Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel byRuth Hogan


cover180892-mediumFrom the wildly popular bestselling author of The Keeper of Lost Things comes a surprising and uplifting story about the complicated relationships between mothers and daughters, and the magic of chosen family.

Tilly was a bright, outgoing little girl who loved fizzy drinks, naughty words, and liked playing with ghosts and matches. When her beloved father suddenly disappeared, she and her fragile, difficult mother moved into Queenie Malone’s magnificent Paradise Hotel in Brighton, with its endearing and loving family of misfits—including the exuberant and compassionate Queenie herself. But then Tilly was dealt another shattering blow when her mother sent her off to boarding school with little explanation and no warning, and she lost her beloved chosen family.

Now an adult, Tilda has grown into an independent woman still damaged by her mother’s unaccountable cruelty. Wary of people, her only true friend is her dog, Eli. When her estranged mother dies, Tilda returns to Brighton and the home she loved best. With the help of the still-dazzling Queenie, she sets about unraveling the mystery of her exile from The Paradise Hotel, only to discover that her mother was not the woman she thought she knew at all…and that it’s never too late to write your own happy ending.

With Ruth Hogan’s trademark quirky, clever, and life-affirming characters, Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel will dazzle readers and mesmerize them until they reach the surprising twist at the end.

I adored Ruth Hogan’s Keeper of Lost Things so was excited to crack open this new story. The description promised colorful, unconventional characters and plenty of past heartbreak and adult angst. I was not disappointed.

Hogan does a masterful job of communicating how differently people perceive the same actions and situations. The different memories of the past experienced by Tilly and her mother paint a picture of two people so far apart in how they perceive things that they essentially ruin each others lives. The reconciliation that Tilly experiences through her mother’s diaries after her death is heartbreaking, real, and ultimately beautiful.

Tilly’s relationships with the real and the unreal can be confusing at times, but ultimately come together to form a unique and special narrative.

And there has never been a better ending sentence. Read this book.

Publication Date: April 14, 2020
Published By: William Morrow
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

A Murderous Relation by Deanna Raybourn


cover176382-mediumVeronica Speedwell navigates a dark world of scandal and murder in this new adventure from New York Times bestselling and Edgar Award nominated author Deanna Raybourn.

From the Publisher: Veronica Speedwell and her natural historian colleague Stoker are asked by Lady Wellingtonia Beauclerk to help with a potential scandal so explosive it threatens to rock the monarchy. Prince Albert Victor is a regular visitor to the most exclusive private club in London, known as the Club de l’Etoile, and the proprietess, Madame Aurore, has received an expensive gift that can be traced back to the prince. Lady Wellie would like Veronica and Stoker to retrieve the jewel from the club before scandal can break.

Worse yet, London is gripped by hysteria in the autumn of 1888, terrorized by what would become the most notorious and elusive serial killer in history, Jack the Ripper–and Lady Wellie suspects the prince may be responsible.

Veronica and Stoker reluctantly agree to go undercover at Madame Aurore’s high class brothel, where another body soon turns up. Many secrets are swirling around Veronica and the royal family–and it’s up to Veronica and Stoker to find the truth, before it’s too late for all of them.

Deanna Raybourn is on fire in this newest entry in the Veronica Speedwell/Revelstoke Templeton-Vane series. Here, the sexy duo find themselves smack in the middle of their most deadly adventure yet, and only weeks after their last romp in Cornwall. Characters from the past make new appearances as Veronica and Stoker shed friends and foes as they attempt to save the heir to the throne during the terrifying days when Jack the Ripper stalked the East End of London.

Perhaps the most endearing character introduced here is Eddy, also known as His Royal Highness Prince Albert Victor, heir to the throne of England. Eldest (legitimate) son of the Prince of Wales and Princess Alexandra, he is drawn here as a gentle, loving, but somewhat simple young man who seems delighted to meet Veronica and learn that she is his sister.

Raybourn develops these characters more with each book, and in this one, we learn more about Lady Wellie, the various members of Scotland Yard who make appearances, the daring female reporter J.J. Butterworth, and Stoker’s brothers Tiberious and Rupert (and Rupert’s delightful wife). Raybourn also completes the arc of Veronica and Stoker’s own relationship and does so in a tender but sexy way.

Fans will eat this up.

Publication Date: March 10, 2020
Published By: Berkley Publishing Group
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Last Odyssey by James Rollins


9780062892898_e4facFor eons, the city of Troy—whose legendary fall was detailed in Homer’s Iliad—was believed to be myth, until archaeologists in the nineteenth century uncovered its ancient walls buried beneath the sands. If Troy was real, how much of Homer’s twin tales of gods and monsters, curses and miracles—The Iliad and The Odyssey—could also be true and awaiting discovery?

In the frozen tundra of Greenland, a group of modern-day climatologists and archaeologists stumble on a shocking find: a medieval ship buried a half mile below the ice. The ship’s hold contains a collection of even older artifacts—tools of war—dating back to the Bronze Age. Inside the captain’s cabin is a magnificent treasure that is as priceless as it is miraculous: a clockwork gold atlas encircled by an intricate silver astrolabe. The mechanism is signed with the name of its creator, Ismail al-Jazari, a famous Muslim inventor considered to be the Da Vinci of the Arab world—a brilliant scientist who inspired Leonardo’s own work.

Once activated, the moving globe traces the path of Odysseus’ famous ship as it sailed away from Troy. But the route detours as the map opens to reveal an underground river leading to a hidden realm underneath the Mediterranean Sea. The map indicates that this subterranean world is called Tartarus, the Greek name for Hell. In mythology, Tartarus was where the wicked were punished and the monstrous Titans of old, imprisoned.

When word of Tartarus spreads—and of the cache of miraculous weapons said to be hidden there—tensions explode in this volatile region where Turks battle Kurds, terrorists wage war, and civilians suffer untold horrors. The phantasmagoric horrors found in Homer’s tales are all too real—and could be unleashed upon the world. Whoever possesses them can use their awesome power to control the future of humanity.

Now, Sigma Force must go where humans fear to tread. To prevent a tyrant from igniting a global war, they must cross the very gates of Hell.

You can always count on James Rollins for a rollicking good “save the world” adventure, but he has outdone himself with The Last Odyssey. Imagine that all those horrible monsters from Greek mythology were real AND they’ve been biding their time in an underground world, awaiting release. Then add deceitful senators & priests, smart scientists & brawny heroes and you‘ve got a winner.

Rollins has gradually filled out the stories of several characters in the Sigma series, and continues to do so here. Watching Gray and Seichan comes to terms with parenthood was very touching, but the growing relationship between Kowalski and Maria was emotional *and* heartbreaking.

The story here is unbelievably imaginative and meticulously researched. I especially appreciated the notes at the end. Highly recommended.

Publication Date: March 24, 2020
Published By: William Morrow
Thanks to Edelweiss for the review copy

These Ghosts Are Family by Maisy Card


cover172002-medium

A transporting debut novel that reveals the ways in which a Jamaican family forms and fractures over generations, in the tradition of Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.

Stanford Solomon has a shocking, thirty-year-old secret. And it’s about to change the lives of everyone around him. Stanford Solomon is actually Abel Paisley, a man who faked his own death and stole the identity of his best friend.

And now, nearing the end of his life, Stanford is about to meet his firstborn daughter, Irene Paisley, a home health aide who has unwittingly shown up for her first day of work to tend to the father she thought was dead.

These Ghosts Are Family revolves around the consequences of Abel’s decision and tells the story of the Paisley family from colonial Jamaica to present day Harlem. There is Vera, whose widowhood forced her into the role of single mother. There are two daughters and a granddaughter who have never known they are related. And there are others, like the house boy who loved Vera, whose lives might have taken different courses if not for Abel Paisley’s actions.

These Ghosts Are Family explores the ways each character wrestles with their ghosts and struggles to forge independent identities outside of the family and their trauma. The result is an engrossing portrait of a family and individuals caught in the sweep of history, slavery, migration, and the more personal dramas of infidelity, lost love, and regret. This electric and luminous family saga announces the arrival of a new American talent.

A man steals another man’s identity and lives a whole new life over decades. What happens to his first family and how do his actions shape their lives? Maisy Card’s debut novel is bursting with the stories of all the people touched by Abel Paisley’s split second decision to become Solomon Stanford. She skillfully weaves all the stories together and lets the lives of so many bleed out on to the pages. You won’t like all the characters, but you will be drawn into their stories nonetheless.

Stories like this always make me think about the decisions we make and how they affect others. There are so many paths we could all walk down throughout our lives – whose path did we affect and what did it mean? Card doesn’t pull punches. There are some ugly things in this books, but the characters feel real and raw so that you can’t help but feel their pain, sorrow, and joy.

This will be one of the best of 2020. Highly recommended.

Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Published By: Simon & Schuster
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez


cover175515-mediumThe first adult novel in almost fifteen years by the internationally bestselling author of In the Time of the Butterflies and How the García Girls Lost Their Accents

Antonia Vega, the immigrant writer at the center of Afterlife, has had the rug pulled out from under her. She has just retired from the college where she taught English when her beloved husband, Sam, suddenly dies. And then more jolts: her bighearted but unstable sister disappears, and Antonia returns home one evening to find a pregnant, undocumented teenager on her doorstep. Antonia has always sought direction in the literature she loves—lines from her favorite authors play in her head like a soundtrack—but now she finds that the world demands more of her than words.

Afterlife is a compact, nimble, and sharply droll novel. Set in this political moment of tribalism and distrust, it asks: What do we owe those in crisis in our families, including—maybe especially—members of our human family? How do we live in a broken world without losing faith in one another or ourselves? And how do we stay true to those glorious souls we have lost?

I finished this beautiful book several days ago and it continues to call to me. I keep dipping back into it to re-read passages. Some might dismiss this as taking advantage of the current political issues around immigration and human rights, and to those skeptics I say f*** you. This is a haunting, beautifully written story about life after tremendous loss, what it means to be human, and to recognize and celebrate humanity wherever you find it. Here, it’s a pregnant, undocumented girl who is more than a statistic. She is a real person who needs help and who, in turn, helps Antonia find a new path.

This should be popular with book clubs and community reading programs.

Highly recommended.

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

The Stolen Letter by Paige Shelton


cover183538-mediumNew York Times bestselling author Paige Shelton returns with the next installment of The Scottish Bookshop Mystery series, The Stolen Letter.

Delaney Nichols is confident she’s doing what she loves—case in point, just one day after returning from her fabulous European honeymoon, she’s eager to get back to the Cracked Spine, the bookstore where she works. But as she disembarks her bus and hurries toward the shop she and another woman collide, sending a stack of books the woman is carrying to the ground.

Delaney’s hapless victim’s name is Mary, and the two women can’t help but notice that they bear an uncanny resemblance to one another. According to Mary, they both also look like the long-beheaded Mary Queen of Scots. Even stranger, Mary believes she is the reincarnation of the Scottish queen. But peculiar as Delaney’s doppelganger is, she doesn’t have time to dwell on it: on her arrival to the bookshop, she learns the Edinburgh city council wants to close the Cracked Spine, citing code violations, and she’s determined to stop them.

But when Mary’s husband dies in a car explosion—and Delaney learns he was the very member of city council who proposed that the city take a closer look at the bookshop’s construction—she starts to wonder if her meeting with Mary wasn’t an accident. Edinburgh has become as filled with intrigue and deception as any European court, and Delaney is determined to get to the bottom of this royal mystery.

Delaney Nichols is back in the most captivating Scottish Book Shop mystery yet. This time, she has to save The Cracked Spine from a bogus closure process involving the reincarnated Mary, Queen of Scots and underhanded government officials. The familiar and beloved book shop characters are back – Rosie, Hector, Hamlet, and Edwin. Although landlords Aggie and Elias play much smaller roles in this one, new husband Tom is front and center.

Delaney charms the reader again with her quick wit and bookish voices as she follows multiple clue strands through to the thrilling conclusion. As cozies go, this series is one of the best out there. The location descriptions are wonderful, the characters endearing, and the mysteries inventive and interesting. Well done!

Publication Date: April 7, 2020
Published By: St. Martin’s/Minotaur Books
Thanks to Netgalley for he review copy

The Great Witches Baking Show by Nancy Warren

1

The Great Witches Baking Show

by Nancy Warren

on Tour February 1-29, 2019

Synopsis:

The Great Witches Baking Contest by Nancy Warren

A baker with secrets
Witches in trouble
The cameras are rolling
Ready, set, die.

Poppy Wilkinson is thrilled to be chosen as a contestant on The Great British Baking Contest. As an American with English roots, winning the crown as Britain’s Best Baker would open doors she’s dreamed of. In more ways than one. Appearing on the reality show is her chance to get into Broomewode Hall and uncover the secrets of her past.

But strange things are happening on the show’s set: accusations of sabotage, a black cat that shadows Poppy, suspiciously unsociable residents at Broomewode Hall—and the judges can be real witches.

There are murmurs that Broomewode is an energy vortex. It certainly makes Poppy see and do things that aren’t exactly normal, and seems to draw interesting characters to the neighborhood.

When a fellow contestant dies in mysterious circumstances, Poppy has more to worry about than burned pies and cakes that won’t rise. There’s a murderer on the loose and it’s up to Poppy and her new friends to solve the crime before it becomes a real show-stopper.

From USA Today Bestselling Author Nancy Warren, this delicious series of cozy paranormal mysteries will have you guessing until the end. Includes recipes.

The premise here is so wacky that it works. 

Suspend your disbelief long enough to imagine that the celebrated hosts of one of the most popular cooking shows in the world are witches, then layer on a decently plotted murder mystery AND a personal mystery for our heroine, add a splash of sassy dialog, a sprinkle of good characterization, and finish with a romantic, bucolic English country house setting and you’ve got a winning cozy mystery.

Reading this put me in mind of this wonderful essay: Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village. I am looking forward to the next in this series. I want to know Poppy’s secret!

Book Details:

Genre: Culinary Cozy
Published by: Ambleside Publishing
Publication Date: January 15th 2020
Number of Pages: 250
ASIN: B07ZL472PK
Series: Culinary Cozy #1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Goodreads

Read an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE

As life-changing moments go, getting the call that I’d been chosen to compete in The Great British Baking Contest was right up there. I’d practiced, auditioned and practiced some more. I was a decent home baker, but was I really the best in Britain? Probably not. But I didn’t have to be.

The contest was my way of getting into Broomewode Hall, where the show was filmed. I had my own reasons for going there that had nothing to do with baking.

Still, it hadn’t been easy to be chosen. There were thousands of applicants every year and then an excruciating selection process, where the show’s producers chose twelve from the short list and made us bake on camera. Some people went to pieces; some were just really boring. They randomly selected bakers off the short list and tried out different combinations of personalities, a bit like baking, really, seeing which ingredients created the most interesting results. I quickly learned that the trick was to be a good character, try to be funny, be a good sport, pretend you didn’t notice that cameras were on you and a clock was ticking down the minutes, and still turn out a decent jam tart.

Easy peasy! Not.

One of the reasons they chose me for the show, I think, was that while I was British, I’d grown up in the States, which was kind of fun, as the show had become a huge hit in America. I’d also started life in a bakery. Or, more accurately, in a cardboard box outside a bakery in Norton St. Philip, a charming village near Bath in Somerset.

I like to think my mother, whoever she was, chose the bakery so she knew I’d be warm and, since bakers start work so early, I’d be found. And I was. When Gareth Philpott came to work that morning, he said he looked into the box and found me wide-awake, staring up at him. Not crying, not fussing, just staring as though I’d expected him. They named me Poppy. The Philpotts would have kept me if they could have. They’re a nice family, but they already had three children, and the authorities don’t just give a family a baby because they happened to stumble across one. First they tried to find my mother or any information at all about my origins. When that proved impossible, I was adopted by Agatha and Leland Wilson, and they became my parents.

They were both teachers. They’d tried for years to have their own children, and their delight in getting me was reflected in the way they pretty much turned their lives around to give me the best upbringing they could. They were loving parents, kind and patient. Strict when they had to be. We lived in Bath for the first eight years of my life, and then my dad was offered a teaching job in Seattle.

I grew up there, mostly, lost the British accent, became a typical American teenager, and then when I finished high school, my folks retired and moved back to the UK. I could have stayed in Seattle. I had friends, and I could’ve gone to college there, but I chose to come back to England. I think, deep down, it’s always felt like home. Besides, like a lot of adopted kids, the mystery of my beginnings haunts me.

Soon after returning to England, my folks moved to the south of France to bask in warmer weather, grow lavender and cook gourmet meals. My dad, who taught history, was writing a book. My mom was learning French.

They’d saved up a nice chunk of change for me to go to college but, in spite of having teachers as parents, I never felt the urge. I was always more artistic than intellectual, so I went to an art and design college for two years, and they let me use the rest of the money toward buying a tiny cottage in Norton St. Philip. It’s probably crazy, and nobody even thinks my mother was from there, but I started my life in that village and so it pulled me back. The Philpotts still ran the bakery and were my second family. I guess you’ll always have a bond with the person who picked you up off the street as a newborn. Besides, growing up as an only child, I was fascinated by their sprawling, noisy family.

I became a freelance graphic designer, which allowed me to work from home.
Gina Philpott was my age and my best friend. She was also the only one who knew why I really wanted to get on that show.
It went all the way back to when I was just a baby in that cardboard box. I’d been wrapped in a curious blanket.

I saw my baby blanket one day when I was watching The Great British Baking Contest. They always filmed at Broomewode Hall, a Georgian manor house that wasn’t open to the public. Broomewode Hall was the seat of the Earl of Frome, Robert Champney and his family. During one of the behind-the-scenes segments on the show, Lady Frome, showed them around her home.

As the camera panned around the great dining hall I was instantly transfixed by a woman in an oil painting who seemed to be wearing my baby blanket! I saw now that, in fact, it was a shawl. But the pattern was the same. I was certain of it.

And from that very moment, I began my quest to find out more about Broomewode Hall. Lord and Lady Frome guarded their privacy tenaciously, and it was impossible to get access to them and their family home. Besides, what would I say? “I think one of your ancestors once wore my baby blanket? The best way I could think of to spend time there was to qualify as a baker on The Great British Baking Contest.

I’d done it. Against incredible odds, I’d been chosen as one of twelve bakers. It was one step toward finding how who I really was. All I had to do now was figure out how to get the rest of the way.

***

Excerpt from The Great Witches Baking Show by Nancy Warren. Copyright 2019 by Nancy Warren. Reproduced with permission from Nancy Warren. All rights reserved.

 

 

Author Bio:

Nancy Warren

Nancy Warren is the USA Today bestselling author of more than seventy novels, including the best selling Vampire Knitting Club series and the Toni Diamond mysteries. She’s from Vancouver, though she tends to wander. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa university, appeared on the front page of the New York Times when her book Speed Dating launched the Harlequin/Nascar series. She was also the answer to a clue in a crossword puzzle in Canada’s National Post newspaper.

Catch Up With Our Author On:
NancyWarren.net, Goodreads, BookBub, Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook!

 

 

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The Chill by Scott Carson


cover175799-mediumIn this terrifying thriller, a supernatural force—set in motion a century ago—threatens to devastate New York City.

Far upstate, in New York’s ancient forests, a drowned village lays beneath the dark, still waters of the Chilewaukee reservoir. Early in the 20th century, the town was destroyed for the greater good: bringing water to the millions living downstate. Or at least that’s what the politicians from Manhattan insisted at the time. The local families, settled there since America’s founding, were forced from their land, but they didn’t move far, and some didn’t move at all…

Now, a century later, the repercussions of human arrogance are finally making themselves known. An inspector assigned to oversee the dam, dangerously neglected for decades, witnesses something inexplicable. It turns out that more than the village was left behind in the waters of the Chill when it was abandoned. The townspeople didn’t evacuate without a fight. A dark prophecy remained, too, and the time has come for it to be fulfilled. Those who remember must ask themselves: who will be next? For sacrifices must be made. And as the dark waters begin to inexorably rise, the demand for a fresh sacrifice emerges from the deep…

As a New Yorker fascinated with local lore, I remember reading about the flooding of several towns and villages in the early part of the 20th century to create Great Sacandaga Lake in an effort to control flooding downstream. This has to be the basis for the fabulously inventive story told in The Chill.

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a really good, bone-chilling, hair-raising, scary ghost story, so I reveled in this creepy story. The strong female protagonist, Gillian, is much appreciated and written realistically. The ghosts and what they do will make you shiver for sure. I’d love to see this as film. Well done.

“Wow! This is one terrific horror/suspense/disaster novel. Characters you root for and a story that grips from the first page.” —Stephen King, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Institute

Horror has a new name and it’s Scott Carson. The Chill is an eerie dive into the murky depths of the supernatural. A story that has you looking back over your shoulder on every page.” —Michael Connelly, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Night Fire

Publication Date: February 11, 2020
Published By: Atria Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Hollows by Jess Montgomery


9781250184542_d2753Jess Montgomery showcases her skills as a storyteller in this powerful, big-hearted and exquisitely written follow-up to her acclaimed debut The Widows.

Ohio, 1926: For many years, the underground railroad track in Moonvale Tunnel has been used as a short cut through the Appalachian hills. When an elderly woman is killed walking along the tracks, the brakeman tells tales of seeing a ghostly female figure dressed all in white.

Newly elected Sheriff Lily Ross is called on to the case to dispel the myths, but Lily does not believe that an old woman would wander out of the hills onto the tracks. In a county where everyone knows everyone, how can someone have disappeared, when nobody knew they were missing? As ghost stories and rumors settle into the consciousness of Moonvale Hollow, Lily tries to search for any real clues to the woman’s identity.

With the help of her friend Marvena Whitcomb, Lily follows the woman’s trail to The Hollows—an asylum is northern Antioch County—and they begin to expose secrets long-hidden by time and the mountains.

Jess Montgomery has delivered a tautly plotted and inventive sequel to The Widows, where we find Sheriff Lily Ross doing her best to fill the shoes of her murdered husband, Sheriff Daniel Ross. She’s trying to put her life back together, keep her family intact, and keep the county safe.

Lily finds herself facing a gruesome case when an elderly woman plummets from the top of a railroad tunnel into a moving train. The death sets in motion a whole series of events that uncover old secrets, murders, and deception that touches very close to home for Lily.

Montgomery’s writing is smooth and engaging, keeping you reading page after page. It is refreshing to read a good mystery set in the 1920’s and featuring a strong female protagonist that doesn’t involve high society and flappers. The addition of the historical elements of union organizing and the rise of the Women’s Ku Klux Klan lends a darker aspect to the story which sets this apart. Recommended for historical mystery fans.

Publication Date: January 14, 2020
Published by: Minotaur Books
Thanks to Edelweiss for the review copy

Dangerous Shallows by Eric Takakjian


cover176712-mediumDangerous Shallows tells the story of a quest to solve maritime cold-cases. The odyssey takes the reader along for a moment-by-moment look at the events surrounding the loss of more than twenty different ships, and includes the stories of discovering their wrecks and learning about the final hours of each of these ships.

Author Eric Takakjian reminisces about devouring the National Geographic issue that featured the recovery of The Atocha, which sets the stage for this very chatty book on wreck diving. I, too, read that NatGeo issue over and over again, poring over the pictures and reading about the divers and their work, so I was right at home with Dangerous Shallows.

Writing in the first person, Takakjian draws you with his stories until you feel as though you’re ready to brave unpredictable currents, errant fishing nets, and sharks just to experience the thrill of standing on a wreck that hasn’t seen the light of day in a century. Takakjian’s storytelling style hooks you right away, and his enthusiasm keeps you enthralled through wreck after wreck.

Takakjian blends history, research and imagination to create plausible if somewhat dramatic recountings of how dozens of ships were sunk, then concludes those often sad stories with exciting tales of his dives on those wrecks.

This will appeal to armchair divers who are fascinated with wrecks and treasure. I expect Takakjian would be a marvelous speaker and hope he gets the chance to go on tour with this book.

Publication Date: February 1, 2020
Published By: Rowman & Littlefield
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy