Quinn Bellandini just wants to enjoy her quiet life with her new boyfriend, Tucker, running her family’s B&B—and staying away from murder investigations. But when Quinn finds bones in Tucker’s Aunt Lela’s yard and Lela is accused of the 33-year-old murder of a homecoming queen, she and her sister Delilah end up on the case again.
Tucker is devastated by his aunt’s arrest, so Quinn wants to help. Soon she and Delilah are asking questions, talking to everyone from busybody neighbors to old high school teachers to society matrons. The case is cold, and people don’t want to talk, but Quinn keeps asking questions, and turns up answers that seem to lead to the least likely of suspects—including her own parents!
I enjoyed the second novel in the Southern B&B Mystery series. Fardig’s novels are always so enjoyable: light, funny, and charming, with quirky, likable characters. There’s a lot of family drama in this one—we are talking about the South, after all—and even the secondary characters are excellent. Lela is especially memorable, but so are the rest of this delightful cast.
Caroline Fardig is a bestselling author. Southern Harm is her newest novel, the second book in the Southern B&B Mystery series.
(Galley courtesy of Alibi via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
A group of friends in Mason, Missouri start a supper club to talk, share recipes, and have dinner and wine. Except one night one of the ladies confesses something startling—and soon the weekly get-togethers are called The Confession Club, with all the ladies sharing misdeeds, regrets, and secrets.
Like one of the ladies is dating a charming new man…but he’s homeless. And another ran away from New York hiding a secret so big she doesn’t even know what to do with it. The Confession Club gives them a chance to talk about these things, but it’s also a place for love and support.
The Confession Club is a charming read. I haven’t read any of the other Mason books, but had no problems jumping in with book three. Despite being about a big group of women, I had no problems keeping them sorted out, and I was completely invested in their secrets and confessions. Thoroughly enjoyed this!
Elizabeth Berg is an award-winning author. The Confession Club is her newest novel, the third book in the Mason series.
(Galley courtesy of Random House via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
When Libby Jones turned 25, she received the letter she’d been waiting on her whole life, the letter telling her who she really was and who her parents were. She wasn’t expecting to find out she is the sole inheritor of an abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames worth millions of dollars. She wasn’t expecting the story of how she was found, either.
Twenty-five years ago, neighbors called the cops to report a crying baby. The officers found Libby—called Serenity then—a happy, healthy 10-month old, in her crib. In the kitchen they found three dead bodies starting to decay and a hasty note. There was no trace of the other two adults, or the four kids rumored to live there. Nor was there any trace of whoever had been caring for the baby.
Libby has been waiting her whole life find out who she is—but she’s not the only one who’s been waiting. And asking questions about the past just might draw more than answers out of the dark.
This was a creepy tale of family suspense—not to mention dark manipulation and the growth of a cult. Weird family. Weird kids. Weird situation. But I was completely intrigued with the tale and finished it in one sitting.
Lisa Jewell is a New York Times-bestselling author. The Family Upstairs is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Atria Books via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Bea Crenshaw has lived in the Austin suburbs for years, watching the world go to pieces around her. So she starts prepping—doomsday prepping—secretly, letting no one in her family know just how prepared she is. When calamity strikes in the form of a solar pulse, maybe, Bea is ready. But she never imagined how hard the end of the world would be when taking care of her four grandchildren.
Bea knows if they are to survive, they must work together with their neighbors, but that’s easier said than done. Some boys would rather watch the world burn than help the community. Bea just wants her family safe—but will she be able to make that happen, no matter how prepared she thought she was?
A post-apocalyptic novel about a grandmother? That concept was unique enough to catch my attention. I enjoyed the idea and the story enough to finish reading the novel, but the novel did have some issues. The younger grandchildren—actually, all the grandchildren but Keno—seemed to be caricatures of “problem child” kids, not actual people. (Rebellious and defiant teenage girl, bratty little girl, angry pre-teen.) They annoyed me badly enough I didn’t actually care what happened to them. And Bea herself was oblivious to reality and real life—almost willfully so. If it fell outside the neat box she had prepared in her mind, she had no idea how to deal with it, so she went with denial. Not a healthy choice for anyone. I just wasn’t invested in these characters.
Brenda Marie Smith lives in Austin, Texas. If Darkness Takes Us is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Southern Fried Karma via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Darcy Wells is a literary genius. Her name is Darcy, after all. As long as she can remember, she’s found comfort and solace between the covers of her beloved books—and escape from her mom’s hoarding. But when a new property manager starts making changes at their apartment complex, Darcy is afraid the complex balancing act of her life will topple.
Darcy’s vibrant best friend is the only one she lets in—to her secrets, her life, and her apartment. But when Archer Fleet walks into the bookstore where Darcy works, she finds herself drawn to the wounded guy. He’s experienced a life-altering accident, and he’s struggling to make sense of his new reality, but he truly sees Darcy—who is, for once in her life, at a loss for words.
Darcy wants to let him in—but can she overcome her fears to take a chance on life and love?
I loved this book from the first page! Darcy is a wonderful character: flawed, struggling, and so strong it breaks my heart. Marisol’s and Darcy’s friendship made this book, but the rest of the characters were fantastic, too. From Mr. Winston (the bookstore owner) to Tess, Darcy’s mom, Archer’s best friend…I loved all these characters, and though the book’s portrayal of mental illness was spot-on. I could not put this book down!
Laura Taylor Ramey is a former teacher who writes young adult novels. The Library of Lost Things is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Danger “Danny” Warren is nothing like her father, a popular survivalist TV star…but she used to be. And she wants to be again. Danny lost her eye in a childhood accident and had to re-learn how to move and relate to spatial relationships. Danny knows that if she’d just been enough, she’d have a relationship with her father now.
So when her dad calls with an offer to join him on the set of his next adventure in the Amazon, Danny is all for it. She’ll get to prove to her dad that she’s still the adventure-seeking girl she was—and getting to hang out with the hottest teen actor on the globe isn’t a bad thing, either. Until their plane crashes in the rainforest and Danny finds out a horrible secret about her father—while fighting to stay alive and find safety.
I enjoyed this book so much! Danny’s feeling of never being enough is something I think we can all relate to, so that made this book completely relatable. Her larger-than-life father is kind of a jerk, but Danny loves him anyway, although finding out who he really is was a tough experience. A movie star crush, a rainforest adventure, a strong female main character—this book had it all!
Nancy Richardson Fischer used to write sports biographs, but now she plans fun adventures and writes. The Speed of Falling Objects is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin Teen/Inkyard Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Dizzy Doucette lives with her brother and dad above their vintage record store. She’s learning how to spin records, and realizes she has talent. But the one thing that haunts her every day is thoughts of her mega-famous singer mother who abandoned them when she was a baby. And no one knows her mother’s identity, as keeping that secret has always been a part of Dizzy’s life.
Struggling to deal with thoughts of her mother, Dizzy incorporates some of her music into one of her own pieces, and the next thing she knows, it’s everywhere and her secret is out. Dizzy never expected people to react to the news of who her mom is like this. She just wanted her mom to acknowledge her.
I know nothing about DJing and spinning records, so this was a completely new world for me. Spin was a quick read, and, surprisingly for a YA, this isn’t a romance-influenced story (except a bit for Dizzy’s brother). The story is about Dizzy and her struggles to accept her mom and her actions as Dizzy reaches for her future and her identity.
Colleen Nelson is a writer, a runner, a mother, a librarian, and a teacher. Spin is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Dundurn via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Seventeen-year-old Alaine Beauparlant knows exactly what she wants to do with her life: follow in her famous mother’s journalist footsteps. She loves her dad—who’s been there for her through everything since her parents’ divorce—but journalism has her heart. And clearly her mother’s, since she never has time for Alaine.
Then her mother loses it on TV, and in the aftermath, Alaine has “the incident.” She knows she crossed the line, but she’s just grateful she gets to finish the year doing an “immersion project” in Haiti, working for her aunt and getting to spend some time with her mom. Learning about her heritage is great—until she discovers the family curse and realizes her family will never truly heal unless all the secrets are brought to light.
I have approximately zero in common with Alaine on the surface—my parents are still married, there’s no family curse I’m aware of, and I’m unlikely to let my temper make a public spectacle—but I did relate to her so much. She has these huge dreams and the drive to realize them, but she must deal with her issues and embrace who she is before she can reach for her dreams. She’s a vibrant, sympathetic character, and I loved learning about the culture and history of Haiti along with her.
Maika and Maritza Moulite are the daughters of Haitian immigrants. One has an MBA, the other a master’s in journalism. Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is their new novel.
(Galley courtesy of Harlequin TEEN/Inkyard Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)
A handful of those were great reads, but three of the truly excellent reads included a book about three older women who changed their lives and found their dreams, a fantasy that started off with a girl who had never set foot on land, and a girl who has never really thought about her ethnicity and is forced to not just confront it but decide how it will shape her life.
Women in Sunlight, by Frances Mayes (she also wrote Under the Tuscan Sun) is about three older, single American women who become friends and defy expectations to move to Italy. While there, they truly embrace themselves and who they are as they create their best lives yet.
Crown of Coral and Pearl, by Mara Rutherford. Nor and her twin sister are the most beautiful girls in Varenia, so they know one of them will be chosen to marry the prince of Ilara. Nor longs to see the mainland, but when her sister is chosen, she knows that will never happen. Until her sister is injured and she’s chosen to replace her—finding Ilara a land of treachery, murder, and darkness.
Color Me In, by Natasha Diaz. Nevaeh has never really thought about her ethnicity, but when her Jewish father and her black mother separate, she and her mother go to live with her family in Harlem. One of Nevaeh’s cousins is angry because Nevaeh can pass as white and is oblivious to struggles of those around her in Harlem. Then Nevaeh’s dad decides she needs to embrace her Jewish roots, leaving Nevaeh struggling between two identities.
Their entire lives, Nor and her twin sister Zadie knew one of them would be chosen to wed the Crown Prince of Ilara, who ruled Varenia, where their people lived. When Nor was scarred years ago, she knew that honor would fall to Zadie, but Nor still dreams of seeing a city, a castle, and everything that happens on land.
Then Zadie is injured, and Nor is chosen to replace her. Now she’ll live her dreams of seeing far places. But Ilara isn’t the place she imagined. Instead, it’s cold and dark and locked in the heart of a mountain. And the Crown Prince is cruel and dangerous—and intent on destroying the Varenian way of life for his own ends.
Nor must learn to navigate the intrigues at court if she is to save her people and unravel the mysteries of Ilara—a murdered queen, a failing royal bloodline—and the prince’s half-brother, Talin, is the only one she can trust.
Crown of Coral and Pearl was entrancing from the very first page. I cannot imagine never setting foot on land, but the culture of Varenia is so vividly drawn that I felt comfortable there. Nor and Zadie’s love for each other, despite their mother’s hatefulness, is so loving and uplifting, and I rooted for everything to work out for them. Ilara is completely different, yet just as vividly realized, and, while I had no desire to visit there, the setting was just as much a part of the story as the characters. An excellent read!
Mara Rutherford is a journalist turned author. Crown of Coral and Pearl is her newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Inkyard Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)