Mal Thomas is done with the crazy advertising world. All he wants to do is relax and enjoy time with his wife in their Blue Ridge Mountains home. His relaxation comes to an end when he gets the call of a lifetime: a world-famous billionaire wants to meet with him about a job.
Alfredo Baptiste started with nothing and became the world’s most famous industrialist. Now he wants Mal and his team of brilliant minds to convince the world that his adopted son, Sebastian, is the second coming of the Messiah. Mal and his team face their own doubts and those of the entire world as they put together the most ambitious advertising campaign ever.
I’m of two minds about this book: on one hand, it drew me in even as the subject matter horrified me. Mal’s voice is at times very compelling, but somewhat erratic. This is an intriguing look at the inside of advertising, and the thought processes that go into it. I liked seeing a main character who was older and happily married, instead of the opposite. And I loved the idea of The Hug Challenge!
In a small Pennsylvania town, a thousand dead starlings fall from the sky, landing on the baseball field. The town is in an uproar, wondering what caused the birds to die, and fearing for their safety. The dead birds are the biggest news to hit town for years. Until a reporter sees everyone’s favorite teacher, Nate Winters, embracing bad girl student Lucia Hamm in front of a no-tell motel.
Despite Nate’s denials, he’s soon being investigated, and Lucia adds fuel to the fire by claiming they are having an affair. Nate’s wife, Alecia, wonders if her husband is telling the truth. With the whole town hurling accusations, other rumors start to surface about Nate. Then Lucia disappears, and Nate is the only suspect. But there’s more going on in this small town than meets the eye, and with only one person on his side, Nate may never find out the truth.
The Blackbird Season was not what I expected at all. The portrayal of small-town life is so vivid and realistic, with the gossip and back-stabbing and secrets. As someone who grew up in a small town, this felt completely believable. I spent most of the book wondering, like the characters, if Nate was guilty and just what Lucia was hiding. There are a lot of twists and unexpected turns in this novel, and it’s a riveting read.
Sixteen-year-old Annis Whitworth just found out that her father is dead and all his money is missing. With the social season in London looming, Annis and her aunt are on the verge of the horror of all horrors: having to find jobs. When Annis finds out her father was a spy, she decides to follow in his footsteps. But the spymasters are not so sure.
After learning she can sew glamours, magical disguises, Annis moves to a small town and starts her double life as Madame Martine, seamstress extraordinaire. She must succeed in her new role if she is ever to find out who killed her father—and earn aplace as a spy herself.
Murder, Magic, and What We Wore is a fun Regency-era tale of a girl discovering who she truly is as she seeks her place in life. Annis finds out there is far more going on around her than she ever imagined, and she has talents she never suspected. This is a light, enjoyable read, with quirky characters and a fantastic setting.
Kelly Jones is the author of Murder, Magic, and What We Wore.
(Galley provided by Knopf via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Ellie Matthews teaches forensics at a private college now, but she used to be a crime scene investigator, until one horrifying murder case turned personal. Now she teaches aspiring CSI students, and dotes on her young nephew. Then she finds the body of a murdered student, and suddenly her world is in chaos.
Ellie’s mentor asks her to consult on the case, and soon Ellie is in the thick of a murder investigation in which her closest academic colleague is the chief suspect. While Ellie races to make sense of the evidence and identify the killer, more bodies pile up, and soon Ellie has no idea who she can trust.
I’ve read—and loved—all the Java Jive books, so I was excited to read Caroline Fardig’s newest endeavor, and I was not disappointed. Ellie is a complex character, and her past haunts her, no matter how much she tries to pretend otherwise. She likes her quiet life as a professor, but her past as a CSI calls to her as well. I had to keep changing my guesses as to who the murderer was, and I didn’t quite get it right. I loved the premise, and the setting, and I look forward to reading more of Ellie’s adventures.
Caroline Fardig is the best-selling author of the Lizzie Hart Mysteries and the Java Jive Mysteries series. Her newest novel, Bitter Past, is the first book in the Ellie Matthews series.
(Galley provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.)
In the small Irish village of Duneen, nothing ever happens. At least, nothing new ever happens. So, when human remains are discovered during a building project, the entire town is in an uproar, wondering who the bones belong to—and who put them there.
The smart money is on the remains being Tommy Burke, who disappeared years ago, leaving two women to suffer his loss. Sergeant PJ Collins, overwhelmingly shy and conscious of his weight, just wants to solve the first real case of his life, but finds himself drawn into the secrets of Duneen’s past as he attempts to unravel the mystery of what happened all those years ago, and what’s going on now.
I’ve never seen The Graham Norton Show—a horrible lack, I’m sure, but I don’t watch much TV—so the author wasn’t a draw for me with this one. The rural Ireland setting, however, was a draw, and the novel did not disappoint. The characters in Holding aren’t that interesting on the surface—an overweight small-town Garda, a middle-aged woman who lives with her sisters and stays at home, the wife and mother who likes to drink—but they end up being compelling and real. PJ has struggled his whole life with his weight and his lack of accomplishments, and his struggles are so relatable they make the reader sympathize with him. The small-town setting of Duneen mixed with the cozy mystery aspect make Holding an engrossing and very readable story.
Graham Norton is the start of the award-winning The Graham Norton Show. Holdingis his first novel.
(Galley courtesy of Atria Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Grayson Blake and his brother have come home to Honey Ridge, Tennessee to turn an old gristmill into one of their up-and-coming restaurants. Grayson has a strict schedule he plans to stick to, no matter what. Time is money, after all. But when an old skeleton is found in the basement of the mill, his schedule comes to a screeching halt.
Valerie Carter is a former ballet dancer and now co-owner of a charming inn in Honey Ridge. The secrets from her past haunt her, as does the love of the dance she still yearns for. Regret and memories threaten to overwhelm her, when she meets Grayson and finds herself swept into a Civil War-era mystery that ties the skeleton in the mill with her beloved Peach Orchard Inn.
I didn’t realize The Innkeeper’s Sister was part of a series when I started reading. Fortunately, it’s also a standalone, so readers who haven’t read the other books will be fine. I’m from the South, and this novel is Southern through-and-through, from the sweet iced tea to the everything-is-perfect façade put on by Valerie’s mother. Both Grayson and Valerie have faced tragedy in their lives, tragedy they are still struggling to overcome. There are two storylines here: the modern-day one of Valerie and Grayson, and the Civil War one that tells the story of the skeleton in the mill. Both lend depth to each other, and strengthen the family bonds of the Carters. An uplifting story about characters that are flawed and struggling to find their strengths while overcoming their weaknesses.
Linda Goodnight is a best-selling and award-winning fiction writer. Her newest novel is The Innkeeper’s Sister, part of the Honey Ridge series.
(Galley provided by Harlequin via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Three years ago, sisters Emma and Cass disappeared one night, leaving no trace of where they’d gone—or why they left. Then Cass shows up at the family home, alone. She tells a story of kidnapping and being held on a mysterious island against her will, and is desperate for the police to find Emma.
But forensic psychologist Abby Winter sees holes in Cass’s story, and it will take delving into her own past to uncover the truth hidden behind a narcissistic mother who twisted the lives of her daughters until they no longer knew the truth. Only Abby can find Emma, because even Cass doesn’t know the true story.
Emma in the Night is not a happy family tale. Not in the least. Cass and Emma’s family is troubled, controlled by their narcissistic mother, an expert at twisting things to get what she wants. There are so many twists in this story! While I knew Cass wasn’t telling the whole truth—there are little signs of that—I had no idea what the truth actually was. The author does a great job of drawing the reader in and bringing them along for a ride filled with unexpected twists and turns.
Wendy Walker is a former lawyer who now writes psychological thrillers. Emma in the Night is her newest novel.
(Galley provided by St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Kanchana doesn’t look like anyone else in her small Kansas town, and even her friends say things that prove they don’t think she belongs. At home, her Thai grandmother tells her she’s too westernized. The only place she’s comfortable is when she’s designing and making clothes in secret. When her mother brings home a teenage girl named Shelly, Kan thinks she’s finally found a true friend.
At first, things are great, with Shelly admiring everything about Kan, including the boy she likes. But soon it’s like Shelly is trying to take over her life, including copying Kan’s appearance. So Kan investigates Shelly’s past, and finds dark secrets about Shelly—and her own family—that she never imaged.
I read Girl on the Verge in less than 24 hours. I could not put it down! I loved how Kan struggles to bridge the gap between her heritage, and the culture she lives in (Okay, I don’t love the struggle, but I love that it’s depicted.). The relationship between Kan and her grandmother is full of layers and a deep love, but secrets abide there as well. The creepiness of Shelly and her fixation on Kan grew slowly, and the ending was very well-done. Fast-paced with several twists, I highly recommend this book!
The Earl of Wrexford isn’t your average aristocrat: for starters, he has a keen scientific mind and an interest in chemistry. Secondly, he has no time for fools and doesn’t care what the rest of society thinks of him. When Reverend Holworthy publicly condemns him for his wickedness, he retaliates, and the war of words escalates, and cartoonist A.J. Quill uses the feud as fodder, drawing even more attention. Then the reverend is found dead, with chemical burns, and Wrexford finds himself the primary suspect.
Charlotte Sloane is a talented artist, but knows the public would never follow a female cartoonist, so she uses her late husband’s pen name to put food on the table…at the expense of the rich and famous she scathingly depicts. When the Earl of Wrexford figures out her identity, she’s afraid he’ll expose her. Instead, he seeks her help in solving the mystery of the reverend’s death before he swings for the crime. But the crime has roots in dark secrets, and the perpetrator will stop at nothing to see that they fail, even adding more victims to the list.
Murder on Black Swan Lane is a richly-detailed story set in Regency England. Charlotte is an engaging character, full of curiosity and a secretive past, but determined to make her own way in the world. Wrexford is fascinating, with his dry sense of humor, brilliant mind, and disdain for traditions. Together, the two of them enter a dark and twisted world full of secrets that takes them places they’d never imagined.
Andrea Penrose is a romance author who writes under several pen names. Murder on Black Swan Lane is her newest book, the first book in the Wrexford & Sloane Regency series.
(Galley provided by Kensington Books in exchange for an honest review.)
The Cornwall coast is a quiet place of haunting beauty. Not much happens there. Evie Sherman is found battered and almost dead in a field, with no memory of who she is. When flickers of her memory return, the community comes together to search for her missing daughter, Angel. The only thing Evie knows for sure is that Angel is in terrible danger.
But the police can find no trace that Angel exists and soon start to wonder if Evie’s having a mental breakdown as scenes from the past exert their pull on the present. And as the darkness around Evie deepens, her internal warning—Trust no one—grows stronger, as she searches for the daughter she remembers when no one else believes.
The setting in Part of the Silence is as much a character as Evie is, and now I really want to visit Cornwall. Not by myself, since the novel is a bit creepy, though. I enjoyed the mystery of the novel, both the present-day one, and the linked one in the past, although I did not feel a connection to the characters—possibly because Evie did not trust any of them.
(Galley provided by Kensington Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)