REVIEW – The First to Lie by Hank Phillippi Ryan

The First to Lie is a twisty thrill-ride of a book! We’re introduced to two primary characters, Nora and Ellie. One is a glamorous pharmacy rep with a hidden past, and the other is a reporter for a new news station in Boston who seems to be alone in the world. They both have their secrets and things quickly unfold through each chapter. Throw in a pushy, nosy neighbor turned coworker, quick and impactful flashback chapters and a corporate coverup that has an unending ripple effect, and you have a recipe for a thriller that’s sure to delight readers and keep them guessing.

There are twists here that I called early on, and some that I never saw coming. Ryan’s writing is easy and smooth, and her short, punchy chapters kept me turning the pages way past my bedtime!

Content warning: infertility/fertility treatments, forced miscarriage/abortion

Thank you Forge Reads and Get Red PR for sending me an advanced copy of The First to Lie!

REVIEW – Black Fatigue by Mary-Frances Winters

{Available September 15, 2020} Black Fatigue is anti-racism 101 in the absolute best way. It’s the perfect guide for those who are just starting to pick up anti-racism resources, and a great refresher for those who have already done some reading. Mary-Frances Winters outlines the physiological and psychological effects that racism has on Black people, and the struggles that come with dealing with racist attitudes and policies every day.

One thing I really appreciated about this book is how Winters explains how different intersectional identities have varying impacts on the fatigue people face. For instance, a straight Black woman has different privileges than an LGBTQ+ Black woman.

Winters also focuses on her own personal experiences and how things throughout her life have contributed to her Black fatigue. Her first experience with racism/Black fatigue was in Kindergarten (something that rings true for many).

I loved that Winters offered up other books to read and resources to check out throughout the book – she provides a lot of solutions and action items for readers. She also defines a lot of key terms that are relevant to anti-racism education. Black Fatigue would be a great book to reference over and over throughout the span of one’s anti-racism journey.

Thank you Get Red PR for providing me with a digital copy of Black Fatigue.

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Murder at First Pitch by Nicole Asselin + a GIVEAWAY!

TITLE: Murder at First Pitch
AUTHOR: Nicole Asselin
PUBLISHER: Pandamoon Publishing
RELEASE DATE: September 4th, 2019
GENRE(S): ADULT FICTION–Mystery > Cozy Mystery
BUY LINK: https://bookshop.org/a/11727/9781950627219

Murder at First Pitch is a promising start to a new cozy mystery series. I’m almost as much of a baseball fan as I am a bookworm, and this premise had my attention from the start.

Madeline is a 30-something living just outside of Boston. After losing her corporate job, she starts working for the minor league baseball team owned by her family. When a dead body turns up in the dugout right before Opening Day, the police turn their attention to Madeline’s brother. Madeline works to clear her brother’s name, and gets herself into a bit of trouble in the process.

I loved the ballpark atmosphere (I live very close to a minor league park so it was easy to picture every single scene in this book!) However, Asselin is a Red Sox fan – we might have to agree to disagree on that one.

Up for grabs during this blog tour are three digital copies! This giveaway is open to US + INTL and will close on September 9th at 11:59 PM CST. Enter to win via rafflecopter!
https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1e4a114d4/?

Thank you Turn the Page Tours for the digital review copy of Murder at First Pitch!

FULL SYNOPSIS:

32-year-old Madeline Boucher’s Grandfather instilled a love in the Boston Red Sox into her from an early age and increased that love by purchasing a local Independent League Baseball team, the Abington Armadillos.

After losing her corporate job in Boston, Madeline realizes her best option is to join the family baseball business. As the new “Social Media Director” for the team, Madeline attends her first business function and witnesses an argument between her brother Ben, and a strange man.

A few days later when walking the ballpark during her early morning hours, she finds the body of a man beaten to death with a baseball bat in the Visitor’s Dugout. It was the man her brother was arguing with at the party. Madeline is concerned that her brother would be considered a suspect. Through the local Detectives and Davis – the head of security for the ballpark she learns the victim is Christopher Dailey, a local baseball scout and prior felon.

When her brother is arrested and taken to the police station, she realizes she needs to figure out who the real culprit is, so her brother doesn’t take the fall for something she knows he didn’t do.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nicole Asselin grew up a Navy Brat, and spent her formative high school years in the middle of Pennsylvania but always identified with her New England roots. Nicole’s family is originally from Connecticut, and her Grandpa Asselin introduced her into the Red Sox nation where she has been a member for her whole life and her Grandma Asselin introduced her to the world of mystery novels. Now those two loves are combined into her new Ballpark Mystery series.

Nicole graduated from Curry College in Milton Mass with a degree in English/Creative Writing, minoring in Dance in 2004. She also attended George Mason University and received a Master’s in Arts Management. She worked in the Government sector for over ten years before transitioning to Healthcare. Now working in just outside of Boston as a Technical Writer, she lives on the South Shore of Massachusetts with her three cats Julia, Jacques, and Madeline (no relation to the main character of her book).

Nicole is a current member of Sisters in Crime (National and New England) and the Mystery Writers of America. She sits on the Board of Directors for the NE branches of both groups as Social Media Liaison. MURDER AT FIRST PITCH is her debut cozy mystery from Pandamoon Publishing. Book two of the Ballpark Mystery series is scheduled for late in 2020.

TOUR SCHEDULE:
September 1st
Turn the Page Tours – Welcome Post

September 2nd
WhatAfiReads

September 3rd
Avni Reads

September 4th
Hallelujah Hill

September 5th
Meli’s Book Reviews

September 6th
Bri’s Book Nook

September 7th
Read with Aimee
For The Love of Fictional Worlds

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Three Widows and a Corpse by Debra Sennefelder

Food blogger Hope Early is settled back into her hometown of Jefferson, Connecticut, except for the fact that she keeps finding dead bodies…

When a local real estate developer is found dead during the annual scavenger hunt, Hope inserts herself into the investigation (despite the warnings of her sister…and boyfriend…and best friend…and everyone else in town). The best part? Three women claim to be married to the murder victim, and they all had the means, motive and opportunity to take him out.

I really liked the mystery in this one! It kept me guessing and although I had a hunch early on, Sennefelder did a good job of throwing me off the trail. I also loved the secondary characters and the town in general. This book hits all of the quintessential cozy mystery elements, and I look forward to reading the next book in the series.

Thank you Kensington Books for sending me a copy of Three Widows and a Corpse!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – 15 Minutes of Flame by Christin Brecher

{Available August 25, 2020} Someday i’ll get to visit Nantucket for real. For now, i’ll settle for “visiting” the island via Christin Brecher’s Nantucket Candle Maker Mystery Series!

15 Minutes of Flame is the third book in the series (and my second read – I still need to read the first book…). I was so excited to pick this up because it’s set near Halloween. You see, it’s been incredibly hot here in my state for a few weeks, and i’m aching for a cool fall breeze, pumpkin everything and spooky vibes. This fit the bill – complete with 150-year-old skeletons, ghosts (!?), a spooky old house and a murder to top it off.

There were some laugh out loud moments in this book (just get to the part where our heroine starts doing shots to get information from a suspect…) and the historical aspect of the story was a fun little touch.

Thank you Kensington Books for providing me with a NetGalley ARC of 15 Minutes of Flame!

REVIEW – Little Disasters by Sarah Vaughan

{Available August 18, 2020} How far would you go to protect your child? Or someone else’s child? Little Disasters primarily follows Liz, a pediatrician, and her friend Jess, a stay at home mom of three. When Jess brings her youngest to the ER one night, Liz quickly suspects something sinister at play and takes action. As Jess’ life begins to unravel, we learn that everyone has their dark secrets to hide.

Phew. This book is pretty dark and disturbing. I’m not usually too bothered by books that feature child abuse (wow, that sounds bad. What I mean is that i’m not overly sensitive. Hopefully someone else gets it!) but this one just felt so REAL. Little Disasters is really a book about motherhood, which isn’t something that I have personal experience with. I’d assume that some mothers would really struggle to get through this one, but some might also be able to relate to some of the dark and terrifying thoughts that can occur in the minds of new mothers who are struggling to connect with their babies.

Although the synopsis might make you think this is a thriller, it’s really a domestic drama that examines the struggles and secrets of a handful of people and families. And it’s disturbing just how many adults fail in this book – fail to communicate, fail to care for children, fail to own up to their mistakes.

Little Disasters is an uncomfortable read but it’s good. I would just caution readers before picking this up – be prepared to be sad and angry and disturbed.

Content warning: child abuse/neglect, traumatic birth experience, PPD, OCD, alcoholism, infant death/SIDS

Thank you Atria Books for providing me with a NetGalley ARC of Little Disasters!

REVIEW – The Second Mother by Jenny Milchman

{Available August 18, 2020} Oof. This was a lot. And it was a lot of things that didn’t work for me. I went into this expecting something a bit more thrilling and a bit more heart-racing and it just didn’t deliver. This book is LONG. Given there are a lot of descriptions of the island, a lot of repetitive incidents and a lot of buildup for a plot twist that could have been introduced 200 pages sooner.

The writing isn’t bad – this book just suffers from trying to accomplish too much, and in the end accomplishes very little. I also felt that the ending of the book didn’t uphold the overall vibes of the beginning. For how long the book is, the end wraps up a little too fast and a little too neatly.

Thank you Books Forward PR for the NetGalley ARC!

REVIEW – Behind the Red Door by Megan Collins

{Available August 4, 2020} The opening of Behind the Red Door will grab you immediately (I believe I emitted a “holy sh*t” before I finished the first page). It’s dark. It covers some traumatizing topics, kidnapping being the least horrific, honestly.

Fern Douglas is a social worker with pretty intense anxiety (not the best mix…). Her past is a bit fuzzy, but we know she has a very strange relationship with her parents (i’ll get to that in a second). The story really kicks into gear when we learn that Astrid Sullivan, a woman who was kidnapped as a child but was returned after a brief period of time relatively unharmed, has gone missing again. Did the original kidnapper take Astrid again? Will she be returned this time? Does her disappearance have anything to do with her recently released memoir detailing her kidnapping 20 years ago? And why does Fern think she’s met Astrid?

We do get to read a few chapters of Astrid’s memoir throughout the course of the book, and we slowly learn what really happened to her.

Fern heads back to her hometown to help Ted (her dad, but she calls her parents by their first names) pack and move to Florida. Oh boy. Ted. Ted is an academic psychologist who can’t focus on anything beyond his Experiments (yes, with a capital “E”). We slowly learn that Fern’s parents were incredibly neglectful, and downright horrible people. Fern can’t see that she’s a victim of extreme parental abuse. Ted has often drawn the line between physical (what he considers “real”) abuse and other varieties – and they’re all so blind to it that it’s incredibly frustrating as a reader. But maybe it’s rooted deeply in reality. Victims of abuse often block or downplay their experiences because they refuse to see themselves as just that – victims.

Fern decides to investigate Astrid’s disappearance and uncovers some incredibly horrific truths. I had an idea of where this book was headed right from the jump, and I was (mostly) right, but the experience of uncovering the mystery of Astrid’s disappearance and Fern’s history was more than worth the read. I was SO ANGRY for parts of this book – it takes a great writer to elicit that kind of experience.

Content warning: abusive parent/child relationships (one with a religious undertone), abduction of a child.

Thank you Atria Books for the NetGalley ARC of Behind the Red Door!

REVIEW – Fire and Vengeance by Robert McCaw

Missing going to the movies? Looking for a summer-y action-packed blockbuster of a book? Fire and Vengeance might be the pick for you!

When a volcanic vent explodes (right under an elementary school…) Koa Kane has some damage control to take care of. First of all, many families are grieving the loss of more than a dozen students and a handful of teachers. Second, why would anyone approve the construction of a school (or any building for that matter) over an active volcanic vent?

As Koa digs into the investigation, he uncovers a decades-long scandal that includes some powerful people in Hawaii. Powerful people who will stop at nothing to cover their own asses.

In addition to the investigation, Koa is also dealing with some family issues. His brother, currently serving time in prison, collapses due to an undiagnosed brain tumor. I actually liked the brother/family storyline more than the main plot of the book, but I still enjoyed my overall reading experience.

McCaw packs a lot of action and intrigue into this book, and you’ll feel like you’re sleuthing right alongside Koa Kane.

Content warning: death of children, brief mentions of suicide, brief mentions of real life school shootings.

Thank you FSB Associates and Oceanview Publishing for the ARC of Fire and Vengeance!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – From Beer to Eternity by Sherry Harris

{Available July 28, 2020} What a great start to a new cozy series! Chloe is working at a beachside bar (that conveniently closes at 9 p.m. – that’s something I can get on board with) in the Florida Panhandle after moving down there from Chicago.

See, Chloe made a promise to her college best friend that she would help his grandmother Vivi if anything happened to him while he was deployed. After his tragic death overseas, Chloe intends to keep that promise.

I loved that Harris offers a realistic, not idealized, version of the panhandle. Her character descriptions felt spot-on for Florida tourists and natives. The Sea Glass Saloon is a little less western, and a lot more tiki hut and is typically a hangout for the locals. When Chloe finds the body of a bar regular behind a dumpster, she takes it upon herself to investigate. I have some theories about where the rest of the series could go, and i’m excited to see where Harris takes us next!

Thank you Kensington Books for the NetGalley ARC!