Beasts and Beauty by Soman Chainani


Description

You think you know these stories, don’t you?

You are wrong. 

You don’t know them at all.

Twelve tales, twelve dangerous tales of mystery, magic, and rebellious hearts. Each twists like a spindle to reveal truths full of warning and triumph, truths that free hearts long kept tame, truths that explore life . . . and death.

A prince has a surprising awakening . . .                           

A beauty fights like a beast . . .

A boy refuses to become prey . . .

A path to happiness is lost. . . . then found again. 

New York Times bestselling author Soman Chainani respins old stories into fresh fairy tales for a new era and creates a world like no other. These stories know you. They understand you. They reflect you. They are tales for our times. So read on, if you dare.

My Thoughts

I’ve read a lot of fairy tales retold and reimagined, but nothing – nothing! – like this. Chainani completely disrupts the old tales and rewrites them ferociously for all those readers who never once saw themselves in those stories.

There is power here – power of women and girls, power of color, power of sex – all woven together into a dark and delicious fist raised to the traditional, exclusionary tales.

Little girls with onyx skin and springy curls will see themselves here, as will beautiful boys who prefer red-haired thieves to brittle wives.

There is anger here, but there’s also righteousness. These are tales for our time.

Highly Recommended.

Publication Date: September 21, 2021
Published By: Harper Collins Childrens Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Baking with Dorie by Dorie Greenspan


Description

From James Beard Award-winning and NYT best-selling author Dorie Greenspan, a baking book of more than 150 exciting recipes

Say “Dorie Greenspan” and think baking. The renowned author of thirteen cookbooks and winner of five James Beard and two IACP awards offers a collection that celebrates the sweet, the savory, and the simple. Every recipe is signature Dorie: easy—beginners can ace every technique in this book—and accessible, made with everyday ingredients. Are there surprises? Of course! You’ll find ingenious twists like Berry Biscuits. Footlong cheese sticks made with cream puff dough. Apple pie with browned butter spiced like warm mulled cider. A s’mores ice cream cake with velvety chocolate sauce, salty peanuts, and toasted marshmallows. It’s a book of simple yet sophisticated baking. The chapters are classic: Breakfast Stuff • Cakes • Cookies • Pies, Tarts, Cobblers and Crisps • Two Perfect Little Pastries • Salty Side Up. The recipes are unexpected. And there are “Sweethearts” throughout, mini collections of Dorie’s all-time favorites. Don’t miss the meringue Little Marvels or the Double-Decker Caramel Cake. Like all of Dorie’s recipes, they lend themselves to being remade, refashioned, and riffed on.

My Thoughts

There seem to be a lot of baking books coming out this year. Fortunately, Dorie Greenspan never disappoints. My kids gave me one of her baking books for Christmas a few years ago and it’s one of the first books I turn to when I need a solid, reliable recipe for a delicious treat.

I enjoy Greenspan’s books because she writes in a way that gives the reader confidence to try these recipes. She includes all the information you need to replicate the luscious treats pictured throughout the book so even beginning bakers can be successful. Little touches like “don’t worry of the batter looks curdled – it will even out” lend a certain sense of comfort to bakers following her recipes. Her descriptions of what the dough or batter is supposed to look like provides a sense of safety and calm for less experienced bakers.

Here, Greenspan offers fresh takes on some familiar recipes, as well as plenty of new and creative baking ideas. I’ve stopped using Pinterest and food blogs for recipes because they invariably suck. We are lucky that bakers like Greenspan, her peers, and her publishers continue to provide cookbooks full of well-tested recipes that you pretty much can’t screw up as long as you follow the instructions. Any baker worth her rolling pin will want to take a look at this.

Recommended.

Publication Date: October 19, 2021
Published By: Mariner Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

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Description

“The buzz…is real. I’ve read it and was blown away. It’s a true nerve-shredder that keeps its mind-blowing secrets to the very end.” —Stephen King

Catriona Ward’s The Last House on Needless Street is a shocking and immersive read perfect for fans of Gone Girl and The Haunting of Hill House.

“The new face of literary dark fiction.” —Sarah Pinborough, New York Times bestselling author of Behind Her Eyes

In a boarded-up house on a dead-end street at the edge of the wild Washington woods lives a family of three.

A teenage girl who isn’t allowed outside, not after last time.
A man who drinks alone in front of his TV, trying to ignore the gaps in his memory.
And a house cat who loves napping and reading the Bible.

An unspeakable secret binds them together, but when a new neighbor moves in next door, what is buried out among the birch trees may come back to haunt them all.

My Thoughts

This book had me absolutely engrossed from the very first chapter. The author builds nerve-jangling suspense while unrolling an intricate and oh-so-horrifying plot revolving around a man who is living a real nightmare. The blend of horror, fantasy, and mystery creates an atmosphere that I haven’t felt since reading Stephen King’s The Shining or Shirley Jackson’s Haunting of Hill House..

Fans of tightly plotted, intricate psychological suspense will thoroughly enjoy this one.

Publication Date: September 28, 2021
Published By: Macmillan/Tor/Forge
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Chapter and Curse by Elizabeth Penney


Description

In Elizabeth Penney’s Chapter and Curse, Molly Kimball is used to cracking open books . . . but when a poetry reading ends in murder she must use her skills to crack the case.

“With its bucolic British setting, engaging heroine, and unsolved murder dating back decades, Elizabeth Penney has penned the perfect cozy.”–Ellen Byron, USA Today Bestselling Author

Librarian Molly Kimball and her mother, Nina, need a change. So when a letter arrives from Nina’s Aunt Violet in Cambridge, England requesting their help running the family bookshop, they jump at the chance.

Thomas Marlowe—Manuscripts and Folios, is one of the oldest bookshops in Cambridge, and—unfortunately—customers can tell. When Molly and Nina arrive, spring has come to Cambridge and the famed Cambridge Literary Festival is underway. Determined to bring much-needed revenue to the bookstore, Molly invites Aunt Violet’s college classmate and famed poet Persephone Brightwell to hold a poetry reading in the shop. But the event ends in disaster when a guest is found dead—with Molly’s great-aunt’s knitting needle used as the murder weapon. While trying to clear Violet and keep the struggling shop afloat, Molly sifts through secrets past and present, untangling a web of blackmail, deceit, and murder.

Review

One of my favorite cozy mystery series is the Scottish Bookshop series by Paige Shelton, and I was reminded a great deal of that as I read this new series debut. While somewhat similar in basic structure (American girl working in UK book shop), the setting here is Cambridge England and the shop the 400 year old Thomas Marlowe Books. Our heroines are a trio of family members – Aunt, Mother, and Daughter – who all are finely written cozy characters.

The writing here is the thing – Elizabeth Penney has delivered a decent plot, supported by interesting and appealing characters, and communicated through skillful description and dialog. It’s not often you find all three of these boxes ticked in cozy mysteries. There’s a great balance of serious mystery and typical cozy silliness, making this a pleasant afternoon read.

This is a fun, quick read that is perfect for a lazy fall afternoon spent lounging somewhere with a nice cup of tea at your elbow. I look forward to more from this author.

Publication Date: September 28, 2021
Published By: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling


Description

Practical, unassuming Jane Shoringfield has done the calculations, and decided that the most secure path forward is this: a husband, in a marriage of convenience, who will allow her to remain independent and occupied with meaningful work. Her first choice, the dashing but reclusive doctor Augustine Lawrence, agrees to her proposal with only one condition: that she must never visit Lindridge Hall, his crumbling family manor outside of town.

Yet on their wedding night, an accident strands her at his door in a pitch-black rainstorm, and she finds him changed. Gone is the bold, courageous surgeon, and in his place is a terrified, paranoid man—one who cannot tell reality from nightmare, and fears Jane is an apparition, come to haunt him. By morning, Augustine is himself again, but Jane knows something is deeply wrong at Lindridge Hall, and with the man she has so hastily bound her safety to.

Set in a dark-mirror version of post-war England, Caitlin Starling crafts a new kind of gothic horror from the bones of the beloved canon. This Crimson Peak-inspired story assembles, then upends, every expectation set in place by Shirley Jackson and Rebecca, and will leave readers shaken, desperate to begin again as soon as they are finished.

My Thoughts

Whoa, I did NOT expect this book to be what it is. I was expecting a 21st century version of the gothic horror/romance. What I found was this weird and terrifying blend of Jane Eyre, Frankenstein, and even a little of Castle of Otranto thrown in for good measure. Still not quite sure how I feel about it.

The characters of Jane and Augustine are well-developed, a task that becomes increasingly difficult and hard to follow as they descend into madness or whatever state the author intended at the end. Jane especially goes from confident, determined, buttoned-up partner (not wife initially) as she negotiates her future, to her highly emotional state at the end. (Not really a spoiler because the ending is just HOLY HELL!)

The text is somewhat dense, but not weighed down by the flowery descriptive conventions of 18th and 19th century gothics which can truly dull the senses until – WHAM – the author hits you with a scene that makes your hair stand on end. Starling follows that path, but her writing is far more accessible.

Fans of gothic horror will enjoy this.

Publication Date: October 5, 2021
Published by: St. Martin’s Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Memory Bell by Kat Flannery

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The Memory Bell
by Kat Flannery
September 1-30, 2021 Tour

Synopsis:

Grace Penner’s safe haven crumbles when a body is found outside of town.

Gifted the memory bell, a family heirloom, from her grandfather’s will, Grace’s excitement is soon squashed when the bell gets broken right after she receives it. While gluing the pieces back in place, she discovers three are still missing.

Determined to find them, she is halted when the new detective, Bennet James, investigates her family. Grace is intent on showing the detective her family isn’t capable of murder, but as the investigation deepens, and pieces of the bell show up with ominous notes, Grace soon realizes the Penners are not what they seem. Amidst the tightly knit family; dark secrets, deception, and possibly even murder unfold.

Will Grace be able to save the family she loves more than anything without losing herself forever?

My Thoughts

About a chapter into this book I started getting strong Jodi Picoult vibes. Kat Flannery is skilled at creating flawed but strong characters living complicated lives. Here, a murder starts to slowly peel back years of lies, cruelty, and deception as terrible things are revealed.

I found Grace a bit inconsistent – sometimes a strong, capable women and other times not so much…but isn’t that all of us? Her budding relationship with detective Bennet James was predictable but sweet, adding a bit of romance to an otherwise messy murder story.

Overall, this is a well-plotted and well-written mystery that will appeal to fans of Picoult and Liane Moriarty.

Praise for The Memory Bell:

“A naïve small-town girl and a disillusioned big-city cop, drawn together by an unsolved crime that is itself only the tip of the iceberg, The Memory Bell serves up the perfect steamy summer read.”
–Jenny Jaeckel, author of House of Rougeaux

“The story moves beyond a small town whodunit to probe the underlying bonds of history that connect a family.”
-Midwest Book Review

“Wonderful, engaging, and fast-paced! Flannery knows what she’s doing!”
-Jonas Saul, author of the Sarah Roberts series

Author Bio:

Kat Flannery’s love of history shows in her novels. She is an avid reader of historical, suspense, paranormal, and romance. A member of many writing Kat enjoys promoting other authors on her blog. When she’s not busy writing, or marketing Kat volunteers her time to other aspiring authors. She has been a keynote speaker, lecturer and guest author inspiring readers and writers at every event she attends. Kat’s been published in numerous periodicals throughout her career, and continues to write for blogs and online magazines. A bestselling author, Kat’s books are available all over the world. The BRANDED TRILOGY is Kat’s award-winning series. With seven books published, Kat continues to plot what story will be next. Creativity is in all aspects of Kat’s career. She does Social Media and Marketing for her own career and businesses, writing ads, and other content.

Catch Up With Kat Flannery:
www.KatFlannery.com/Books-1
Goodreads
BookBub – @KatFlannery
Instagram – @katflannery_
Twitter – @KatFlannery1
Facebook – @kat.flannery.5

Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!

Click here to view The Memory Bell by Kat Flannery Tour Hosts

The Great Glorious Goddamn of It All by Josh Ritter


Description

From singer-songwriter Josh Ritter, a lyrical, sweeping novel about a young boy’s coming-of-age during the last days of the lumberjacks.

In the tiny timber town of Cordelia, Idaho, ninety-nine year old Weldon Applegate recounts his life in all its glory, filled with tall tales writ large with murder, mayhem, avalanches and bootlegging. It’s the story of dark pine forests brewing with ancient magic, and Weldon’s struggle as a boy to keep his father’s inherited timber claim, the Lost Lot, from the ravenous clutches of Linden Laughlin.

Ever since young Weldon stepped foot in the deep Cordelia woods as a child, he dreamed of joining the rowdy ranks of his ancestors in their epic axe-swinging adventures. Local legend says their family line boasts some of the greatest lumberjacks to ever roam the American West, but at the beginning of the twentieth century, the jacks are dying out, and it’s up to Weldon to defend his family legacy.

Braided with haunting saloon tunes and just the right dose of magic, The Great Glorious Goddamn of It All is a novel bursting with heart, humor and an utterly transporting adventure that is sure to sweep you away into the beauty of the tall snowy mountain timber.

Advance Praise

“I loved this mythic American story. My heart overflowed with affection and raced with terror for Weldon Applegate! Josh Ritter’s lyrical imagination frolics unfettered on page after fast-turning page.”

–Anaïs Mitchell, author of Working on a Song: The Lyrics of Hadestown

My Thoughts

This is a hard book to pigeonhole. It is part adventure, part tall-tale, part memoir, part I-don’t-know-what. The story is glorious – it’s everything a little boy dreams of when wishing for an exciting life. Peopled with crazy, larger-than-life characters, a delightful protagonist, an awful arch nemesis, and plenty of wild and wooly action, this is a story to be told around a roaring fire or in a bar over lots and lots of drinks.

I will also say, though, that this is a story with a slow burn. It moves along like a float down the river – faster at times, then a slow drift, and back again. This takes some persistence and attention in reading, but it is well worth the effort. As I was reading, the rhythm and the story often reminded me of David Wallace’s novel “Big Fish” and the subsequent Tim Burton film of the same name. I would love to see this story on film. Such fun!

Publication Date: September 7, 2021
Published By: Harlequin; Hanover Square Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

A Dead Man’s Eyes by Lori Duffy Foster

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Description

Lisa Jamison has done well for a single mom who got pregnant at fifteen. She’s a reporter at a well-respected newspaper and her teenage daughter is both an athlete and honors student. Though their relationship is rocky these days, Lisa has accomplished what she set out to do. She has given her daughter the kind of life she never had.

But all that changes when Lisa sees her daughter in the eyes of a dead man.

The cops call it a drug killing, but Lisa doesn’t believe it. She knows her ex-boyfriend was no drug dealer even though she hadn’t seen him in sixteen years. Lisa ignores warnings from her medical-examiner friend. She fails to heed barely veiled threats from the sheriff of a neighboring county. Instead, she risks her life and the lives of her daughter and their closest friend on a dangerous quest for answers.

The investigation leaves Lisa fighting for her family in a morbid, black market world she never knew existed. She learns that trust is complicated and that she, despite her cynical nature, has been blind. She trusted the wrong people and now she might have to pay with her life.

Review

Lori Duffy Foster’s real-life experience as a crime reporter shines through in this gripping debut. She paints a gritty, vivid picture of a family that has had its share of sorrow and is now drawn into an even more horrifying world of crime when one man tries to do the right thing. From the opening scene in an autopsy room to final fight-for-your-life, Foster keeps the reader turning page.

Since this is billed as “A Lisa Jamison Mystery” I am assuming it will be the first in a series, and I predict it will be one that many readers will welcome and enjoy. Lisa is the quintessential tough girl with a soft touch, committed fully to raising her daughter on her own, but also very willing to step in and stand up for what’s right.

Duffy Foster is a skilled writer, delivering witty and sharp dialog, decent character development (I really want to know more about Lisa and her family), and good descriptive prose. Fans of Kathy Reichs, Janet Evanovich, and Lisa Scottoline will enjoy this new mystery series.

Publication Date: April 13, 2021
Published by: Level Best Books
Thanks to the author for a review copy

Murder at Mallowan Hall by Colleen Cambridge


Description

The first in an exciting new historical mystery series set in the home of Agatha Christie!

Colleen Cambridge’s charming and inventive new historical series introduces an unforgettable heroine in Phyllida Bright, fictional housekeeper for none other than famed mystery novelist Agatha Christie. When a dead body is found during a house party at the home of Agatha Christie and her husband Max Mallowan, it’s up to famous author’s head of household, Phyllida Bright, to investigate.

Tucked away among Devon’s rolling green hills, Mallowan Hall combines the best of English tradition with the modern conveniences of 1930. Housekeeper Phyllida Bright, as efficient as she is personable, manages the large household with an iron fist in her very elegant glove. In one respect, however, Mallowan Hall stands far apart from other picturesque country houses. It has a body in the library.

A former Army nurse, Phyllida reacts with practical common sense–and a great deal of curiosity. It soon becomes clear that the victim arrived at Mallowan Hall under false pretenses during a weekend party. Now, Phyllida not only has a houseful of demanding guests on her hands–along with a distracted, anxious staff–but hordes of reporters camping outside. When another dead body is discovered–this time, one of her housemaids–Phyllida decides to follow in M. Poirot’s footsteps to determine which of the Mallowans’ guests is the killer. With help from the village’s handsome physician, Dr. Bhatt, Mr. Dobble, the butler, along with other household staff, Phyllida assembles the clues. Yet, she is all too aware that the killer must still be close at hand and poised to strike again. And only Phyllida’s wits will prevent her own story from coming to an abrupt end.

Review

A body. In the library. At the home of Agatha Christie? What a way to start a new mystery series!

Colleen Cambridge joins the ranks of authors reimagining the roles of authors, family members, and sidekicks of famous detectives and introduces us to Phyllida Bright, housekeeper to Agatha and Max Mallowan. Mrs. Bright is every bit as smooth and clever as Marple & Poirot, although with a definite penchant for the Belgian detective. She and Mrs. Mallowan make a formidable team as they work to untangle the mystery surrounding the murder of the mysterious man in the library.

Cambridge includes other wonderful characters among the household staff who I hope will be fleshed out more in future books, especially the cook, butler, and chauffeur. She uses the English house party trope to great effect here, with the murder and investigation occurring over the course of the weekend, and the perpetrator revealed in a classic gather-them-all-together-and-reveal-the-murderer ending.

I anticipate great success for this series and predict that Phyllida Bright will soon be on the level with Mary Russell and Enola Holmes!

Recommended!

Publication Date: October 26, 2021
Published By: Kensington Books
Thanks to the Publisher and Netgalley for the review copies

Another Kind of Eden by James Lee Burke


Image of a cover of a novel: James Lee Burke Another Kind of Eden

Description*

New York Times bestselling author James Lee Burke brings readers a captivating tale of justice, love, brutality, and mysticism set in the turbulent 1960s.

The American West in the early 1960s appears to be a pastoral paradise: golden wheat fields, mist-filled canyons, frolicking animals. Aspiring novelist Aaron Holland Broussard has observed it from the open door of a boxcar, riding the rails for both inspiration and odd jobs.

Jumping off in Denver, he finds work on a farm and meets Joanne McDuffy, an articulate and fierce college student and gifted painter. Their soul connection is immediate, but their romance is complicated by Joanne’s involvement with a shady professor who is mixed up with a drug-addled cult. When a sinister businessman and his son who wield their influence through vicious cruelty set their sights on Aaron, drawing him into an investigation of grotesque murders, it is clear that this idyllic landscape harbors tremendous power—and evil. Followed by a mysterious shrouded figure who might not be human, Aaron will have to face down all these foes to save the life of the woman he loves and his own.

The latest installment in James Lee Burke’s masterful Holland family saga, Another Kind of Eden is both riveting and one of Burke’s most ambitious works to date. It dismantles the myths of both the twentieth-century American West and the peace-and-love decade, excavating the beauty and idealism of the era to show the menace and chaos that lay simmering just beneath the surface.

Review

I am an on-again-off-again James Lee Burke fan, so I put off cracking this one open. I’m sorry it took me so long! Burke has delivered a sort of wet hug of a story here that makes you feel increasingly uncomfortable as those arms tighten and tighten and tighten until you just have to break away, gasping and dripping wet.

Burke delivers his usual eloquent prose – skillful character development and taut descriptions enhance a twisted plot that climaxes in a weird and scary way. I’m still not sure if I would classify this as a mystery or horror novel – the librarians will have a hard time genrefying this one.

Recommended for those who like their stories deep and dark.

Publication Date: August 71, 2021
Published By: Simon & Schuster
Thanks to *Netgalley for the review copy