Halloween Moon by Joseph Fink


Description*

From New York Times bestselling adult author Joseph Fink comes a wickedly fun middle grade novel about a Halloween-obsessed girl named Esther Gold, who goes out trick-or-treating for one last year, only to find her town under the thrall of a mysterious presence.

Esther Gold loves Halloween more than anything in the world. So she is determined to go trick-or-treating again this year despite the fact that her parents think she is officially too old. Esther has it all planned out, from her costume to her candy-collecting strategy. But when the night rolls around, something feels . . . off.

No one is answering their door. The moon is an unnatural shade of orange. Strange children wander the streets, wearing creepy costumes that might not be costumes at all. And it seems like the only people besides Esther who are awake to see it all are her best friend, her school bully, and her grown-up next-door neighbor.

Together, this unlikely crew must find a way to lift the curse that has been placed upon their small town before it’s too late. Because someone is out to make sure Halloween never comes to an end. And even Esther doesn’t want to be trapped in this night forever.

Review

I am a Halloween Girl. It’s always been my favorite holiday, and Halloween-themed and spooky stories some of my favorites. When I read the description of Halloween Moon, I thought it sounded vaguely like a 21st century version of the Ray Bradbury classic The Halloween Tree, so I thought I’d give it a read. All I have to say is WOW!

The Halloween Moon is one of the most entertaining and visceral (n a good way) books I’ve read in a long time. The basic story is one so many American children have experienced – how old is too old to go trick-or-treating. Fink has taken that coming-of-age decision and turned it on its head, layering on all the things 13-year-olds grapple with – fear of change, new friendships, new loves, aging parents, and a wily, unpredictable, ever-changing future.

This is storytelling at its best, with a relentless, brave protagonist, her band of three sturdy friends, an evil, snarky antagonist, and a quest, all rolled into a delicious Southern California setting during the best time of the year.

But, here’s the thing. I absolutely loved this story. I am a 58 year old, Halloween-loving librarian who felt all the feels about growing older and experiencing change that are included here. Will a real 21st century 13-year-old feel the same way? I’m just not sure, but I really hope so!

Publication Date: July 27, 2021
Published By: Quill Tree Books
Thanks to *Netgalley for the review copy

In the Crypt with a Candlestick: a Mystery by Daisy Waugh


Description

A wonderfully comedic mystery full of sharp drama, sly wit—and a smidgeon of murder—in the vein P. G. Wodehouse, Julian Fellowes, and Agatha Christie.

Sir Ecgbert Tode of Tode Hall has survived to a grand old age—much to the despair of his younger wife, Emma. But at age ninety-three he has, at last, shuffled off the mortal coil.

Lady Emma Tode, thoroughly fed up with being a dutiful Lady of the Manor, wants to leave the country to spend her remaining years in Capri. Unfortunately her three tiresome children are either unwilling or unable (too mad, too lefty or too happy in Australia) to take on management of their large and important home, so the mantle passes to a distant relative and his glamorous wife.

Not long after the new owners take over, Lady Tode is found dead in the mausoleum. Accident? Or is there more going on behind the scenes of Tode Hall than an outsider would ever guess?

In the traditions of two great but very different British authors, Agatha Christie and P. G. Wodehouse, Waugh’s hilarious and entirely original twist on the country house murder mystery comes complete with stiff upper lips, even stiffer drinks, and any stiffs that might embarrass the family getting smartly brushed under the carpet.

Review

Loved, loved, LOVED this madcap romp through the “most beautiful home in England!”

Cozy mysteries often take themselves a little too seriously, and here the author pokes fun at the English County House version of the genre.

The characters, especially India, are just pure fun, and the way the bad guy is caught had me alternately gasping and cackling.

Nicely done!

Published By: Pegasus Books
Publication Date: October 5, 2021
Thanks to Edelweiss.Plus for the review copy

Be My Ghost by Carol J. Perry


Description

Maureen Doherty and her golden retriever Finn have taken possession of a charming old inn—only to discover that it’s already possessed by tenants whose lease on life already ran out. Maureen’s career as a sportswear buyer hits a snag just before Halloween, when the department store declares bankruptcy. Meanwhile, Finn’s lost his way as a guide dog after flunking his test for being too friendly and easily distracted. Sadly, only one of them can earn unemployment, so Maureen’s facing a winter of discontent in Boston–when she realizes she can’t afford her apartment.

Salvation comes when she receives a mysterious inheritance: an inn in Haven, Florida. A quaint, scenic town on the Gulf of Mexico hidden away from the theme parks, Maureen believes it’s a good place to make a fresh start with a new business venture. But she gets more than she bargained for when she finds a dead body on her property–and meets some of the inn’s everlasting tenants in the form of ghosts who offer their otherworldly talents in order to help her solve the mystery.

I discovered Carol Perry’s Witch City series last year and really enjoyed her style of writing. That style is carried over into this new series featuring a former department store buyer who suddenly finds herself the owner of a vintage inn located in Haven, Florida.

Witch City focuses on, you guessed it, witches. This new series is all about ghosts. The inn our heroine Maureen inherits is haunted you see, as is the entire town of Haven. Perry spins an engaging yarn involving ghost hunters, a pissed off inn manager, a mysterious bequest to our intrepid heroine, and at least one fun ghost haunting Maureen’s penthouse suite.

While this isn’t anything new in terms of cozy mysteries, Perry successfully begins building the foundation of what I hope will become a lengthy series featuring Maureen Doherty, her golden retriever Finn, and a host of quirky, colorful characters inhabiting the picturesque town of Haven, Florida. Some cozies are super ridiculous with just about every genre cliche thrown in for good measure; others take themselves too seriously, resulting in a boring story. Be My Ghost is just right – great characters, great writing, great setting. A winner all the way.

Publication Date: August 31, 2021
Published By: Kensington
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Undertakers by Nicole Glover


Description

Nicole Glover delivers the second book in her exciting Murder & Magic series of historical fantasy novels featuring Hetty Rhodes and her husband, Benjy, magic practitioners and detectives living in post–Civil War Philadelphia.

Nothing bothers Hetty and Benjy Rhodes more than a case where the answers, motives, and the murder itself feel a bit too neat. Raimond Duval, a victim of one of the many fires that have erupted recently in Philadelphia, is officially declared dead after the accident, but Hetty and Benjy’s investigation points to a powerful Fire Company known to let homes in the Black community burn to the ground. Before long, another death breathes new life into the Duval investigation: Raimond’s son, Valentine, is also found dead.

Finding themselves with the dubious honor of taking on Valentine Duval as their first major funeral, it becomes clear that his passing was intentional. Valentine and his father’s deaths are connected, and the recent fires plaguing the city might be more linked to recent community events than Hetty and Benji originally thought.

The Undertakers continues the adventures of murder and magic, where even the most powerful enchantments can’t always protect you from the ghosts of the past . . .

Review

Nicole Glover’s series debut, The Conductors, is one of the most fascinating and unique stories I’ve read in a long time, and the stars of the series, Benjamin and Henrietta Rhodes, are two of the most engaging characters put to page. Glover’s second in the series, The Undertakers, drops the reader back into the Rhodes’ Philadelphia just a few months after the conclusion of The Conductors.

Ben and Hetty are trying to get their funeral home business off the ground when a new mystery is dropped in their laps. Mysterious fires and the even more mysterious deaths of a prominent businessman and his son set Hetty and Ben on a new case. An old enemy from the past re-surfaces and raises complicated feelings and memories for Hetty, who manages to tie them all back up into a neat conclusion.

Glover does a remarkable job of interweaving stories and experiences from the past into the current lives of the Rhodes and their circle of friends. She also introduces the reader to bits of African-American history that add a depth and dimension to the plot. Here, I was prompted to research the role of early fire companies in Philadelphia and other early American cities. Fire departments today are noble organizations committed to public safety, but they weren’t always so egalitarian. Glover uses that history to depict a slice of African-American life, post-enslavement.

The magical aspect of this story continues to engage me. Celestial magic versus sorcery is such an unusual view of how different cultures approach magic. Glover creates an intricate and deep relationship between African-Americans and the elements of earth, air, fire, and water and spins that into a captivating narrative sure to appeal to fans of fantasy and magic.

If you haven’t read The Conductors, go do that between now and November when this one comes out. I am definitely looking forward to the next installment in this series!

Published by: Mariner Books
Publication Date: November 9, 2021
Thanks to Edelweiss.Plus for the review copy

Silence in the Library by Katharine Schellman

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On Tour July 12 – August 6!

Regency widow Lily Adler didn’t expect to find a corpse when visiting a family friend. Now it’s up to her to discover the killer in the charming second installment in the Lily Adler mysteries.

Regency widow Lily Adler has finally settled into her new London life when her semi-estranged father arrives unexpectedly, intending to stay with her while he recovers from an illness. Hounded by his disapproval, Lily is drawn into spending time with Lady Wyatt, the new wife of an old family friend. Lily barely knows Lady Wyatt. But she and her husband, Sir Charles, seem as happy as any newly married couple until the morning Lily arrives to find the house in an uproar and Sir Charles dead.

All signs indicate that he tripped and struck his head late at night. But when Bow Street constable Simon Page is called to the scene, he suspects foul play. And it isn’t long before Lily stumbles on evidence that Sir Charles was, indeed, murdered.

Mr. Page was there when Lily caught her first murderer, and he trusts her insight into the world of London’s upper class. With the help of Captain Jack Hartley, they piece together the reasons that Sir Charles’s family might have wanted him dead. But anyone who might have profited from the old man’s death seems to have an alibi… until Lily receives a mysterious summons to speak with one of the Wyatts’ maids, only to find the young woman dead when she arrives.

Mr. Page believes the surviving family members are hiding the key to the death of both Sir Charles and the maid. To uncover the truth, Lily must convince the father who doesn’t trust or respect her to help catch his friend’s killer before anyone else in the Wyatt household dies.

Review

This witty mystery set in the 19th century features a strong female protagonist who defies convention of the times in how she lives, works, and plays. We first meet her as she graciously accepts the obviously unwanted presence of her father in her home. The condescension and outright disrespect he shows her reinforced for me that the “good old days” were definitely not that good for women.

The plot is well-crafted, the dialog clever and skillfully written, and the sense of place remarkable. The author takes time to develop Lily’s relationships and responses to the people and situations she encounters, which helps the reader become part of the story.

All the boxes are ticked here for a rollicking good mystery. Fans of Deanna Raybourn, Carole Nelson Douglas and Tasha Alexander will enjoy this series, and vice versa.

Praise for Silence in the Library:

“Schellman’s gracefully written whodunit is equally a tale of 19th-century female empowerment and societal conventions…More than a clever murder puzzle, this is an immersion in a bygone era.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“The fast-paced, engrossing story has a climactic confrontation worthy of Rex Stout or Agatha Christie.”
Library Journal, starred review

Book Details:

Genre: Historical Mystery
Published by: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: July 13th 2021
Number of Pages: 352
ISBN: 1643857045 (ISBN13: 9781643857046)
Series: Lily Adler Mystery #2 | The Lily Adler series are stand alone mysteries but even more fabulous if read in sequence
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Katharine Schellman

Katharine Schellman is a former actor, one-time political consultant, and currently the author of the Lily Adler Mysteries. A graduate of the College of William & Mary, Katharine currently lives and writes in the mountains of Virginia in the company of her family and the many houseplants she keeps accidentally murdering. 

Find her online:
katharineschellman.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @KatharineSchellman
Instagram – @katharinewrites
Twitter – @katharinewrites
Facebook – @katharineschellman 

Woman in Shadow by Carrie Stuart Parks

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July 12-23, 2021 Tour

Woman in Shadow by Carrie Stuart Parks

Carrie Stuart Parks combines her expertise as a forensic artist with her ability to craft a gripping story in this page-turning web of light and shadow.

A woman off the grid.

Darby Graham thinks she’s on a much-needed vacation in remote Idaho to relax. But before she even arrives at the ranch, an earthquake strikes—her first clue that something is amiss. Then when a cabin on the edge of town is engulfed in flames and problems at the ranch escalate, Darby finds herself immersed in a chilling mystery.

A town on fire.

A serial arsonist sends taunting letters to the press after each fire. As a forensic linguist, this is Darby’s area of expertise . . . but the scars it’s caused her also the reason she’s trying to escape from her life.

A growing darkness.

As the shadows continue to move in, the pieces of the town around her come into sharper focus. Can she trust the one man who sees her clearly?

Review

Fans of fast-paced, taut suspense novels will find this one by Carrie Stuart Parks one that can’t be put down. The wounded but smart protagonist appeals to the reader right away and you just know she’s going to triumph over the bad guys.

The author does a slow-reveal of the reasons for Darby’s presence at the isolated ranch, culminating in a really heartbreaking scene. At the same time, Stuart Parks does a good job of building relationships between Darby and those at the ranch, which all play into the starting ending.

The storyline is engaging and tricky enough that the revelations towards the end are unexpected and the end itself quite satisfying. I appreciate an author who can write mysteries with eloquence and flair, and Stuart Parks demonstrates that skill over and over here. Fans of Douglas Preston, Kathy Reichs, and Lisa Scottoline will enjoy this.

Praise for Woman in Shadow:

“Unique, witty, and hilarious, Carrie’s voice shines throughout Woman in Shadow. The perfect mix of intrigue, mystery and danger, this is most definitely a book for my keeper shelf.”
Dani Pettrey, bestselling author of the Coastal Guardians series

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Published by: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: July 13th 2021
Number of Pages: 336
ISBN: 0785239847 (ISBN13: 9780785239840)
Series: Woman in Shadow is not a part of a series.
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

Author Bio:

Carrie Stuart Parks

Carrie Stuart Parks is a Christy, multiple Carol, and Inspy Award–winning author. She was a 2019 finalist in the Daphne du Maurier Award for excellence in mainstream mystery/suspense and has won numerous awards for her fine art as well. An internationally known forensic artist, she travels with her husband, Rick, across the US and Canada teaching courses in forensic art to law-enforcement professionals. The author/illustrator of numerous books on drawing and painting, Carrie continues to create dramatic watercolors from her studio in the mountains of Idaho.

Catch Up With Carrie:

www.CarrieStuartParks.com
Goodreads
BookBub – @CarrieStuartParks
Instagram – @CarrieStuartParks
Facebook – @CarrieStuartParksAuthor

Or Join the Conversation on Twitter – #CarrieStuartParks

Baking for the Holidays by Sarah Kieffer


Description

A charming holiday baking book brimming with delicious, indulgent recipes, cozy winter photography, and lots of holiday cheer from Sarah Kieffer, author of 100 Cookies, beloved baker behind The Vanilla Bean Blog, and creator of the “bang-the-pan” method.

Delight family and friends with edible gifts and whip up some delicious baked goods to treat yourself through the long winter months after the holidays have ended. Recipes include: Triple Chocolate Peppermint Bark, Meyer Lemon-White Chocolate Scones, Pear-Almond Danish Bread, Hot Chocolate Cake, and Pumpkin Pie with Candied Pepita Streusel. With happy, festive photography and anyone-can-do-it recipes, this is a perfect holiday gift sure to please anyone in your life who loves to while away the winter months in their warm and cozy kitchen.

Sarah Kieffer is quickly finding a place on my cookbook shelves. While many of the recipes in Baking for the Holidays are familiar to me, Kieffer has included plenty of suggestions for twists on originals – unusual thing you can add to cakes, breads, and pastries – that add new life to old classics.

Every recipe I tried resulted in delicious, well-baked goodies, due to Kieffer’s careful and detailed instructions. She’s a good writer, and very attentive to detail, which makes her a great writer of cookbooks! The photography is full of luscious images of cakes, cookies, pastries and other delectable items.

My favorite “new” recipe is the one for Morning Buns, which I will be adding to my rotation of special items to bake for holidays.

Buy this for the baker in your life!

Publication Date: September 7, 2021
Published By: Chronicle Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

When the Reckoning Comes by LaTanya McQueen


Description*

A haunting novel about a black woman who returns to her hometown for a plantation wedding and the horror that ensues as she reconnects with the blood-soaked history of the land and the best friends she left behind.

More than a decade ago, Mira fled her small, segregated hometown in the south to forget. With every mile she traveled, she distanced herself from her past: from her best friend Celine, mocked by their town as the only white girl with black friends; from her old neighborhood; from the eerie Woodsman plantation rumored to be haunted by the spirits of slaves; from the terrifying memory of a ghost she saw that terrible day when a dare-gone-wrong almost got Jesse—the boy she secretly loved—arrested for murder. But now Mira is back in Kipsen to attend Celine’s wedding at the plantation, which has been transformed into a lush vacation resort. Mira hopes to reconnect with her friends, and especially, Jesse, to finally tell him the truth about her feelings and the events of that devastating long-ago day.

But for all its fancy renovations, the Woodsman remains a monument to its oppressive racist history. The bar serves antebellum drinks, entertainments include horrifying reenactments, and the service staff is nearly all black. Yet the darkest elements of the plantation’s past have been carefully erased—rumors that slaves were tortured mercilessly and that ghosts roam the lands, seeking vengeance on the descendants of those who tormented them, which includes most of the wedding guests. As the weekend unfolds, Mira, Jesse, and Celine are forced to acknowledge their history together, and to save themselves from what is to come.

About the Author

Dr. LaTanya McQueen has an MFA from Emerson College, a PhD from the University of Missouri, and was the Robert P. Dana Emerging Writer Fellow at Cornell College. She is an assistant professor of English and creative writing at Coe College in Iowa. Check out her website at https://latanyamcqueen.com

This is one of the few books I’ve read this year that I absolutely could not put down. There’s everything here – a mysterious backstory that is slowly revealed, characters who experienced trauma in the past and are now thrown together again after years apart, an old nightmare re-emerging, and the uber-spooky setting of an old South plantation haunted by the spirits of enslaved people.

McQueen is skilled at building tension by introducing just enough information to keep you turning pages. Her storytelling is electric and spine-tingling, with excellent character development and vivid descriptions of people, things, and places. Her use of the shameful past of the torture, murder, and degradation of enslaved people is horrifying enough, but the concept she introduces here about the spirits of those same people is terrifying (hence the title).

Fans of atmospheric horror will swallow this one whole. Check the libraries & bookstores for it this summer.

Highly recommended.

Publication Date: August 3, 2021
Published By: Harper Perennial
Thanks to Netgalley* for the review copy

Kevin Belton’s Cookin’ Louisiana by Kevin Belton


Description*

Kevin Belton’s fourth cookbook and television series focuses on the amazing food found throughout Louisiana. The star of New Orleans Cooking with Kevin Belton heads to multiple parishes found across Louisiana to explore dishes and unique flavor profiles associated with each area of the state. Kevin Belton’s Cookin’ Louisiana has 78 recipes (3 from each episode of the coordinating TV series) along with a generous helping of Kevin’s captivating stories and humor. Recipes include Smoked Meat Loaf with Sweet Glaze, Louisiana Fish on the Half Shell, Cane Syrup Cake, Pumpkin Soup, Fried Alligator Bites, and Shrimp Scampi Risotto.

The thing I enjoy the most about Kevin Belton is his down-to-earth authenticity, and that shines through every page of this delightful book.

The book is a wonderful blend of Belton’s storytelling about his home state of Louisiana and a collection of delicious recipes. Heavy on seafood, but including plenty of meat for the carnivores, Belton serves up stews, gumbos, stuffed veggies, and even some desserts.

I was happy to find a recipe for his Creole seasoning, too, and made that straightaway. I’ll be trying out a few of the recipes and expect that my Great Lakes born & bred husband will devour every one.

ARCs of cookbooks are often difficult to follow because the formatting and photos often aren’t fully correct, so there were a few recipes jumbled together, but I was able to figure them out.

Belton’s stories about the different parishes in Louisiana are charming and informative, but sometimes did not really connect with recipes offered in the chapter. I’m guessing that may be an editing issue that will be corrected prior to publication.

Overall, an excellent cookbook from a guy who cooks real food with history and meaning and who, like all excellent cooks, has a story for everything!

Published By: Gibbs-Smith
Publication Date: August 31, 2021
Thanks to *Edelweiss.Plus for the review copy

The Promise Witch by Celine Kiernan


Description*

Third in a darkly enchanting trilogy after Begone the Raggedy Witches and The Little Grey Girl, The Promise Witch opens in a time of heat and thirst. The deposed old tyrant of a queen sent a cursed winter to bury Witches Borough in snow. Months later, the clouds have vanished, but an equally cursed drought has settled over the castle and its river, now bone-dry. Witches Borough is dying, and though Mup is the pathfinder, the stitcher of worlds, is she strong enough to mend a scorched landscape and bring the water home? Enter a raggedy witch trailing a storm of ashes: Magda, Crow’s mother. She wants Mup to fulfill a promise. She wants Mup to help her. And woe betide any who stand in her way. Irish storyteller Celine Kiernan’s breathtaking tale of family, loyalty, and risk caps a timeless trilogy brimming with drama and danger—and heartbreaking resonance to the struggles of today.

I discovered Celine Kiernan’s series quite by accident while browsing online. I was thoroughly captivated by Begone the Raggedy Witches and eagerly read the follow-up Little Grey Girl. In The Promise Witch, Kiernan brings the family through the hardest of times, guiding Mup and Mam and the people through terrible thirst and vengeance from a power in decline.

As in the two previous stories, Mup is the center, the “stitcher of worlds” who provides the path for the new through the terrible landscape of the old.

Kiernan’s characterization is outstanding. Mup, wise beyond her years and powerful beyond belief, is still a little girl who needs her Mam. And Mam is a little girl all grown up finally understanding her role in this magical world.

This can be read as a straightforward fantasy for middle graders, but also as an allegory for climate change. Kiernan layers magic, friendship, and loyalty over top of environmental changes similar to what’s happening in our world. Her story implies that good change can happen when people come together, trust one another, and make decisions that may involve sacrifice for the benefit of others.

This is storytelling at its best. Highly recommended.

Published By: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: June 15, 2021
Thanks to *Edelweiss.Plus for the review copy