mary-Rose, so Cleo decides to solve the murder on her own and clear the name of her best friend.

Ok, so this book was the classic example of judging a book by its cover. I mean, isn’t this cover super cute? I loved everything about it–a cute cat, a cute dog, a bookmobile, all the elements for a great cozy mystery. Unfortunately, this book was quite disappointing to me. The premise is great, a librarian fighting to keep the city’s public library alive, a murder needing to be solved, a small town setting, Southern cooking, you name it. The problem with the story is that although the premise was great, the characters were very unrealistic and poorly developed. Cleo, the main character, is supposed to be this seventy-year-old lady who really seemed more like someone in their forties or fifties. It is not to say that a person in their seventies can’t be as active and energetic as Cleo, but it just didn’t feel that way when you were reading the book.

The story as a whole did not hold my interest and I found myself putting this book down way too many times. I really wanted to love this book, but it just didn’t do it for me. Since this is book one in the series, I believe there is still hope for the other books to come.

I would like to thank Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


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Posted in 4-Star Rating, ARC, Book Reviews, Mystery, NetGalley

Mardi Gras Murder by Ellen Byron

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It’s Mardi Gras season on the bayou, which means parades, pageantry, and gumbo galore. But when a flood upends life in the tiny town of Pelican, Louisiana—and deposits a body of a stranger behind the Crozat Plantation B&B—the celebration takes a decidedly dark turn. The citizens of Pelican are ready to Laissez les bon temps rouler—but there’s beaucoup bad blood on hand this Mardi Gras. Maggie Crozat is determined to give the stranger a name and find out why he was murdered. 

Review

The story starts with a body that turns up behind the Crozat Plantation B&B at the same time that the town is preparing for their Mardi Gras celebrations and beauty pageant. Maggie Crozat’s grandmother usually deals with the Miss Pelican Mardi Gras Gumbo Queen pageant, but now she is sick in the hospital and left it to Maggie to coordinate the event.

Maggie feels overwhelmed. She is not really a fan of beauty pageants and is determined to find out the identity of the body that turned up behind her family’s plantation. So, she starts a little investigation of her own. Her relationship with Bo, the official cop in Pelican, is rocky, her father is busy trying to win the Gumbo cookoff and when things seemed like they couldn’t get any worse, one of the judges at the beauty pageant is also found dead. Now Maggie and Bo have to rush against time to find out if these two murders are connected.

What I think worked well in this novel was Byron’s wonderful characterization of the South. The descriptions of the people, the foods, the preparations for celebration–everything was so on point that it transported me back to Louisiana. I love New Orleans, and I really enjoyed learning more about that culture and the fact that although most people are familiar with the more over-the-top Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans, smaller towns in Louisiana celebrate what’s called Courir de Mardi Gras–which translates to “Fat Tuesday Run.” I really appreciated all the research she put in writing this story and all the bonus recipes at the end of the book.

Mardi Gras Murder is book four of the Cajun Country Mystery series, but I was able to follow along fine–even though I haven’t read the other books in the series. This is a great cozy mystery! I read the entire book in one sitting, and I really enjoyed the ending.

I would like to thank Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


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Posted in 4-Star Rating, ARC, Book Reviews, Crime, First To Read, Mystery

Dead Pretty by David Mark

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One girl missing. One girl dead. A stunning new novel from one of Britain’s most original crime writers, Dead Pretty finds Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy and Detective Superintendent Trish Pharaoh grappling with vigilantes, unsolved murders, and a killer far too close to home.

Review

This book was initially a little confusing to me. It took me some time to get used to David Mark’s writing, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. This is book five of Detective Sargeant Aector McAvoy and not having read any of the previous books in the series might have contributed to my initial confusion. Once I got into the book, I just couldn’t put it down.

I love a good crime story, and this is a great one. The story is a bit disturbing with some pretty descriptive scenes, but overall this is a gritty and riveting story that would’ve probably received 5-stars had I read the other books. I highly recommend this one. David Mark got me hooked, and his other books just made it to my TBR list.

I received an early copy of this book for free from Penguin Random House First To Read in exchange for my honest review.


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