COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Murder in an Irish Bookshop by Carlene O’Connor

I can’t get enough of Siobhan and Macdara and the O’Sullivan Six and Kilbane. This series is definitely a favorite and I really want to go back and read the first few books that I haven’t yet picked up.

Murder in an Irish Bookshop has SUCH a fun murder to solve – when a visiting author is found dead in a newly opened bookshop, Siobhan has a long list of suspects to sort through (this author was…prickly. She made a lot of enemies.)

The investigation and reveal is SO clever – O’Connor’s ability to outline an elaborate and interesting murder never fails to amaze me.

Thank you Bibliolifestyle and Kensington Books!

REVIEW – The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams

I figured I would like this book, but I didn’t expect to absolutely LOVE it. What a fun read! Gavin and Thea are adorable and you can’t help but root for them. Yes, they have a lot of issues (mostly due to poor communication, shocker) but their growth throughout the course of the story feels relatively realistic.

Every character is a delight – the guys in the book club are hilarious and sweet. Anything that can make me laugh out loud but also make me feel a lot of feelings is a winner for me. I am so grateful that this is a series – I can’t wait to spend more time with the Bromance Book Club!

REVIEW – The Officer’s Daughter by Elle Johnson

The Officer’s Daughter is deeply sad and uncomfortable. Elle Johnson outlines how the murder of her cousin in 1981 shaped her life. Both girls were 16 at the time of the murder, and you can tell that the event still has a profound impact even now.

Johnson also spends a lot of time talking about her complicated relationship with her father, who worked as a parole officer. There are really two different stories here – but both feature a theme of healing and forgiveness.

Thank you Harper Books for the ARC.

REVIEW – Deacon King Kong by James McBride

“He was a peaceful man beloved by all. So what happened?”

I didn’t really know what to expect when I picked up Deacon King Kong, but I was definitely surprised. Tihs book is so much funnier and lighthearted than I anticipated (but I wouldn’t say it’s a “lighthearted book”). You might not fall in love with Sportcoat right away, but you’ll realize just how much you enjoy his character by the end of the book.

I would say this is definitely more character-driven vs. plot-driven, which isn’t usually my cup of tea (or bottle of King Kong, in this instance) but I really loved this book. I don’t think the 1969 setting is incredibly consequential here, but it does make some parts of the story more plausible.

There’s so much heart in this book – each chapter almost feels like its own story, and it all contributes to the overall narrative. Everyone and everything is connected in some way, and McBride’s writing is so clever and vibrant, you can’t help but want to know who you’re going to meet next.

The shorter version? Jesus cheese. It’s all about the Jesus cheese.

REVIEW – The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

“Atrum post bellum, ex libris lux. – After the darkness of war, the light of books.”

The Paris Library is historical fiction for book lovers. Using dual timelines (WWII-era Paris and 1980s Montana), Janet Skeslien Charles weaves a beautiful, emotional story that focuses on friendship, love, family and forgiveness.

I had no choice but to give this five stars – the writing is absolutely beautiful. The characters! THE LIBRARY. Just stunning – you’ll fall in love with (almost) everyone and find yourself wanting to spend forever amongst the shelves.

Odile and Lily are truly the stars of this book, and their journey is lovely and sad and hopeful. Get ready to feel all of the feelings.

Thank you Atria Books for the ARC!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Murder With a View by Diane Kelly

I have a tendency to jump in to cozy mystery series in the middle, and this is no exception. Murder With a View is the third book in the House-Flipper mysteries, but the first one i’ve read. And it’s ADORABLE.

The most notable thing about this book (and, I assume, the series as a whole) is the characters. The characters are lovely and hilarious and you can’t help but cheer for them every step of the way. Sawdust the cat is a delight. Although I wasn’t ALWAYS on board with the short chapters from his purr-spective, I found myself appreciating them more towards the end of the book.

This mystery had me stumped for the majority of the book, and the inevitable “showdown” between our main character, Whitney, and the murderer was pretty thrilling (and also a little terrifying!)

Thank you St. Martin’s Press for the NetGalley ARC!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – A Page Marked for Murder by Lauren Elliott

A Page Marked for Murder was a great continuation of the Beyond the Page Bookstore mysteries! I loved going back to Greyborne Harbor to spend time with Addie and her friends. The mystery in this was interesting and fun (not too easy!) to solve. I loved the addition of Pippi (an ADORABLE dog that Addie ends up pet-sitting for most of the book) and, as always, Elliott was able to connect Addie’s passion for rare books in with the overall story.

Thank you Kensington Books for the ARC!

REVIEW – The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah

I have some questions for Kristin Hannah. Does she enjoy making readers cry? Does she enjoy crying? Does she cry when she writes her books? Because this is NOT the first time she’s made me cry, and i’m sure it won’t be the last.

The Four Winds is just stunning. Even if you’re not typically into historical fiction, i’d highly recommend this book. In an industry that’s oversaturated with WWII stories (but hey, I love those too!) it’s so nice to read historical fiction set during a different time. The Four Winds starts in the early 1920s, where we meet Elsa. Elsa suffered an illness as a teen, and her family has treated her like glass ever since (and boy, are they RUDE AF to her! It’s so frustrating).

We spend a brief amount of time there before moving forward into 1934. Elsa lives on her in-laws’ farm with her small family. She has changed a LOT and definitely for the better. She’s strong and capable, but she’s also dealing with some pre-teen drama from her daughter and a prolonged drought that’s proving to be catastrophic for the farm (and the farm animals…oh, my heart). On top of that, we’re also right in the middle of the Great Depression which is, well, upsetting to say the least.

After a series of unfortunate events (SERIOUSLY) Elsa packs up her kids and heads west to California, where things are supposed to be better. But…they’re not. I’m sure you could figure that out for yourself. What happens from there is brutally, dismally sad. This book will break your heart. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Also, read the Author’s Note at the end – it’s amazing.

Thank you St. Martin’s Press for the NetGalley ARC.

REVIEW – Black Widows by Cate Quinn

The unreliable narrator is still a very popular trope in mysteries and thrillers. Well, Black Widows has THREE. Three women who are suspects in the death of their (yes, their) husband. This book takes the standard thriller and adds a sister wives/XX kids and counting element. It’s grittier than I expected (which isn’t a bad thing) but this ended up being a fun read “for the moment” and won’t be something I remember much years from now.

Content warnings: religious fanaticism, cults, sexual assault, child abuse, sexual assault of children, drug use, self-harm, brief mention of suicide, miscarriage.

Thank you BiblioLifestyle and Sourcebooks for the ARC!

REVIEW – Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Hamnet was one of my most anticipated books of 2020, but somehow I failed to pick it up until the very beginning of 2021. This is incredibly well written, and although it’s a slower story, O’Farrell’s writing moves the reader along swiftly and easily.

“She grows up with the awareness that she is merely tolerated, an irritant, useless, that she does not deserve love, that she will need to change herself substantially, crush herself down if she is to be married..”

Although named after Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet is really a story about Agnes – Shakespeare’s wife and Hamnet’s mother. She’s a fascinating character with a complex back story, a strong woman who is bound by the expectations and customs of her time. Her heartbreak is front and center after Hamnet’s death, and O’Farrell handles Agnes’ grief beautifully.

“He glances over his shoulder at the tunnel of dark beside the door. The blackness is depthless, soft, absolute. Turn away, he says to Death. Close your eyes. Just for a moment.”

The writing in Hamnet is stellar, and places it firmly in the literary fiction category (historical yes, but it doesn’t have the same vibe that most mainstream historical fiction seems to have). You don’t need to know much of anything about Shakespeare to understand and appreciate this book. In fact, Shakespeare himself is never actually mentioned by name.