COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Fatal Fried Rice by Vivien Chien

I recommend the Noodle Shop Mystery series to pretty much anyone looking to start reading cozy mysteries. The funny part? Fatal Fried Rice is only the second book i’ve read in this series (I know, I KNOW! I’m working on it!)

Vivien Chien writes such delightful, fun stories. Her characters feel realistic and Lana is a main character you love to root for (and want to be best friends with!)

The mystery in Fatal Fried Rice kept me guessing and, as always, the cover gave me an intense craving for some good Chinese food. If you’re a cozy mystery fan, or if you want to try the genre, you can’t go wrong with these books.

Thank you St. Martin’s Press 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!

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 – The Second Home by Christina Clancy

{Available June 2, 2020} The Second Home is a family drama that starts with a life-changing summer on Cape Cod – the effects of which ripple out for 15 years before coming to a head when Ann, Poppy and their adopted brother Michael see each other again after more than a decade apart.

The characters in this book are rich and developed, each having a distinct personality. All three siblings have heartbreaking stories, in their own way. The paths they each end up taking align perfectly with their personalities, and there’s nothing incredibly surprising here.

I’ll be honest – these character-driven, family sagas aren’t my usual cup of tea, but I found myself really loving this story and dying to know where they would all end up. I think this will be a very popular book this summer – it would be a great beach/vacation read for those who want something a bit heavier and in-depth.

Content warning: there’s a pretty descriptive and upsetting rape scene in this book.

Thank you St. Martin’s press for the digital ARC of this book!

REVIEW – Westering Women by Sandra Dallas

“Being part of our group of women has been the greatest adventure of my life. …I have been part of a remarkable journey with you and the others. We are sisters. We are a band of sisters.”

Westering Women is the story of 44 women (and two ministers) making the journey west on the Overland Trail from Chicago to California. The intent is that the women will find husbands once they reach their destination, but many of the travelers have dark secrets that threaten their lives (and, ultimately, the lives of those traveling with them).

“I do not know the meaning of death, but there is meaning to life.”

The good? The eventual bond between these women is great. They stand up for each other, they protect each other, they keep each other’s secrets. The women are tough and resilient, despite the conditions they face on the trail, including disease, death, violence, rough terrain and harsh weather. Mary, especially, is an incredible character, and I would love to read a book focusing on women like her during that time. She quickly takes on a leadership role for a multitude of reasons, and she’s the shining star in this book despite not being the main character.

The not so good? I found the dialogue to be a bit stilted at times, but this could be a symptom of the time period in which it’s set (I haven’t read many books set in the 1800s so this might be my issue and not the book’s). I also found it to be inconsistent in its approach to hardships – it seemed like some of the issues and events were very brutal and upsetting for the overall tone of the book, but other issues were just kind of brushed aside too easily.

And the problematic? I felt that the story glossed over the role of Native Americans during this time period, and applied a harmful, racist lens overall. Although those traveling to California were attacked by Native Americans on the trail, it seemed like the book did little to dispel the “savage, violent, greedy” stereotype that had incredibly harmful repercussions, the effects of which are still evident today.

I do think this book will go over well with a lot of people – it has enough “grit” that it’s interesting but is also precious and fluffy enough that many readers will still find it palatable.

Content warning: assault, attempted rape/rape (at times involving children), death of children.

Thank you Bibliofinder and St. Martin’s Press for sending me a copy of this book.

REVIEW – Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center

What a delightful, heartfelt book! Katherine Center does it right – makes a story emotional without being melodramatic, romantic without being cheesy. Things You Save in a Fire is a great book about family, friendship, love and forgiveness.

I laughed. I cried. Some things made me angry (they were supposed to!)

Cassie is a badass. The rookie is adorable. The firefighters are hilarious and wonderful.

Thank you St. Martin’s Press for sending me an ARC of this book!

REVIEW – The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

You might not be aware that you want to read a fast-paced thriller with a heavy Wolf of Wall Street vibe, but trust me…you do.

The perspective alternates between present day in the elevator and chapters set in the past, leading up to what got Vincent, Sam, Jules and Sylvie in this situation. Needless to say, I’m not too excited to ride in an elevator ever again.

There are some really sad moments in this book, but by the end it’s just pure fun.

Thank you St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a copy of this book!