Monday, February 10, 2020


My life has been in a bit of an upheaval for the past few months, so I have not written anything.  I have missed blog tour dates and for that I am very sorry.  Sometimes the blanket of life just gets far too heavy, and the smallest of tasks seem insurmountable.  As a child and young adult, I feared change.  Not just feared it - it terrified me to the point of inertia.  I wouldn't make even necessary changes that were vital to my happiness.  Bad boyfriend, bad job, bad living situation?  Better than facing the mountain of doubt and worry ahead of me in order to have something better.  Then there are the constant what-if's...what if it's worse?  What if I regret the decisions and changes I have made?  Conversely, even worse than fear for me is hope.  Hope is terrifying, because it can be squashed.  Opening yourself up to possibilities and hope also means opening yourself up to possible rejection.

After facing so many tumultuous changes that I both could and could not control, I will try my hardest to no longer fear change. Change is what the world is, what keeps us moving.  Seasons change, we all grow up and then grow old, fruit turns to rot, love is lost and broken.  These changes also mean fresh beginnings, and chance for your life to be clean and new, like your notebook on the first day of class.  Instead of fearing change, I will embrace it.  I will dig my toes in the sand whenever I can, I will eat any good food that is handed to me, I will open my heart to new beginnings.

In that vein, my reading material has been slightly different these past few weeks.  I may be feeling a little tender, a little emotionally sunburnt, and a bit weepy. Of course, there's still been my murder books too.

"Creatures" by Crissy Van Meter - ❤❤❤❤❤

After reading a beautiful original essay for Powell's by Crissy Van Meter, I immediately added her debut novel, Creatures, to my library hold list.  I am not even completely finished with this book yet, and I am reviewing it at 5 stars.  This is a testament to what a beautiful, heart-wrenching read this is. It's written in a fresh, absorbing style and touches on family, love, and loss.  The setting is beautiful, and the facts about marine life that are interspersed throughout the book are thought-provoking and relate directly to the story.  I gather from the above-mentioned essay that this book was based, however loosely, on the author's own experiences growing up.  That shines through in the authenticity of the story, the likability of even the broken, flawed characters, and the familiarity with the remote lifestyle of an island dweller.  I can't even think of a book to compare this to, but I absolutely love it.  Read it if you're a person, you'll love it too.

"No Bad Deed" by Heather Chavez - ❤❤❤❤❤

Wow! Two five-star reviews in one entry.  I am pretty stingy with my 5's, so this is a rarity.  As is finding another debut author that absolutely knocked my socks off.  However, Heather Chavez has done just that.  I am sockless.  She wove such an intense, twisty tale that I couldn't put it down.  Very evocative of Lisa Gardner and her ilk, this was a "make you hide in the bathroom for one more chapter" book.  I wanted to lay down and devour it, but work had to be done.  Even so, I flew through it in 2 days (slow for me, but needs must).  I never wanted it to end, but I couldn't wait to find out what was really going on.  I immediately took to Goodreads and posted the following review:

I received an ARC of this title from William Morrow and Netgalley. My thoughts are my own.

HOLY COW. My heart is still pounding so hard after finishing this I wonder if I need to wait to write my review. I might need to calm down a little bit. But no - I need to tell everyone right this instant how explosively amazing this book was. First of all, when Lisa Gardner says to read a book, I read that book. No questions asked. I would be very surprised if all your friends aren't talking about this one soon. Easily one of the best books I have read in a long time, this was one of those that has you sneaking off to read just one more chapter. Heck, just one more paragraph.

A little synopsis...on a dark night, Cassie is driving home and sees a man assaulting a woman. Despite her better judgment, she gets out of the car and intervenes, saving the woman's life but earning a threat from the man that her life is going to fall apart as a result. Shortly after, Cassie's husband Sam disappears, and she wonders if he's having an affair. The reality of the situation is so much deeper and more complex than that, as you'll learn as the story unwinds. There's SO much going on here, and it could have been messy and disjointed in a less skilled writer's hands. Chavez manages to tie every piece together in an engaging, engrossing way that makes it impossible to put down. I was not bored for a second, and this was not a predictable, boilerplate thriller. 5 stars!!!

So, in short, PRE-ORDER THIS BOOK!!! You won't be sorry.  I feel so honored that I was able to read it pre-release, and even more honored that the author herself responded to the bookstagram I posted.

Publication date - February 18, 2020.  Pre-order now at Powell's.

Some galleys I can't wait to read!


"Little Secrets" by Jennifer Hillier - Release date 4/21/2020
From the author of Jar of Hearts, a mother driven to the edge by the disappearance of her son learns her husband is having an affair with the woman who might have kidnapped him.
Four hundred and eighty seconds. That's how long it took for someone to steal Marin Machado's four-year-old son.
Marin had the perfect life. Married to her college sweetheart, she owns a chain of upscale hair salons, and Derek runs his own company. They're admired in their community and are a loving family. Up until the day Sebastian is taken.
A year later, Marin is a shadow of herself. The FBI search has gone cold. The publicity has faded. She and her husband rarely speak. The only thing keeping her going is the unlikely chance that one day Sebastian reappears. She hires a P.I. to pick up where the police left off, but instead of finding him, she discovers that Derek is having an affair with a younger woman.
Kenzie Li is an artist and grad student--Instagram famous--and up to her eyeballs in debt. She knows Derek is married. She also knows he's rich, and dating him comes with perks: help with bills, trips away, expensive gifts. He isn't her first rich boyfriend, but she finds herself hoping he'll be the last. She's falling for him--and that was never part of the plan.
Discovery of the affair sparks Marin back to life. She's lost her son; she's not about to lose her husband, too. Kenzie is an enemy with a face, which means this is a problem Marin can fix. But as she sets a plan in motion, another revelation surfaces. Derek's lover might know what happened to their son. And so might Derek.
"Remain Silent" by Susie Steiner (DS Manon Bradshaw #3) - Release date 6/2/2020

An immigrant’s mysterious death sets off a chilling hunt for the truth in this gripping crime novel from the author of Missing, Presumed, featuring a “delightful protagonist who deserves a place alongside other beloved literary detectives” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review).

Newly married and navigating life with a preschooler as well as her adopted adolescent son, Manon Bradshaw is happy to be working part-time in the cold cases department of the Cambridgeshire police force, a job that allows her to potter in, coffee in hand, and log on for a spot of Internet shopping—precisely what she had in mind when she thought of work-life balance. But beneath the surface Manon is struggling with the day-to-day realities of what she’d assumed would be domestic bliss: fights about whose turn it is to clean the kitchen, the bewildering fatigue of having a young child while in her forties, and the fact that she is going to couples counseling alone because her husband feels it would just be her complaining.

But when Manon is on a walk with her four-year-old son in a peaceful suburban neighborhood and discovers the body of a Lithuanian immigrant hanging from a tree with a mysterious note attached, she knows her life is about to change. Suddenly, she is back on the job full-force, trying to solve the suicide—or is it a murder—in what may be the most dangerous and demanding case of her life.

"Pretty Things: A Novel" by Janelle Brown - Release date 4/21/2020

Two wildly different women--one a grifter, the other an heiress--are brought together by the scam of a lifetime in a page-turner from the New York Times bestselling author of Watch Me Disappear.

"Pretty Things is awesome. Simple as that. I loved every page. Janelle Brown is your new must-read author."--Harlan Coben, New York Times bestselling author of Run Away

Nina once bought into the idea that her fancy liberal arts degree would lead to a fulfilling career. When that dream crashed, she turned to stealing from rich kids in L.A. alongside her wily Irish boyfriend, Lachlan. Nina learned from the best: Her mother was the original con artist, hustling to give her daughter a decent childhood despite their wayward life. But when her mom gets sick, Nina puts everything on the line to help her, even if it means running her most audacious, dangerous scam yet.
Vanessa is a privileged young heiress who wanted to make her mark in the world. Instead she becomes an Instagram influencer--traveling the globe, receiving free clothes and products, and posing for pictures in exotic locales. But behind the covetable facade is a life marked by tragedy. After a broken engagement, Vanessa retreats to her family's sprawling mountain estate, Stonehaven: a mansion of dark secrets not just from Vanessa's past, but from that of a lost and troubled girl named Nina.
Nina's, Vanessa's, and Lachlan's paths collide here, on the cold shores of Lake Tahoe, where their intertwined lives give way to a winter of aspiration and desire, duplicity and revenge.
This dazzling, twisty, mesmerizing novel showcases acclaimed author Janelle Brown at her best, as two brilliant, damaged women try to survive the greatest game of deceit and destruction they will ever play.
"Something She's Not Telling Us" by Darcey Bell - Release date 4/7/2020

From the New York Times bestselling author of A Simple Favor comes an electrifying domestic thriller of how one woman’s life is turned upside down when her brother brings his new girlfriend to visit—and no one is telling the truth about who they really are.
She’s on the verge of having it all…
But one woman stands in her way.
Charlotte has everything in life that she ever could have hoped for: a doting, artistic husband, a small-but-thriving flower shop, and her sweet, smart five-year-old daughter, Daisy. Her relationship with her mother might be strained, but the distance between them helps. And her younger brother Rocco may have horrible taste in women, but when he introduces his new girlfriend to Charlotte and her family, they are cautiously optimistic that she could be The One. Daisy seems to love Ruth, and she can’t be any worse than the klepto Rocco brought home the last time. At least, that’s what Charlotte keeps telling herself. But as Rocco and Ruth’s relationship becomes more serious, Ruth’s apparent obsession with Daisy grows more obvious. Then Daisy is kidnapped, and Charlotte is convinced there’s only one person who could have taken her.
Ruth has never had much, but now she’s finally on the verge of having everything she’s ever dreamed of. A stable job at a start-up company, a rakish, handsome boyfriend with whom she falls more in love with every day—and a chance at the happy family she’s always wanted, adorable niece included. The only obstacle standing in her way is her boyfriend’s sister Charlotte, whose attitude swerves between politely cold and outright hostile. Rebuffing Ruth’s every attempt to build a friendship with her and Daisy, Charlotte watches over her daughter with a desperate protectiveness that sends chills down Ruth’s spine. Ruth knows that Charlotte has a deeply-buried secret, the only question is: what? A surprise outing with Daisy could be the key to finding out, and Ruth knows she must take the chance while she has it—for everyone’s sake.
As the two women follow each other down a chilling rabbit hole, unearthing winding paths of deceit, lies, and trauma, a family and a future will be completely—and irrevocably—shattered.
From its very first page, Something She’s Not Telling Us takes hold of readers’ imagination in a harrowing, unforgettable thriller that dives deep into the domestic psyche and asks the question:
Is anyone ever really who they say they are…?
🖤 Until next time - Lesley xo

Thursday, September 12, 2019


"Overdrawn: Hard Hitting Portrait of an Ableist Dystopia" by Nj Crosskey - ❤❤❤❤ 

I was very happy to be included in Legend Press's Blog Tour for this book!  As someone who is distraught about the seeming future of healthcare in our country, this dystopian novel really hit home.  Not only was the writing style beautiful and easy to read, it really made me think.  What would happen if our society decided that only the young and able-bodied deserved to live, or have medical care?  We do already feel like we are heading towards care being stretched too thin and being unattainable for most.

As an emotional person who cries easily anyway, this book really touched my heart.  Needless to say, I cried a lot.  There is something about when a story is woven together to bring unlikely people together - gets to me every time.  Very heartwarming despite the sad subject matter, this book was a bittersweet delight to read.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

The good, the bad, and the unreadable

Let me preface this entry by saying that I HATE writing negative reviews.  I know what it must take to put your writing out there to be critiqued (I have never had the courage to do so), and I would like to be able to say at least one positive thing about a book.  However, sometimes that is just not feasible.  Such was the case with a library book I checked out this week.

"The Cabin at the End of the World" by Paul Tremblay - ❤❤

This book has incredibly high ratings, and often makes appearances on book lists across the web.  Since I love horror, I decided to check it out.  My local library had it, so that made the choice even easier.

I really did not like it.  At all.  It was a struggle to keep reading, and I found it to be sort of half-baked and ludicrous.  The plot is that a bunch of strangers take a couple and their child hostage within their cabin, claiming that if they don't choose someone within their party as a sacrifice, the world will end.  Pretty unbelievable, if you ask me.  At times, it felt like it was trying really hard to be a horror movie script (definitely reminded me of The Strangers).  At other times, I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop and for there to be some incredible twist that would justify the time and energy spent during the rest of the story.  I don't want to spoil anything for you if you haven't read the book, but that never happens.  The ending (if you could even call it that) was intensely dissatisfying.  

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Sun...or shade?

I am so honored to be part of the blog tour for Jason Allen's debut novel, The East End!  Thank you, Park Row Books, for the ARC!  

Right off the bat, I noticed that Jason Allen has an easy, relaxed writing style that I quite enjoy.  The story begins in the Hamptons, right before the tourist season begins.  Before any of the rich vacationers come to roost along the beach, townie boy Corey Halpern decides to snoop around and possibly rob a mansion that his mother cleans for a living.  What could go wrong, right?

Unbeknownst to Corey, this family has SECRETS.  Big ones.  Damaging ones.  In a classic "wrong place, wrong time" turn of events, he ends up witnessing something he shouldn't while sneaking around the house.  And he isn't alone - the owners' daughter Tiffany and her best friend Angelique had also snuck up there for the evening, unbeknownst to everyone.

When Corey and Angelique both bear witness to what may have been a murder, it turns everyone's world upside down and sets off a chain of events that weaves everyone together in such an interesting way.  It also forces the reader to answer questions about themself - what would you do if you saw a crime being committed?  What would you do if you accidentally found yourself at the center of an impossible situation?  What if you just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time?  It could change everything for you and the ones you love in a second.

During the last 25% of the book, my heart was pounding and I couldn't put it down.  The suspense is constructed perfectly, and the pace is great.  I couldn't wait to find out what happened next!  The ending wrapped up in a perfect, stunning conclusion - the culmination of everyone's stories and misunderstandings colliding with each other.  Great read, and I am looking forward to more books by Jason Allen!
Buy the book here.

Intrigued?  The publisher has included an excerpt just for you!  

After sunset, Corey Halpern sat parked at a dead end in Southampton with his headlights off and the dome light on, killing time before the break-in. As far as he knew, about a quarter mile up the beach the owners of the summerhouse he’d been casing for the past two weeks were busy playing host, buzzed from cocktails and jabbering beside the pool on their oceanfront deck, oblivious that a townie kid was about to invite himself into their mansion while they and their guests partied into the night.
Smoke trailed up from the joint pinched between Corey’s thumb and forefinger as he leaned forward and picked up a wrinkled sheet of paper from the truck floor. He smoothed out his final high school essay, squinting through the smoke-filled haze to read his opening lines:
In the Hamptons, we’re invaded every summer. The mansions belong to the invaders, and aren’t actual homes—not as far as the locals are concerned. For one thing, they’re empty most of the year.
The dome light flicked off and he exhaled in semidarkness, thinking about what he’d written. If he didn’t leave this place soon, he might never get out. Now that he’d graduated he could make his escape by taking a stab at college in the fall, but that would mean leaving his mother and brother behind, which for many reasons felt impossible, too abstract, the world outside this cluster of towns on the East End so unimaginably far away….

If only he could write as he saw things, maybe this place wouldn’t be so bad, though each time he’d put pen to paper and tried to describe these solo hours at the ocean, or anything else, the words remained trapped behind locked doors deep inside his head. Sitting on his heels, he reached up and pressed the faint bruise below his right eye, recalling the fight last weekend with that kid from North Sea and how each of them had been so quick to throw punches…
A few miles later, with Iggy Pop and The Stooges blaring from his door panel, it made perfect sense to take the night to a whole new level and rob his mother’s bosses before they came out from the city; before Gina came home crying after one of the longer, more grueling workdays; before he joined her for the summer as the Sheffields’ servant boy. Iggy reinforced the necessity of the much higher risk mission—the need to do it now—as he belted out one of his early-seventies punk anthems, the lyrics to “Search and Destroy” entering Corey’s brain and seeping much deeper inside his chest as a truth he’d never been able to articulate for himself. His fingers tapped steadily on the wheel when he turned off Main.
He drove slowly for another block or two, his pulse beating in his neck as he turned left at the pyramid of cannonballs and the antique cannon on the edge of town. A couple blocks later, he downshifted around the bend, rolled to a stop and parked beside a wooded section of Gin Lane. From there he didn’t hesitate at all. He hustled along the grass bordering the roadside, past hedgerows and closed gates and dark driveways, until the Sheffields’ driveway came into view. A life-size pair of stone lions sat atop wide stone bases and bookended the entrance, two males with full manes and the house number chiseled onto their chests. Corey knew the lions held a double meaning. His mom’s boss put these statues out here partly because they looked imposing, the type of decorations kings used to choose, but also because they stood as symbols of August birthdays, the same astrological sign as Mr. Sheffield’s first name—Leo.
He stood still for a moment, looking between the bars of the tall iron gates crowned with spikes. Beginning tomorrow morning, and then all throughout Memorial Day weekend— just as he had the past few summers—he’d spend long days working there. Gina would be so pissed if she could see him now. She’d at least threaten to disown him if she ever found out he’d broken in, but that would be a hollow threat anyway, and he’d already convinced himself that she’d never know. The Sheffields should have paid her more to begin with, even if she didn’t have a deadbeat husband like Ray pissing her meager savings away on his court fees and gambling debts. But the memory that sealed Corey’s decision tonight had been replaying in his mind for almost a year—the dinner party last summer, when Sheila Sheffield yelled at his mom right in front of him and about ten guests, berating her for accidentally dropping a crystal chalice that she said cost more than Gina’s yearly salary. While Leo and the grown Sheffield kids looked on dumbly and didn’t bother to make a peep, Corey had followed Gina into the kitchen and stood a few feet away from her, unable to think of what to say to console her while she cried. Ever since then, he’d wanted to get back at them all.
Fuck these people, he thought.
He would rob them, and smash some windows on his way out so they wouldn’t suspect anyone who worked there. All he had to do was make sure not to leave any evidence behind, definitely no fingerprints, and he’d take the extra precaution of scaling the gates rather than punching in the code.
He wriggled his fingers into his gloves. Crickets chirped away in the shadows, his only witnesses as he looked over each shoulder and back through the bars. He let out a long breath. Then he gripped the wrought iron and started to climb.
Moonlight splintered between the old oak branches and cut across his body like blades. It took only a few seconds to grapple up the bars, though a bit longer to ease over the spear-like tips while he tried to shut out a nightmare image of one of them skewering his crotch. Relieved when his legs reached the other side unharmed, he shimmied down the bars like a monkey and dropped, suddenly hidden from the outside world by the thick hedge wall. Poised on one knee, he turned to his left and scanned the distant mansion’s dark windows, the eaves and gables. The perfectly manicured lawn stretched for acres in all directions, a few giant oaks with thick limbs and gnarled trunks the only natural features between the faraway pines along the property line and a constellation of sculptures. A scattered squad of bronze chess pieces stood as tall as real-life soldiers, with two much larger pieces towering behind them—a three-ton slab of quartz sitting atop a steel column and a bright yellow Keith Haring dog in mid stomp on its hind legs, each the size of an upended school bus or the wing of a 747, all the sculptures throwing sharp shadows across the lawn when Corey rose to his feet, leapt forward and ran toward the Sheffields’ sprawling vacation home.
His sneakers crunched along the pebble driveway, his steps way too loud against the quiet until he made it across the deeper bed of beach stones in the wide parking area and passed through an ivy-covered archway, still at top speed while he followed the curved path of slate down a gentle slope, and then pulled up at the corner of the porch. Breathing heavily, he grappled up the post and high-stepped onto the railing, wiping sweat from his forehead when he turned to face Agawam Lake. The moon’s light came ladling down onto the water like milk and trailed into the darkness of the far shore, while in the reeds beside the nearest willow tree a pair of swans sat still as porcelain, sleeping with their bills tucked at their breasts.
No one will know, he thought. The crickets kept making a soft racket in the shadows. The swans seemed like another good omen. But then a light went on inside one of the mansions directly across the water, and Corey pulled his body up from the railing, thinking he should get inside before someone saw him. He quickly scaled the corner porch beam and trellis while trying to avoid the roses’ thorns, even as they snagged his sleeves and pant legs. Then, like a practiced rock climber, in one fluid motion he hoisted himself from the second-story roof up to the third-floor gable. He crouched there, looking, listening. The house across the water with the light on was too far away to know for sure, but he didn’t see any obvious signs of anyone watching from the picture windows. Probably just some insomniac millionaire sipping whiskey and checking the numbers of a stock exchange on the other side of the world.
Confident that he should press on, Corey half stood from his crouch and took the putty knife from his back pocket to pry open the third-story bathroom window, the one he’d left unlatched the previous day when he’d come there with his mother. The old window sash fought him with a friction of wood on wood, but after straining for a few seconds he managed to shove the bottom section flush with the top, and was struck immediately by the smells of Gina’s recent cleaning— ammonia, lemon and jasmine, the chemical blend of a freshly scoured hospital room. Balanced at the angle of the roof, he stared down at the neighboring properties once more. Still no sounds, no lights, no signs that anyone had called the cops, so he turned and stretched his arms through the window and shimmied down until he felt the toilet lid with both gloved hands and his sneakers left the shingles, all his weight sliding against the sill as he wriggled in.
Although he hadn’t been sure whether he’d ever go through with it, he’d plotted this burglary for weeks, the original iteration coming to him during Labor Day weekend last year. The first step had been to ask Gina if he could clean the Sheffield house with her for a few extra bucks before the summer season began. She’d raised an eyebrow but agreed, approving at least of her teenager’s out-of-character desire to work, and throughout the past week, whenever she’d left him to dust and vacuum the third floor, he’d had his chance to run recon and plan the point of entry. He knew she wouldn’t bother to check the latch on a closed window three stories off the ground, not after she’d scrubbed and ironed and Pledged all day. And more important, by then he knew those upper-floor windows had no seal-break sensors. He knew this because a few days earlier he’d left this very same window open before Gina armed the alarm, and afterward nothing happened—no blaring sounds before they pulled away, no call or drive-by from a security officer. So tonight, again, the security company wouldn’t see any flashing red lights on their computer screens. Not yet anyway, not until he smashed a window downstairs and staged a sloppy burglary scene on his way out.
Despite knowing that nobody would be out till Friday, his footsteps were all toe as he crept from the dark bathroom and into the hazy bluish hall, and yet, even with all this effort to tread lightly, the old floorboards still strained and creaked each time his sneakers pressed down. Trailing away from him, a black-and-white series of Ansel Adams photos hung in perfect rows, one on either side of the hall, hundreds of birch trees encased in glass coverings that Corey had just recently Windexed and wiped. Every table surface and light fixture and the entire length of the floor gleamed, immaculate, too clean to imagine the Sheffields had ever even set foot in here, let alone lived here for part of the year. He’d always felt the house had a certain coldness to it, and thought so again now, even though it had to be damn near eighty degrees inside with all the windows closed.
After slowly stepping down one set of stairs, Corey skulked along the second-floor hall, past the doorway to Mr. and Mrs. Sheffields’ master bedroom and then past Andy’s and Clay’s rooms, deciding to browse Tiffany’s bedroom first, his favorite room in the house. The Sheffields’ only daughter had a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf full of hardcover novels, stage plays and poetry collections, a Super 8 projector, stacked film reels and three antique cameras. He’d spent as much time as possible in this room during his previous workdays, mainly staring at the paintings mounted on three of the walls, and now lingered once more looking at each textured image, surprised all over again that a rich girl had painted these shades of pain, these somber expressions on the faces of dirty figures in shabby clothes, compositions of suffering he’d have expected from a city artist teetering between a rat-hole apartment and a cardboard box in an alley. They all had something, that’s for sure, but one portrait had always spoken to him much more than any of the others. He stood before it and freed it from its hook.
At the window he noticed the light had gone off at the mansion across the lake and figured the insomniac must have drunk enough for sleep. Although he knew he shouldn’t, he flicked on Tiffany’s bedside table light to get a better look at the girl in the painting, her brown eyes, full lips, caramel skin, her black hair flowing down to divots between her collarbone and chest. He knew Tiffany had painted it, but also that it wasn’t a self-portrait. She looked nothing like the girl she’d painted. Anorexically skinny, Tiffany had dyed-blond hair and usually wore too much makeup. In one photo with her parents and two older brothers, while the rest of the family had dressed in country club attire, she had on a tank top and frayed jean shorts, dark sunglasses, the only one of them with any tattoos, the only one barefoot on the grass.
Corey searched her shelves until he found the photo of Tiffany’s best friend, the girl from the painting, Angelique. He’d seen her at the estate plenty during the previous summers, and last Labor Day weekend they’d talked many times, their conversations lasting longer and seeming to have more depth until finally he summoned the courage to ask her out. Her long pause had made him wish he could disappear, and then those four awful words, I have a boyfriend, had knocked the wind out of him just before he nodded with his eyes to the ground and walked away. Reliving the disappointment, he killed the lamplight and lay on the bed with her photo on his chest, and then, stupidly, closed his eyes…

Excerpted from The East End by Jason Allen, Copyright © 2019 by Jason Allen. Published by Park Row Books.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Snow days

Since the fires in my town last summer didn't seem to be enough, we got a freak snowstorm that knocked my power out for a week, crushed the hood of my car and some of my roof, and blocked me into my driveway with huge fallen trees.  It was very cold, but the handy LED camping lanterns I ordered off Amazon (plus utilization of natural light during the day) allowed me to get caught up on some reading.  The dreary mood put me in the mind of someone long ago, perhaps before modern conveniences were readily available.  My book choices were guided by that, and I had the pleasure of reading two books that were similar in tone and mood, and I loved them both.

"The Golden Tresses of the Dead" (Flavia de Luce #10) by Alan Bradley - ❤❤❤❤❤

Flavia de Luce is one of my favorite fictional characters, and I am so grateful to Random House - Ballantine and Delacorte Press for giving me an ARC.  I was delighted to return to Bishop's Lacey for Ophelia's wedding.  However, there is a damper put on the celebration when a severed finger is found inside the wedding cake during cutting.  This sends 12 year old Flavia and her investigative partner, Dogger, on a hunt for who the finger belonged to and why it had landed in the cake.  Was it a threat?  A clue?  This was a very fun read, as are all Flavia de Luce books.  As usual, the mystery unravels in a satisfying way, and I consider this series to be a real standout in the cozy mystery genre.  They read great as standalones, so don't worry if you haven't read the nine books preceding this.

"The Vanishing Man" - A Prequel to the Charles Lenox Series (Charles Lenox Mysteries #12) by Charles Finch - ❤❤❤❤

Oof, I meant to write this review ages ago.  However, things got a little nutty with the storm, and I found this in my drafts folder.  I loved this book so much it would be remiss of me to not publish this, even if it's a bit archival!  Especially since the publisher was nice enough to send me a paper ARC.  I love Victorian mysteries, and the mood fit the storm, so I dove right in!  I finished it within 2 days, and would have done so sooner, but I could only read by natural light when my power was out, so it cut my viable hours shorter than I would have liked.

This was my first read in the Charles Lenox series, but as it's a prequel I find that almost appropriate.  Now when I start the series from Book 1, I will have a better idea of the characters and what shaped them.  Charles has a lovely way with words, and you can almost see and smell your surroundings when you're reading this book.  I was walking the cobblestone streets of London at night, I was sleuthing right along with Lenox, and I was laughing at Lancelot's antics.  

I absolutely loved the mood of this book, and the mystery it contained.  I hope I am not remiss in saying this, as I would never want to offend either author, but it was very reminiscent of Alan Bradley's books to me (which is why I reviewed them in the same post).  I could see Flavia de Luce teaming up effortlessly with Charles Lenox, even if they are from different time periods.  It was quaint in the very best way.  I will be hungrily reading the rest of the series now, as if I don't have a towering TBR pile!

Monday, March 11, 2019

Summertime already?

"Last Summer" by Kerry Lonsdale - ❤❤❤❤

YOU GUYS.  One of my favorite authors, Kerry Lonsdale, was nice enough to let me have an ARC of her upcoming release, “Last Summer”.  I cannot even tell you how excited this made me, as I have read (and loved) all of Kerry’s other books.  If you haven’t read them, please go do so immediately.  I’ll wait.  And since we are still in the full swing of winter doldrums, this steamy beach read is a welcome distraction from the temperatures.  The fact that a personalized, signed postcard was included really added to my excitement.  Kerry is so nice, and that makes me like her books even more.  

Last Summer is a hard book to categorize.  There’s a mystery element, a romance component, and a whole lot of fun.  The story begins with Ella waking up in a hospital with no memory of how she got there, and her husband Damien refuses to tell her anything about the car accident that put her there or the events in their life leading up to it.  Since Ella writes for a prominent magazine, she’s assigned an exclusive to cover a reclusive adventurer who previously had his own wilderness reality shows and is something of a celebrity.  According to her boss, she had started the story the previous summer, but it was pulled at the last minute.  Ella has no memory of this, nor any notes or transcripts from that time. 

Hoping Nathan (the burly outdoors guy) will help her regain some of her memories, she accepts the story and tries to delve deeper with him.  Since he was unaware of her memory loss, they have to start at square one.  Nathan has recently lost his wife and young son, one to estrangement and one to death.  He is struggling with his own issues, but it quickly becomes clear to Ella that something happened between them the summer before.  She follows him to Alaska for answers, for her article, and for closure.  However, a lot of what seems to be one way is actually the other.  Kerry played a lot with perception in this one, and I really liked that.  

The fun thing about this book is it has multiple twists.  Just when you think you have things figured out, you’re thrown for another loop and you’re left grasping for real answers.  Who is telling the truth?  Who is covering up the past for their own benefit?  Who does Ella really love?  How did she find herself in this situation?

Pre-order the book now, and on July 9 you will find out for yourself! The book will also be free to read on Kindle Unlimited, but believe me when I tell you that Kerry's books are worth paying for and owning.

Also, be prepared for the very last sentence to leave you stunned, a little shaken, and incredibly curious as to whether this will remain a standalone novel.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Deep waters

Into the River by Mark Brandi - ❤❤❤

I have read a lot of buzz about Mark Brandi’s debut novel, Wimmera, but have not had the chance to read it yet.  However, being a fan of Australian crime and drama writers such as Liane Moriarty and Jane Harper, I was excited when Legend Press offered me the chance to read Mark Brandi’s upcoming crime fiction, Into the River. I don’t often read synopses of books, and therefore did not read this one before diving in.  After I was finished, I went back online and found some, because I was so shaken by the subject matter and found it wasn’t really touched upon. 

Ben and Fab are just typical young boys, fishing and pilfering beers and talking about girls.  Something as simple and everyday as a silky stocking can arouse Ben to the point of public embarrassment, so it’s immediately clear that this story is as much about coming to age as it is about the mystery.  The book opens on one of the neighborhood girls hanging herself from her family’s clothesline, so I was instantly drawn into that mystery.  The family soon moved away, and a new tenant named Ronnie took their place.  As soon as Ronnie appeared on the scene, my skin was tingling with a sick warning sensation.  The way Brandi writes is so languorous and immersive that it drew me in immediately (even though I have to admit that, as an American, I had to look up quite a few slang terms and words I hadn’t encountered before).  The story builds slowly, but pleasurably slow, taking us on a journey of friendship and boyhood into the future, when they’re grown and a body is found in the river and the real mystery begins. 

The writing was so much more focused on the characters than the mystery itself, and I enjoyed how Brandi took seemingly minute details about a person and spun them into a complete picture, almost so you felt as if you knew the characters yourself.  At times, I was so scared I felt my heart pounding.  He masterfully built the uneasy feeling and fear of what might be happening, or about to happen, to the point where I was at the edge of my seat as a reader. 

It’s hard to say you “enjoy” a book about tough subject matters, but I did thoroughly enjoy the writing style.  And, as with T. Greenwood’s Rust & Stardust, the feelings it evoked were well worth the discomfort.  Maybe the discomfort even adds to the all-consuming experience of getting lost in a book.

Thank you again, Legend Press and Mark Brandi, for allowing me to read #IntoTheRiver before release.  Please visit the other great bloggers who participated in this blog tour!


My life has been in a bit of an upheaval for the past few months, so I have not written anything.  I have missed blog tour dates and for th...