Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Ah! 2021--A Clean Slate! What I'm Reading in January

 It never fails-each late December I put away my decorations and decide I want to clean up, declutter, get in shape, eat healthy, and get organized. That lasts about a week, and then falls apart. I've been doing this all my adult life, and I feel the urge rising again. Calendar? Planner? Weekly meal prep? An excel sheet with all my books, alphabetized and color coded, with reading goals for each month? A plan to clean out closets, a basement, a garage? Plan a garden? Organize paperwork? Geez, I'd have to be a wonder woman to get any of it done. 

Oh, I can feel it, rising like sap in a tree. But this time I'm beating it all down. Nope. Not going to do it. I'm going to enjoy the heck out of 2021, and that means setting realistic goals in everything I do so I'm not setting myself up for failure. That means, (although it pains me!) that I'm not going to set a reading goal this year. And I'm going to read whatever I like and whatever interests me. No pressure to read what everyone else is reading; no pushing through a book that just doesn't capture my attention. If it takes me two weeks to finish a book, then so what? Life seems to be busier, somehow, and I just don't have the ability to fly through 3-4 books a week like I used to. Now it's 1-2. Let that anxiety go! 

I hope you also start off 2021 fresh and excited, too. I've got a lot of books calling for me this month. January is usually my best reading month, and right now the snow is coming down hard outside and we're in the middle of a winter storm warning. I'll be shoveling a lot of wet, heavy snow later on tonight. So January, yes it is my month where I read a lot. We'll see what I get through this month. Here's what's on tap:

Looks like I'm making up for my lack of historical fiction in 2020 this month. I've had The Arctic Fury and The Lady Brewer of London sitting at home for weeks now with the aim of reading them in January. The Children's Blizzard I've read about in David Laskin's non-fiction book from 2005--which was amazing! This is a fictional account of that terrible disaster and I can't wait to read it. The Wife Upstairs I just received for my December BOTM. Another domestic thriller with shades of Jane Eyre. The Mystery of Mrs. Christie is a fictional exploration of the strange disappearance and re-appearance of Agatha Christie that has stumped people for decades. 

Right now I'm finishing up Jolene by Mercedes Lackey, and The Tourist Attraction by Sarah Morgenthaler. I haven't made it through my stack of holiday reads, and I may need to set them aside. I fall rapidly out of holiday read mode once December is over. 

That's my January list. I'm excited to start another year of blogging. This will be my eleventh year! Oh my golly. I think I'll be pulling up some of my past posts throughout the year, and I'll be doing something special in March to mark my eleventh year as a book blogger. I've got to admit, my 10 year anniversary slipped by in the crazy days of March 2020, and heck, I didn't even realize 2020 was my tenth year until just now. So we'll celebrate eleven years instead. 

Have a safe and Happy New Year! 

Sending you all a big socially distanced hug-

The Bookalicious Babe

Saturday, December 26, 2020

My Top 20 of 2020: The Books that Powered Me Through a Pandemic and a Derecho (Along with Carbs and Cocktails)

 I'm trying very hard not to fall into the trap of thinking once it's 2021 things miraculously get better for all of us. As it is, I'm tiptoeing through the last five days of 2020 holding on tight to my partner's hand and seeing what each day brings. 

This was, officially, the first Christmas I've had where I've enjoyed cocktails at noon while opening gifts in my jammies. Just an FYI: a grasshopper tastes delicious on Christmas Day. 

As I was lounging around this morning, I started thinking about my top ten books for 2020. I looked at my list, and knew it would be hard to narrow it down, but I thought I'd give it a try. 

It didn't work.

So, in keeping with 2020 and all the topsy-turvy things it brought us, I've decided to present my Top 20 for 2020. I read some pretty good stuff, I must say. I didn't get into much non-fiction, or even historical fiction. I need to be better about reading more diverse voices. However, I see a lot of books that helped me forget all the troubles and worries this past year, even if only for a hour or two. For that, I am so very grateful. Even those weeks where I struggled to finish anything, books helped me tremendously. I present to you my Top 20 for 2020:

I've deliberately not put them in order because darn it all, that's just simply too tough for me to decide. However, I will say The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James and Wife After Wife by Olivia Hayfield are definitely my top two. A haunted motel, and a modern retelling of Henry VIII and his wives are certainly two very different novels, but they were fantastic and I've thought about them all year. 

The Bear, oh, the bear. It caught me by surprise and was just beautiful. It's short, so it won't take you long to read. However, it will get you in all the feels. Mexican Gothic was just flat out gothic horror with a twist, and I absolutely love Silvia Moreno-Garcia's writing. Alice Hoffman's Magic Lessons: I gulped it down. I can't get enough of her witchy tales. 

The Underground Railroad definitely gave me plenty of visceral reactions. Astounding, and profoundly moving. Brilliant. Colson Whitehead deserves every accolade he gets. If you've never read Abbi Waxman, I'm here to tell you to start. Her smart-aleck, sassy ladies are a delight to read. The Midnight Library will have you wondering "what if?" over and over. The Chill was so damn good. Ghostly grudges are not pretty. 

I hope you get a chance to read some of my favorites from 2020. My TBR list for 2021 is already filling up fast for January. I didn't get to read everything I had piled up at home; some books I started and couldn't finish. I've been trying hard to give myself a break this year for not finding my reading groove. I've thought about the reading choices I make, and why. I've felt like I can do better in looking outside my reading comfort zone and exploring more authors and cultures-and more genres. 

I was happily surprised to receive a healthy gift card balance for Christmas to indulge in my book buying habits. Let's see if I can manage to make those gift cards last into Spring. 

What are your favorite reads of 2020? What do you look forward to reading in 2021?

I wish all of you a very Happy New Year, filled with plenty of time to read or listen to your books, and a wish for health and peace for all. 

Thank you for your continued support! 

The Bookalicious Babe💕💕

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Two Novels by Pamela Kelley: The Restaurant and Christmas at the Restaurant

 In my quest to read holiday novels, I picked up Christmas at the Restaurant at my library a week ago. As I started to read it, I realized I had The Restaurant sitting on my bookcase. I had picked it up a few months ago and never got around to reading it. So...I had to read it first before I read the follow up Christmas novel. You're getting two reviews in one post today, Christmas Eve. 

This was a quick read, and I'd recommend Pamela Kelley's novels to anyone who likes a gentle read with likable characters and a uncomplicated plot. That is not to say this was a dull book at all! As a matter of fact, it felt like a good visit with friends I hadn't seen in awhile. Three sisters: Emma, Mandy, and Jill, all have busy lives. Mandy lives in Nantucket with her husband and kids; Jill leads a busy life in corporate Manhattan, and Emma lives in Arizona with her professor husband. Their beloved  grandmother passes away, and leaves them a surprise: they, along with Chef Paul, are owners of Mimi's Place; a local restaurant. Mimi's has been in operation on Nantucket for decades, and is a favorite place for their family to enjoy special occasions. Unbeknownst to the sisters, their grandmother secretly owned it. 

Now, the sisters must work at the restaurant for a year. After a year, they can decide to keep it, or sell it. Paul, the chef, was a favorite of their grandmother, and he is a talented chef. He's also the high school sweetheart of Emma.

All of the sisters are going through some changes: Emma's husband has left her for another man; Mandy's husband has come clean about extramarital affairs; Jill is secretly in love with her business partner, long time friend Billy. Mimi's is their chance to take a breather, concentrate on something other than their personal lives, and give themselves some time together-time they have been lacking lately. 

There's food and wine galore in this novel, and it all sounds delicious. The plot moves along pretty quickly, and there aren't any huge surprise moments. Just a year in the life of three sisters and the restaurant they now own. I say this is a gentle read because there isn't any violence or sex scenes. At most there's some chaste kissing. And I was fine with that. 

Now, onto Christmas at the Restaurant.

This novel takes place a year after The Restaurant. It's Christmas time in Nantucket, and there are activities and traditions galore. Jill and Billy return to spend the month of December in Nantucket, working remotely and spending time at Mimi's helping out each week. Mimi's has had a resurgence of popularity, thanks to some changes the sisters and Paul made, and it's always busy with regulars and tourists. 

Mandy's divorce is going through, and she's found a new calling organizing events at Mimi's. Emma and Paul are going strong; together they keep Mimi's running smoothly. Mandy has a chance at a new romance with Matt, a local fisherman; she's happy to date, but isn't sure about jumping into a relationship. 

There's Gina, the bartender, who is fairly new to Nantucket, but loves working at Mimi's and is settling into her job and community. She's ready for romance, but what's a lady to do when two men, both very different, ask her out on dates? 

This was a really fast read; I started it last night and finished it early this morning (just couldn't stay awake last night!). Even though I immediately picked it up after finishing The Restaurant, I was happy to continue reading about Emma, Jill, and Mandy. Nantucket sounds like a pretty wonderful place to visit. More delicious food and plenty of wine in this novel, too. 

Ratings: 3/6 for each novel. I enjoyed both novels, getting to know Nantucket, and the simple enjoyment of people living their lives and finding happiness in everyday moments. I felt the characters could be developed a bit more, but overall, I will keep reading this series. 

Available in paperback and e-book.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

12 Men for Christmas by Phillipa Ashley


If you're looking for some steam for Christmas, this is the novel to read. A contemporary romance that takes place in the Lake District of England, this was a quick read I picked up at B&N last month. 

Emma Tremayne left her job in London for a quiet place to heal her broken heart. Definitely a fish out of water; a city girl in the country. Her new job with the tourist board in the town of Bannerdale has brought her into contact with the rescue team in town. They are raising money to build a new center; their current digs are pretty small and dumpy. Her idea: a calendar featuring the men-naked. One for each month. These men are super fit, handsome, and perfect for a calendar; now to just convince them. Especially one man in particular: Will Tennant. He's completely against it. 

Sparks fly between Emma and Will, and for most of the novel, both are hit and miss in their interactions. But it's clear there's something building between them, and when it does explode...there's some heat! 

Can the two of them work their way through misunderstandings to find true happiness together? Well, of course they can. However, it's a bit of a bumpy road. 

Most of this novel does not take place at Christmas, except for the very end. Will is tapped to be Mr. December on the calendar; otherwise, there's not much holiday in this. But I didn't mind at all. I am annoyed, however, that Emma is described as having dark hair, but by golly she's a blonde on the cover. Ugh. 

This was also a movie on Lifetime starring Kristin Chenoweth ( I can see her as Emma--a blonde Emma!) but it looks like the movie is from 2009? Anyway, I'd love to watch it if I can find it. 

Rating: 4/6 for a holiday romance with plenty of steam, a hunky hero, and a cast of characters that are charming. 

Available in paperback and e-book. 

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Mrs. Morris and the Ghost of Christmas Past by Traci Wilton


Christmas cozy mysteries are a fairly new addition to my December reading, but they have quickly become favorites. This mystery, the third in the Salem B&B Mystery series, can be read on its own. I haven't read the first two, but I will probably go back and read them; mostly because I enjoyed this mystery and the characters. If you're interested in the first two in the series, they are Mrs. Morris and the Ghost, and Mrs. Morris and the Witch.

What drew me to this mystery: it takes place in Salem, MA, and there's a ghost involved. Mrs. Morris is Charlene, a recent transplant from Chicago. She's bought an old mansion and turned it into a B&B. That mansion has a ghost named Jack: a handsome ghost who only Charlene can see and talk to. There's a bit of flirty behavior going on between Charlene and Jack, but, well...kind of hard to see a future with a ghostly guy. Charlene moved to Salem to start fresh after her husband's untimely death. Now it's two years later, and while still not ready to invest in a new relationship, she does enjoy a slow simmering attraction to Sam, a Salem detective. 

It's a week before Christmas, and Charlene's parents are visiting. Her Mom is a bit of a pill, and her Dad is charming. A supper out at the local popular Italian restaurant Bella's begins this cozy mystery. A fundraiser for the local children's foster home has plenty of people at the restaurant, and when co-owner David gets up to speak, the excitement builds. He just won ten million in the lottery, and he's about to hand out a few checks. One check will help Felicity House expand and provide shelter for even more children in need. However, David's checks aren't quite what everyone expected, and in the midst of outrage, David heads outside, only to be hit by a car and left for dead in the street. 

There are lots of people who are suspects, and I honestly didn't know until close to the end who actually killed David. Was it the money hungry younger wife? His business partner? His son, angry over his Dad's lack of attention? Charlene just can't help herself, and starts asking questions. She may just put herself in danger if she isn't careful. 

This was a fun mystery. The focus is mostly on local restaurants and shops; some Salem tourist attractions are mentioned, too. A lot of the tension in the book comes from Charlene and her mother, who isn't happy her only daughter has moved away from Chicago. She also wants Charlene to find another partner, and is a bit pushy when she finds out about Sam. There's Jack, who has feelings for Charlene, and doesn't like to see Sam around. Yes, he's a ghost. Suspending belief is required! 

This helped me stay in the holiday mood over the weekend while I was baking cookies and hanging out at my boyfriend's non-holidayish home. We did finally get out a few things to make it look more festive-however my house is decorated and I missed being with my tree this weekend! I'm home tonight, tree lit and holiday scented candles burning. 

Off to my next holiday read-take care and spend some time soaking up the season! 

Rating: 3/6 for an entertaining cozy mystery. Easy to follow, even though it is the third in the series. For those who love quick reads, likeable characters, and the charm of Salem, Massachusetts, I'd recommend this series. 

Available in paperback and e-book.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Two Holiday Novels: Happily This Christmas by Susan Mallery & One Charmed Christmas by Sheila Roberts

 'Tis the season! All the holiday books! Yay! I decided to deliver two holiday book reviews in this post since I read these back to back over the weekend. A big shout out to my friend Lee B. for passing on these two books to me to get my Christmas reading moving along. 

I'll start with Happily This Christmas by Susan Mallery. 

This is part of the Happily Inc series (book #6) so I am sure I missed a few things because I haven't read any of the other books. However, there is plenty here that makes it feel like a standalone, so don't hesitate to read it and then if you like, go back to the other books in the series. 

Officer Garrick McCabe lives next door to Wynn Beauchene, but they've never really met each other. Wynn has certainly noticed Garrick-how could she avoid checking him out when he mows his yard shirtless? While both have noticed the other, neither is in any hurry to make the first move. Until Garrick's young daughter Joylyn is heading to his place to stay through Thanksgiving. Her husband is in the military and is away on duty, and Joylyn is eight months pregnant and, quite frankly super crabby and bitter. Garrick enlists Wynn's help in making his home look more comfortable and homey for his daughter, and from there, romance blooms. Slowly, for sure, but at a steady pace. Wynn has a lot of friends in Happily, Inc (this is the actual name of the town) and has a pretty good life as single mom to her teen son Hunter. She is, however, ready to begin looking for love and a relationship after many years on her own. Can Garrick be her happily ever after?

In One Charmed Christmas, a cruise down the Rhine River finds a group of people coming together to enjoy what is sure to be an interesting trip. Some romance, some new friendships, and a few life changes are in store. Catherine, a widowed woman who is going to have chemotherapy in the new year for her cancer, and her friend Denise are on board. Denise has talked Catherine into coming along on the cruise after another friend cancelled. Catherine's two grown children have already made plans for Christmas which don't include their mother, and she's decided to take a chance and have some fun. Sophie and Sierra are two sisters who find a few surprising truths on the cruise. Finally, there's Rudy, a retired doctor, and his daughter Athena. After a terrible second marriage, Athena is determined to protect her father from any other money hungry women. 

All of these characters (and a few more!) form friendships on the cruise. I have to admit, this sounds like a cruise I would want to take--stopping at all of the towns along the river; eating German pastries and fabulous food, shopping at Christmas markets--sounds like heaven to me (pre Covid-19, of course)! This was definitely a different and refreshing holiday tale-first one I've read where the majority of the story is on a cruise ship. 

There is romance a plenty in each novel, but nothing over the top. Enjoyed both novels, and they got me in the mood for Christmas--that and the snow that fell Friday night. I'd have to say One Charmed Christmas has a slight edge over Happily This Christmas if I have to vote on a favorite. 

Happily This Christmas: 4/6

One Charmed Christmas: 4/6 

Both are available in paperback and ebook. 

Monday, December 7, 2020

Fox Crossing by Melinda Metz


So far in December I've read a few books that have nothing to do with this holiday season. I found this book when I was looking at new paperbacks at B&N and it certainly gave me the winter feels. The blurb on the cover says "A novel of a small town, love, luck, and one extra-special fox...". Sealed the deal for me. I absolutely love reading about small towns. This small town is in Maine; Fox Crossing has a population of 713. It's also the last stop before people start back on the Appalachian Trail, so it definitely sees a lot of hikers from all over the country. 

Annie Hatherley works and manages her family's outfitting shop-Hatherley's Outfitters. She's an experienced trail guide and works as an extractor-someone who goes out to find people in trouble on the trail and returns them to safety. She's a prickly one, is Annie. She routinely gets angry at customers who come into her store, naively thinking they are ready to hike the 100 Mile Wilderness. She knows exactly what they need to survive and thrive on the trail, and woe to those who don't listen to Annie's advice. Into her store comes Nick Ferrone, a man from Bensalem who has decided to hike the 100 mile trail--and isn't exactly as prepared as he seems. Sparks fly between Annie and Nick-attraction mixed with annoyance. Nick reluctantly accepts a tracker from Annie that will show his location to her and if he gets in trouble, she will be able to find him on the trail. 

Nick, of course, gets in trouble, and Annie saves his life. Their attraction is growing, but Annie knows he's only in town for a few weeks, and he'll leave. She's a capable, strong Hatherley woman who doesn't need a man to be happy. 

The fun part of this novel is about the fox. This fox, known around town as The Fox, is part of the town lore and people continue to believe in the power of the fox. When this distinctive fox shows up, good things happen to those who see it. Not seen for quite some time, the fox is popping up here and there, and yes indeed, things begin to happen. 

At first, the novel seems a bit slow; however I did love getting to know the townspeople: Banana, Honey, Belle, and Shoo Fly are just some of the colorful characters. It didn't take much for me to fall deep into this story. Something about the small town vibe, the connection to nature, and the feeling of a place where people go to let the outdoors work magic on their souls. The tension between Annie and Nick is a major part of the plot, and if you're anything like me; well, Annie got a bit annoying with her stubbornness. However, she does evolve after some hard truths hit her, which had me heaving a sign of relief! Yes, I felt the novel had a slow start, but then it picked up and I couldn't put it down.

I so enjoyed this book: the people, the setting, the emphasis on living with nature and learning from it. The healing that nature can do if we just be still. The glimpse into hiking the Appalachian Trail (which, in another life, I'd be interested in doing-at least bits of it) and all the preparation and planning that goes into such an undertaking. It all comes together into a novel that was a surprise find for me, and all because the cover caught my eye. I guess that fox can do magic for me, too. 

Rating: 4/6 for an novel about a small town, the connections people have to each other, the nature that surrounds them, and taking a chance on love. Perfect for those who like small town novels and animals. 

Available in paperback and ebook.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Frontier Follies by Ree Drummomd


I've watched Ree's cooking show (The Pioneer Woman) off and on for years, and have purchased a few of her cookbooks. She's got some pretty divine recipes--if you haven't tried her cheesy olive bread, please do. It is flat out amazing (just ignore the calories, please). I've eaten it just for a meal and didn't feel one lick of guilt.

I read her first book, Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels years ago, and enjoyed her stories of meeting and marrying Ladd, her ranch-owning cowboy, and their first years together. This book, however, is more of a short essay collection, which I loved! Stories about raising her children, her in-laws, learning to live on a ranch after being a city girl; all the oops moments over the years. Her love for Ladd is never wavering, and I find it so refreshing that after twenty-five years of marriage, they are still madly in love with each other. Ree doesn't hesitate to own up to her own mistakes and how she's learned from them. There is nothing in this collection of essays that will bring you down; in fact, it made me grin reading it. If anything, Ree reminds us that life is ever changing and always interesting, even in the quiet moments. 

This would make a perfect gift for anyone who loves Ree's blog or cooking show--it also explains all the flowers! I always wondered. And Ree, I get it. I love them, too. 

Take some time to read this book. You can pick it up, read a few chapters, and put it down. There is no timeline; it's just as if she sat down and had a conversation with you that kept evolving. Perfect for when you want to read a little, or a lot, after a busy day. 

Rating: 5/6 for a supremely enjoyable look at life on a ranch in Oklahoma, parenthood, and a long-lasting marriage. There is even a chapter on her love of dogs. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

Monday, November 30, 2020

What Do You Do When Books Everyone Else Loves are Dragging You Down?! And...Time for December Reads

 I am super annoyed. I've wanted to read Alix E. Harrow's The Once and Future Witches and Rebecca Roanhorse's Black Sun for MONTHS. I eagerly bought both of them, and started reading...

.......and starting and stopping

........and SQUIRREL!

....here it is, weeks later and I haven't even made it half-way through either of them. I'm beyond frustrated at my lack of focus and inability to be grabbed by either of these books. I know deep down I will love both of them, it's the getting there that is proving hard for me. I simply cannot concentrate long enough to settle in for a good, long page-turning read. I'll confess I had hopes with a four day weekend I would really make some progress. Unfortunately, I wasn't home much at all--as in only part of Friday and part of Saturday. Instead of reading, I put up my Christmas decorations and made the mistake of visiting Target, where I think everyone in my city was shopping. I quickly left after realizing no one was social distancing or even trying to--but at least everyone had masks on-mostly because Target enforces it. 

Anyhow, I did read the latest Jodi Picoult: The Book of Two Ways. While I was all in at the beginning, I quickly lost interest. I did push my way through to the end, but I was disappointed. Too much deep thought that quite honestly didn't hit the mark with me. So while I did read it, I'm not going to review it more than what I just did! I have a friend who read it and loved it, so my advice is to give it a shot and see what you think. What was a miss for me may hit a home run for you. 

I am not giving up on Harrow and Roanhorse. But I am tossing in the guilt-infused towel and I'm going to stop feeling bad that they are taking me some time to finish. I'll continue to peck away at both of them, confident that I will hit that sweet spot in both and spend a few late nights unable to put them down. 

So, onto December reads. My month where I unapologetically read mostly holiday feel-good books. Holiday books for me are like Christmas lights for others: they magically make me feel happier and more relaxed. While my Decembers are no longer driven by a crazy retail schedule, I do continue to keep my tradition of reading and relaxing at night with the tree lit up and a few candles burning my favorite cranberry and pine tree scents. 

I am still working on Surviving Savannah (as an e-book) and it reminds me how much I miss reading a lot of historical fiction. So that's still in the mix this month. I'm really pushing myself this month with the stack I've selected. I never learn my limits! Here's some of what I'm going to read in December:

Most of my choices are holiday titles I've purchased over the past month and kept hidden from view so I wouldn't be tempted. I've also grabbed Ree Drummond's latest Frontier Follies and the current YA pick from Reese Witherspoon's book group: A Cuban Girls Guide to Tea and Tomorrow. I've got a couple of Christmas mystery books, along with a few romances. So heck, that's a lot of reading for me this month. I best get moving. 

As the year winds down, I'm closing in on my reading challenge. This year I decided to lower my goal and I'm glad I did-it's been a humdinger of a year, wouldn't you agree? And while books are always my happy place, sometimes even they didn't quite work their magic. Sometimes I just had to sit in that unhappy, sad place. Sometimes (as in after the power came back on after 11 days in August!), I just have to watch Guy's Grocery Games on Food Network for hours and not do anything else. Now I'm hooked on the Great British Baking Show--all the old seasons showing on Netflix. I find it comforting to watch all those bakers. I hope 2021 has plenty of foodie fiction books coming my way. 

Stay safe, stay healthy, and take some time to enjoy whatever reads or audio books   give you joy. 

Here we go December!

The Bookalicious Babe

Friday, November 27, 2020

Miss Benson's Beetle by Rachel Joyce


I've read Rachel Joyce's novels before, and I know I am always in for a quirky tale that hits me hard in the heart when I'm least expecting it. Her latest didn't disappoint, and I loved everything about it. 

It's 1950, and Margery Benson is in her late 40's, single, and teaching home economics in post World War 2 England. She has no family, and has settled into a pretty sad and lonely life. One particular day, a student draws a picture of Margery, and once Margery sees the drawing, she loses it. She snaps, walking out of the school, quitting her job, and going home. She decides to leave it all behind and pursue her one dream-a dream from childhood that she stuffed deep down and decided would never happen. Her dream? to travel to New Caledonia in pursuit of the legendary golden beetle. Does it exist? Who knows? But Margery is determined to find it. She advertises for a companion to help her in her quest, and lively, quirky Enid Pretty is her last hope to pull off her adventure. 

Enid isn't exactly what you'd want on a trip to New Caledonia-a place that's full of jungles, rain forests, mountains, and all sorts of danger. Even Margery isn't in the best shape to undergo an arduous trip, but her mind is set and she's not going to give up. As Enid and Margery travel by ship to their destination, they get to know each other and a friendship slowly forms in between a whole lot of rocky situations. Just who is Enid Pretty? What is she running from? 

Margery is delightful, and you can't help but admire her persistence in what looks like a completely foolish endeavor. Enid is a bit of a mystery, and she's so different than Margery you wonder how they could ever become friends, let alone go on an adventure that is both thrilling and dangerous. Yet Enid's story slowly unfolds, and you see how alike both women really are, and how both have dreams that neither is willing to let go. This is a travel tale, an adventure, a story of two women who become dear friends, and a tale of pursuing dreams. It's never too late! 

I so hope this becomes a limited series somewhere on TV. I would recommend this novel to book groups, and pretty much anyone else! I'll be passing my copy onto friends for sure. The author has some extras at the end of the book that you're sure to enjoy. Definitely one of my favorite novels of 2020. I've left a lot for you to discover as you read it--I can't give away all the good stuff! 

Rating: 5/6 for an unlikely adventure and friendship between two women who seem very different but are actually quite a lot alike. I'll confess I got a bit teary-eyed a few times and it left me thinking about Margery and Enid for quite some time. 

Available in paperback, audio, and e-book. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

A Solitude of Wolverines by Alice Henderson


I enjoy reading thrillers, but I definitely can't read too many in a row before I get a bit burned out and need to read something completely different. This thriller, however, is so completely different than what I've been reading lately--I was hooked from the cover and it didn't disappoint. 

Alex Carter is a biologist who travels around from job to job studying wildlife in their habitat and advocating for the preservation of their land-often coming up against greed, corporate agencies, and  even private landowners who want to make a buck. 
Her latest job takes her to Montana, where she is looking for wolverines on a wildlife sanctuary that used to be a working ski lodge. Now, thousands of acres are safe from development, but oh boy the townspeople nearby do not like the sanctuary and they certainly don't like Alex. Staying at the lodge by herself, she spends her days setting hair traps and cameras around the mountains to try and find out if wolverines are actually using the area to survive and produce offspring. Yet between the nasty towns folk, threatening notes on her windshield, and feeling like she's being watched, Alex begins to realize something is really wrong. Checking her trail cameras, she sees photos of a man wandering the area, barefoot and in trouble. When she approaches the sheriff with her concerns, his cold shoulder makes Alex realize she's not going to get much help or support from him or anyone else around. 

Things start to heat up, and Alex begins to uncover a whole lot of underhanded, dangerous things taking place all around her. She's in danger, but from whom? And why? 

Oh, this was such a good thriller. The added bonus of Alex's wildlife work made this so interesting. It really brought the wilderness to life. Her smarts and ability to take care of herself out in the wild, her ability to stay cool and calm were all refreshing to read. Alex is no slouch! The opening chapter is also a whiz bang start, too, but I don't want to give anything away. Let's just say the beginning and the end come full circle for Alex, and leave room for more adventures to come and mysteries to solve. 

This is definitely a must read for anyone who loves the great outdoors, hiking, camping, and nature in general. A thriller that builds anticipation and doesn't let up. 

Rating: 5/6 for a fascinating look at wildlife biology, the ongoing battle between preserving wildlife habitats and encroaching humanity, and one heck of an action packed thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. So. Good. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab


This is another book I've been anticipating for quite some time, thanks to buzz on Twitter and the book world. It took me a bit to finally pick up the book and plunge into it, though, but I was immediately captivated by Addie's story.

Addie LaRue is 23 in the summer of 1714, living in the small French village of Villon. She's pretty much lived her whole life there, not venturing much past the village boundaries. Yet Addie is burning with the desire to see the world; live a life much bigger than what awaits her in Villon. She has arrived at a point in her life where choice has been taken away: she is set to be married at sunset to a local man she does not love. Addie knows her life will become dreary, filled with unending tasks and bearing children until she simply grows old and dies. A life that is not at all what she wants. In a bid to escape the inevitable, she runs to the woods on the way to the chapel, and begs the gods and goddesses for a new life-she will do anything  to escape life in Villon. 

And someone does appear-a very dark god, indeed. The devil himself, to make a bargain with Addie: she will have the freedom she craves, but at a price: her soul in return, when she is weary of life. Addie agrees, but soon finds out the bargain is a curse, and a cruel one, at that. Not only is she immortal, but her desire to be free means no one remembers her; she cannot tell people her name, and she has no way to leave a memory of herself behind. She is doomed to wander the earth every day, unable to have a home, a lasting love, or even simply being remembered by anyone who crosses her path. Within minutes, she is forgotten. 

Most of the first half of the novel chronicles Addie's rough beginnings in her new life as she discovers she can be injured, can be voraciously hungry; even freeze at night-but it won't kill her. She can speak to a person, and that person walks away and returns with no memory of who Addie is or what she wants. Addie learns to live by her wits, stealing food and clothing, wandering cities and figuring out the game that will keep her sane. And Luc, the devil who made the deal, visits her every so often to remind her she only has to say she's done and it will all be over. Yet Addie is determined to never give in to Luc, and continues to learn, evolve, and wander the world. 

Part of the story is also set in 2014; Addie lives in New York. She looks exactly the same, and now over three hundred years old, she's pretty wise, but also still desperately lonely. Until she meets Henry. Henry remembers her. He's the first person to remember her in over 300 years. How is this possible? Has Addie finally found someone who will never forget her?

There's much more to the story, and a heartbreaker of an ending, for sure. Addie's beginnings are very interesting, as she navigates the streets of Paris and other cities, surviving by her wits, learning skills along the way. Her pain from time after time of spending the night with someone, only to be met with confusion and shame the next morning, is devastating. Yet with Henry, she has a chance, finally at happiness. Or will fate be cruel once again?

I did like the characters; Addie is especially tough and complex, as would anyone who is immortal and utterly dependent on themselves. It is interesting to think about being alone while in the midst of a pandemic. We are all forced to spend less time with friends and family; often spending whole days alone with no personal contact. I cannot imagine going through hundreds of years that same way. The mixture of art and literature, and the ways Addie finds loopholes in her curse to leave some trace of herself behind are interesting, and frame the beginning of each section of the book. 

I can't give away the end, and it may satisfy or disappoint you--definitely something to discuss! Addie is a character you won't soon forget; after all, that's what she wants--and she succeeded with this reader. 

Rating: 4/6 for a powerful novel about time, love, memory, and the traces we leave behind. How do you leave a legacy when no one remembers you? 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

Friday, November 13, 2020

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman


This mystery has been on my book radar for a few weeks. I keep seeing it all over social media, and kept seeing it coming in and out of the library. I had a chance to grab a copy from my library, and settled down this week to read it and was charmed from the first page. 

The Thursday Murder Club is a group of retirees living at Coopers Chase, a retirement village in the Kent countryside. It's a fairly well set up place, with plenty to do and all sorts of interesting folks. The drinks flow freely and there's gossip aplenty. Converted from a nunnery, it is a stunning spot to retire to and relax in the countryside. Ron, Joyce, Elizabeth and Ibrahim get together on Thursdays to discuss old murder cases. Elizabeth's good friend Penny, a retired detective, lives at Coopers Chase with her husband John. Only thing is that Penny is in a coma, and she's the one who kept all the files of cases she worked on years before. Elizabeth is one interesting woman with a mysterious past and superb detective skills. Joyce is a retired nurse, Ibrahim a retired counselor, and Ron is, well, a retired troublemaker. 

What begins as a look at an old murder case quickly takes off when a local developer is found dead in his kitchen. That developer had a business interest in Coopers Chase, and the man who also owned Cooper's Chase-Ian Ventham, is ready to double cross him and cost him millions. Now he's dead, and Ian is the number one suspect. But did he do it?

What begins as a seemingly simple murder mystery unravels into a much more complicated tale that involves land deals, nuns, drugs, and some of the people at Coopers Chase who have some pretty big secrets to hide. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the characters-their wit, sense of humor, and relationships kept a smile on my face while I read. These senior citizens are not ready to sit back and take it easy-they are sharp, witty, and ready to use whatever they have to get the answers they need. Detectives are no match for them!

I really enjoyed this mystery, and I could see this as a tv series very easily. Anytime a mystery features a band of rabble-rousing senior citizens, sign me up! I'm ready to climb aboard. 

Rating: 5/6 for a multi-layered mystery that seems fairly straightforward at first, but keeps unraveling into something much bigger. A cast of characters who are delightful, and enough action to keep the story from bogging down. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly


I needed to escape from my October reading for a bit and found the perfect book to do just that. This novel will be out in January, 2021 so if you're a fan of Julia Kelly you'll have a few months to wait. 

I'm one of those people who love all things gardening-especially flower gardens. I am, however, not one to be out in a garden working on it every chance I get. I love the results, but not so much all the work to get there. I used to have a lot of flowers in my yard, but I've scaled back massively the past few years because I don't have the time, and I've realized that whomever follows me in my house may not want a lot of flower beds around. I still have perennials, but I've gone to simple, easy to care for summer flowers and plants in pots. I still have a wish for a forever home with a field of wildflowers somewhere on the property. My partner has agreed on this, so hopefully in the future I'll have that gardening wish come true. 

This novel has quite a few characters-five women-that each have a tale, and three different time periods. It may sound complicated, but it's really easy to follow. 1907 is Venetia Smith, a woman who is one of the few female gardening experts in England making a name for herself. She's been hired to create a huge garden for a newly wealthy couple at their estate Highbury House. Her reputation is on the line, both professionally and personally. She must walk a fine line between pleasing her employers and creating a stunning garden with her knowledge and experience. 

1944: Britain is in the middle of World War 2, and Highbury House is now a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers  Diana Symonds is the widow who owns the home, living there with her son Robin and spending time in the run down gardens when it is all too much. Her cook, Stella, has lived in the area all her life, and all she wants to do is leave to work and travel. She feels trapped, especially since her sister has brought her young son to Stella to stay in the country, away from London. Stella is not at all the motherly type, and has a hard time connecting to her nephew. And there is Beth, who is a land girl for the British Government. She has come to the country to help out on a farm, doing whatever needs done to produce food and keep the farming community running. An unlikely trio of women, but somehow they all connect and rely on each other. 

2021: Emma Lovett has been hired by the current owners of Highbury House to recreate the gardens Venetia Smith created in 1907. With not much to go on but rough outlines of garden "rooms" in the lawn, a few notes and a few photos, Emma has her work cut out for her. She also has to decide if keeping her small business going is worth the hard work. Emma admires Venetia's work, and uncovers unknown facts about Venetia and Highbury House while working on the garden. 

All three stories connect neatly and I had no trouble going back and forth between each time period. The garden descriptions were fascinating and interesting, I only wish I had a visual while reading! It's hard for me to say which part of the plot I enjoyed the most; each story was compelling and had a few surprise elements. 

All in all, a satisfactory historical fiction novel about love, family, gardening, choices, and finding your happiness in the midst of the worst circumstances. I did also appreciate the focus on the gardening angle, especially during the World War 2 portions of the novel. I'm a bit weary of war novels, and while it did figure prominently in this novel, it was more about the war at home and how women were discovering their strengths and talents to create new lives. 

Rating: 4/6 for a solid historical novel about gardens, England, women who rise to challenges, and the continuing history of a home that saw much love and sorrow. 

This novel will be out in hardcover in January, 2021 in the United States. 

Saturday, October 31, 2020

November Reads: Wait--It's November?! What?!

 It's going to take me a week or so to realize November is here. 2020 is certainly a year which feels like it is endless. With two months to go, I don't have the mental energy to even contemplate what else is just around the corner. 

I've been pretty low key the last week, staying home for a week of vacation and not doing much. I have realized the benefits of vacation the week of Halloween-I get to watch as many paranormal shows as I want, anytime of the day or night. It's also a good week to do some decluttering around the house to get ready for holiday decorating. I'm not one to put up my tree until after Thanksgiving, so I've still got some time to keep chipping away at the accumulated "stuff". Thankfully this time around my decluttering does not include cleaning out my home library. 

October's reads were a lot of thrillers, and I will admit I got a little burnt out this last week. I realized I haven't been reading much historical fiction at all and it's my favorite genre! So I went down the Edelweiss rabbit hole and quickly accumulated a few ebooks to read on my Nook. I'm halfway through The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly and it's just what I needed to push through my reading blahs. I'll have a review up for that in a few days. 

I've been accumulating a few holiday reads in preparation for December and I have resisted the temptation to start reading them early. I've got about ten books left to read by the end of the year to hit my reading challenge on Goodreads. There have been a lot of articles and posts about reading challenges and the pressure to reach goals. I know plenty of folks who read dozens more books than me each year, and hey, good for them. I don't pay much attention to numbers-just like at the gym, I don't look at other people in class and how much weight they're picking up, or how fast they're rowing. To each their own. Read however much you want, and read whatever makes you happy. I personally like to set a reading goal each year to keep myself accountable. And it helps me remember everything I've read all year, too. 

I've got a lot of books to read this month, mostly because they're sitting around my house and I want to read them and pass them on to family and friends. Here's a few that I'm planning on reading and reviewing in November:

I've eagerly awaited this novel and wanted to read it in October but didn't get to it. The cover is stunning, and I expect the read to be fascinating, too! 

I'll confess: I usually don't read Jodi Picoult novels. This one, however, features Ancient Egyptian history, which has fascinated me since I first saw King Tut featured in National Geographic years ago. Archaeology, alternative lives, and wondering what if? 

Another October read I didn't get to...I started it but got sidetracked. I've been waiting for this for months, so I'll dive into Addie Larue's deal with the devil that gives her eternal life, but at a price. 

Rebecca Roanhorse is an amazing writer, and this fantasy novel is getting huge accolades and buzz. A Native American writer who creates a whole new world and mythology. 

This book isn't out until March, 2021 but I'm lucky to have an ARC. Historical fiction about a tragic ship sinking. A bit of American history that has been forgotten over time.

A book that combines the outdoors, survival, and a race against a killer.

Phew. That's a lot for November. Happy Halloween everyone! 

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

 My partner asked me yesterday if I planned on reading a book a day while on vacation this week. While I would love to, I told him I probably wouldn't be able to read quite that much--the lure (or my guilt feeling) of cleaning out closets and decluttering in preparation for the holidays has me feeling like I can't just read all day--I MUST do some kind of housework. Ugh. 

However, I did finish The Night Swim last night and did spend a lot of Monday reading it. It's not an easy read in that the subject is about rape. Not just one rape, but the story about two women, 25 years apart, who were raped. One ended up dead, and the other has divided the town with her accusation against the town star athlete. Both take place in the same small coastal town of Neapolis, North Carolina. 

Told mainly by Rachel, the host of a popular true crime podcast; and Hannah, the sister of the first victim, Jenny Stills, interspersed with podcast script episodes, it is a disturbing look at crimes against women and the price they pay whether they go public or keep silent. Jenny's story is painful to read, and is the backbone of the novel. Twenty-five years before, she was found drowned in the ocean. Hannah, ten at the time, was traumatized by the event, and soon after lost her mother to cancer. She was adopted and left town. Now she's back, and wants justice for Jenny, whom Hannah claims was murdered. Rachel, in Neapolis to cover the rape trial of golden boy Scott Blair, accused by Kelly Moore, at first is reluctant to even think about Jenny's story. Hannah keeps leaving notes for Rachel, telling her the story of Jenny, and what happened to her that long ago summer. That story is slowly spun throughout the contemporary story of the rape trial of Scott Blair. Both similar, yet very different. Both horrible acts against women who were helpless to protect themselves or fight back. Both vilified by the people around town. 

The question throughout Jenny's story is who was the ringleader that summer, and why was her death never investigated? Why do so many of the townsfolk of Neapolis still, all these years later, treat Jenny's memory so badly? And, is the murderer of Jenny still there? 

I didn't think of this as a thriller but more as a evolving story that didn't hold a whole lot of surprises. However, it was compelling, and I couldn't stop reading-even through the awful experiences of Jenny. You never get her perspective, and maybe that's on purpose-we only see what happens to her through Hannah's eyes. Kelly's story is, unfortunately, fodder for social media, gossip, and endless stories in the press. It's all about what Scott is losing because of this accusation, not whether he's guilty or not. Kelly's suffering is moot. 

Rachel's podcast certainly makes space for a series that could involve other cases she explores each season, so I wouldn't be surprised to see another novel in the future. 

Rating: 4/6 for a haunting, chilling dual tale of two young women who are raped and left to deal with the fallout. One ends up dead-was it murder, or simply an accident? This novel could be difficult to read for those who have experienced sexual assault or rape, so be aware of that before you pick it up. 

Available in hardcover, audio, and ebook. 

Sunday, October 25, 2020

No Offense by Meg Cabot


I took a break from reading my haunting reads this month for a sweet romance between a children's librarian and a sheriff. It was what I needed to kick off vacation week! It's a staycation, of course. But I've got things to do around the house, and a big stack of books to read all week. I'm excited for a much needed break, and a little bit of solitude. I'll be working really hard to not give into my desire for a key lime pie, thanks to this book! 

Molly Montgomery is the new children's librarian in Little Bridge Island, Florida. A pretty sweet tourist spot that is beautiful, surrounded by the ocean, and small town enough that everyone knows everyone's business. Molly loves her job, and one day finds an abandoned newborn in the women's bathroom. Not the usual librarian duties, for sure. The Sheriff arrives, and sparks fly immediately. John Hartwell is handsome and swoon worthy, even if he does clash a bit with Molly. Who's baby is this? Another case to solve for John, who is already trying to solve the case of the high school thief, who keeps breaking into homes. He's stymied by this case, and frustrated. John knows who is doing the breaking in, but can't catch him. 

Baby Aphrodite brings Molly and John together; as the case evolves, circumstances find them both at odds with each other. However, they are still falling for each other quickly, and their romance is sweet, hot, and quite believable. Book lovers will enjoy all of the book references-not only from Molly, but the Sheriff, too. The community of Little Bridge Island is full of characters that bring this little paradise to life. I hope Meg Cabot writes more about this community. 

I'll confess-I am pretty sure this is my first Meg Cabot book. I bought it because it was about a librarian, and took place in a small Florida community. An escape from a chilly October here in Iowa. It did the trick-took me away for a few hours, and was perfectly enjoyable and a quick read. Definitely a feel-good read!

Rating: 4/6 for a delightful romance between a librarian and a sheriff. Their clashes are brief but provide a good opportunity to highlight the importance of getting to know someone beyond the physical attraction, and working through those differences. Good chemistry, engaging characters, and a plot that keeps moving towards resolution. I'll be reading more Meg Cabot!

Available in paperback, hardcover, ebook, and audio. 

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Sanctuary by V. V. James

 Shocking, I know--I finished two books in one weekend. Now I can't wait to dig into the other books I've got lined up for the rest of October. This novel continues the magical theme I have going for October. It's definitely getting darker out earlier, and now when I get up early to hit the gym, it's still dark when I leave the gym--and I do miss that sunrise on the drive home. 

I first saw this novel pop up on Goodreads. I looked at what people had to say, and while I was interested, I wasn't running out to grab it. I was perusing the new release tables at B&N and saw it there, and decided I had to read it. I'm so glad I paid attention--usually when a book keeps popping up around me, I take it as a sign that I should read it. I wasn't disappointed in this magical suspense novel. 

Dan Whitman is attending a high school party at a rented home when he falls to his death and a fire erupts, burning down the house and causing all the kids to flee in terror. Dan is Mr. Popularity at high school and had just secured a football scholarship for college. He was on his way to fame and fortune. 

Dan's death stirs up a whole lot of bad stuff in the town of Sanctuary, Connecticut. Witchcraft is legal in the U.S., but there are strict laws on those who practice it. Sarah Fenn is the town witch, and her daughter Harper was Dan's ex-girlfriend. Sarah and Dan's mother Abigail, along with Julia and Bridget have been friends  for years. The three women also are Sarah's coven. Rules dictate that only the person who has been certified as a witch may use their powers, so the other three women do not have any magical talents. But Sarah uses their energy to create spells that help folks around town. Her family has lived in Sanctuary for generations. However, with Dan's death, a whole lot of bad energy starts to take ahold of Sanctuary. 

That bad energy starts with Abigail. She's destroyed with grief over the death of her only son. Dan's friend brings forth allegations that Harper caused Dan's death through witchcraft, and claims to have it all recorded on his phone. Along with that, there is an edited sex tape going around of Harper and Dan. Detective Maggie Knight has been called in to investigate Dan's death, and she quickly realizes she's stepped into a brewing, tension-filled town. 

This is more than just a novel about witches and magic. At the heart of the story is a mystery--how did Dan die, and who was responsible for it? Was it just an accident, or deliberate? And as Maggie digs, she slowly uncovers a whole lot of secretive history amongst Sarah and her friends-and their children, too. It's also a tale of hysteria, and people swallowing utter bullshit and becoming absolute sheep and turning into a murderous mob. And it's a tale of friendships that are always on the tipping point. 

The tension in the novel slowly increases, as the days go by and Abigail moves from grief to rage and a thirst for revenge. Sarah, always doing good for all, is just not quick enough to realize the danger she is in as Abigail slowly turns the town and the media against Sarah and Harper. Maggie is in a race to uncover just what happened at the party-who does she believe, and what does the evidence tell her? Maggie's viewpoint is the best, actually. She is you the reader, trying to figure it all out with the evidence and clues she has at her disposal. You may think you have an idea, but I bet you won't quite figure it all out until it's revealed at the end. 

The story is told from multiple viewpoints: Sarah, Maggie, Abigail, and Harper. It keeps you guessing the whole way through, and there are surprises aplenty. The back cover of the novel says it is a mix of Big Little Lies and Practical Magic, and I'd say that's fairly accurate. This would make a really, really good TV movie. I think it would also make a really good book group discussion. So much to talk about. 

Rating: 5/6 for a slowly building tension-filled thriller that mixes modern witchcraft, law, death, family, friends, and age-old prejudices into a hard to put down tale. So good! 

Available in trade paperback, ebook, and audio. 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

The Left-Handed Booksellers of London by Garth Nix


I've read a few Garth Nix novels over the years and he remains one of my favorite YA and children's authors. This novel got me just by the title. I was a bookseller for 25 years, and those many years sharing my love of reading and books gave me some of the best memories and made me feel like I made some impact, however small it might have been.

Have you ever heard of a runner's high? That thing that happens when you hit a time during a run where it feels effortless and magical and you could run for hours? Well, I would get that feeling at work when I talked to people about books. Not all the time, but boy, when it did happen, it was pretty awesome. I'd actually come home exhausted and feeling pretty drained from all of it. I still get that feeling sometimes when I talk to people about what I've read, or what I'm reading. It fills me up when I'm running low. 

Anyhow, back to this novel. It took me a few weeks to read it, and I wish I'd just kept plugging away and finished it in a few days. I am also reading a few other books at the same time, and kept bouncing around and not accomplishing much. But I buckled down and finished it this morning. I was reminded again how much I love British mythology and magic. It's one of my favorite fantasy elements to read about when I'm looking for something to read. This definitely fit the bill. And made me long to return to England for a visit. Someday. 

This novel is set in 1983 London. Susan Arkshaw has just turned eighteen and is moving to London to attend art school, and also to look for her father. She's never met him, and her mother is very vague about who he is and where he went. Susan doesn't even have a name to go by. But, her mother does have a few connection in London and Susan decides to start with one of those connections. And that is where Susan's story takes off. 

Crime boss Frank Thringley has invited Susan to supper, but something wild happens and Frank ends up dead-actually turned to dust by a pin prick. The person who did the deed is a young man named Merlin, who dresses with a whole lot of flair and wears a glove on his left hand. Merlin quickly rushes Susan out of Frank's house, telling her if they stay she will be killed. Susan's time in London quickly spirals into a world she was unaware of, but one in which she may belong. Merlin and his sister Vivien are booksellers; Merlin a left handed one, and Vivien a right handed one. They have magical powers; Merlin is a fighter, and Vivien, as a right handed bookseller, uses her intellect. Together they, along with hundreds of  other booksellers, keep the peace in England. 

However, someone wants Susan dead, and she's thrown into wild adventures with Merlin and Vivien as they connect Susan's mother with the murder of their mother years ago. Who killed their mother? And how does Susan's father factor into all of it? And why is Susan in danger? 

The magical elements in this novel were a big hit for me. Old world magic and New World magic battling for control; ancient rituals and connections to the earth and elemental beings--all the stuff I love! I can't wait for more. I hope there is more! 

This is written as a YA novel; if that makes you hesitate, please don't let that stop you. Garth Nix writes such a good story any age will dive right in and gulp it down. Reading this has me thinking that I probably need to rediscover some of Mr. Nix's previous works. He has just the right blend of action, adventure, and darkness to keep you engaged. His characters are well developed and interesting, too. 

Rating: 4/6 for the start of a what I hope is a new series. Booksellers, London, magic, and ancient powers all blend into a novel about a young woman who wants to find her father. Plenty of action, mythology, and book talk to keep you reading late into the night. 

Available in hardcover, ebook, and audio.