Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Deep Water - Emma Bamford

There's been a lot of buzz around Emma Bamford's new book, Deep Water
And after binge reading it one rainy day, I can say that buzz is justified. 

I was hooked after reading the author's notes at the front of the book. "I've long had an affinity for films about vacations gone horribly wrong". She also  references Dead Calm, The Beach and The Ruins. All films and books I've really enjoyed. Oh, and she's an experienced sailor. The book benefits from that inside knowledge as well.

Deep Water opens with the ending. We know the outcome, but nothing else - the how, the why, the who. Just Virginie praying her husband survives....

Virginie and Jake are newlyweds with a dream of sailing their own yacht wherever they choose. At a port on the way to Thailand, an older man tells them of a beautiful island that few know about, completely off the grid and 'about as remote as you can get in this world.'

Uh, huh - sounds amazing, doesn't it? It does, and Virginie and Jake decide to change their itinerary to go the island named Amarante. When they arrive, there are two other boats and a third shows up. Things start off well, but.....

And that's where I'm going to leave things, so you can experience Bamford's wonderfully insidious plotting. She builds the tension and suspense slowly, layer by layer. It seems easy to dismiss somebody's  actions and behaviour when you've just met them. But as the reader looking from outside in, I could see where things might be headed. And I found myself talking out loud, telling Virginie to open her eyes! 

The description of the island was vivid. I thought that one element of the island's past might have figured larger. 

I enjoyed the plot's slow burn but others may find themselves wanting more 'action'. This reader quite enjoyed Deep Water. See for yourself - read an except of Deep Water.

A Rip Through Time - Kelley Armstrong

Happy Dance! A new series from Kelley Armstrong! A Rip Through Time is the first book.

2019. Mallory is an American Homicide Detective who has travelled to Edinburgh to say goodbye to her dying grandmother. She goes out for a walk in the evening hours and is attacked and left for dead in an alleyway. 

But, Mallory isn't dead. And here's where the title comes in - she wakes up in a hospital to find herself in the body of a housemaid, who was also attacked in the same alley. But.....in 1869. Oh, what a great set up! 

I really liked Mallory as a lead character. The reader is privy to her inner thoughts as she tries to figure out what she's going to do in the here and now, even as she wonders how she can return home. She has to think of everything - what her behaviour should look like, the language she uses and how to navigate in a past she doesn't really know much about. The supporting cast is excellent - the master of the house and his sister have skills and interests that intersect with Mallory's talents. How can Mallory keep her façade up, while still offering suggestions to the Detective in charge of the cases?

I really enjoyed how the case was solved using deductions, legwork, suspicions, observations and more. Forensic science is it's infancy and it too adds to the tools used on this case. Armstrong always draws the reader with the thinking and deductions of the investigator. Mallory reminds me a bit of Casey from Rockton. 

I also enjoyed the description of the settings and the depiction of the mores of the time.

Armstrong has given us a  unique premise with characters you can't help but like. The mystery and the solving of, is excellent. The ending is satisfying, but there are still questions to be answered. The biggest being if Mallory can ever get back through the rip. But on the other hand...where is Catriona?

Monday, May 30, 2022

Take Your Breath Away - Linwood Barclay

I know I'm in for a fantastic read when I see that Linwood Barclay has a new book out! His latest is Take Your Breath Away. And yes, it was every bit as good as I knew it would be. 

Six years ago, Andrew Mason went on a fishing trip with a friend. When he returned home, his wife Brie was missing. Despite having an alibi, Andy has always been the prime suspect for her murder, despite there being no body. He's moved on both physically and personally. Until a woman who bears more than a passing resemblance to Brie shows up at his old address. And then disappears again.... 

Oh, what a great premise! There's so many ways this could unfold. Barclay keeps the reader guessing from start to finish, with a wealth of characters (all with their own secrets) to choose from for the 'whodunit'. There's nothing I like better than a good twist and turn that I don't see coming. There's more than one of those in Take Your Breath Away. 

I love the level of detail Barclay puts into his settings, his players, the dialogue and of course, his clever, clever plotting. There are many sub plots and I wondered how the heck they would be woven together in the end. Barclay's writing is addictive, making it really hard to turn off the lights at night. I was happily entertained from first page 'til last. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Take Your Breath Away. 

And now the wait begins until the next Barclay book....

Friday, May 27, 2022

On A Quiet Street - Seraphina Nova Glass

On A Quiet Street is Seraphina Nova Glass's new novel. 

The perfect neighborhood, beautiful houses, lovely neighbours - what more could you want when you're living on such a lovely, quiet street. Ahh, the possibilities that await in such a neighborhood! 'Cause we just know it can't be perfect behind every closed door. I'm always curious to see what direction an author will take a domestic suspense read.

Glass gives us a core group of three. Cora, whose husband may or may not be cheating on her. Paige is grieving the loss of her son. And no one really knows much about Georgia, as she never leaves her house. Each woman is given a voice and we learn about what's going on in their lives. And as the book continues, their lives are woven together in an unexpected manner. I admit I went in thinking I'd have a good idea of the plot from 'meeting' the characters. I was happily proven wrong. Glass takes these neighbors down a darker, unexpected road. Some of the plot devices do require a few grains of salt, but just go with it- it makes for very entertaining and addictive listening. I wasn't able to predict what was going to happen and the ending took a nice, unexpected turn as well. 

I chose to listen to On A Quiet Street. I saw that Imogen Church was the reader and she is one of my favorites. She is a very versatile performer and I was curious as to how she would differentiate the three lead characters. Paige opens the book and Church has used a loud, in your face, taking no prisoners tone for her. It was perfect. Cora is the mother hen of the the group and is a people pleaser. Again, the voice - somewhat prim, always proper and somewhat saccharin tone matched the character. And for Georgia, an English accent is employed that is softer, and polite, but somewhat nervous. Again, just right. Church also provides different and believable voices for the male/teen characters. She speaks clearly and is easy to understand. The speed of speaking is just right. Church interprets Glass's book well, bringing lots of emotion and action to her reading. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of On A Quiet Street.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Downton Shabby - Hopwood DePree

Hopwood DePree's new book, Downton Shabby: One American's Ultimate DIY Adventure Restoring His Family's English Castle, caught my eye. Having lived in an older (150 years) home for many years, I was drawn to DePree's book about his restoration - which is a little older at 600 years!

How does a Hollywood actor, producer and more end up England, restoring a ruin? It's all in the name. When he was younger, Hopwood went by his middle name. As an adult, he choose to use his given name, as it was memorable. Whilst researching on genealogical sites, he discovers a past - and the home of his ancestors - in the remains of Hopwood Hall. 

I quite enjoyed being along for the trip as Hopwood makes connections, makes friends and willingly upends his whole life for Hopwood Hall. His family is just as enthusiastic. As are the supporters of the Hall, who are trying to preserve this historic building. Geoff and Bob are the two core supporters who guide and educate Hopwood on the Hall's past. Their dedication was and is admirable. Hopwood meets many others who are happy to lend a hand. It was fascinating to uncover the historical past of the Hall with Hopwood. The descriptions of the Hall - and included photographs - made me want to come and visit! 

DePree is enthusiastic and able to laugh at himself. I quite enjoyed his book, but the journey isn't over. You can see more on his website. Downton Shabby (clever title) was an entertaining, easy read that kept me engaged. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

With Prejudice - Robin Peguero

With Prejudice is Robin Peguero's debut novel. 

I quite like legal suspense and am always on the lookout for new authors, so I happily picked up With Prejudice.

Peguero rapidly introduces us to a large group of characters - jury members, prosecution, defense and judge, all involved with a rape/murder case. We meet them in the present, but are then served up a snapshot of their past. A time that they exhibited prejudice - racial, faith, sexual orientation, social status and more. These moments can be tied to the present. 

But....yes, I have a but. Those time periods don't follow a pattern. So, that was difficult to keep track of. Sometimes the jurors are called by name, some by number. Also confusing. 

I agree with Peguero's take on the 'prejudices'. This happens and is indeed an issue. I applaud that part of the book. 

But the execution wasn't great for this reader. I found the courtroom legal machinations to be overly convoluted, with way too much legalese. Peguero has worked as a homicide prosecutor in Miami, so his take on that bit is spot on. But, I found myself skim reading some of those scenes as the end drew nearer. Which took a while for me to reach, as I kept picking up and putting down the book. It didn't hold my interest as I had hoped. Peguero did surprise me with a late entry twist that changed things. The jury is still out for me on the ending. For me it almost negated what had come before. On the other hand, it does show the cracks in our systems.

The prose are staccato, almost presented like court documents. It kept me at arm's length as the depiction of the characters was too clinical. They never became 'real' to me. 

A solid debut, but not a stand out for this reader. See for yourself - read an excerpt of With Prejudice.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Hidden Pictures - Jason Rekulak

I read Jason Rekulak's first novel back in 2017 and loved it. I was thrilled to see that he had penned a new book - Hidden Pictures. This descriptor and cover from the publisher caught my eye...."comes a wildly inventive spin on the classic horror story in Hidden Pictures, a supernatural thriller about a woman working as a nanny for a young boy with strange and disturbing secrets." Who else liked it? Stephen King did..."I loved it." 

I quite liked the flawed but likable lead character Mallory. She's a recovering addict and desperately wants this second chance to pan out. She's making good money, has her own little cabin to live in, the parents seem like good people and their little boy Teddy is a joy. Sounds great right? But...yup, there's that but. Young Teddy starts drawing some increasingly disturbing pictures. The parents dismiss her concerns but....

I'm going to leave things there for you to discover. Rekulak's plot is inventive and insidious. The creep factor increases as Teddy's drawings begin to tell an unsettling tale. The drawings included in the book  from illustrators Will Staehle and Doogie Horner add extra goosebumps. 

Hidden Pictures was a page turner for me. I was caught up in the story and really wanted to know what/who was behind the pictures as well as the why. I have to say, Rekulak surprised me with a twist that no reader could predict on the way to the answers. Bravo! I absolutely love being caught off guard with what direction a book is going to take. A few situations require a few grains of salt - but go with it. It's entertainment I'm after and I definitely found it in the pages of Hidden Pictures. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Hidden Pictures. 

Friday, May 20, 2022

Take Your Breath Away - Linwood Barclay

I know I'm in for a fantastic read when I see that Linwood Barclay has a new book out! His latest book is Take Your Breath Away. And yes, it was every bit as good as I knew it would be. 

One weekend, six years ago, Andrew Mason was away on a fishing trip with a friend. And when he got home - he discovered his wife Brie was missing. And despite having an alibi, Andy has always been the prime suspect for her murder, despite there being no body. But, he's moved on both physically and personally. Until a woman who bears more than a passing resemblance to Brie shows up at his old address. And then disappears again.... 

Oh, what a great premise! There's so many ways this could unfold. Barclay keeps the listener guessing from start to finish, with a wealth of characters (all with their own secrets) to choose from for the 'whodunit'. And there's nothing I like better than a good twist and turn that I didn't see coming. There's more than one in Take Your Breath Away. 

I like the level of detail Barclay puts into his settings, his players, the dialogue and of course, his clever  plotting. There are many sub plots and I wondered how the heck they would be woven together in the end. His writing is addictive, making it hard to stop reading or listening. I was entertained from the first page 'til the last. 

I chose to listen to the audio version of Take Your Breath Away. Harper Audio chose to employ a cast of readers to tell the story, which I personally prefer. It's easy to know who is speaking and it feel more realistic. The narrators were Joe Knezevich, George Newbern, Hillary Huber, Pete Simonelli, Michael Crouch, Lauren Fortgang, Jim Meskimen and Karissa Vacker. I've listened to many of these readers before, but have to add that George Newbern is one of favorites. He reads the lead character, Andy, and he was a great choice. He has the most interesting, expressive voice with a somewhat sardonic bent to it. He brings an author's work to life with his inflections, timber and tone. His voice is clear, easy to understand and pleasant to listen to. The other readers were excellent as well. I always love getting lost in a story and listening immerses me in a tale. An excellent performance of an an excellent book.  Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of Take Your Breath Away.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

The Island - Adrian McKinty

I really enjoyed The Chain - Adrian McKinty's previous book and New York Times bestseller. I eagerly picked up his latest, The Island, anticipating another suspense filled read.

The premise was good and took inspiration from an event in McKinty's own life. 
"While I was driving in rural Australia on a very isolated island inhabited by one large extended family, a woman wearing a hearing aid pulled out of a blind road on her bicycle and I swerved to miss her. I half jokingly told my wife, Leah, that if - God forbid - we had hit her we wouldn't have got off that island alive."

McKinty's characters - Tom, his teen children Owen and Olivia and his second wife Heather do hit the bicyclist. They make some bad decisions and suddenly they're fighting for their lives. Cue the Deliverance movie sound track. 

McKinty has created some godawful, depraved characters in the island folks. They are a law unto their selves and they want retribution from Tom and his family for the death of the cyclist. The narrative is experienced from Heather's viewpoint. Heather is a good lead and given some background. But there's not a lot of depth. It's all about the action. 

Initially I was caught up in the tension, the danger, the next twist of trouble in the family's attempts to escape the islanders. But about midway, it became more than a little unbelievable. Now, I'm all for suspending belief in a suspense novel. But it all became too much. Heather is now a kick butt warrior, the snotty stepkids are as well. Cue Bruce Willis. There's more 'grain of salt' plot lines, skill sets and more, but I don't want to provide spoilers. The plot is busy and by the end felt almost repetitive as the close calls and near misses just keep on coming. McKinty has also included First Nations folklore, customs and history. The relationship between Heather and the kids is often explored, but didn't really work either for me. It felt like an inserted element ticked off on a check list. 

The prose are short and staccato. I became annoyed with one word pronouncements. Water. Sky. Sun. etc. 

The Island felt and read like a movie script. Which is kinda true, as Hulu has picked this up as a series. 

So, bottom line - implausible, but somehow gripping. I had to see what happened in the end. I'm in the minority on my three star rating - check out the other reviews on Goodreads. Or read an excerpt of The Island. That being said, I will pick McKinty's next book. 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Book Lovers - Emily Henry

Well, I don't know how I've missed reading/listening to Emily Henry's books!  I absolutely adored her latest - Book Lovers.

Nora Stevens is a literary agent and Charlie Lastra is a book editor who don't see quite eye to eye. Both are based in New York. Nora is devoted to her clients - and her younger sister Libby. When Libby asked Nora to take a vacation with her to the small town of Sunshine Falls, she agrees. After all, she can work remotely. But Libby has other ideas about how they should spend their time. She's written up a sort of bucket list. Oh, and guess who they run into!

Oh my gosh where to start? I enjoyed Henry's characters so much. She brings her players to life with well rounded out backstories, excellent dialogue and believable emotions and situations. Although Nora is our lead, the supporting cast is just as likable and well drawn.

The setting? Well, Sunshine Falls is a lovely, quaint town with a wealth of quirky residents that I absolutely live in! Again, the descriptions created vivid mental images. Oh, did I mention that there's a book shop/cafe?

The dialogue/bantering is really well written - whip smart but also realistic - especially between Nora and Libby.

And yes, this is a rom com. So how's the romance bit? I love the yes/no/maybe so of the relationship. Can they make it work? (I found myself coming up with strategies to make sure that happened!) And the physical bits? Descriptive but not over the top. Instead it was just right. 

And not to be forgotten - the love of books that is woven into the novel. 

I chose to listen to Book Lovers. And boy was that the right choice. The reader is Julia Whelan - a perennial favourite of mine. The voice for the characters change to match their moods, emotions and settings. The Nora voice is wonderfully snarky and caustic at times, but also kind, vulnerable and more. There's a lovely smooth tone to Whelan's voice. Libby's voice is always upbeat and sounds younger. Whelan uses a low, growly (and yes, kinda sexy) voice that absolutely sounds like a man speaking. The speaking pace is just right. Henry's voice is clear and easy to understand. She interprets Henry's work very, very well. An excellent performance of an excellent book! What else can I say? I loved this audiobook! Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Last One Alive - Amber Cowie

The premise of Amber Cowie's new book, Last One Alive,  hooked me right away. 

What's it about? From the publisher: "A team of researchers exploring the myth of a witch find their numbers mysteriously dwindling in this irresistible psychological thriller for fans of Ruth Ware, Shari Lapena, and Lucy Foley."

I love 'locked room' mysteries. In this case, it's ten people on the site of an historic crime. And yes, one by one they die. But here's the thing that kept me guessing 'til the final pages. Is it the curse of the witch? Is there really something to the legends? Or is one of the ten turning on their fellow researchers?

Penelope is the organizer of the trip. While she has a good reason for the trip and says and does all the right things, I didn't like her. Or any of the ten for that matter. There's something 'off' with each and every one of them. Which only serves to have more suspects!

The setting descriptions easily conjured up a detailed picture in my mind. The isolation, the forest, the rocky beach, the old outbuildings and more all add to the unsettled feeling of the endeavor.

But what I enjoyed the most was trying to solve the whodunit - keeping track of who was where at a certain time, who was together, what was overheard, what was found. (I always wanted to be Nancy Drew.)

I did find some chapters ended quite abruptly and I would have to flip back to make sure I hadn't missed something. 

Cowie's book is well written, not easy to suss out and kept me interested right through to the final pages. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Last One Alive.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

The Murder Rule - Dervla McTiernan

I love a good legal suspense tale. There's been lots of buzz around Dervla McTiernan's newest book, The Murder Rule - and it's well deserved. I thought The Murder Rule was an absolutely fantastic listen.

"First Rule: Make them like you. Second Rule: Make them need you. 
Third Rule: Make them pay."

Hannah is a law student who leaves Maine to volunteer at The Innocence Project in Virginia. The impetus for the move is what she discovered in the pages of  her mother's old diaries - and the story they tell. And the man at the center of the latest case of the wrongly convicted justice group.

Oh, Hannah is a complicated lead character. She presents one persona to the group, hiding her real motives and self from the group and the public. But - she would do anything for her mother. She sacrifices much to keep her healthy and happy. I was so curious about the why and what of her plan.

Now here's the neat bit - McTiernan's inspiration for the Murder Rule was an actual case of The Innocence Project. It is indeed a real organization. McTiernan is a lawyer herself and that insider knowledge adds so much to the book. The courtroom pieces, the behind the scenes machinations and more have that ring of authenticity. But, that's not to say that McTiernan doesn't put her own spin on things, adding levels and more levels to her plotting. The answer to that burning question - is he innocent - is up in the air until the last chapters. 

Danger, suspense, action, corruption, betrayal and duplicity abound in The Murder Rule. And my favorite - twists and turns. I honestly couldn't stop listening. An easy five stars for me. 

The readers were Kate Orsini, Sophie Amoss and Michael Crouch. I really like having multiple narrators, as it makes each character easily identifiable. And it feels more 'real'. The voices used matched the mental images I created for the characters and suited the characters McTiernan created. The energy of the plotting, the emotions of the characters and more are all easily portrayed and performed, bring the book to life. Each narrator spoke clearly and was easy to understand. The speed of speaking was just right. A great performance by all. Hear for yourself - listen to an excerpt of The Murder Rule. 

Monday, May 9, 2022

The School for German Brides - Aimie K. Runyan

There’s a wealth of World War II fiction just waiting to be read these days, told from many different points of view. Land girls, air taxis, nursing, codebreakers and more. Aimie K. Runyan gives us another view point in her latest historical fiction novel - The School for German Brides

What's different you ask? The book takes us to 1938 - 1939 Germany and is told from the sympathetic view of three young German women. One of them, Tilde, is Jewish. She and her mother make a living as seamstresses. Hanna has been sent to live with her aunt and uncle in Berlin. Her aunt is determined that Hanna will marry well. Hanna has other ideas, but her future is already written when an SS officer takes an interest in her. The third woman is Klara and her future looks just like Hanna's. I quite liked all three women and thought they were well drawn. The reader can't help but behind them. And of course there are those on the other side of the equation. Just as well done and you can't help but dislike them!

Now, about the School for German Brides. There actually were Bride Schools that taught the skills needed to be the (supposedly) perfect SS wife. Runyan has also woven historical figures and settings into her novel. 

Runyon does a great job of giving us an inside view of Germany at this time. She makes it personal as we see it through the girls' eyes. Their stories build towards an inevitable meeting of the three. Lives hang in the balance and their bravery, sense of rightness and their own ideals are called upon. There’s love, loss and hope and an ending is satisfying. 

Fashion funnily enough plays a large part in uniting these three women. I really enjoyed the descriptions of fabrics, patterns and the dresses worn. 

WWII fiction fans, this one's recommended for you. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The School for German Brides.   #BooksofHCC   @harpercollinsca

Friday, May 6, 2022

The Night They Vanished - Vanessa Savage

I enjoyed Vanessa Savage's first two books and happily picked up her latest - The Night They Vanished.

"A family with a secret. A past about to catch up with them."

Hanna has had a very rocky relationship with her family over the years and now barely sees her dad, step-mom and younger sister Sasha. But when she sees a picture of their home alongside a horrific headline on a 'dark tourism' website, she tries immediately to get in touch with them....and can't reach them. And so begins a roller coaster of a read. 

Savage plays her clues close to her vest, eking out the details of the reason why Hanna is so unwelcome in her family home and village.  And fair enough, it goes both ways. Her father is very unlikable. That thread runs parallel to what's happening in the present. Has her family been harmed? Where are they?

The supporting players give us a wide group of suspects, with each one with something to hide, to lie about. Who can Hanna trust? I honestly had no idea of who was going to be the culprit until the last few chapters. 

I thought the dark tourism plot device was a unique and frightening idea. Savage's carefully given clues, twists and revelations kept me reading 'just one more' chapter 'til the late hours. Both Sasha and Hanna have voices. As a reader we can see the danger in Sasha's actions and what might unfold. My attention was held through to the final pages. There are a few bits that ask the user to suspend disbelief, but they didn't detract from my enjoyment of the book. Another great read from Savage. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Night They Vanished.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Remarkably Bright Creatures - Shelby Van Pelt

I was intrigued by the premise of Shelby Van Pelt's debut novel - Remarkably Bright Creatures. And I was hooked by the first few chapters.

Tova's son Eric died over thirty years ago and her husband is gone as well. She has coped with her grief by cleaning, both at home and on the night shift at the Sowell Bay Aquarium. She's the only one there at night and often speaks to the creatures who live in the tanks. Including Marcellus, a giant Pacific octopus. No, he's not a talking octopus, but he is a sentient being.

Tova's grief is tangible, evidenced by the way she cleans and tidies, keeping her heartbreak locked away behind the façade she presents to the world. She's a lead character that you simple can't help like and feel for. There's a quirky group of supporting players. Ethan, the local Sowell Bay grocer - and gossip. And Cameron, a young man who jumps from job to job, searching for what is missing from his life. And a few more as well, including Tova's friends, the Knit Wits.

Tova, Cameron and Marcellus are given voices. The listener can see the tendrils of connection between the three lives. But how Van Pelt weaves those threads is an absolute joy to listen to. Van Pelt deftly explores grief, loss, love, family and friendship in this book. Heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. The ending brought me both joy and sadness.

The narrators were Marin Ireland and Michael Urie. Ireland is a longtime favourite of mine. She's quite talented, providing easily identifiable voices for each character. Tova's voice is crisp, clean and unfailingly polite. The Scottish brogue for Ethan was spot on. As well as a believable voice for Cameron that matched his age and personality. And if that wasn't enough - all of the supporting players had different voices as well. Ireland's reading is clear, well enunciated and easy to understand. Her speed of reading is perfect. Michael Urie's interpretation of Marcellus was absolutely perfect - a dry, droll, sarcastic tone, with a rich timbre. He also conveys the sadness of Marcellus with his voice. Both narrators interpret the plot well and bring Van Pelt's story to life. I've said it before - listening to a book draws me deeper into a story. That's definitely the case here. Hear for yourself - listen to an audio excerpt of Remarkably Bright Creatures. Great book, great performances. 

Remarkably Bright Creatures is an amazing first book. It's hands down one of my favorites for 2022. I can't wait to see what Van Pelt writes next!

And just because I was curious, I looked up the great Pacific octopus. They are indeed quite intelligent ' "Like other octopuses, the giant Pacific octopus is extremely intelligent and has been observed opening jars and mimicking other species."

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

The Homewreckers - Mary Kay Andrews

You know that summer is on the way when Mary Kay Andrews releases a new book! MKA's thirtieth book - The Homewreckers - is newly released. You're going to want to add this one to your beach bag!

I'm a fan of MKA's storytelling. Why you ask? Well, there's always a lead character that you'd like in real life. Hattie Kavanaugh is that character. She's a young widow and works with her father-in-law and best friend flipping houses in Savannah, Georgia. She's ambitious, smart and driven. The supporting cast of characters are just as warm and likeable. Most of them that is. There needs to be some antagonists in every tale as well. Oh, and there's a dog. Every good book has a dog. ;)0

When the latest flip loses money, Hattie has to find a way to recoup their losses. She finds a property, but it's still going to be a struggle. Until....a Hollywood producer offers Hattie a chance to star in a 'home show.' I have to admit, I love those shows. It was fun to read what transpires 'behind the cameras'.

There are some strings attached to the offer though - including one in the form of a co-host - an attractive designer. And there's the next bit - a romantic angle - or two. There's always the right one and the wrong one. We just need Hattie to see what we see!

The last few books have included a mystery as well. Someone seems determined to not have Hattie succeed with this latest reno. But who and why? Well, we discover the why, but the who takes us right to the final pages. There are lots of suspects for the answer to the whodunit, and I was kept guessing. 

And let's not forget the setting. The house they're working on is on Tybee Island, Georgia. Mary Kay Andrews herself has ties to the island. Her descriptions make me want to visit, sit on a porch or walk on the beach. Here's a fun fact  - "Mary Kay is an intrepid treasure hunter whose favorite pastime is junking and fixing up old houses."

Now, take these wonderful characters, the fantastic setting and weave in the mystery and romance and what have you got? A book you don't want to put down. And I didn't. Five stars for another engaging, heartwarming, eminently readable, take me away from it all, beach worthy read. See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Homewreckers. And so begins the wait for next year's book!

Monday, May 2, 2022

The Agathas - Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson

My last few reads have been 'heavier', so I was ready for a fun escapist YA read. And The Agathas by Kathleen Glasgow and Liz Lawson was beckoning to me!

From the publisher: "Who killed Brooke Donovan? It’s the biggest mystery of the summer, and everyone in Castle Cove thinks it’s the wrong guy. Fans of One of Us Is Lying and Riverdale can’t miss this page-turning who-done-it that’s sure to be the next must read Young Adult thriller!"

Yup, you caught my attention with that description. But what clinched it for me was the fun premise. WWAC do? What would Agatha Christie do! Yes, our intrepid teenaged sleuths take their inspiration (and lots of tips) from Christie's mystery novels. Each chapter opens with a Christie quote that is perfect for what's going on in the chapter.

What about the cast of characters? Oh, Glasgow and Lawson capture high school life perfectly. Our lead pair of investigators come from very different backgrounds and school social cliques. Alice is wealthy and a member of the 'Mains.' You know - the popular 'it' crew with money to burn and lots of attitude. And for her, school is really just a place to socialize. Iris is from the wrong side of the tracks and is one of the 'Zoners' - the kids that are smart, the nerds, and kinda the bottom of the social strata. This unlikely pair find common (but a bit rocky) ground in their pursuit of a murderer. There's a large cast of supporting players that provide lots of sub plots - and many, many choices for the 'whodunit'. 

My guess for whodunit changed many times as the book progressed. Glasgow and Lawson lead the reader down the garden path many times on the way to the final pages. The mystery is well done. But, the other bits that's also well done are the situations, emotions, stressors, highs and lows of being a teenager. Of that hard bit of finding yourself and what you want. 

I could easily picture the settings of The Agathas. The school, the roller rink, the country club and more.(Maybe more than a little bit of Riverdale in my mind as well) 

The Agathas was the perfect, fun, escapist read. And it looks like the door might be open to another 'Agatha' tale? I'd be happy to visit Castle Cove again. Fingers crossed! See for yourself - read an excerpt of The Agathas.