A Saint in Swindon by Alice Jolly


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When a stranger arrives in town, with a bulging blue bag and a whiff of adventure, the neighborhood takes notice. When he asks for his meals to be sent to his room and peace and quiet for reading, curiosity turns to obsession. Each day he stays there, locked in his room, demanding books: Plath, Kafka, Orwell, Lawrence, Fitzgerald, James, Bronte (the eldest), Dickens, Dumas, Kesey – on and on, the stranger never leaving his room. Who exactly is he? What is he reading? And will it be able to save us from the terrible state of the world?

Written by award-winning author Alice Jolly, and based on an idea by the book lovers of Swindon town, this funny and, ultimately, dystopian tale, reminds us of the importance of literature in an increasingly dark world.

I don’t really know what to say about this odd little book except that it can’t be characterized. Is it dystopian? Is it chick lit? Is it speculative fiction? Is it satire? Is allegorical?

I think it’s ALL of the above and more.

The concept is intriguing. Some guy shows up at a B&B, retreats to his room and reads for days on end. The B&B hostess and her nosy friends feel they must read what the guest reads, so they discover classics like Thomas Hardy and Joseph Conrad. But, they cannot shake the idea that the guest is more than he appears and that his reading is somehow subversive. Eventually, their obsession with him destroys their society.

In the end, I was left thinking if it is possible to disrupt the natural order of things through reading. Throughout history, when a civilization is threatened or conquered, the first thing to go are the books, so yeah, I think it’s reasonable to say that reading can be subversive.  This would be a magnificent selection for book clubs, who could spend hours debating the meaning behind A Saint in Swindon.

Publication Date: April 15, 2020
Published By: Fairlight Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

100 Cookies by Sarah Kieffer


cover190286-medium100 recipes for all types of cookies–chocolatey, fruity, crispy, chewy, classic, inventive—there’s a foolproof recipe for the perfect treat for everyone in this book.

Sarah Kieffer writes The Vanilla Bean Baking Blog and introduces a whole new technique for baking cookies that ensures crisp edges and soft centers for the most delicious cookies.

Recipes range from the Classic Chocolate Chip made three different ways, to bars, brownies, and blondies that reflect a wide range of flavors and global inspiration. 

As an avid cookie baker, I am always on the lookout for new cookie cookbooks. I am not, however, a fan of Instagram or food blogs, so I was unfamiliar with the author. I am very glad that she has made the transition from online to print, because this book is a delight!

Filled with luscious recipes that range from old favorites to brand new flavor combinations and techniques, there is something here for the novice to the experienced baker. Kieffer comes across as chatty, witty, authentic, and just plain fun. She doesn’t take herself super-seriously, which is a flaw in most food bloggers and Instagrammers, and she approaches baking with precision blended with a heady dose of risk-taking.

I always appreciate a book that blends sumptuous recipes with an intelligent introduction and commentary that carries throughout the book. Kieffer’s fondness for Shakespeare is apparent in the generous sprinkling of quotes throughout, making the book fun to read.

I don’t buy many cookbooks in print anymore, but I will be buying this one, along with a couple copies for family & friend bakers.

Publication Date: October 20, 2020 (just in time for holiday baking!)
Published By: Chronicle Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths


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Forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway changed her life—until a convicted killer tells her that four of his victims were never found, drawing her back to the place she left behind.

Everything has changed for Ruth Galloway. She has a new job, home, and partner, and she is no longer North Norfolk police’s resident forensic archaeologist. That is, until convicted murderer Ivor March offers to make DCI Nelson a deal. Nelson was always sure that March killed more women than he was charged with. Now March confirms this and offers to show Nelson where the other bodies are buried—but only if Ruth will do the digging.
Curious, but wary, Ruth agrees. March tells Ruth that he killed four more women and that their bodies are buried near a village bordering the fens, said to be haunted by the Lantern Men, mysterious figures holding lights that lure travelers to their deaths.

Is Ivor March himself a lantern man, luring Ruth back to Norfolk? What is his plan, and why is she so crucial to it? And are the killings really over?

Ruth Galloway is back in a new mystery that picks up a couple years after The Stone Circle. Fans of the series might be disconcerted to find Ruth in Cambridge living with Frank and raising Kate away from Nelson. For all appearances, she has moved on.

That notion is quickly dispelled as Ruth is drawn firmly back into a case with Nelson and rest of the Kings Lynn squad. They have also had some changes, with Clough promoted to lead his own team in Cambridge. There are lots of complicated emotions and motives here, both for Ruth and Nelson and for the intriguing cast of characters wrapped up in the ever-present murder mystery.

I was pleased to find Ruth once again written as a strong, capable, independent woman who is more than one side of a complicated triangle with Nelson and Michelle. I also found 9 year old Kate to be a delight. Griffiths has skillfully balanced the emotional, personal relationships of the story with a cracking good mystery that had me guessing right up to the very end. Griffiths’ books are ones I constantly recommend, and this one is no exception. Recommended.

Publication Date: July 14, 2020
Published By: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Hood by Jenny Elder Moke


cover182367-mediumYou have the blood of kings and rebels within you, love. Let it rise to meet the call. Isabelle of Kirklees has only ever known a quiet life inside the sheltered walls of the convent, where she lives with her mother, Marien. But after she is arrested by royal soldiers for defending innocent villagers, Isabelle becomes the target of the Wolf, King John’s ruthless right hand. Desperate to keep her daughter safe, Marien helps Isabelle escape and sends her on a mission to find the one person who can help: Isabelle’s father, Robin Hood. As Isabelle races to stay out of the Wolf’s clutches and find the father she’s never known, she is thrust into a world of thieves and mercenaries, handsome young outlaws, new enemies with old grudges, and a king who wants her entire family dead. As she joins forces with Robin and his Merry Men in a final battle against the Wolf, will Isabelle find the strength to defy the crown and save the lives of everyone she holds dear?

In Hood, author Jenny Elder Moke reimagines the world of Robin Hood in lush, historical detail and imbues her story with more breathless action than has ever come out of Sherwood Forest before. This novel is a must-read for historical-fiction fans, adventure lovers, and reluctant readers alike!

There has been a spate of creative re-imaginings of old stories, so I was curious to see how Moke reinvented Robin Hood. What I found was not a re-telling or even a re-invention but a freshly drawn sequel answering the question “so what happened to Robin and Marien?”

There is plenty of action here, featuring both men and women, and some gore which pushes this firmly up into end-of-middle-school category. Moke’s writing is crisp and lively, with memorable characters. Isabelle, daughter of Robin & Marien, sometimes is a little silly, but Moke successfully portrays her as the sheltered-girl-finding-her-spine. The climax was unexpected and sad, but Moke brings everything full-circle and sets the stage for what could be a really cool series. Well done.

Ages 12 and up

Publication Date: June 9, 2020
Published By: Disney-Hyperion
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Quintessence by Jess Redman


9780374309763_aa1faIn this heartfelt middle-grade novel perfect for fans of Barbara O’Connor, a girl goes on a quest to return a fallen star to the sky, and along the way discovers friendship, magic, and the strength of her own soul.

Three months ago, twelve-year-old Alma moved to the town of Four Points. Her panic attacks started a week later, and they haven’t stopped—even though she’s told her parents that they have. Every day she feels less and less like herself. But one day she finds a telescope in the town’s junk shop, and through its lens, she watches a star—a star that looks like a child—fall from the sky and into her backyard. Alma knows what it’s like to long for home, and decides she’ll return that star home to the sky. With the help of unlikely new friends, she sets out on a quest that will take a little bit of science, a little bit of magic, and her whole self. Quintessence is a stunning story from Jess Redman about friendship, self-discovery, interconnectedness, and the inexplicable elements that make you you.

Quintessence was the first book I read in 2020 and is one of my top 10 books so far this year. The unique plot revolving around a fallen star unfolds into this lovely story about a young girl struggling with identity, loneliness, and self-worth in a new town.

There are so many good things about this book but perhaps the most touching is the message that we all have a light inside – we just need to figure out how to ignite it. Alma remembers that light and is frustrated with trying to find it again. Anyone struggling with depression will recognize that feeling and identify with Alma as she searches for her inner fire.

This is Jess Redman’s second book. Her first, The Miraculous, also featured a child protagonist struggling with a difficult time. I wrote about that book here. The Miraculous was a lovely, heartbreaking book; Quintessence is absolute joy.

So good for kids to know that they are enough.

Well done!

Publication Date: July 28, 2020
Published By: Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Thanks to Edelweiss for the review copy

Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker


cover175758-mediumThe heartrending story of a mid-century American family with twelve children, six of them diagnosed with schizophrenia, that became science’s great hope in the quest to understand the disease.

Don and Mimi Galvin seemed to be living the American dream. After World War II, Don’s work with the Air Force brought them to Colorado, where their twelve children perfectly spanned the baby boom: the oldest born in 1945, the youngest in 1965. In those years, there was an established script for a family like the Galvins–aspiration, hard work, upward mobility, domestic harmony–and they worked hard to play their parts. But behind the scenes was a different story: psychological breakdown, sudden shocking violence, hidden abuse.

By the mid-1970s, six of the ten Galvin boys, one after another, were diagnosed as schizophrenic. How could all this happen to one family?

What took place inside the house on Hidden Valley Road was so extraordinary that the Galvins became one of the first families to be studied by the National Institute of Mental Health. Their story offers a shadow history of the science of schizophrenia, from the era of institutionalization, lobotomy, and the schizophrenogenic mother to the search for genetic markers for the disease, always amid profound disagreements about the nature of the illness itself.

Unbeknownst to the Galvins, samples of their DNA informed decades of genetic research that continues today, offering paths to treatment, prediction, and even eradication of the disease for future generations.

With clarity and compassion, bestselling and award-winning author Robert Kolker uncovers one family’s unforgettable legacy of suffering, love, and hope.

Hidden Valley Road is one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in a very long time. The story of the Galvin family is heartbreaking and horrifying at the same time. The schizophrenia that afflicted 6 of the 12 Galvin children caused so much suffering and trauma to one family that it is remarkable any of them survived.

Kolker takes the clinical history of the Galvins and weaves it into a cohesive story that spans decades and concludes with a sliver of hope for the next generations of the family. It can be difficult to take a clinical history, especially one involving mental illness, and convert it into a readable, suspenseful story that conveys the humanity of the subjects in a non-exploitative way. Kolker does a fine job of storytelling here, on par with Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter and, more recently, Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

Absolutely one of the best of the year.

Publication Date: April 7, 2020
Published By: Doubleday Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Cold Kill by Rennie Airth


cover181403-mediumAn American actress arrives in London to find herself the target of a ruthless assassin in this compelling standalone thriller.

Actress Adelaide Banks is swapping her native New York for London to spend Christmas with her widowed Aunt Rose. Rose wrote in her note that she was off to Paris for a few days and would be back in time for Addy’s arrival. But when Addy reaches Rose’s Knightsbridge address, no one’s home, and she has two unexpected callers . . .

Where is Rose, and what has she got herself entangled in? Dragged into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse on the snowy streets of London, Addy finds herself navigating a dark underworld of ruthless assassins, rogue agents and international crime. Can she survive long enough to uncover the truth?

I’ve been a fan of Rennie Airth’s John Madden series since River of Darkness debuted in 1999, so was curious to read this new stand-alone novel. I found a feisty female lead and a clever plot made even more captivating by the cast of memorable characters and a surprising ending. What a treat!

Airth steps away from Madden’s post-WWI world and ventures into international intrigue with a modern story that is every bit as good as his earlier work. I often envision stories on the screen, and could easily see John Madden in a BBC mystery series on television. Cold Kill, however, is a full-on, big screen spy thriller on par with the Bond and Mission: Impossible franchises. Will appeal to fans of Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Publication Date: May 5, 2020
Published By: Severn House
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

 

Woman in the Green Dress by Tea Cooper


cover180817-mediumA cursed opal, a gnarled family tree, and a sinister woman in a green dress emerge in the aftermath of World War I.

After a whirlwind romance, London teashop waitress Fleur Richards can’t wait for her new husband, Hugh, to return from the Great War. But when word of his death arrives on Armistice Day, Fleur learns he has left her a sizable family fortune. Refusing to accept the inheritance, she heads to his beloved home country of Australia in search of the relatives who deserve it more.

In spite of her reluctance, she soon finds herself the sole owner of a remote farm and a dilapidated curio shop full of long-forgotten artifacts, remarkable preserved creatures, and a mystery that began more than sixty-five years ago. With the help of Kip, a repatriated soldier dealing with the sobering aftereffects of war, Fleur finds herself unable to resist pulling on the threads of the past. What she finds is a shocking story surrounding an opal and a woman in a green dress. . . a story that, nevertheless, offers hope and healing for the future.

This romantic mystery from award-winning Australian novelist Tea Cooper will keep readers guessing until the astonishing conclusion.

Fans of historical mysteries will enjoy this look at the early days of Australian settlement alternated with Australia at the end of World War I. Written using the familiar convention of alternating chapters in different time periods, the story does require some close attention to keep track of which year you’re in with which characters.

The story revolves around a cursed opal that provides the red thread connecting the mid-19th century story to the WWI era. The two best things here are Fleur and Bert, who will worm their ways into your heart. This is a mystery, historical fiction, and a love story – everything that will appeal to fans of Kate Morton and MJ Rose (albeit without Rose’s supernatural additions). A good summer read. Includes discussion questions for Book Clubs.

Publication Date: June 16, 2020
Published By: Thomas Nelson
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Killer Deadline by Lauren Carr

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“Lauren Carr’s books are never boring, that’s for sure. They entertain,
give us a good mystery to dig into, keep the reader guessing, give us a
few good laughs and make us eager for the next book. Warning: Lauren
Carr’s series are addictive, so be ready to read more than just one
book!” – Laura Fabiani, Library of Clean Reads

Join us for this tour from April 20 to May 22, 2020!Book Details:

Book TitleKiller Deadline (A Nikki Bryant Cozy Mystery) by Lauren Carr

Category:  Adult Fiction (18 +),  232 pages

Genre:  Mystery/Cozy Mystery

Publisher:  Acorn Book Services

Release date:   April 23, 2020

Content Rating: G. This is a true cozy mystery. No sex. No on-stage violence. No swearing. Just good clean fun!


“Here we go! Carr is a master storyteller who always offers a plot full of twists and turns, a bit of humor to offset the dark, and a unique cast of characters. In Killer Deadline that cast includes – handsome Ryan, her first love (who is now her step-brother); a mysterious social media friend called Nerdy Guy; Elmo, a super smart dog, a boxer, she rescued who has become asocial media star and has a penchant for cleaning; a TV station full of suspicious employees; and more.
“This book is a wonderful read to pick up at the end of a long day. It truly is a “cozy murder mystery.”  I promise, it’ll draw you in right from page one and keep you turning the pages until you reach the very last page. I can’t wait for the second book in this  series.” – Marilyn R. Wilson, Olio by Marilyn

Book Description:

Folks in Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, claim that where Nikki Bryant goes, trouble is not far behind. Her refusal to back down from a challenge has made Nikki Bryant a top investigative journalist.

When an online friend nudges her to join him in a pact to reconnect with their first loves, Nikki and her boxer dog Elmo leave the bright lights of Las Vegas for the charming town of Pine Grove. There, she must face the biggest challenges in her career and life—the first love she had left behind and her father’s unsolved murder.

But before she has time to unpack her car, Nikki stumbles upon the dead body of local news anchor, Ashleigh Addison, her childhood rival. Could Ashleigh’s death be connected to an explosive news story that she had teased about airing live? Did that explosive story have anything to do with the murder of Nikki’s father?

With the clues in her father’s cold case hot again, Nikki intends to chase down the story of her life until she catches his killer—no matter what it takes.

Fans of cozy but sassy mysteries will thoroughly enjoy this adventurous romp. Nikki Bryant is an appealing, trendy, and bold character in the vein of Kate Carlisle’s Brooklyn Wainwright.

The plot is suspenseful and inventive, blending an old mystery (the death of Nikki’s father) with a new one (the murder of Nikki’s childhood nemesis) in an engaging way that keeps you turning page after page.

Sometimes I find the protagonists of modern cozy mysteries to be extremely annoying, especially when a female character who has been written as smart and articulate suddenly starts making really stupid decisions. That doesn’t happen here. Nikki Bryant promises to become a favorite sleuth. Check this one out!

 

Order Your Copy Today!

Meet the Author:Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, Chris Matheson Cold Case, and Thorny Rose Mysteries—over twenty-five titles across three fast-paced mystery series filled with twists and turns!

Killer Deadline marks Lauren’s first venture into mystery’s purely cozy sub-genre with a female protagonist.

Book reviewers and readers alike rave about how Lauren Carr’s seamlessly crosses genres to include mystery, suspense, crime fiction, police procedurals, romance, and humor.

A popular speaker, Lauren is also the owner of Acorn Book Service, the umbrella under which falls iRead Book Tours. She lives with her husband and two spoiled rotten German Shepherds on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Connect with the author: Website  ~  Twitter  ~  Facebook  ~  Instagram ~Pinterest


Tour Schedule:

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Murder on Pleasant Avenue by Victoria Thompson


cover178623-mediumWhen Gino Donatelli is accused of a brutal murder, beloved sleuths Sarah and Frank Malloy have to catch a killer who is out to destroy their innocent friend’s life in the latest installment of the national bestselling Gaslight mysteries.

A victim is found, brutally murdered and the police are certain they’ve caught the killer. Their only suspect: Gino Donatelli.
Frank and Sarah know Gino is innocent but the police have a one-track mind. Once Frank struck it rich and left their ranks taking Gino with him, there has been a simmering resentment in the department. And now, someone has pulled out all the stops to make it look like Gino is the only one who could have committed the crime. With the clock ticking and evidence mounting against their friend, Sarah and Frank will try to unravel a treacherous plot before Gino is sent up the river for good.

Fans of Sarah & Frank Malloy will thoroughly enjoy this latest entry in Thompson’s Gaslight series.. This time, our friends use their deductive skills to help out old friend Gino Donatelli when he is accused of a heinous crime. Thompson comes through again with a clever plot, engaging writing, and wonderful descriptions of the relationships cultivated by the Malloys and the denizens of 19th century New York. While this can be read on its own, it is much more enjoyable if you’ve read the previous series entries.

Publication Date: April 28, 2020
Published by: Berkley Publishing Group
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy