Sunday, August 7, 2022

 

If you ever think you're having a bad day, it's nothing compared to the day Amber Jamison is having at the start of Killing Me. Just a few months shy of graduating with a degree in psychology, Amber is abducted on her way home from class. When she regains consciousness, she's tied up in an unfamiliar basement. She knows what's happened: she's the latest victim of the serial killer known as the Pikachu Killer, who sends news outlets GPS coordinates to find the bodies.  Amber is, of course, terrified, but at the same time has a plucky, almost upbeat attitude when confronted with her upcoming fate of being dismembered by an insane killer. Luckily, before that can happen, a tall blonde woman enters the situation from nowhere. It turns out that her savior, Grace, spends her time tracking down serial killers -- anonymously. This is just fine with Amber, who doesn't want to speak to the police due to some questionable events from her past.  When Amber has to quickly leave town, it becomes apparent that her interactions with Grace have caught the eye of the most dangerous serial killer of all.

When the book started out in nearby (for me) Johnson City, TN, I was excited to read a book set in this area. However, soon after escaping the Pikachu Killer, Amber and all the action moves to Las Vegas.  Once in Vegas, Amber, Grace, and an assorted group of colorful characters set out to trap a serial killer, without becoming his next victim. I really enjoyed the suspense of the book and the somewhat humorous tone, which lightened up the serious and violent subject matter of the book. There is something of a twist at the end that leaves the reader guessing about all that has happened up to that point. The afterward by the author promises a sequel, so I am looking forward to seeing what Amber gets up to in that one! 

I received an Advanced Readers's Copy of Killing Me from NetGalley

Tuesday, August 2, 2022


Things aren't looking too good for Callie in The Lying Wife as she informs us in the first few sentences of the book that she's a wife, mother, friend and murderer.  She's being interviewed by police about the aforementioned murder when the book opens.  The chapters alternate between Callie in the interview room being questioned and the events leading up to that.

Callie was coming out of a relationship and working in a coffee shop when she met widower James.  He sweeps her off her feet and they soon marry.  She moves into his house, but his sons 15-year-old Dillion and 12-year-old Luke aren't so thrilled to have a new step-mother.  The boys make life miserable for Callie, especially when James is at work, which is most of the time.  Callie is studying to be a counselor but doesn't seem to have many ideas on how to deal with her own difficult situation.

As the situation with the boys continues to be difficult, Callie struggles to cope.  Her father is suffering from mental health issues, and she sneaks off from time to time to visit him, since she's not told James about him.  She fears that James will think she has inherited her father's mental instability (in truth, she worries about this herself).  Her struggles with the boys, trying to keep up with her father, and continuing her studies all put Callie under so much pressure that she does some things that, with a clearer head, she would certainly not have done. 

It's hard to know if we can trust everything Callie says.  Are the boys really so terrible, or does she just take everything the wrong way? Is her husband James faithful, or are her suspicions about his relationship with a co-worker well-founded? I liked the way the story kept me guessing and trying to figure out just what was true.  The story is certainly a page-turner and has a twist at the end, but after I thought about it a little, I was quite annoyed.  Callie seemed to be taken advantage of by everyone and never really put herself first.  James, her husband, was never home and seemed to want her only as an unpaid babysitter.  She was the one keeping up with everything and doing all the heavy-lifting, while all the male characters around her were sullen and entitled.  I was very angry on Callie's behalf by the time I finished the book!

Sunday, July 31, 2022



The events in the novel go back and forth between 1994 and 2019 in the small town of Wakarusa, Indiana. In the 1994 chapters, the events and aftermath of the disappearance and murder of 6-year-old January Jacobs are described. In 2019, reporter Margot Davies returns to town to look after her uncle Luke, who is in the early stages of dementia. When Margot was a child, January was her best friend. Now working as a reporter, Margot has never gotten over the death of her friend. When another young girl goes missing in a nearby community, Margot is eager to connect the event to the still-unsolved murder of January. Her boss at the newspaper, however, has grown tired of Margot's obsession with the Jacobs case and fires her. Margot is dismayed to lose her job, but secretly thrilled, since she can now work on investigating the two cases without worrying about deadlines. Young January is obviously based on Jon-Benet Ramsey, as her provocative dance costumes quickly draw the condemnation of the media. Like Jon-Benet, January also has a brother her parents quickly come under suspicion. The family appears on a well-known true crime show after January's death, and every gesture and word are scrutinized (well, almost, the boy makes some questionable remarks that apparently are never followed up). In going back to 1994 and reading what January's mother Krissy was going through at the time, several possible explanations for events that follow are suggested. I enjoyed trying to guess what had happened to January, but I found the writing style exhausting. The author, for some reason, loves a comma, and every page has long and rambling sentences, separated by commas, that seem to go on forever, when surely a few better formed sentences, instead of all the commas, which, to be honest, are extremely annoying, would have helped the story move along faster, and therefore would have been much more enjoyable to the reader, who has to go back and re-read many of these sentences, since by the time you reach the merciful end of one, you have long since forgotten what was happening way back at the start. There are several ambiguous things that happen to major characters that are up to the reader to interpret. I also didn't understand what the author meant when she said the original name of the town, Salem, "invoked the killing of innocent girls." I'm not sure which Salem she's referring to, since the Salem Witch Trials all involved adults (girls were the perpetrators of those atrocities, not the victims).

I received a copy of All Good People Here from NetGalley

Saturday, July 23, 2022

 

Audrey Lavery has always had a bit of an unsettled life. Her actress mother has been successful on the stage, but not so much when it comes to long-term relationships. Due to her mother's constant need for new male attention, Audrey has spent her childhood adjusting to a parade of step-fathers. This lack of stability seems to have influenced Audrey's life as an adult, as she has been unable to form a steady relationship, finish her studies, or find a permanent job.  

While living with her best friend Clara and their flatmate Paul, Audrey meets Josh during one of their many parties. He barely registers with her (as she spends most of the party kissing another man), but Josh is smitten. When they keep running into each other, eventually they start a relationship.  

All of this is revealed in flashbacks since at the very beginning of the book, Audrey stumbles out of a church where her wedding to Josh has been interrupted. Through flashbacks, Audrey's past is revealed, including her one-day whirlwind relationship with Fred, which she has never gotten over. Audrey and Fred had a "meet cute" at an instant photo booth at Baker Street tube station and went out for coffee. They had an instant attraction and exchanged numbers.  Fred's number became smudged and he never called Audrey, so she had no way of finding out why he didn't turn up for their planned date the following day.  All these years later, Audrey is still pining after "the one that got away." Which is why she's stunned when Josh's sister Miranda turns up at their wedding with Fred as her date.  

The timeline jumps back and forth between "One Day Before I Do" and various times throughout Audrey's life. I was getting definite "Shopaholic" vibes toward the end with some of the more outlandish situations Audrey landed herself in! I really enjoyed the London setting and trying to figure out who Audrey would end up with. The only problem I had was with Audrey herself -- she was a total mess! At one point Josh's wise Granny Parker asks Audrey what she's brining to the relationship, and I had been asking myself that for the entire book. Closing in on 30, Audrey has no real job, no skills, no plan for the future, and seems helpless in nearly all situations (when Josh asks her to do something to help plan the wedding, she turns it over to her mother). Still, if you can get over wanting to slap some sense into Audrey, the story is quite engaging (even including the unexpected Epilogue!).

I received a digital ARC of Before I Do from Shelf Awareness

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

 

Grace Bernard has had a fairly rough life, even before she ended up in prison.  Her young French mother, who came to London to be a model, gets pregnant during a whirlwind affair.  It turns out the man is already married and wants nothing to do with Grace or her mother.  Very proud, Grace's mother is forced to work very hard to support her daughter and dies young.  Grace is taken in by a friend of her mother's (and eventually by her best friend Jimmy's family) but she grows up seething with anger that her father has rejected her.  Although the family that takes her in is very nice to her, she always feels like a guest in the home.  

Grace has always known her father is the extremely wealthy Simon Artemis, owner of the Sassy Girl fashion empire.  Grace decides to learn all she can about her father by getting a job in the business.  She eventually works her way up in the company in an effort to figure out how to get close to her father and his family.  Her plan is to kill the Artemis family one by one, leaving her father until last so she can let him know who she is and that she is responsible for the deaths.  Oh, and once they are all dead she can claim the Artemis fortune as the only surviving member of the family.

The book begins with Grace deciding to write her memoirs from prison.  She is currently incarcerated for murder, but not for anyone she actually killed.  She readily admits that she *has* killed quite a few people, just not the one she's in jail for.  She's hired a high-powered attorney to appeal her conviction, so in the meantime, to stave off boredom and avoid interacting with her perky, annoying cellmate Kelly, she decides to secretly write down how she put her plan into action.

Grace is an interesting character, full of snark and totally focused on her family annihilation plan.  That being said, from the start I was puzzled as to why she would put evidence of her crimes in writing IN A PRISON CELL that could be searched by her cellmate or guards at any time.  I did enjoy the story, if I could suspend that disbelief in a totally out-of-character premise.  There is a twist at the end with someone who shows up out of the blue, but overall, the story was quite enjoyable and I did, oddly, root for Grace to get her revenge on the (mostly) totally immoral and selfish Artemis clan.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

 

While Iona Iverson's second rule of commuting is "Never talk to strangers on the train," due to her flamboyant persona, she attracts a lot of attention during her daily train journey to her job as a magazine advice columnist.  She has a seat that she always sits in, and her French bulldog Lulu is usually in the seat beside her.  The layout of the seats includes a table for four people.  Iona notices the regulars and gives them all nicknames such as "Smart-But-Sexist-Manspreader." Iona is in her 50s and dresses to attract attention -- bright colors and patterns in a train carriage of browns and blacks.  Her fellow commuters also have nicknames for her, such as "Rainbow Lady" or "Magic Handbag Lady."

Some of her fellow commuters include: Sanjay, an oncology nurse with panic attacks; Martha, a teenage school girl dealing with a sexting scandal that's made her an outcast; Piers, the "manspreader" whose high-flying career isn't all it's cracked up to be; and Emmie, who is dealing with a possessive boyfriend.  As we get to learn more about the various characters and their problems, it seems that everyone must ignore the rules of commuting in order to make connections that will benefit everyone.

The story was very comforting and I enjoyed reading how all the characters came together to help one another with their issues.  The story dealt compassionately with subjects such as bullying, LGBTQ discrimination, age discrimination, etc.  An enjoyable story and tying up of all the storylines!

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley.

Sunday, March 6, 2022

 

I'm always thrilled to see there's a new No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency adventure.  Stepping into Botswana and into the gentle world of Mma Ramotswe is such a pleasure.  This new adventure features all the favorites (except we don't see much of part-time assistant detective Charlie, as he's on paternity leave).  The various problems facing detectives Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi are as perplexing and heartbreaking as usual:  a man who fears his father's caretaker has exercised undue influence to get the will re-written in the caretaker's favor and a new arrival at the Orphan Farm who claims she had been held as a slave and other children were still there.  The detectives must use their unconventional methods to learn more about the situation and to solve the problems as only they can.

The main story running through the book, however, concerns Mr. JLB Matekoni and his apparent "male menopause."  After being persuaded to attend a conference and networking event for small businesses, Mr. JLB Matekoni encounters an old school friend who seems to have become very successful.  While previously happy enough with his life and small garage, the friend persuades Mr. JLB Matekoni that he should invest in a new business opportunity: a bus company.  Suddenly, Mr. JLB Matekoni becomes excited in a way he hasn't felt in a long time.  He begins to see the possibilities of expanding his business holdings and living up to a potential he didn't know he had.  Unfortunately, he doesn't have an unlimited supply of pula just lying around, so he uses the only asset he has:  he's going to take a loan on the building that houses not only Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, but also the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.  Although those around Mr. JLB Matekoni are dubious about his new plans, when the man from the bank arrives to value the property and gives his dismissive evaluation, the alarm bells really start to ring.

While I always enjoy reading the adventures of these characters, this book left me with a decidedly uneasy feeling.  Everyone seemed to be plotting and scheming behind Mr. JLB Matekoni to ensure he would not be able to invest in this new business.  While he wouldn't be the only one affected if the business did fail, it was very discouraging to see that absolutely no one supported him in this venture.  In the same manner, the case the lady detectives were investigating about the will and the undue influence also seemed to go in an unpleasant and unprofessional direction.  Another book I recently read talked about fanfiction characters behaving "OOC" (out of character) and it seemed to me that most of the people in this new book were OOC.  I can imagine it can be difficult to come up with new situations and dimensions for the characters to grow, but this felt as if every character (except the reliable Mma Makutsi) had gotten a personality transplant.  I didn't recognize them.  I hope the next book will have everyone back to their old selves, even if that means not a lot happens.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

 

Christine Donovan is living a complicated life. She's busy keeping up with her active toddler Heidi, recently married her long-term boyfriend Greg, and is carrying on a torrid affair with a married man.  In the twisty thriller She's Mine, Chrissy soon learns that betraying her marriage vows will have devastating consequences.  While out shopping with Heidi, Chrissy gets a phone call from her lover, telling her that their affair is over.  Distraught, she moves away from where Heidi is sitting in a stroller to get a better signal on her phone so she can try to plead with her lover not to end things.   When she eventually walks back to where she left Heidi, she's alarmed to see the child is not there.  Heidi has been kidnapped.  Although an immediate search is launched, the child is never found.

Fast forward 20 years, and Chrissy is a shell of her former self.  Although she and Greg are still married and eventually had two more children, Ella and Daniel, she's never recovered from the abduction of her firstborn daughter.  Due to that heartbreak, she has been an aloof and distant mother to her other children.  She has also become addicted to exercise and is extremely thin and underweight.  Greg has continued with his high-flying legal career, but he and Chrissy don't really communicate or even interact much anymore.  Chrissy's friends Miranda (who has her own history with Greg) and Janine convince her to start seeing a new psychiatrist, Dr.. Freya Cousins.  Although quite young, Dr. Cousins's direct and unsympathetic style resonate with Chrissy, whose guilt over losing Heidi has never abated. After so many years, it seems as if someone is trying to re-awaken the mystery of what happened to Heidi as anonymous notes, emails, packages and photos begin to arrive.

The chapters are told from varying viewpoints, and we get to hear from nearly all the characters who are mentioned.  We see what they are thinking, their histories with Chrissy and Greg, and how they all feel about the situation and each other.  I enjoyed the different voices, but sometimes I had to flip back to the beginning of the chapter to discover who the "I" and "you" were that were being discussed.  There are plenty of clues to lead the reader to several possible suspects.  Even though it's not too difficult to guess "whodunnit," there are some final twists at the end that are surprising.

I received this book as a subscriber from the monthly Tea and Book Box  from Quaintly & Co.  Each month I receive a lovely book along with a delicious selection of teas and snacks.  I have been really impressed with everything I've received so far, and am anxiously awaiting the next installment!

Friday, November 12, 2021

Helen is pregnant after several miscarriages and signs herself and her husband up for prenatal classes. 

When her husband doesn't attend the first class, she pairs up with the only other single person there, a young woman named Rachel.  Soon Rachel is popping up all over the place and before long she asks if she can stay with Helen for a few days.  Helen is somewhat reluctant, but feels unable to refuse.  The slovenly Rachel takes up residence in Helen's huge family home in Greenwich Park in London.  Rachel's husband Daniel isn't too thrilled with their houseguest, either, but he is out working most of the time, so it falls to Helen to deal with Rachel.  When Helen is persuaded to hold a big Bonfire Night party at the house, her brothers Rory and Charlie attend with their partners.  Charlie, the somewhat irresponsible younger brother, also invites numerous acquaintances who proceed to turn the event into a drink and drug-fueled frenzy.  Things finally come to a head with Rachel when Helen discovers some strange items hidden in her room, and Rachel is finally told to leave.  After this, she disappears and is reported missing by her father.  Helen feels guilty and beings trying to figure out what happened to Rachel.  At the same time, she also begins to get strange messages about her and Daniel's finances.  The police begin to take a closer look at Helen's brothers and their possible connections to Rachel.  

The chapters are told in alternating voices between Helen, Rory's wife Serena, and Charlie's partner Katie (a reporter who is also investigating Rachel's disappearance).  The action moves along quite quickly and of course, before we find out what happens to Rachel, Helen will find herself and her unborn baby in danger as well.  I found Helen so hard to like or root for.  She just sort of drifts along without telling anyone how she feels or attempting to find out what is going on in her own life.  She snoops around in her sister-in-law's house and is so jealous of the beautiful Serena that what ever Serena has, Helen soon copies and buys as well.  She thinks she makes "discoveries" and tells people her theories before she's even worked out what is going on.  There is an "afterward" section that attempts to tie up loose ends, but it's very convoluted and long and is somewhat unconvincing.  Overall, the story was enjoyable, but it was let down somewhat by the long and drawn-out final explanations.

I received an Advance Reader's Edition from the publisher.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

 

Having lived in Sweden for a while, I'm always happy to read books by Swedish authors that transport me back to that beautiful country.  A few years ago we met Maud in An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good, where she played a forgetful old lady when the authorities were sniffing around, but showed herself to be shrewd and calculating when on her own.  In this follow-up, An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed, Maud is back solving Problems in her own unique and permanent fashion.

In the previous book, a dead body had been found in one of the rooms in Maud's large apartment that she rarely ever entered.  Even though she's nearly 89, she travels a lot and it was unfortunate that a burglar had broken in with an accomplice and ended up murdered (presumably by the absent accomplice) and lain dead in her apartment for many days while she was out traveling.  The police do try to get to the bottom of what happened, but poor Maud is extremely hard of hearing and confused (when they are around, anyway), so they don't get much information out of her.

Now Maud is preparing for a luxury safari trip to South Africa, but before she can leave, the police show up with more questions about the death.  Maud is still not able to follow their questions or provide any information, so they leave in frustration and she is able to leave on her trip.  While on the plane during the long flight, Maud remembers several other occasions in her life when she had to take care of Problems that cropped up in her life: a dependent sister, a co-worker in the way of advancement, a neighbor's entitled son.  How Maud deals with these Problems and her complete lack of any sort of remorse is eye-opening, to say the least.

Once Maud gets to South Africa, she finds her frail little-old-lady act useful in getting out of tours and events that she doesn't want to attend.  As always, she has her own agenda.  Unfortunately, some Problems crop up on her vacation as well . . .

As with the previous book, I felt a bit misled by the cutesy title and cover of the book.  It would suggest that this book is about a feisty old lady getting into amusing scrapes.  That is not at all what goes on.  Maud is surely a sociopath, taking care of Problems in very well-reasoned ways that leave her unsuspected.  The portion of the book where she is in South Africa is also somewhat puzzling -- it goes into minute detail about what Maud saw, ate, and thought on the trip, the stores she visited, etc.  It was almost as if the author was using her own travel diaries to construct the story.  I wonder if this particular book might also get some backlash for the "white savior" actions taken by Maud in South Africa.  The story was interesting enough and is a quick read, but it is just not what I thought it would be. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of An Elderly Lady Must Not Be Crossed from NetGalley in exchange for this review

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

 

This book kept me guessing right to the end!  Lux McAllister is somewhat adrift.  Estranged from her father, when her mother dies she feels she's all alone in the world.  That is until she meets the gorgeous Nico.  Nico is from a wealthy family, but refuses to ask them for any help.  Instead, he sails around in his boat, stopping where the fancy strikes him, and does odd jobs to support himself.  When he and Lux become romantically involved, he asks her to sail with him to Maui, then on to other romantic-sounding destinations when they get tired of Hawaii.  Lux, with no other ties, jumps at the chance.   Once in Hawaii, Lux has to work to support them while Nico doesn't seem in any hurry to do anything to put their dreams into action.  Eventually, two young women offer Nico a large amount of money to sail them to the deserted Meroe Island.  Having nothing better to do, he agrees and Lux, who suddenly finds herself unemployed, comes along.  Once they arrive at the supposedly deserted island, they are somewhat dismayed to see another boat already anchored there.  It turns out the Aussie couple on board, Jake and Eliza, are friendly, welcoming, and willing to share their provisions.  Soon it becomes a daily event to swim to shore, spend the days on the beach and the nights eating and drinking.  When another boat with a somewhat shifty-looking man arrives, the laid-back vibe of the island turns sinister.  As strange things begin to happen, everyone's secrets come out and not everyone will leave the island alive.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Stan and Joy Delaney are at loose ends in Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty.  Their four adult children are all out living their own lives, and they've recently sold their tennis school.  That might explain why Joy is delighted to have a stray waif to mother when a disheveled young woman suddenly appears on her doorstep.  The young woman, Savannah, says she has been assaulted by her boyfriend and knocked on the Delaney's door because the house looked nice.  Without a thought, Joy immediately takes Savannah in.  Over the coming days, Savannah returns the favor of having a place to stay by preparing amazing, gourmet meals for the couple. When Joy suddenly goes missing, her children and the police go back in time to investigate events leading up to the disappearance.  All four children have their own problems.  Oldest son Troy has recently been left by his long-term girlfriend because he's too passive.  The other son, Logan, is also separated from his wife but she has recently come back into his life to ask a big favor.  Daughter Amy is something of a free spirit who is currently sharing a house with much younger housemates and flitting from job to job.  Youngest daughter Brooke has her own physiotherapy practice, but her husband has also left and it's been hard for her to attract clients to her new business. All of the children have a complicated relationship with their parents, especially their father.  He coached them all in tennis as well as taking on numerous students over the years.  All of the children eventually gave up the game, and Stan's best student left him for another coach as just as success started building.  Stan and Joy have also had a somewhat tumultuous relationship over the years, with Stan frequently walking out and staying away for frightening periods of time.  Still, he surely couldn't be responsible for Joy's disappearance?  The story goes back and forth between present time and the days surrounding when the mysterious Savannah turned up.  I listened to an audiobook version read by Caroline Lee.   Her narration was very good, if a bit squeaky when she wanted to convey disbelief.  Overall, the story was very good and many clues were dropped throughout which were eventually explained satisfactorily.  The only quibble I have is the tennis angle.  It was way overboard, in my opinion! Tennis, tennis, tennis on every page and coloring every action.  It all got to be a bit much.  If you can overlook that, it was a very enjoyable book.

Disclaimer: I received an audiobook copy of Apples Never Fall from NetGalley in exchange for this review

 

About Me

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I'm a librarian who is interested in all things British. I try to visit London as often as possible, and am always planning my next trip. I lived in Sweden for a few years with my Swedish husband, so the occasional Swedish reference may occur . . .

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The Gherkin Scale

5gherkinsb Brilliant!

4gherkinsb Good, innit?

3gherkinsb Fair to middlin'

2gherkinsb Has some good points

1gherkin Oi! Wot you playin' at?

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