REVIEW – The Princess Spy by Larry Loftis

The Princess Spy is a great nonfiction choice for fans of historical fiction (especially of the WWII variety). The book is incredibly well-researched and outlined, and begins with a thoughtful, intriguing preface from the author.

When Pearl Harbor is bombed during her final semester of college, Aline can’t help but want to get involved with the war effort. She spends some time modeling but ends up meeting a man who offers her a job. He can’t tell her what it is but he gives her instructions of when and where to be at her interview. She dives in headfirst without knowing any details and quickly finds herself in training to become a spy for the United States.

From there, this book is pretty exciting – Aline’s life almost seems fictional because it’s so exciting and many of the elements and events feel pulled right out of a spy movie. Intrigue! Espionage! A little bit of bullfighting! (Yep. Bullfighting.) Glamourous dinners and Bond-villain-esque “characters.” Sure, The Princess Spy romanticizes the idea of being a spy during WWII just a bit, but you can’t help but be amazed by Aline’s intelligence (and, in some cases, incredible luck).

Her time as an actual field agent is short-lived, but that doesn’t make her service any less impressive. She does fall in love along the way, and the final part of the book covers her budding relationship with her eventual husband.

Thank you Atria Books for the ARC!

REVIEW – The Last Tiara by MJ Rose

I’m always excited to put a historical fiction novel onto my tbr, especially if it deals with an era or region that i’m not really familiar with. The Last Tiara is told in dual timelines – Isobelle is living in 1940s NYC and looking for answers after her mother’s death one year prior. She finds a tiara (minus the jewels) hidden in the wall of her mother’s bedroom and works to uncover the history of piece. We also get Sofiya’s perspective from Russia in 1915 – she begins working as a nurse and through a series of events (and after a period of years) ends up fleeing Bolshevik Russia.

This is my second MJ Rose book and she does a great job of setting up strong, independent female characters. If you’re a historical fiction fan, you’ll want to add this to your tbr!

Thank you Get Red PR for the NetGalley ARC.

REVIEW – Good Neighbors by Sarah Langan

This book is DARK. Full stop. It has a very strange and surreal vibe the entire time, like everything is smudged and dirty and unsettling. At the very least, Langan does a great job of putting you right into this suburban neighborhood (smack in the middle of summer, and there’s a heat wave…it’s just SO uncomfortable).

Good Neighbors is set in the near future in a seemingly perfect suburban neighborhood. I won’t give too much away, but there’s a sinkhole (complete with weird smells!) and a child dies and it turns into a modern-day (or future…) version of The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street. There’s an uncanny valley element to this book – there’s nothing supernatural in the story but it doesn’t feel entirely realistic. All of the characters are exaggerated and irrational (however, maybe that’s not so far-fetched after all…) and the commentary about the “mob mentality” is jarring and scary.

One character, in particular, is absolutely psychotic and terrifying (and not even in a fun way). The entire book reminded me of The Regulators by Stephen King (although minus the gratuitious horror and violence).

This would be a great choice for a book club because there’s so much to discuss (although it’s a tough book to rate!)

Content warnings: child abuse, brief mention of rape, brief mention of drug use, brief mention of suicide, murder-suicide

Thank you Atria Books for the ARC!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Bookmarked for Murder by VM Burns

I had so much fun reading this cozy – Samantha (owner of a mystery bookshop!) has spent the past few days in Chicago with her grandmother doing some post-Christmas shopping. When a passenger on their bus ride home ends up murdered, Sam, her grandmother and her grandmother’s crew of hilarious friends team up to solve the murder.

Sam is a lovely character and her grandmother (and friends!) are absolutely hilarious. I laughed out loud a few times while reading this book, and it was the perfect read during my long holiday break.

Thank you Kensington Books for the ARC!

REVIEW – Lie, Lie Again by Stacy Wise

Lie, Lie Again is a popcorn-y contemporary novel (don’t call this a thriller!) about three women all in varying stages of life.

We follow a (very) young wife and mother of two, a teacher in her mid-20s dealing with some very uncomfortable feelings about her friend’s husband, and a 30-something professional with a lot of secrets. In fact, all three women have secrets that they want to hide. Some are more sinister than others.

This went in a direction that I wasn’t necessarily expecting, but the ride was fun.

Thank you Get Red PR for the ARC!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Bait and Witch by Angela M. Sanders

This book was such a pleasant surprise! Josie is new to Wilfred, Oregon, and she’s on the run after uncovering corruption at her previous job (she worked for the Library of Congress and the people after her are very scary and very powerful).

Josie intends to stay in Wilfred for a short period of time and takes a position as their new librarian. The library is located inside a beautiful Victorian mansion, and Josie’s living quarters are on the top floor. Yes, you read that right. She lives inside the library – could it get any better than that?

Wilfred is much different than DC and Josie experiences a lot of culture shock – which could also be attributed to the fact that she’s slowly discovering that she has some magical abilities. Josie discovers a dead body her first day in Wilfred and can’t help but think the victim is somehow connected to the people who want Josie dead.

This has it all – an adorable tiny town, hilarious and lovable characters, and a black cat named Rodney who may or may not be Josie’s familiar…

I cannot wait to read the next book in the series!

Thank you Kensington Books for the ARC!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Absence of Alice by Sherry Harris

The Sarah Winston Garage Sale mysteries have quite a few books already, but this was my first experience with this particular series. I wasn’t expecting it to be as dark and gritty as it was! Honestly, once I let go of my expectations, I ended up really enjoying this.

When Sarah Winston’s landlady, Stella, is kidnapped, Sarah finds herself in a heart-pounding race against time to save Stella’s life (and she makes some questionable decisions along the way). The stakes felt really high in this one, moreso than your typical cozy. I think if you go into it knowing that it is lighter on the charm and heavier on the “OMG!” moments, you’ll like it too.

Thank you Kensington Books for the ARC!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Murder Can Haunt Your Handiwork by Rose Pressey

I loved following painter Celeste and her pup, Van, for another Haunted Craft Fair Mystery! Celeste is attending a craft fair taking place at the Biltmore Estate and, surprise surprise, she finds a dead body. She ends up meeting a ghost with ties to the estate and he helps her solve the case.

I have to say – the ghost was my FAVORITE part of this story! He was an absolute delight. He’s super polite and funny, and at one point tags along with Celeste on a date (I was cracking up). Murder Can Haunt Your Handiwork is only the third book in the series, so you have time to get caught up before book four comes out.

Thank you Kensington Books for the ARC!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Death at a Country Mansion by Louise R. Innes

What a great start to a new series! Death at a Country Mansion is just delightful. Set in a small village in Surrey, England, we follow Daisy Thorne, salon owner by day and forensic psychology student during her downtime. When her best friend’s mother, Dame Serena Levante, is found dead in her palatial home, Daisy quickly gets involved in the murder investigation.

This book was so fun! The mystery was interesting and there are a lot of little twists and turns that will keep you guessing. Daisy and her best friend, Floria, are charming, likable characters, and Detective Inspector Paul McGuinness is a perfect potential love interest.

I’m already excited for book two!

Thank you Kensington Books for the ARC!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Finished Off in Fondant by Rosemarie Ross

Finished Off in Fondant is the second book in the Courtney Archer Mystery Series, which I am really enjoying!

Inspired by everyone’s favorite, cozy baking competition (you know the one!), this series follows Courtney Archer, known as The Farmer’s Daughter (except her parents were definitely not farmers…) We open book two as Courtney comes clean about her background to a live audience during a taping of her show.

She’s also getting ready to start filming season two of The American Baking Battle. The first season was overshadowed by the murder of one of the contestants, but the odds of a murder happening twice during the filming of the same show are low, right? ….right? Unfortunately, a body shows up in the suite of one of the show’s co-hosts, and Courtney can’t help but get involved with yet another murder investigation.

I’m excited to see where the series goes…the supporting characters are a lot of fun, and there’s a potential love triangle in the works (I have my favorite guy but we shall see what actually happens!)

Thank you Kensington Books for the NetGalley ARC!