Cream Puff Murder – Joanne Fluke

•June 5, 2021 • Leave a Comment

cream puff murder

Synopsis 

Bakery owner Hannah Swensen has a dress to fit into and a date with her sister, Andrea, at Lake Eden’s new health club, Heavenly Bodies. Dragging herself out of bed on a frigid Minnesota morning for exercise, of all things, is bad enough. Discovering the body of man-eating bombshell Ronni Ward floating in the gym’s jacuzzi? Okay, that’s worse. Nor does it help that there’s a plate of The Cookie Jar’s very own cream puffs garnishing the murder scene.

Trying to narrow the list of Ronni’s enemies down to fewer than half the town’s female population, Hannah has her plate full. Trouble is, when it comes to cookies–and to murder–there’s always room for one more. . .

My Thoughts 

I was in the mood for a cozy mystery, and Cream Puff Murder did not disappoint. As always I have my issues with this series – but I’ve gone over them ad nauseum, so I shall refrain from doing so again. I’m aware of the issues I have with this series, and I keep them in mind as I read.

One thing that I did enjoy, though, was that Delores, Hannah’s mother, was way less pushy this time around. Whether it was just because she had so few scenes in the book, or she really has lightened up, I’ll never really know. But for now, I’ll take it.

Hannah and her sisters generally also seems to have lightened up. Or maybe I just speed-read through a lot of the inner-judge-y monologue. Either way, I enjoyed this book a fair bit better than I have a few of the previous books.

(I know, I know, I can stop reading at any time if I’m really not enjoying them. But I’m reading them with my mom, and that makes them kinda fun.)

Overall, the mystery aspect of this book was a bit of a mind-bender. Once again (this seems to be a pattern now – I think I’m getting really rusty), I was half right. I was in the right direction, but on the wrong street. Meaning, I had the wrong person, but the right situation.

This book overall was fun and enjoyable, and the twist at the end was a pleasant surprise! A blow to my ego, but I’ll take the hit for the adrenaline rush the twist gave me.

I’ll likely continue with these books, so long as both my mom and I continue to enjoy them. But I am definitely beginning to look into, and acquire, other cozy mystery series. They’re perfect for a summer evening, on the deck, or with the window open, and a chilled glass of rosé.

Death’s Shadow – Jon Wells

•May 28, 2021 • Leave a Comment

death's shadow

Synopsis

Victims and survivors, angels and demons, intersect along winding roads to imperfect justice.

“Bare light bulbs shone against walls painted with graffiti and dried blood, the rooms reeking of a sweet pungent odour like burnt plastic …” So writes award-winning Hamilton Spectator journalist and author Jon Wells in one of four harrowing murder stories in Death’s Shadow.

Wells take readers up close into multiple homicide investigations, the agony of victims and their loved ones, and the chilling dance of death between cold-blooded killers and the hard-boiled investigators hunting them. His research draws upon jailhouse interviews with three of the killers as well as with homicide and forensic detectives, and the stories are augmented by crime-scene photographs and portrait photography of all the players.

Wells writes of victims and survivors, angels and demons, travelling winding roads to imperfect justice in intimate glimpses of horrific crimes.

My Thoughts 

I’ve had this book on my TBR for so long, I flat out forgot what it was about. I was quite pleasantly surprised to discover four Canadian true crime stories, wrapped up in one book.

Each case comes from Hamilton, Ontario, a city I only know from years of listening to quintessential Canadian band Arkells. The book goes through each case with a fine-tooth comb, but often describes places, streets, and areas that require a little extra googling unless you’re intimately familiar with the city.

Each case was fascinating in its own way – and often a little frustrating. I felt frustration for the families and loved ones who couldn’t, or didn’t, find closure. But I also felt frustration for just being expected to know the areas, street names, and local hangouts.

While the cases in this book are interesting, and I’d love to hear more about them in a different context, this book is not at all helpful for non-Hamilton locals.

Hot Mess – Lucy Vine

•May 23, 2021 • Leave a Comment

download

Synopsis

Hot Mess [n.] – someone attractive, who is often in disarray.

Ellie Knight is just like you. Her life isn’t turning out the way she thought it would. Some people might say she’s a hot mess but then who really has their s**t together anyway?

It’s Valentine’s Day and Ellie finds herself eating Nutella in the bar stockroom after a no-show date.
But single doesn’t have to be the loneliest number, does it?
She goes back home to her flatshare and weird flatmates.
It’s ok there’s black mould everywhere, right?
With a hangover from hell, she goes to the office job she thought she would have quit by now.
Doesn’t everyone hate their job?

Maybe Ellie isn’t following the *official life plan* but perfect is overrated. For fans of Fleabag and Girls, this is a fresh and funny coming-of-age story with a single-girl heroine that everyone will relate to – a modern Carrie Bradshaw meets Bridget Jones.

My Thoughts

I absolutely LOVED What Fresh Hell when I read it. So when I saw Hot Mess on sale on my Kobo app, I did not even hesitate for a second to snap that up!

Lucy Vine writes in a way that reminds me of how I think. This makes her protagonists so relatable to me. Especially Ellie. Ellie who is perfectly happy with being single – despite the fact that her life is, well a hot mess.

As a recently single woman myself, the thing I hate the most is hearing “Oh, you’ll find someone again!” I know their hearts are in the right place, but the thing is – I am really enjoying being single right now. And so is Ellie.

And yet, Ellie decides to try things she doesn’t want to do to make those in her life who are ‘concerned’ about her singleness happy. And, predictably, it’s a gigantic disaster. Ellie tries to stand up for herself, she really does, but no one’s listening. And this fills me with rage. There are very few things that infuriate me more than not being heard, and listened to.

Ellie doesn’t remain unheard for long, though. As things come to a head, she makes some tough decisions, and begins getting her life together. But what I love is that she’s doing it in her way, on her terms.

One of the things I’ve loved about Lucy Vine’s books so far is the message that happiness will mean different things to different people. For some, happiness means marriage, a house, and kids. To others, it means being single, dating if and when you want, and pursuing other ventures that bring happiness and fulfillment.

Romance is lovely. But romance isn’t the be all end all for some people. And the fact that these books makes that A-OK is absolutely amazing. This message has made me a huge fan of Lucy Vine, and I cannot wait to continue reading her books!

Rosaline Palmer Takes the Cake – Alexis Hall

•May 17, 2021 • 2 Comments

rosaline palmer takes the cake

Synopsis

Following the recipe is the key to a successful bake. Rosaline Palmer has always lived by those rules—well, except for when she dropped out of college to raise her daughter, Amelie. Now, with a paycheck as useful as greaseproof paper and a house crumbling faster than biscuits in tea, she’s teetering on the edge of financial disaster. But where there’s a whisk there’s a way . . . and Rosaline has just landed a spot on the nation’s most beloved baking show.

Winning the prize money would give her daughter the life she deserves—and Rosaline is determined to stick to the instructions. However, more than collapsing trifles stand between Rosaline and sweet, sweet victory.  Suave, well-educated, and parent-approved Alain Pope knows all the right moves to sweep her off her feet, but it’s shy electrician Harry Dobson who makes Rosaline question her long-held beliefs—about herself, her family, and her desires.

Rosaline fears falling for Harry is a guaranteed recipe for disaster. Yet as the competition—and the ovens—heat up, Rosaline starts to realize the most delicious bakes come from the heart.

My Thoughts 

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I absolutely adored this book from the get go. The banter! The fun! The representation! The slamming of casual biphobia! If I could marry a book, I would marry this one. I swear, this book is my soulmate.

Okay, enough with the melodramatics. Honestly, the banter had me right from the beginning. Even Rosaline’s inner monologue is witty, and funny, and brilliant. Rosaline comes across as this insecure, docile person. Until you piss her off. Then the filter comes off, and you better hope you’re not on the other end of her verbal evisceration. Rosaline is feisty, and she takes no shit. Most of the time.

I immediately took a dislike to her parents – the pressure and expectation, and casual disappointment that Rosaline’s life didn’t turn our the way they’d planned drove me up the wall. I have this problem with a lot of parents in books. And Rosaline’s definitely take the cake. They can also take their snobby, classist bullshit and bugger right off with it.

Also, the fact that his was modeled so closely after That Baking Show I Shall Not Name made me so, so, so happy. I am obsessed with that show. I watch it over and over again on my CBC Gem app. (Not a plug – I just don’t have cable, and that’s the place I found the show available for free.) Reading about Rosaline’s experience as a contestant was so much fun. But serious, Jennifer, the producer, needs a break. Or a vacation. Or therapy. Most likely all of the above. (Seriously. Is Jennifer going to be alright? Concerned minds need to know!)

Rosaline’s friendships were near and dear to my heart in this book. Friendships are often so overlooked in a romance novel, but I really felt like they were more front and centre than the romance was. I loved that.

I also did love how slow the romance was to build. How they established their friendship, and built up that foundation. It made the romance feel solid, and good, and healthy. And overall, it just made me happy.

I absolutely adored this book. And I really, really look forward to reading more of what Alexis Hall has to offer.

Escaping from Houdini – Kerri Maniscalco

•May 16, 2021 • Leave a Comment

escaping from houdini

Synopsis

Audrey Rose Wadsworth and her partner-in-crime-investigation, Thomas Cresswell, are en route to New York to help solve another blood-soaked mystery. Embarking on a week-long voyage across the Atlantic on the opulent RMS Etruria, they’re delighted to discover a traveling troupe of circus performers, fortune tellers, and a certain charismatic young escape artist entertaining the first-class passengers nightly.

But then, privileged young women begin to go missing without explanation, and a series of brutal slayings shocks the entire ship. The disturbing influence of the Moonlight Carnival pervades the decks as the murders grow ever more freakish, with nowhere to escape except the unforgiving sea.

It’s up to Audrey Rose and Thomas to piece together the gruesome investigation as even more passengers die before reaching their destination. But with clues to the next victim pointing to someone she loves, can Audrey Rose unravel the mystery before the killer’s horrifying finale?

My Thoughts 

This one had me stumped, friends. I could not, for the life of me, determine who the killer was until it was spelled out for me. Even my suspicions were way off! Am I getting rusty? Or was I just looking in all the wrong places?

Audrey Rose and Thomas are on their way to New York, and hoping for a relatively calm voyage. Of course, that just can’t happen.

One thing I loved about this book was the Night Circus vibes. The Night Circus is one of my absolute favourite books, and reading this reminded me so much of it, I couldn’t help but love it. Escaping from Houdini is just as mystical and spectacular and ethereal, but with the added bonus of murder! And intrigue! And a love triangle?

I mean. I get it. I do. But I could have done without it. After all the hemming and hawing of the will-they-won’t-they of the last two books, Mephistopheles throwing a wrench in the works, while angst-inducing, just didn’t really appeal to me. But those parts were still enjoyable, just for the banter. I’m a sucker for good banter. (I really don’t think this is news at this point, if you are at all familiar with my reviews.)

But the murder mystery truly got me. I followed along. I gathered the clues. And I still was nowhere near the actual result. The shock of it actually kind of thrilled me. I kind of want to read this book over again, just to see where I went so wrong.

I really liked this book, and I really like this series overall. I’m really, really looking forward to reading the finale!

The Reapers – John Connolly

•May 3, 2021 • Leave a Comment

the reapers

Synopsis

They are the Reapers, the elite among killers. Men so terrifying that their names are mentioned only in whispers. The assassin Louis is one of them. But now Louis and his partner, Angel, are themselves targets – and there is no shortage of suspects.

My Thoughts 

I think this is my favourite book of the series so far! I loved that this book was centered around Louis, and his past. It was truly fascinating to see where Louis came from, and how he came to be as infamous as he is.

It’s quite an interesting, and eye-opening story, but for the sake of remaining spoiler free, I shall refrain from going into too much detail. Suffice it to say that a lot of things clicked into place, and a lot of things began to make sense.

Louis’s past comes back to bite him in a pretty huge way. But with this series, I wouldn’t expect anything less. Not even Angel, how knows Louis almost as well as he knows himself, was prepared for what was to come, and how every little thing was so neatly tied together.

I was riveted to this book. I couldn’t put it down. I just needed to know how this was gonna play out, and what, exactly, was going on. Something seemed very, very fishy from the beginning, and it wasn’t until very near the end that it all pieced itself together. And I didn’t see it coming. (I feel like this is happening a lot lately. Maybe I’m losing my touch.)

Overall, I have really enjoyed this series. It’s eerie, and spooky, and downright bloody. But The Reapers is by far my favourite so far. I hope we get to see so much more of Louis and Angel in the rest of the series. And, honestly, for once it was really nice not to wonder if something was the result of wayward ghosts, or other random paranormal phenomena.

Fallow – Jordan L. Hawk

•April 26, 2021 • Leave a Comment

fallow

Synopsis

When Griffin’s past collides with his present, will it cost the lives of everyone he loves?

Between the threat of a world-ending invasion from the Outside and unwelcome revelations about his own nature, Percival Endicott Whyborne is under a great deal of strain. His husband, Griffin Flaherty, wants to help—but how can he, when Whyborne won’t tell him what’s wrong?

When a man from Griffin’s past murders a sorcerer, the situation grows even more dire. Once a simple farmer from Griffin’s hometown of Fallow, the assassin now bears a terrifying magical corruption, one whose nature even Whyborne can’t explain.

To keep Griffin’s estranged mother safe, they must travel to a dying town in Kansas. But as drought withers the crops of Fallow, a sinister cult sinks its roots deep into the arid soil. And if the cult’s foul harvest isn’t stopped in time, Fallow will be only the first city to fall.

Fallow is the eighth book in the Whyborne & Griffin series, where magic, mystery, and m/m romance collide with Victorian era America.

My Thoughts

Oh, how I missed the absolute chaos that is this series. This time, Griffin’s past comes back to haunt him, and we get to see his roots. It did not go well.

Between Griffin’s less than savoury exit from the town of Fallow, and his awful relationship with his family, it’s safe to say that investigating the strange incidents in his home town gives Griffin a fair bit of anxiety. But he has Whyborne, and their friends with him for support.

And he needs it. The town is in more trouble than they ever imagined, and Griffin is apparently at the heart of it.

Figuring out what was going on with the town was a fair bit more complicated than I anticipated. I was on the right track, sort of, but I completely missed the mark. When it all revealed itself, it rather made sense. But it was also easy to miss while distracted by other factors – which I was.

Whyborne had to come to terms with some serious realities in this book, but it definitely made his relationship to his husband stronger. It seems they’ll definitely need each others’ strength more than ever, as a persistent villain seems to have made themselves known.

I look forward to seeing how this goes, and how Griffin, Whyborne, Christine, and Iskander overcome everything.

The Glass-House Murder – T. Neilson

•April 25, 2021 • Leave a Comment

the glass-house murder

Synopsis

Meet Lord Henry Carlisle: gentleman, wastrel, and mystery-novel lover.

When his mother telephones him on a May evening to tell him they’ve just discovered a body in the glass-house, Hal does what he loves to do: he goes to investigate. As it happens, the local constabulary, headed by an unusually well-spoken, well-educated fellow named Sayers, is already on the case, and Sayers is a bit of a mystery all on his own.

When the constabulary finally identifies the victim in the glass-house, Hal realizes this is not just an academic exercise in logic and justice; it’s a personal and family matter.

My Thoughts 

I LOVED this book. It was quick, fun, to the point, mysterious, and a little sassy and quirky.

I loved Hal, and his deductive reasoning. I also loved his respect and discretion. Hal is a gay man living in a time when such a thing was actually illegal. He knows what it means to keep secrets, and to be careful and cautious. This makes him an ideal amateur sleuth.

This also makes him an interesting POV to view things from. He sees things through a different lens, and finds different answers to different questions. However, I don’t think anyone saw the result of the investigation coming.

At first, I was leaning one way – it felt way too obvious. Then, I started leaning another way – some of the facts and some of the instances just seemed to match up. Every which way I looked at it, the solution made sense. Until it didn’t. Which was a very humbling lesson for me in jumping the gun.

Overall, I absolutely adored this book. It was over too quickly, to be honest. I would love to see more from these characters – especially now that the romance between Hal and Will is heating up!

We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This – Rachel Lynn Solomon

•April 18, 2021 • 1 Comment

we can't keep meeting like this

Synopsis

A wedding harpist disillusioned with love and a hopeless romantic cater-waiter flirt and fight their way through a summer of weddings in this effervescent romantic comedy from the acclaimed author of Today Tonight Tomorrow.

Quinn Berkowitz and Tarek Mansour’s families have been in business together for years: Quinn’s parents are wedding planners, and Tarek’s own a catering company. At the end of last summer, Quinn confessed her crush on him in the form of a rambling email—and then he left for college without a response.

Quinn has been dreading seeing him again almost as much as she dreads another summer playing the harp for her parents’ weddings. When he shows up at the first wedding of the summer, looking cuter than ever after a year apart, they clash immediately. Tarek’s always loved the grand gestures in weddings—the flashier, the better—while Quinn can’t see them as anything but fake. Even as they can’t seem to have one civil conversation, Quinn’s thrown together with Tarek wedding after wedding, from performing a daring cake rescue to filling in for a missing bridesmaid and groomsman.

Quinn can’t deny her feelings for him are still there, especially after she learns the truth about his silence, opens up about her own fears, and begins learning the art of harp-making from an enigmatic teacher.

Maybe love isn’t the enemy after all—and maybe allowing herself to fall is the most honest thing Quinn’s ever done.

My Thoughts 

I received this book from NetGalley for free in exchange for an honest review.

This book is cute, and brutally honest. Quinn is very upfront and honest with her mental health struggles. However, she is not so much upfront with her family. And that, I definitely get.

Quinn’s dealing with varying degrees of anxiety and OCD, and is very honest about what she needs in order to manage her mental health. And that’s refreshing to me. More kids need to know that resources are available to them, and that they can reach out. In this instance, Quinn’s parents are super supportive, and they help Quinn with what she needs. However, there’s a huge hangup.

Quinn’s parents have set her on a path that she doesn’t want, and their own baggage has not made them a safe space for her to speak to them honestly. I can’t stand that shit from parents. It drives me up the wall. While Quinn’s parents are great in other aspects, in this one they’re severely lacking.

With the Berkowitz family, it’s all business, all the time – even during family breakfast. Quinn can’t escape. And she feels guilty about it. She seeks escape, and she definitely finds in in a few unexpected places. Despite her parents having a bit of a one-track mind, they do give her opportunity and freedom to figure things out. Which she does to varying degrees of success.

In the end, Quinn does open up to her parents, and some things do begin to resolve themselves. Which I like, a lot. Conflict resolution, character growth, open, honest, and productive communication are my absolute jam.

And Quinn and Tarek? Absolutely adorable.

We Can’t Keep Meeting Like This is an adorable read, full of honesty, and accurate depictions of young adulthood.

The House Swap – Jo Lovett

•March 28, 2021 • Leave a Comment

the house swap

Synopsis

He needs an escape. She needs an adventure.
So why not swap lives?

When Cassie and James find each other on a home swap website, it feels meant to be. City hotshot James needs a bolthole after a relationship goes sour and Cassie needs to leave the comfort of her little island to research her new book.

Soon, James is living in Cassie’s cute but ramshackle house off the coast of Maine, and Cassie’s living in James’s super smart London penthouse. It’s the perfect solution.

Except it turns out it’s difficult to switch homes without getting involved in each other’s lives. Cassie’s unimpressed when James’s ex turns up, and James is furious when he discovers that he’s going to have to help organise Cassie’s neighbour’s eightieth birthday party.

But as the insults fly, so do the sparks, and when the time finally comes to swap back, Cassie and James find they aren’t ready to give each other up – until a shocking discovery brings the pair crashing back to reality and forces them to decide what life they really want.

An utterly heart-warming love story that will make you laugh and cry, fans of One Day in December, The Hating Game and The Flatshare will fall head over heels for The House Swap.

My Thoughts 

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This was a super cute book. There was a chunk of the plot that didn’t really resonate with me, but I can definitely see it resonating with a lot of people. Despite my lack of interest in that aspect, I still really enjoyed this book.

James and Cassie have amazing banter! It’s teasing, and flirty, and so very fun. I really enjoyed getting to know them, as they got to know each other. And, really, if it isn’t obvious by now, the best way to win me over is for the characters to have really good banter.

At first, James really bugged me. I thought he was just a standard, upstart jackass. But I warmed up to him quickly – or, rather, he thawed out. Not that he really had a choice. Cassie’s friends and neighbours are a force to be reckoned with.

Cassie was a woman after my own heart. I, too, am a writer who enjoys being isolated with animals, coffee, and wine.

This book made me feel warm and fuzzy all over. It was a very well written, beautiful romance with banter, angst, laughs, and a happy ending. I really couldn’t have asked for more.