Historical, Magical Realism, Mystery, Women

Weyward by Emilia Hart


“A brave and original debut, Weyward is a spellbinding story about what may transpire when the natural world collides with a legacy of witchcraft.” ––Sarah Penner, New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Apothecary

I am a Weyward, and wild inside.

2019: Under cover of darkness, Kate flees London for ramshackle Weyward Cottage, inherited from a great aunt she barely remembers. With its tumbling ivy and overgrown garden, the cottage is worlds away from the abusive partner who tormented Kate. But she begins to suspect that her great aunt had a secret. One that lurks in the bones of the cottage, hidden ever since the witch-hunts of the 17th century.

1619: Altha is awaiting trial for the murder of a local farmer who was stampeded to death by his herd. As a girl, Altha’s mother taught her their magic, a kind not rooted in spell casting but in a deep knowledge of the natural world. But unusual women have always been deemed dangerous, and as the evidence for witchcraft is set out against Altha, she knows it will take all of her powers to maintain her freedom.

1942: As World War II rages, Violet is trapped in her family’s grand, crumbling estate. Straitjacketed by societal convention, she longs for the robust education her brother receives––and for her mother, long deceased, who was rumored to have gone mad before her death. The only traces Violet has of her are a locket bearing the initial W and the word weyward scratched into the baseboard of her bedroom.

Weaving together the stories of three extraordinary women across five centuries, Emilia Hart’s Weyward is an enthralling novel of female resilience and the transformative power of the natural world.

My Thoughts

Reminsicent of Louisa Morgan and M.J. Rose’s work, Weyward is a wrenching story of three special women bound together by blood and unique ability over centuries. It’s a familiar story about how women with “magical” abilities (read that as healing abilities or exceptional intelligence) were feared and often attacked and murdered, or committed to asylums, then descendants become victims of abuse in the present time.

The three women here – Altha, Violet, and Kate – share a bond with nature unlike other people. Their individual stories are very different but also entwined with the same bigotry and fear that spans centuries. Well-written with relatively short chapters that alternate from woman to woman, Weyward is a quick, captivating read full of magical realism that reveals the indignity and dangers faced by unusual women from the 1600s to the present day.

Publication Date: March 7, 2023
Published By: St. Martin’s Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Detective, Golden Age Mystery, Mystery

Jumping Jenny by Anthony Berkeley


Tightly paced and cleverly defying the conventions of the classic detective story, this 1933 novel remains a milestone of the inverted mystery subgenre. This edition includes an introduction by CWA Diamond Dagger and Edgar ® Award-winning author Martin Edwards.

At a costume party with the dubious theme of “famous murderers and their victims,” the know-it-all amateur criminologist Roger Sheringham is settled in for an evening of beer, small talk, and analyzing his companions. One guest in particular has caught his attention for her theatrics, and his theory that she might have several enemies among the partygoers proves true when she is found hanging from the “decorative” gallows on the roof terrace.

Noticing a key detail that could implicate a friend in the crime, Sheringham decides to meddle with the scene and unwittingly casts himself into jeopardy as the uncommonly thorough police investigation circles closer and closer to the truth.

My Thoughts

I find reading these republished Golden Age mysteries a bit of a crapshoot. Some are terrific, others just okay, and still others are awful. Jumping Jenny falls between terrific and okay.

The story is inflated with too many characters, many having the same or similar names, which requires the reader to really pay attention. The language is a bit too “I say, old boy” for me and the book is mostly dialogue versus description, which can be hard to follow, especially when there are similar character names.

Depsite that, the surprising twist at the end makes the time spent in reading this worthwhile.

This will appeal to mystery readers who like their stories complicated and chatty.

Publication Date: January 17, 2023
Published By: Poison Pen Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Historical, Mystery, Women

Jeweler of Stolen Dreams by MJ Rose


A captivating tale of two passionate women separated by decades but united by a shared vision. One, the famous jeweler Suzanne Belperron, fighting to protect her company and rescue the man she loves. The other, a young auctioneer whose exceptional gifts reveal a secret that endangers her very life.

My Thoughts

I am never, ever disappointed in an M.J. Rose book! She writes the perfect blend of mystery, romance, and supernatural and creates spellbinding stories that I often binge-read.

The Jeweler of Stolen Dreams continues the La Lune series which chronicles the tales of the descendants of LaLune, a 16th century French courtesan and rumored witch. There are references to earlier stories, so it helps to be familiar with the series, but this can be read as a stand-alone novel.

Often, Rose incorporates gemstones in her work, which fascinates me. Here, a cache of mysterious and spectacular jewels found in an old Louis Vuitton truck starts a rollicking and emotional tale of intrigue spanning the years from World War II France to present day New York and Paris. Rose has also incorporated the story of real-life jewelry artist Suzanne Belperron, whose work stills resonates with collectors today. Look her up. She’s fascinating!

This is the perfect book for a dreary winter weekend, because it will wrap you up in a world of warmth, light, danger, and intrigue. Recommended.

Publication Date: February 7, 2023
Published By: Blue Box Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Reader Profiles

Reader Profile – Adrienne Pettinelli

Adrienne Pettinelli is the Director of the Henrietta Public Library in Rochester NY and author of Helping Homeschoolers in the Library (2008, ALA Editions). She’s served on several book award committees, including the 2015 Caldecott Selection Committee, and she’s a reviewer specializing in picture books and beginning readers for Horn Book Magazine. She teaches for the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. When she’s not reading, Adrienne is trying to squeeze every bit of fun and happiness as she can out of her life with her husband, family, friends, three cats, and sweet little puppy named Bob.  

Is there an author or a book that you think is highly overrated? Why?  

Yes, oh my gosh, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. Nabokov knows how to write a sentence, and I think he captures the self-delusion of an active pedophile, but also this book mostly has the place in the canon* it does because of the large number of people who fetishize it and have a little too much in common with Humbert Humbert, which is gross. I think people can read the book and get an angle on an ugly aspect humanity, sure (and no doubt it’s effective, because I read it 25 years ago and am still irritated about it), but also, as a woman who was once a young girl fending off people like Humbert—a common experience—I have a hard time understanding why this perspective is held up so highly when so many other excellent books are considered niche reading. I’m thinking of a book like Passing by Nella Larsen, which is finally finding its more correct place in the canon, being largely ignored for many years while college students were being forced to read Lolita instead. There are examples of powerful writing that examine more worthwhile subjects, is my point. The NYT recently ran this great interview with Walter Mosley, and the way he talks about Philip Roth is kind of how I feel about Lolita (as well as most of Roth’s work, aside from “The Conversion of the Jews,” which is brilliant). 

As a coda, here’s the one people will fight me on—I couldn’t even get past like chapter five in Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. When you Google the title, one of the suggested alternate searches is, “What is the point of Gone Girl?” Google is wrong a lot, but in this case, I concede the floor to Google. 

*I don’t believe in the whole concept of the canon, btw, but that’s a whole other subject, and also I can’t deny that the canon exists even though I don’t love it.  

Is there a book you’ve read that you wish you didn’t?  

The Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin. It’s like I started and then got in too deep to quit, even though I am clearly never going to get some of those images out of my head, and my belief is that Martin isn’t even going to finish the dang series. Now I’m just here having invested in these giant, violent, misogynistic tomes, and I can’t even see how the stories end.  

Do not talk to me about the TV show. 

What was the first book you read by yourself as a child?  

It must have been Swimmy by Leo Lionni or Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm by the Provensens, which are books I read until they fell to pieces and deeply shaped my perspective on life.  

Do you have a favorite picture book? What and why?  

You’re talking to a picture book expert here, so the answer is way too many to list. Today, though, I’ll pick Nana in the City by Lauren Castillo, which is a perfect, beautiful, life-affirming book, and I have a piece of art from it tattooed on my leg. When you love a book enough to put a piece of it on yourself permanently, I suppose that’s a solid candidate for favorite.   

What book would you recommend to heal a broken heart?  

Lean into your broken heart with some teen fiction. I myself love a teen romance when I’m feeling defeated. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan has it all—heartbreak, drama, humor, new love, music.  

What is a favorite quote from a book?  

From A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean:  

“My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him all good things—trout as well as eternal salvation—come by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy.”  

I first read this when I was nineteen, and I’ve returned to it and this book again and again in the thirty years since. It’s as close as I can get to a personal life philosophy.  

How do you treat the books you read? Do you make notes in them? Dog-ear the pages? Keep every page (and the spine!) pristine?  

I believe the only worth a book can have is in being read, so I’m not precious about how I handle books. I read a lot of library books, and I’m careful with those. I also buy books that I only intend to read once or twice and then pass on, and I’m careful with those, too. Books in my personal collection are written on, they’re dog-eared, they have broken spines. I find reading so enjoyable, but also I consider myself a student of both literature and life, and I read primarily to learn and, I hope, grow and maybe even become a slightly better human. All my books are workbooks.  

Where do you get your book recommendations?  

I get a lot of great book recommendations from friends and colleagues—I know many readers! I also learn about a lot of books from listening to the All the Books podcast from Book Riot (highly recommended for anyone looking to diversify their reading), and I get a lot from reading Horn Book Magazine (which I also write for).  

What is the funniest book you ever read?  

How am I supposed to pick? I love funny books, and I read and reread so many of them! People don’t think of The Odyssey by Homer as hilarious, but oh my gosh, that story’s nuts. Always makes me laugh. An offbeat favorite is Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome, a 19th Century slightly-fictionalized account of a trio of ill-prepared men taking a boat trip on the Thames. And then after you’ve read that, you simply must read To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis’s raucous time-travel novel that riffs on Three Men in a Boat. Almost everything by Connie Willis is funny. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons is another book that reliably makes me laugh out loud. If you want to laugh, I also recommend books by Jenny Lawson, Phoebe Robinson, Sarah Vowell, David Sedaris, Allie Brosh, and Mindy Kaling. I haven’t even gotten into children’s and teen books and authors. I could write a book about funny books.  

Do you ever judge a book by its cover? What attracts you to a cover?  

Yes, totally. I always think I’m going to like books with black covers and books with bright pink covers. I like a bold image—more graphic than not, but also I’ll respond to any cover that is striking in some way. I don’t enjoy reading rebound library books that have those plain cloth covers; I feel the lack of cover art as a loss. I’m someone who will happily engage in a lengthy argument about which cover art is best for favorite books and authors, and I get angry when excellent books are given unattractive or misleading covers. I can’t conceive not having strong feelings about these things, honestly.  

If you had a Narnia closet, what literary world would it lead to and what’s the first thing you would do there?  

I am a reader of sci-fi and fantasy, and I often hear people say things like, “I wish I could visit Narnia” or “I wish I could visit Hogwarts,” but way too many bad things happen in those places. I do not want to go to any of them. That counts double for any time in the past, when women were subjugated and no one had refrigeration or washing machines or antibiotics. No, thank you.  

You know what I would like to do, though? I’d like to go sit in the kitchen with Golly and have cake and milk. I’d like to follow Harriet around all day, in fact, but instead of writing in my notebook, I’d just copy everything she ate, because everything she ate sounds delicious. So I guess that’s where my Narnia closet would go. Either that or I’d like to go to one of Julia Child’s kitchens, although perhaps not on one of the days when she dropped the chicken on the floor.  

What was the last book you read that challenged your world view?  

I feel like I read a lot of books that nudge my world view, but challenge is a big thing. I’d say Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi is the last book that profoundly changed my understanding of some things. It’s this tiny little novella that has the impact of a supernova.  

Thank you, Adrienne, for this insightful profile! If you are interested in doing a Reader Profile, please contact me at patricia.uttaro (a) gmail.com.

Book Tour, Historical, Mystery

Path of Peril by Marlie Parker Wasserman

February 27 – March 24, 2023 Virtual Book Tour

Path of Peril by Marlie Parker Wasserman

Would the assassins plotting to kill Theodore Roosevelt on his visit to the Panama Canal succeed?

Until this trip, no president while in office had ever traveled abroad. White House secretary Maurice Latta, thrilled to accompany the President, could not anticipate the adventures and dangers ahead. Latta befriends watchful secret service agents, ambitious journalists, and anxious First Lady Edith Roosevelt on their hot and humid trip, where he observes a country teeming with inequalities and abounding in opportunities. Along the way he learns about his own strengths—what he never imagined he could do, and what he discovers he can’t do.

Theodore Roosevelt did visit Panama in 1906, accompanied by White House staffer Maurice Latta. Interweaving the stories of real-life characters with fictional ones, Path of Peril imagines what the newspapers feared to report and what historians never discovered about Roosevelt’s risky trip.

My Thoughts

Wasserman has succeeded in blending history with mystery in this fascinating look at early 20th century politics. And make no mistake – this book is *packed* with history, but not your dry, textbook history. Oh no, this is “wild west” history where protocols really didn’t exist, Presidents roamed the globe, and First Ladies were pulled into the action.

The writing style is dense with description at times, but full of witty dialog, diabolical scheming, and deftly managed impossible situations. The story is gripping, and the characters well-developed. Overall, this is a solid, enjoyable read that will appeal to fans of historical mysteries. I assign success to an historical mystery when it makes me seek out non-fiction on the time period, which I did.


Book Details:

Genre: Historical Crime Fiction
Published by: Level Best Books
Publication Date: January 2023
Number of Pages: 320
Book Links: Amazon

Author Bio:

Marlie Parker Wasserman

Marlie Parker Wasserman continues to write historical crime fiction. Her first book, The Murderess Must Die, was published in 2021. After spending many years in New Jersey, she now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and the Historical Novel Society.

Catch Up With Marlie Parker Wasserman:
Instagram – @marliepwasserman
Twitter – @MarlieWasserman

Tour Participants:

02/27 Review @ Urban Book Reviews
02/28 Guest post @ The Book Divas Reads
02/28 Showcase @ BOOK REVIEWS by LINDA MOORE
03/01 Review @ Novels Alive
03/02 Review @ It’s All About the Book
03/03 Showcase @ Silvers Reviews
03/04 Guest post @ Mythical Books
03/10 Review @ Cozy Up With Kathy
03/13 Showcase @ The Book Connection
03/14 Interview @ Hott Books
03/15 Review @ Novel Nerd Blog
03/16 Review @ Enjoyingbooksagain
03/17 Review @ mokwip8991
03/18 Review @ Book Reviews From an Avid Reader
03/19 Showcase @ Im Into Books
03/20 Podcast interview @ Blog Talk Radio
03/20 Review @ Just Reviews

Mystery, Women

Play the Fool by Lina Chern


A cynical tarot card reader seeks to uncover the truth about her friend’s mysterious death in this delightfully clever whodunit, “a delicious blend of suspense and madcap humor” (Library Journal, starred review).

For Katie True, a keen gut and quick wit are just tools of the trade. After a failed attempt at adulting in Chicago, she’s back in the suburbs living a bit too close to her overbearing parents, jumping from one dead-end job to the next, and flipping through her tarot deck for guidance. Then along comes Marley.

Mysterious, worldly, and comfortable in her own skin, Marley takes a job at the mall where Katie peddles Russian tchotchkes. The two just get each other. Marley doesn’t try to fix Katie’s life or pretend to be someone she’s not, and Katie thinks that with Marley’s friendship, she just might make it through this rough patch after all. Until the day when Katie, having been encouraged by Marley to practice soothsaying, reads the cards for someone who stumbles into her shop. But when she sneaks a glance at his phone, she finds more than intel to improve her clairvoyance. She finds a photo. Of Marley. With a gunshot wound to the head.

The bottom falls out of Katie’s world. Her best friend is dead? Who killed her? She quickly realizes there are some things her tarot cards can’t foresee, and she must put her razor-sharp instincts to the ultimate test. But Katie’s recklessness lands her in the crossfire of a threat she never saw coming. Now she must use her street smarts and her inner Strength card to solve Marley’s murder—or risk losing everything.

My Thoughts

This was a refreshing change from the vintage mysteries I’ve been reading. I adored the main character, Katie True, who is written with such realness that I finished the book feeling like I know her. Katie isn’t good at everything, in fact she’s kind of a fuck-up, and she’s wasting her life away working in a dismal little mall shop when the story begins. One thing that Katie IS is a true friend. She doesn’t have many, so she values the ones she’s got. That leads her smack into the middle of a murder mystery and the life of her friend Marley. The story escalates from there as Katie, who is a skilled tarot-reader, truly learns that things are not always how they appear.

Katie is a relatable character who will appeal to teens and adults who like their mysteries with a little extra “mystery.” I’m hoping there will be other Katie True books in the future.

Published By: Random House Publishing; Bantam, Ballantine
Publication Date: March 28, 2023
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Cozy, Mystery, Women

Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers by Jesse Q Sutanto


A lonely shopkeeper takes it upon herself to solve a murder in the most peculiar way in this captivating mystery by Jesse Q. Sutanto, bestselling author of Dial A for Aunties.

Vera Wong is a lonely little old lady—ah, lady of a certain age—who lives above her forgotten tea shop in the middle of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Despite living alone, Vera is not needy, oh no. She likes nothing more than sipping on a good cup of Wulong and doing some healthy detective work on the Internet about what her Gen-Z son is up to.

Then one morning, Vera trudges downstairs to find a curious thing—a dead man in the middle of her tea shop. In his outstretched hand, a flash drive. Vera doesn’t know what comes over her, but after calling the cops like any good citizen would, she sort of . . . swipes the flash drive from the body and tucks it safely into the pocket of her apron. Why? Because Vera is sure she would do a better job than the police possibly could, because nobody sniffs out a wrongdoing quite like a suspicious Chinese mother with time on her hands. Vera knows the killer will be back for the flash drive; all she has to do is watch the increasing number of customers at her shop and figure out which one among them is the killer.

What Vera does not expect is to form friendships with her customers and start to care for each and every one of them. As a protective mother hen, will she end up having to give one of her newfound chicks to the police?

My Thoughts

What a romp! Fans of cozy mystery will adore Vera Wang (or Wong!?!) and her uncanny ability to smother her son, judge everyone around on based on her very specific scales of proper behavior, and solve tricky murders.

Vera is such a delightful character – sort of a cross between Eleanor Oliphant and Monk with a dash of Molly the Maid thrown in for good measure. Jesse Sutanto has created one of the most interesting and endearing sleuths around. This will appeal to cozy mystery fans. Recommended.

Published By: Berkley Publishing Group
Publication Date: March 14, 2023
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

General, Makes You Think, Race & Equity, Young Adult

Come Home Safe by Brian Buckmire


A normal day. Until two siblings are accused of crimes they didn’t commit. Come Home Safe explores the pain, the truths, and the hopes that come with growing up as a person of color in America, as well as why “the talk” and discussions about social justice are so important in the community. This engaging YA novel from ABC News legal analyst Brian Buckmire is told in a way that can help foster conversations about what it means to navigate today’s world, as well as inspire ways to work toward change.

When Reed and Olive left home, they never imagined they’d find themselves questioned, searched, and thrown to the ground by police looking for suspects in recent crimes. As their worst fears become reality, they must find a way to “prove” their innocence and make it home safe once again.

From ABC News legal analyst and NYC Legal Aid Society public defender Brian Buckmire, this compelling story draws from real-life advice, lessons, and conversations with attorneys, law enforcement, and the wrongfully accused to help turn the whispers and family discussions about racial inequality and mistreatment into wider conversations, healing, and one day … change.

My Thoughts

Several years ago when I was first learning about systemic racism, a friend – a Black Mom and Eldress – shared with me her personal story of having “the talk” and giving “the look” to her children in certain situations. A Mom myself, with children of a similar age, I found this information hard to comprehend coming from my experience as a white, middle-class woman. I made it a point to educate myself about the realities children of color experience. Brian Buckmire uses his platform as a legal analyst and public defender to describe in detail what happens to people of color. While this is a work of fiction, my sense is that Buckmire is writing about clients he has defended and people he has known, and perhaps even personal experience.

No one should have to experience what these children experience in this story.

This is a short book, but one that contains a powerful insight to the everyday experiences of people of color. The text is a bit dense at times as Buckmire frequently includes a good dose of legalese associated with Reed’s and Olive’s experiences. While this is short in length, it is hard to read.

Publication Date: February 7, 2023
Published by: Blink
Thanks to the Publisher for the review copy

Fantasy, Magical, Mystery, Women

God of Endings by Jacqueline Holland


By turns suspenseful and enchanting, this breathtaking first novel weaves a story of love, family, history, and myth as seen through the eyes of one immortal woman.

Collette LeSange is a lonely artist who heads an elite fine arts school for children in upstate New York. Her youthful beauty masks the dark truth of her life: she has endured centuries of turmoil and heartache in the wake of her grandfather’s long-ago decision to make her immortal like himself. Now in 1984, Collette finds her life upended by the arrival of a gifted child from a troubled home, the return of a stalking presence from her past, and her own mysteriously growing hunger.

Combining brilliant prose with breathtaking suspense, Jacqueline Holland’s The God of Endings serves as a larger exploration of the human condition in all its complexity, asking us the most fundamental question: is life in this world a gift or a curse?

My Thoughts

I rarely read vampire stories anymore, and truthfully I did not realize God of Endings was such a tale. However, I’m glad I didn’t know because I found this to be a memorable reading experience which I would have missed if I’d known the “immortal” being was a vampire.

Holland skillfully weaves together multiple threads of Colette’s life, from her beginning as Anna through the Anya days and finally to her current life. I enjoy stories that slip back and forth between very different times, but often find a lack of attention to detail and consistency which muddles to story. None of that to be found here! It seems the author is a meticulous plotter and that care and skill form a solid foundation for beautiful descriptive and narrative writing.

The is a book to be savored, perhaps read over a rainy autumn weekend, wrapped in a blanket in front of a fire.

Highly recommended.

Published By: Flatiron Books
Publication Date: March 7, 2023
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Fantasy, Magical, Mythology, Women, Young Adult

Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim



Raised to protect her nation from the monsters lurking in the sands, sixteen-year-old Imani must fight to find her brother, whose betrayal is now the country’s greatest threat.

In the hidden desert city of Qalia, there is secret spice magic that awakens the affinities of those who drink the misra tea. Sixteen-year-old Imani has the affinity for iron and is able to wield a dagger like no other warrior. She has garnered the reputation as being the next great Shield for battling djinn, ghouls, and other monsters spreading across the sands. 

Her reputation has been overshadowed, however, by her brother, who tarnished the family name after it was revealed that he was stealing his nation’s coveted spice—a telltale sign of magical obsession. Soon after that, he disappeared, believed to have died beyond the Forbidden Wastes. Despite her brother’s betrayal, there isn’t a day that goes by when Imani doesn’t grieve him. 

But when Imani discovers signs that her brother may be alive and spreading the nation’s magic to outsiders, she makes a deal with the Council that she will find him and bring him back to Qalia, where he will face punishment. Accompanied by other Shields, including Taha, a powerful beastseer who can control the minds of falcons, she sets out on her mission. 

Imani will soon find that many secrets lie beyond the Forbidden Wastes—and in her own heart—but will she find her brother?

My Thoughts

It’s been awhile since I gave a 5 star review, but Spice Road 100% deserves it. This is one of the very best fantasy novels I’ve read in a long time. The basic plot isn’t that unusual – one group of people who have magic are threatened by another group that wants the magic – BUT the telling makes this so much more than a conflict between two groups. Brilliant characterization framed by lush description enhanced with the mythology and folklore of the Arabian Peninsula result in an unusual and compelling quest fantasy. It looks like this may be the start of series, and it is one I will eagerly anticipate.

Highly recommended.

Published By: Random House Children’s; Delacorte
Publication Date: January 24, 2023
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy