Review

Bookclubbed to Death. V. M. Burns

Bookclubbed to death

Published: Kensington
Date:  27th December 2022
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

After the local library in North Harbor, Michigan, is flooded in a storm, Sam offers her bookstore as a new venue for the Mystery Mavens Book Club. Unfortunately, she immediately runs afoul of the club leader, Delia Marshall, a book reviewer who can make or break careers—something Sam can ill afford with her debut historical mystery soon to be published. But the next morning, Sam opens her shop to find the unpleasant woman dead on the floor, bashed with a heavy—apparently lethal—tome: the Complete Works of Agatha Christie. While Sam is busy writing her latest British historical mystery in which the queen mother is suspected in the murder of a London Times correspondent, a pair of ambitious cops suspect Sam of the real-life crime. When she gathers Nano Jo and their friends from the Shady Acres Retirement Village to review the case, they discover every one of the Mavens had a motive. With her novel about to hit the stores, Sam must find out who clubbed Delia before a judge throws the book at her . . .

Bookclubbed to Death is #8 in the Mystery Bookshop series by V. M. Burns. I hadn’t read any of the previous books and found it easy to slip into the story because the author deftly brings the reader up to date with the various characters.

There is an eclectic mix of characters as there often is in a cozy mystery. Samantha as bookshop owner and more is the main character, along with her Nana Jo, and together they are a rather formidable team. And on to that they can add Jenna – Sam’s sister  who happens to be a lawyer.

When there is a murder in Sam’s bookshop the inept detectives make noises about putting it on Sam as the murderer. However they don’t take into account the wiles of Sam, Jenna, Nana Jo and the girls who have powerful links.

The person murdered was a horrible woman who was big into blackmailing so a number of people wanted her dead. Sam works away at the mystery, she is also a budding author and in writing her mystery set in the late 1930’s in England she unwinds and begins to notice clues. I have to say I didn’t really bond with that device of including it in the story but others may like it.

It was easy to read, engaging and often humorous.  I didn’t know who the murderer was to the end so that was good although really unsurprising in light of all the blackmail!

Review

Picking Up the Pieces Amanda Prowse

book cover

Published: Lake Union Publishing
Date: January 10th 2023
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

As Nora and her British Army officer husband, Gordy, pack up yet another home and leave the sun of Cyprus for the drizzle of England, she can’t shake a feeling of regret—at her failure to follow her own dreams, but also, if she’s honest, at having ended up an officer’s wife at all, drifting through a life of temporary homes and temporary relationships.

Since losing her parents at a young age, Nora’s life has been lacking an anchor: someone or something to make her feel secure. Her marriage has been her only permanent relationship, and just as even that appears to be fizzling out, a tragedy forces Nora into the role of legal guardian to her seven-year-old nephew, Ted. Faced suddenly with a responsibility she never dreamed of, how can Nora possibly offer the boy the kind of unconditional love he deserves, when she’s never experienced it for herself?

But as she navigates the precarious and unfamiliar world of parenthood, Nora begins to see herself through Ted’s eyes, as someone worthy of love and even joy. When she’s welcomed into the previously intimidating huddle of mums at the school gate, she has to wonder: is it too late to smash down the other barriers she’s built—and to have a second chance at a happy marriage with Gordy?

Picking Up the Pieces is a great title for this novel. There are quite a few pieces to be picked up. Nora is really not feeling fulfilled or happy in her marriage and it seems her husband is exactly the same. She has had a tough upbringing that has left her rather stand offish and not trusting of people, especially friendly overtures, her early childhood also put her off having children because she felt she wouldn’t make a good mother.

Her sister – much younger – is struggling unbeknown to Nora. Kiki was just a toddler when they lost there parents and life was even stranger still from then on. Depression dogs Kiki and in spite of great friends and a beautiful young son, she is just not coping. When Nora gets a call to come and take care of Ted because Kiki is ill, its one of the biggest challenges she has faced.

I found this a really page turning book, staying up at night to finish it. I loved the characters and their struggles. The themes of mental illness, loneliness, marriage difficulties, childhood wounds on the one hand and friendship, kindness, and on the other,  being willing to be honest and explore really difficult issues.  My heart went out to Ted, I loved how Nora grew and changed.

All in all a memorable read.

Review

Top Ten Tuesday. Jan 3rd

Top Ten Tuesday

Today I am taking part in The Artsy Reader Girl’s  link up.

Today’s topic is my favourite books of 2022. In no particular order here are ten that I loved… there were more but these seem to be the ones.  If you want to know more details about a book the covers are linked to Goodreads.

book coverI listened to this one and was totally engrossed in it. I know its a bit of a hype book but for  me it worked. One I’d recommend. Elizabeth Zott is a remarkable character. I loved so many of the characters, it had me chuckling out loud, a few times my heart was touched by some of the sadness and it always engaged. It highlights how difficult it was for women not so long ago, and let’s be honest it hasn’t all gone away. I loved Mads the daughter and her ability to cut through all the garbage and say it like it is. I just didn’t want to say good bye to these characters. And if you love a clever dog….

book cover

Snowed in By Christmas was a great Christmas read. It just had such a warm, cosy, family feel to it. I felt like I was there in Scotland, with snow and wonderful smells and the chaos of family interactions.

Firstly Nanna Jean just made me laugh so many times and her little interlude with a computer had me smiling more than once.

Thank You for ListeningAnother book I read in audiobook form. Absolutely delightful listening. The story is great, loved the characters and the variety therein. It’s a Rom Com that I really recommend, but its more than that. It has wisdom and growth of character and things to think about. And… Julia Whelan is a fabulous narrator. Oh my I want more where this comes from. Julia write another please.

book cover

Australian author Fiona Lowe did it again. She totally reeled me in and made me feel so fully involved in the lives of her characters. At first I found all the characters and situations a little overwhelming, but once I was in – I was in! A little bit of reader concentration and work never hurts us!

book coverThis book is middle grade but good middle grade is for any reader. I admit I almost read it in a day. Three orphans sent to the country in war set England. Book loving children, who find refuge in the local library when things are so tough. And the wonderful Mrs Muller – the librarian. Need your heart warmed? It might be broken first! This is a perfect read for that.

Hana Khan Carries On

Hana Khan Carries On. Very much enjoyed this book. A rom com, but…. The kind I like, great characters, comedic bits, interspersed with serious issues. Full of family, immigrant issues and most of all love. Highly recommend.

book coverSouth of the Buttonwood Tree.

Loved this story. A bit of mystery – great characters and times of joy and sadness. About secrets and being transparent. Found family. So good.


The Awakening
The Awakening was the first in the trilogy and I read all three. Loved this mix of contemporary and fantasy and a portal between the two. The Irish link didn’t hurt. Loved Breen’s growth and journey. Carried away by story. Epic!

book coverIt’s a few years since I read Beartown but I was able to pick up and remember surprisingly. Yes it is dark in places but so insightful into characters and the space between black and white. An amazing book. So full of wisdom and characters who fall into a reader’s heart. I’d give it 5 stars ++++

book coverWhat an unusual book. I read it over a month as a slow and steady read and it did deserve that. So I was reading to appreciate rather than gobble down. What a character the Count is. A man who takes his circumstances and chooses what he does with it.

And there they are ten. There were more five star reads but these suffice to show that my 2022 reading year was a really good one.

Review

Bread Over Troubled Water. Winnie Archer.

Bread over Troubled Water

Published: Kensington
Date: 29th November 2022
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

A regular who used Yeast of Eden as a workspace, Josh Prentiss always turned heads with his startlingly good looks and thousand-watt smile. But Ivy can’t help noticing one morning that he seems distracted and off his game. Later, during a visit to the park where she and Miguel plan to hold their engagement party—with plenty of baked goods on the menu—her rescue pug, Agatha, sniffs out Josh lying in a bed of poppies…scone cold dead.

There’s no reason for Ivy to get involved. She’s busy enough holding down the fort as the shop’s owner, Olaya, cares for her recently orphaned niece, not to mention the stress when a new employee is fired and storms out in a rage.  Then a band of rabble-rousers starts picketing the bakery, claiming that Olaya’s sourdough roll is what killed Josh—and Ivy hears some salacious gossip about her beloved boss. She doesn’t think there’s a grain of truth to the seedy rumors—but to prove it, she’ll have to start sleuthing . . .

Bread Over Troubled Water is #8 in the Bread Shop Mysteries.  It is the first time I have read a book in this series so it took me quite awhile to settle into the shop and its characters. Ivy works there in part time on a kind of voluntary basis. She is very loyal to the owner Olaya who also happens to be in a relationship with Ivy’s father.

When Josh Prentiss is found murdered, by Ivy, and because he has just eaten at the bakery, the immediate public blame falls on the bakery. So Ivy is very motivated to prove they had nothing to do with it. Or did they? And with the elderly pink loving Penelope Branford, Ivy is on a mission. She has friends in high places in the local police – her best friend and well… sister in law. However in the past Captain York has been a bit of a thorn in Ivy’s side. In her favour Ivy is someone who shares most of what she finds out with the police.

They mystery was full of red herrings so I never really worked out who the murderer was until Ivy works it out at the very end.

Starting into this book at #8 was workable, however it would have been a lot easier to follow if I had come to know the characters via the previous books.

Review

The Boardwalk Bookshop

The boardwalk bookshop

Published: HQN
Date:  31st May 2022
Source: Publicist via NetGalley

When fate brings three strangers to a charming space for lease on the California coast, the Boardwalk Bookshop is born. Part bookstore, part gift shop, part bakery, it’s a dream come true for Bree, Mikki and Ashley. But while their business is thriving, their personal lives are…not.

Bree, wounded by brilliant but cold parents and her late husband’s ultimate betrayal, has sworn to protect her heart at all costs. Even from Ashley’s brother, a writer and adventurer who has inspired millions. He’s the first man to see past Bree’s barricades to her true self, which terrifies her. Mikki has this divorce thing all figured out—somehow, she’s stayed friends with her ex and her in-laws…until a new man changes how everyone looks at her, and how she sees herself. Meanwhile, Ashley discovers that the love of her life never intends to marry. Can she live without being a wife if it means she can have everything else she’s ever wanted?

At sunset every Friday on the beach in front of the Boardwalk Bookshop, the three friends share a champagne toast. As their bond grows closer, they challenge one another to become the best versions of themselves in this heartachingly beautiful story of friendship, sisterhood and the transformative power of love.

Let me introduce The Boardwalk Bookshop by Susan Mallery to you, in case you haven’t come across it. It did publish back in May and while I had intended reading and reviewing it earlier, I have just got to it now.

The book has three women who share a common retail area and sell books, gifts and muffins. And while they didn’t know each other initially they begin to form a common bond and a great friendship. For each of the women  there is a relationship challenge and they must each work out what they really want. And for one especially the challenge of letting go the past so that it doesn’t influence the possibility of happiness in the future.

I was hoping for. a more women’s fiction kind of read than a romance, and so for me the book began to drag, in spite of the interesting back stories of each of the women. Another reason it began to drag was it was so like many other stories I’ve read of three women forming a friendship and negotiating romantic relationships. The third reason it began to annoy me was Mallery’s approach to sex and the use of slang sexual words in this book and a previous one I’d read by this author.

So these things may not bother you as a reader so we can agree – not for me, but maybe for you.

Review

The Sunshine Sisters. Molly Fader. Blog Tour.

The Sunshing Girls

Published: Graydon House
Date: December 6th 2022
Source: Publicist via NetGalley

1967 Iowa. Nursing school roommates BettyKay and Kitty don’t have much in common. BettyKay has risked her family’s disapproval to pursue her dreams away from her small town. Cosmopolitan Kitty has always relied on her beauty and smarts to get by and to hide a painful secret. Yet the two share a determination to prove themselves in a changing world, forging an unlikely bond on a campus unkind to women.

Before their first year is up, tragedy strikes, and the women’s paths are forced apart. But against all odds, a decades-long friendship forms, persevering through love, marriage, failure, and death, from the jungles of Vietnam to the glamorous circles of Hollywood. Until one snowy night leads their relationship to the ultimate crossroads.

Fifty years later, two estranged sisters are shocked when a famous movie star shows up at their mother’s funeral. Over one tumultuous weekend, the women must reckon with a dazzling truth about their family that will alter their lives forever…

Will the real BettyKay stand up? Well as the book starts of course she can’t. It begins with her funeral, her two daughters at odds with each other and unbeknown to each on a bit of a precipice in their own lives. And to add drama to the situation, a famous movie star walks into the situation.

We are taken back to the 1960’s where Kitty, BettyKay and Jenny meet up as they begin nursing training. It is the beginning of a long ranging friendship, true friendship where they support each other through all kinds of challenges and hardships. At times they fall out and take time – sometimes a long time before the relationship is repaired. The main focus is on Kitty and BettyKay, but I loved the hardworking Jenny and her love and support that she gave as well. As a black woman of that time she faced many challenges but was courageous and made great choices.

The story ranges from a small town to Hollywood and then Vietnam and back again. Slowly Abbie and Clara piece together things they never knew about their mother and to a much less degree their much loved father. The secrets abound, and as they are revealed walls break down around all of the living characters.

This is a book to get immersed in, to feel for the characters and love the friendship of three women and the promise for two daughters, who finally facing the truth, will have new life and new hope.

author photo

Author Bio:

MOLLY FADER is the USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of The McAvoy Sisters Book of Secrets, The Bitter and Sweet of Cherry Season, and more than 40 romance novels under the pennames Molly O’Keefe and M. O’Keefe. She grew up outside of Chicago and now lives in Toronto.

Author Website:     Facebook:    Instagram: 
Twitter:

Buy Links:
BookShop:
Harlequin:
Barnes & Noble:
Amazon:
Books-A-Million:



Review

Work Wives. Rachael Johns

The Work Wives

Published: Harlequin Australia
Date:  3rd November 2022
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

For work wives Debra and Quinn, it’s a case of opposites attract. They are each other’s lifelines as they navigate office politics and jobs that pay the bills but don’t inspire them.

Outside work, they are also friends, but where Quinn is addicted to dating apps and desperate to find love, Deb has sworn off men. Although Deb is not close to her own mother, her teenage daughter is her life and there’s nothing she wouldn’t do to protect her. But Ramona has other ideas and is beginning to push boundaries.

Life becomes even more complicated by the arrival of a new man at the office. One woman is attracted to him, while the other hoped she’d never meet him again.

But when Deb, Quinn and Ramona are forced to choose between friends, love and family, the ramifications run deeper than they could ever have expected.

Work Wives is Rachael Johns latest novel. It explores the lives of Deb and Quinn, two women who work at the same place. They are great mates, in spite of age difference, and can rely on each other.

Debra is the very responsible mother of Ramona, who at fifteen is negotiating friendships, school life with its challenges of girls who can be rather mean. Ramona finds though that good friends exist. She is also dealing with the fact she’d like to know who her father is.

But Debra has a few secrets, well one main one and it’s about to disrupt all their lives. It didn’t take long to work out what had happened and what might be going on.

I liked the characters on the whole, however for me this was just a little over the top and maybe a little too well all tied up.  It felt just too long to me as well.  I did want to know how it all worked out and found myself happy for the way it did.

Review

The Stolen Book of Evelyn Aubrey.

The Stolen Book of Evelyn Aubrey

Published: Harlequin: Park Row
Date: 1st November 2022
Source: Publicist via NetGalley

England, 1898. When Evelyn first married the famous novelist William Aubrey, she was dazzled by his brilliance. But their newlywed bliss is brief when William is gripped by writer’s block, and he becomes jealous of Evelyn’s writing talent. When he commits the ultimate betrayal—stealing a draft of her novel and passing it off as his own—Evelyn decides to write her way out of their unhappy marriage.

California, 2006. Abigail always wondered about her father, his identity forever lost when her mother unexpectedly died. Or so Abigail thought, until she stumbled upon his photo and a message that her great-great-grandmother was the author Evelyn Aubrey, leading Abigail on a journey to England in search for answers. There, she learns of Evelyn’s shocking disappearance and how London society believed she was murdered. But from what she uncovers about Evelyn, Abigail believes her brilliant great-great-grandmother had another plot up her sleeve.

The Stolen Book of Evelyn Aubrey is a dual time line book. In the late nineteenth century Evely married William, a supposed famous author, or was he? Out of the darkness in their marriage Evelyn writes and William takes and publishes. They have one child and from this springs a sad and relatively unhappy family.

Abigail unbeknown to her is related to this family many years later, through her father – whom she doesn’t know or has met. She is a rather unsettled young woman who goes on a journey to find out who her father is, starting in England and then back to the USA.

Both women, Evelyn and Abigail, related to each other, make their own journeys into new ways of seeing things and starting over. We don’t get the full story of Evelyn but we can surmise that she went on under a different name in America. Abigail on finding what she has looked for and more, seems to have found her footing and will go on to make a good life for herself.

I enjoyed reading this novel, I wanted to find out what happened to each woman and how one life affected another. That said, it didn’t quite draw me in enough to rate it highly.  3.25 stars.

Review

Secrets in the Stacks

book cover

Publisher: Kensington
Date: 1st November 2022
Source: Publisher via NetGalley

After an ominous Tarot reading, Sedona bookstore owner Rarity Cole must find a killer to keep her friend safe from harm—even if the cards are stacked against her . . .

Following her recovery from breast cancer, Rarity has embraced a life of healing and service in her Sedona, Arizona, community. She welcomes the opportunity to participate in the annual summer healing fair with her fittingly named new-age bookstore, The Next Chapter. The members of the Tuesday Night Survivors’ Book Club are also volunteering, maintaining a cooling station for overheated festivalgoers, and hosting a Tarot card reader for entertainment.

But one member, Darby, is anything but entertained when the Tarot reader pulls a Death card. With a mammogram coming up, she’s freaked out and goes home—only to walk into a crime scene where someone near and dear to her has been murdered. Despite the objections of Detective Drew Anderson, Rarity is determined to help her friend and protect her from being the killer’s next victim . . .

Secrets in the Stacks by Lynn Cahoon is #2 in the Survivors’ Book Club Mystery series.

Rarity has come to Sedona to pick up her life and do what she really loves, after a tangle with cancer. After the first mystery/murder she was helping sleuth, she ended up with he victim’s dog – Killer. They now have a real bond going on.

Rarity has formed a book club of mainly survivors of cancer, but now others have been welcomed in. But when is a book club not a book club? When it is sleuthing! Rarity has a student – Darcy part time working for her and its not long before the group has to go into action and solve who killed Darcy’s grandmother?

The group work together along with Drew the local policeman, with little mysterious happenings along the way, always with a sense of danger lurking. I didn’t guess the murderer, although details needed to be revealed to see what was going on.

I enjoy this group and their sense of found family and the relationship that is blossoming between Rarity and Archer. This was a gentle and readable cozy mystery.

Review

The Winter Garden. Nicola Cornick

The winter garden

1605: Anne Catesby fears for her family. Her son, the darkly charismatic Robert, is secretly plotting to kill the king, placing his wife and child in grave danger. Anne must make a terrible choice: betray her only child or risk her family’s security…and her very life.

Present Day: When her dreams of becoming a musician are shattered, Lucy takes refuge in her family’s ancestral home in Oxfordshire. Everyone knows it was originally home to the notorious gunpowder plotter Robert Catesby. As Lucy spends more time in the beautiful winter garden that Robert made, she starts to have strange visions of a woman in Tudor dress, terrified and facing a heartbreaking dilemma.

As Lucy’s and Anne’s stories converge, a shared secret that has echoed through the centuries separating them will change Lucy’s life forever…

The Winter Garden is a slightly unusual dual timeline. We are taken back to Tudor times and the gun powder plot, mainly presented to us through the eyes of Anne Gatesby. We see a beautiful relationship that ends so soon. What stood out to me was that people died so quickly from various diseases, and to make it through childhood is a mission.

In contemporary time, we meet Lucy, who has been ill and can no longer carry on with the musical career she so dearly loved. She stays at her Aunt’s place to convalesce, and somehow her sadness connects with a woman from Tudor times. She seems to be wanting something, and from time to time Lucy can see her. Lucy combines with Finn who is restoring the Tudor garden, to solve the mystery that has a past and a present.

There is danger, someone has already lost their life and someone else will too in the course of the story. And through it all Lucy finds a new passion and a relationship that is very likely to last.

I enjoyed this story, the Tudor section was especially interesting and I really felt for Anne Catesby. I liked the slightly paranormal aspect and the link between past and present.