REVIEW – How to Survive a Scandal by Samara Parish

What a delightful historical romance! From the first chapter I was pulled into the story. Amelia has been engaged to a duke practically since birth, but when she’s caught in a compromising situation with Benedict (a misunderstanding!), everything she’s worked for is ripped away.

I never thought the marriage of convenience trope would be something I would enjoy, but here we are. Parish handles the situation well – yes, Amelia and Benedict are married before really getting to know each other, but they take their time warming up to one another and eventually (I mean, duh) fall in love.

I absolutely loved Benedict – he’s a delightful character. His little sister, Cassandra, is precious (I hope we see more of her in future books!)

I’m also looking forward to book two, which will focus on Fiona (don’t worry, you’ll meet her and you’ll LOVE her!)

Thank you Forever for sending me a copy of How to Survive a Scandal!

REVIEW – The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

The Maidens is good. It’s not GREAT, but it’s definitely a decent read that keeps you moving, with short, punchy chapters. There’s an interesting (and sinister) murder mystery, and a few major plot twists that will definitely shock some readers. Although I had the killer figured out pretty early on, another twist caught me off guard (and i’m honestly not sure how I felt about it, even weeks after finishing the books).

I think Michaelides is claiming his place as the author of some reliably twisty and compelling summer thrillers. If you’re a fan of darker, psychological mysteries, you’ll want to give this one a shot!

Thank you Celadon Books for the ARC!

REVIEW – Elizabeth & Margaret: The Intimate World of the Windsor Sisters by Andrew Morton

“When others referred casually to “your sister,” Princess Margaret would snap haughtily, “You mean the queen.””

It’s no secret – the Royal Family is fascinating. I think we’ve all had an interest at one point or another in getting a glimpse behind the scenes of arguably the world’s most famous family. Elizabeth and Margaret is a portrait of two sisters who could not be more different. The book covers most of the sisters’ lives, starting at birth and ending when Margaret passed away in 2002.

At one point, the book really pivots to being primarily about Margaret – i’m not sure if that’s because she’s more “interesting” or if the Queen has just been that well protected, but as someone who didn’t know much about Margaret, I found it fascinating. It’s a little repetitive at times, but overall it’s a very accessible and easily readable book.

Fans of The Crown will be surprised at some of the facts presented in this book (especially concerning Peter Townsend). This is a great supplement to the show, and gave me a little more knowledge behind what I see on the screen (i’m only on season two so i’m catching up!)

Thank you Grand Central Publishing for sending me a copy of this book!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Lemon Drop Dead by Amanda Flower

I am absolutely loving this series! I need to go back and start from the beginning. Lemon Drop Dead takes us back to Harvest, Ohio, to visit Bailey at Swissmen Sweets, a candy shop she owns with her grandmother.

When a mysterious baby shower guest turns up dead later that night, Bailey gets tangled up in yet another murder mystery, complete with some intense family drama and a secret child. Amanda Flower does a great job of balancing the Amish and the English characters, and often explains the differences in culture and the issues that can cause.

And, of course, Jethro the pig makes an appearance!

Thank you Kensington Books for sending me an ARC of Lemon Drop Dead!

REVIEW – The Secret Stealers by Jane Healey

2021 is turning out to be “the year where I read a ton of historical fiction” – luckily, each book in the genre i’ve read so far has been pretty decent. The Secret Stealers is no exception. When Anna Cavanaugh takes a job working for family friend Major General William Donovan (WWII buffs probably recognize this name – yes, he was real, and yes, he was kind of a badass. For those of you who aren’t familiar with WWII-era US history, i’ll give you this: founding father of the CIA).

Anna quickly becomes close with other women in the organization, and the bits and pieces we get of their friendship are some of my favorite parts of the book. Anna and a few of her friends are eventually sent overseas (to different countries) and she becomes a spy in France (very interesting, VERY dangerous).

In terms of historical fiction, this is a little bit lighter. Yes, there are some incredibly sad parts, and Healey doesn’t shy away from the horrors and aftermath of war, but compared to other books in the genre i’ve read, it’s a bit tame (this isn’t a criticism, I would highly recommend this book to readers who are wanting to dip their toe in the WWII fiction world, or those who are a bit more sensitive when it comes to the tougher topics).

Thank you Get Red PR for the finished copy of The Secret Stealers!

REVIEW – The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

“You cannot feel time grind against you. Time is nothing but everything, not the seconds, minutes, hours, days, years. Yet this substanceless substance, this bending and shaping, this warping, this is the way we understand our world.”

At its heart, The Night Watchman is about a community fighting for their right to exist on the land that’s rightfully theirs. It’s a historical moment that I haven’t heard a lot about (oh, surprise surprise, American history tries to cover up its less savory bits…)

“We don’t want to leave our homes. We are poor, but even poor people can love their land. You do not need money to love your home.”

At times the story can be a little disjointed and I felt that some plotlines meandered and ended up nowhere. I would still definitely recommend this book – it’s long (clocking in at more than 400 pages) but it reads fast. Each chapter is relatively brief, and it almost feels like a collection of shorter stories that feed a larger overarching narrative. I do wish we would have gotten more of Thomas and less of Pixie/Patrice (especially after the waterjack storyline was so short-lived) but you won’t forget these characters and their journeys.

However, Erdrich’s writing is impeccable. I have a ton of passages bookmarked and I often went back and read certain paragraphs and sentences over and over again before moving on.

“He hated their approval just as much as he hated their condescension. And yet this truth was buried so deep inside him that its expression only emerged, in their presence, as a friendly smile.”

“Dread of the situation, ungraspable in its magnitude. Loneliness. The forces he was up against were implacable and distant. But from their distance they could reach out and sweep away an entire people.”

Thank you Harper Perennial for sending me a copy of this book!

CONSTANT READER REVIEW – Revival by Stephen King

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions…And lit with electric lights.”

My feelings about Revival are…complicated, to say the least. The premise is promising. The execution is so-so (the villain? He’s just not…BAD enough. He’s misguided and desperate and full of himself, but…)

“People have many ways to be lousy to one another, you’ll find out when you’re older, but I think that all bad behavior stems from plain old selfishness.”

Is this horror? I don’t know. It leans a bit more into the literary or commercial fiction realm, with some touches of sci-fi and a few horrific scenes. (And really, what IS horror? Is it a genre or a feeling? Both?) We have a “villain” who is obsessed with electricity. SERIOUSLY obsessed. He spends his life chasing…something (the reveal isn’t as terrifying as his dedication to it, trust me).

Jamie is a relatively likable main character, and although we only get bits and pieces of his life (primarily in relation to good old Reverend Jacobs…or whatever you want to call him) you can tell that he’s mostly a good man who has just made a lot of mistakes.

And this is one of those books where you can’t help but wonder if King has just been too mean to his characters – there’s a lot of tragedy and heartache and horror (the real-life kind) tucked into these pages and it can seem a bit heavy-handed at times. However, that writing can be SO good.

Should you read Revival? It’s a must (in my opinion) if you consider yourself a King fan. But if you’re more of a casual Constant Reader? Stick to the classics.

REVIEW – Thick as Thieves by Sandra Brown

Thick as Thieves wasn’t exactly what I expected, but I still enjoyed my reading experience! Arden Maxwell is back in her hometown after years away (her father disappeared after his assumed involvement in a notorious heist and murder). What Arden doesn’t know is that two of the men who were involved with that crime two decades ago are watching her every move.

The crime and mystery in this book is complex and interesting – we eventually get chapters from the perspective of each person who was involved on that night, and slowly piece together what actually happened.

This can be classified as “romantic suspense” which isn’t a genre i’m really familiar with – I didn’t know this about the book going in, so the accelerated romantic plotline threw me for a loop. I didn’t dislike that aspect of the story, but it did feel a little forced (and almost inappropriate?) at times. However, since romantic suspense isn’t something I typically read, this could be typical for the genre.

Thank you Grand Central Publishing for sending me a copy of this book.

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Murder at the Mena House by Erica Ruth Neubauer

Even though I love historical fiction and I love cozy mysteries, for some reason i’ve struggled in the past to read historical cozies…well, that streak finally ended with Murder at the Mena House! I absolutely loved the first book in this new series – Jane is a fun main character, Aunt Millie is mysterious and precocious and intriguing, and the dashing Mr. Redvers might be my absolute favorite.

Set in Egypt, young widow Jane is spending time abroad with her Aunt Millie at the Mena House Hotel. They meet some interesting characters right from the jump, and when sassy socialite Anna Stainton is found murdered, it’s a race to find the culprit before another body turns up. I had such vivid imagery of this in my mind while reading! It felt like going on vacation. Murder at the Mena House has Clue (yes, the board game) and Agatha Christie vibes, and i’m so excited to pick up the next book in the series!

Thank you Kensington Books for sending me a copy of this book!

REVIEW – Back in the Burbs by Tracy Wolff and Avery Flynn

I had SO much fun reaching Back in the Burbs – it’s hilarious and heartfelt. Mallory’s life is a mess (no, really). She’s in the middle of dealing with a difficult divorce AND her favorite aunt has just passed away. However, when she learns that great-aunt Maggie left Mallory her house, she decides it’s time to take her life into her own hands and start fresh.

This is…easier said than done. Great-aunt Maggie’s house needs work. A LOT of work. And the cute guy across the street is a little bit rude.

This story ended up being more complex than I anticipated, and it was such a happy surprise. Back in the Burbs doesn’t get bogged down by the details – and while it covers a few heavier topics, it remains relatively lighthearted overall, with ample amounts of humor sprinkled throughout each chapter.

If you’re looking for a good summer or vacation read, this is it! Thank you Entangled Publishing and Valentine PR for sending me a copy of this book.