The Appeal by Janice Hallett

The Appeal by Janice Hallett is the most unique, cleverly written/told story I have ever read! It grips you from the first page, so much so you are tempted to read the last page! Don’t! It is so worth the satisfaction of going along for the ride.

Told in email and text form, The Appeal tells the story of a local English theatre group, The Fairway Players. Their last play has ended, and they are beginning the auditioning process for the new play. The group has been together so long, there are no real surprises as to who will get the leads, but there are a few new additions to the Players, a husband and wife just back from overseas. Director Martin Hayward announces he will not be able to participate in the next play due to the diagnosis of a brain tumor in his two-year-old granddaughter Poppy. He goes on to tell them there is an experimental drug in the United States which her doctor suggests looks promising, but it is very expensive and even though the Haywards have money, even they cannot afford what could be considered a miracle cure.

So, as a group they decide to take on the challenge of raising the money to assist the family, while rehearsing for the new performance. They not only seek donations but put on a fancy gala with all the proceeds going to a charity set up for Poppy. They also sell raffle tickets at extraordinary prices to be drawn during the show. T-shirts are made and email blasts go out pleading for money to help poor Poppy.

But there are a few members who question the authenticity of the charity, and even of Poppy’s illness. The talking, or rather emailing behind each other’s back is remarkable.

As the email and text chains are read, we begin to see the personalities of the group emerge. There is a needy, mousy woman who wants to be included in this clique so badly she would do anything to become friends with just about anybody. Hayward’s wife Helen, the star of the Fairway Players and always the lead is in some ways fragile, the newcomers, especially the wife, seem curious as to what is really going on.

Then, as everything begins to build, the questions, the rehearsals, the charity meetings, something tragic happens after the dress rehearsal. Someone dies.

As the lawyers sift through all the information which they have gathered, they begin to breakdown who would possibly want to kill and for what reasons. The suspect list is gathered and analyzed with different scenarios played out until they all agree on one.

Although the reveal is shocking, the story itself is filled with humor, backstabbing, plot twists and secrets. It also takes on social media in a mockingly, serious, helpful, yet harmful way. The moral? Sometimes using social media can be a killer!

My Wife is Missing by D.J. Palmer

My Wife is Missing is a story which takes you on an incredibly breathless journey as to what could have happened to a man’s family while they were on vacation in New York City. The story goes between the day they went missing to the days and months leading up to their disappearance.

Michael Hart takes his wife Natalie and their two small children on vacation to New York. Yes, Michael and Natalie have been having some problems lately, but he feels this could be a step in the right direction to getting back where they once were. But when he returns from getting take-out on their first day, he discovers them all gone, except for his son’s teddy bear which is in the hallway near their hotel room. All signs of them are wiped out, including their luggage. Panic stricken; Michael calls the police.

But as he begins to learn that his wife may have taken the children willingly and concocted this vacation to leave him, he can’t understand why she would do this…or maybe he can.

Natalie has taken the children and ran. She is afraid of Michael. She knows what he has done and what he is capable of doing. She is petrified of him. She is afraid he will kill them all. She has not slept in months worrying about what he will do. Because of the insomnia, her brain is fuzzy, and she seems to be having time lapses and become extremely paranoid. This is the right plan to keep them all safe. But she knows Michael will try and hunt them down and because of this she continues to panic.

As Michael, with help from an off-duty policeman, begin to get lucky and pursue Natalie, he hopes their life together will be able to be fixed. He wants the chance to explain why he did what he did. He knew it was a stupid risk, but they were not in a good place. Then someone was found dead who worked in Natalie’s office. That seems to have made things even worse.

As Michael gets closer to Natalie’s whereabouts, Natalie’s decisions become even more deranged. She begins to formulate a plan to make sure Michael can never do something like this again. A decision she may have to live with for the rest of her life!

My Wife is Missing is a suspenseful thriller which when all the pieces of the mystery come together makes for an explosive, powerful, surprising ending. Don’t always think you know everything about someone….

Thank you #NetGalley #St.Martin’sPress #D.J.Palmer #MyWifeisMissing for the advanced copy.

Fly Girl by Ann Hood

Author Ann Hood has had nothing short of an incredible adventurous and at times heartbreaking life. Fly Girl answers in part where her incredible imagination came from.

Even at the young age of six, Hood wanted to travel to places she had always dreamed about, and not just by her family’s station wagon. She wanted to go where the trains would take her, never thinking there would ever be any other mode of transportation. Until one day when she was told to look up and couldn’t believe her eyes.

Then this incredible mode of transportation was born, called the airplane. It fascinated and excited Hood. So, when she was in High School and told her guidance counselor that she wanted to be a flight attendant and a writer she was told to think more realistically.

But in 1978 as Ann was graduating from college and her parents were expecting her to become a teacher, Hood made a bold decision. She wanted to be a flight attendant and travel and write books. In her mind not only would she be able to do two things she loved, but she could get paid for them as well. So, while all her friends were entering workforces at schools and businesses, she was applying to airlines to become a flight attendant.

Unfortunately, it was not as easy as you would imagine getting hired into the airline industry. For every one hire there were thousands of applicants. There were many interviews and hoops a person had to go through. But when it finally happened for Hood, she chose to become a TWA flight attendant. And she was ready!

After the rigorous training the attendants endured, they were prepared, willing and able to fly the friendly skies. They are much more than the person one sees serving drinks and meals and putting on a show as to where the emergency exits are and what to do in case of a crisis.

Flight attendants are therapists, problem solvers, emergency handlers and sometimes even baby deliverers. All with a smile on their face and an I know how to handle this attitude. Thus begins the truly funny, interesting sometimes heartbreaking anecdotes which Hood witnessed throughout her years of flying.

From a passenger breastfeeding their cat, yes, read that again, to a man who took such a tantrum because they had run out of lasagna that the plane had to be met at the gate by police, or the man who flew pantless because he had a job interview and didn’t want to look wrinkled. We learn of her romances some of which began high in the sky. But for every funny story, there are some which were heartbreaking. When a man boarded the plane with red eyes from crying Hood consoled him as he told her he had just lost his brother. Hood had no idea in just a few short months she would be the one being consoled on a flight for the same reason.

Of course, as one would expect there was sexism not only by the passengers but also some men who worked in the industry. Some thought flight attendants were stupid, or just waiting to meet Mr. Right. Hood to this day corrects someone when they say stewardess. They are flight attendants.

But between flights to London, Cairo, Greece, the United States and beyond, Hood wrote when she could. On the plane, going to the plane on layovers. Even when she actually sold her first book she still continued to fly, loving the freedom of air travel so much. Something she still loves to this day.

Included in the memoir is an interesting retrospective of the history of stewards flying and how certain ways things are done came to be.

Hood’s memoir is wonderfully well-written, funny, sentimental with a glamorous flair of the time period in which she flew. She explains the reason she wrote the book was because her friends would always beg her to tell stories of when she flew and always seemed riveted when she told one. I can understand why.

Thank you #NetGalley #W.W.Norton&Company #AnnHood #FlyGirl for the advanced copy.

Misadventures in the Screen Trade by Alison Ripley Cubitt

Alison Ripley Cubitt has lived quite a full, brave life for her young age. She has had to overcome personal tragedies and sexism but has also been able to find love and succeeded in breaking her own personal glass ceiling.

At her first job as a receptionist with male bosses who don’t really give her due credit proves you really do have to start somewhere, but Alison takes this experience and moves forward accepting jobs along the way which take her hours of commuting to get to, enduring a long-distance romance and tolerating higher ups who feel they have only their own careers to worry about. But Alison endures.

Her time in Italy, where at a moment’s notice the banks decided to close down and she could not access her money and had to eat pizza for a month until she was able to get back into her account would have made some just go home. I don’t even think that crossed her mind, as it did I might say, to me…

She finally lands what she feels will be her dream job with the Disney Company. On her first travel assignment with them she must endure not only incredibly cold weather, difficult employees but a few public relation nightmares which would have many others give up, but Alison weathers all the storms, even with a boss who perhaps wishes she were not there. She came into the job which touts the happiest place on earth slogan with such high expectations, but unfortunately, she could see the writing on the wall.

But, instead of quitting, she picks herself up and pursues other creative avenues to continue with her career. And thus, she goes from a receptionist to many other jobs, to getting a degree and working for the BBC.

If that was not enough, she created an acclaimed documentary, and has written several books solo and with her now husband. The stories within the book are an example of a determined woman who looks at life as a series of challenges and rather than feel defeated, she learns and grows and succeeds.

Thank you #Alison Ripley Cubitt for sending me a copy of your book! I can’t wait to see where life takes you next!

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Emily Henry, author of Beach Read and People We Meet on Vacation has written another wonderfully funny, sensitive, enjoyable love story which has the makings of a Hallmark movie.

Nora Stephens loves books. That’s why she thrives as a literary agent. One of her clients is Dusty Fielding whose books are set in a small town called Sunshine Falls, North Carolina. But to her disbelief, no one seems very interested in her next novel, all except Nora.

Enter Charlie Lastra a book editor in New York who Nora meets to discuss Dusty’s next book. It does not go well. Not only does he think the book is a failure which Nora can’t believe, but the two seem as if they would never have been able to work together anyway.

Time moves forward and just as Noral predicted Dusty’s new book is a hit. With more money than she ever thought she would make; she finally is able to relax. She gets together with her pregnant sister Libby who she has been neglecting because she has been so busy. The two sisters are very close. Their mother died suddenly years ago, and Nora had to step in and become a surrogate caretaker, a job she still feels obligated to do and would not think of giving up, even though Libby is happily married with children.

Libby’s favorite author is none other than Dusty Fielding. Since she will be giving birth again soon, she has the idea that she and her sister should have one last hurrah and visit Sunshine Falls to see what the place really is like. They could spend the month of August there with Nora working remotely and they could even put together a bucket list of Sunshine Falls activities. Although this doesn’t seem to be the vacation of a lifetime Nora would have chosen for them, she can never say no to Libby, so, off they go!

But Sunshine Falls initially does not seem to be the happy place they thought. There is one cab in town which only goes certain places and lets you out to walk the rest of the way, the bookstore is the only place with spotted Wi-Fi and the one restaurant in the town does not cater to vegetarians and ordering salads is just about against the law! But they are there to bond, so Nora decides to just sit back and relax and enjoy her time with Libby. Then she sees what could only be described as a ghostly apparition…what possibly could her nemesis Charlie Lastra be doing in Sunshine Falls? I mean, he hated Dusty’s last book!

And so, begins the love/hate relationship between two people who desperately both love books…but just not each other. Then they are thrown together by the literary gods and must work together. What could possibly go wrong!

As time goes by during their visit Nora and Libby begin to learn about each other and how the trauma of their mother’s death perhaps had never been fully put to rest. With Nora now busy working with Charlie whom she begins to see differently, she also begins to feel her sister somehow slipping away from her. She just can’t figure out why.

What’s going on?

Book Lovers is a sentimental reader’s dream, filled with funny, crazy characters and even a smoking hot construction worker! The witty dialogue entices the reader to read on, but also makes them wish the story will never come to an end.

Thank you #NetGalley #Berkley #EmilyHenry #BookLovers for the advanced copy.

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus

Elizabeth Zot has her work cut out for herself. A woman in the 1960’s, she understands facts, Chemistry, and that the fact that as a woman she will not be allowed into the scientific men’s club no matter how hard she tries. So, when she begins working at the Hastings Research Institute she is treated as a less than glorified secretary and gopher instead of the astute chemist she really is.

Calvin Evans is a brilliant prize-winning chemist who made the mistake of accidently assuming Elizabeth Zot was “just a secretary”. She immediately proves him wrong. As a result, they fall in love and become the fodder for all their gossipy co-workers who look at Elizabeth as just a gold digger who has a chance to marry well.

But Elizabeth and Calvin know better. They not only become partners in Chemistry, but in life as well. They are practical, organized and live a routine with their dog Six-Thirty who Elizabeth begins to teach words, which he seems to understand. They live in a happy test-tube bubble!

Until suddenly Elizabeth finds herself alone with a daughter no less, and her dog. After being fired from the Hastings Institute for being pregnant, Elizabeth realizes she must provide for her growing family. And through a series of what anyone else would call good luck, but to Elizabeth is embarrassing unluck, she finds herself the star of a… please don’t call it a cooking show, but…a cooking show called Supper at Six. So, Elizabeth does what she always does, and makes the cooking show about Chemistry, much to her producer’s chagrin.

But Elizabeth’s way of teaching how to cook is revolutionary to women, and needless to say misunderstood by men. When asked by a man why on earth she would want to wear pants rather than a skirt she responds with well why do you? As the show becomes more popular, she begins challenging the women who watch to become more independent and question their status quo, explaining they are able to do whatever they want in life. Needless to say, this does not go over well with some men and even some women!

But as we follow Elizabeth Zot’s unapologetic journey in life and the way she looks at everything so differently, especially for that time period, we are given a clear vision of where women were and where women should be and could be. An example her daughter exudes even in her young life.

Lessons in Chemistry is a wonderful, funny, heartwarming journey back to the past with wonderfully crafted characters, a beautifully told love story and many lessons to be learned about life.

Thank you #NetGalley #Doubleday #BonnieGarmus #LessonsinChemistry for the advanced copy.

Caramel Pecan Roll Murder by Joanne Fluke

In the most recent installment of the deliciously satisfying Hannah Swensen Mystery series, we find the creative Cookie Jar bakery owner using her skills to assist her friends at the Lake Eden Inn. The Inn is hosting a fishing tournament and their baker backed out at the last minute.

It becomes quite the family affair as Andrea, Hannah’s sister agrees to help. Her friend Norman has entered the tournament, and Doc will be there as well in case any entrants hurt themselves during the week. Which of course sets us up for the murder and mystery!

When Hannah and Norman decide to take a boat ride around the lake, they find a boat just drifting. It looks as if there is a body slumped at the wheel. They discover the person slumped is Sonny Bowman, Host of a popular television fishing show and he is dead. Sonny is an arrogant celebrity who is supposedly an expert on fishing but the only thing he likes to trap are women. And he is engaged to be married!

As for suspects there is Joey, Sonny’s sidekick who is the real fishing expert but stays in the background and lets Sonny walk all over him. Then there is Sonny’s fiancée who decided to surprise him the night before he was killed and found him in a compromising position with someone else.

Mixed into the batter are personal crisis some of the major characters in the series seem to be in the middle of. Poor Hannah and Andrea are pretty much on their own trying to solve this murder.

As always, there are recipes galore dispersed throughout the story and clues readers have to fish out of the water as we await the unveiling of the murderer. But…there is quite the shocker at the end of the story which will keep Hannah junkies anxiously awaiting the next book!

The Vanishing Type by Ellery Adams

The Secret, Book and Scone Society has to work triple duty in the newest Ellery Adams cozy mystery!

Although our favorite Miracle Springs bookstore owner Nora Pennington has had a few personal changes in her life since we have last visited with her, things are going pretty smoothly. She and her assistant Sheldon have been working arduously to attract visitors to the store, even planning an event in the near future. Although unfortunately, there has been a bit of damage to a few of the books recently. It seems someone has taken a disliking to the covers of The Scarlet Letter!

But then Nora gets the news that one of the friends in the society, Hester, will be getting proposed to and the others are asked to help with the planning of the proposal. Everyone is extremely excited for Hester, except for Hester. You see she has never told her fiancé about her past, and now she is afraid once he hears, he will not want to marry her. She is terribly out of sorts.

As this is all going on, a man is found dead on a hiking path with an orange jacket on and with a very strange antique book in the pocket. Nora begins to wonder why he would be carrying this book. And then coincidentally, another in the series is found in the possession of an elderly woman who has passed away and whose books were donated to Nora. What are the odds these two incidences could be a coincidence?

Meanwhile, as Hester is nearing a breakdown due to the stress of her secret, Estelle’s boyfriend becomes critically ill, and the women must try and focus on comforting her as best they can.

As Nora races to figure out what on earth these book clues could mean, there is another murder, this one a woman who just happened to be wearing a raincoat the same color as Hester! This suddenly changes this book mystery into a life and death situation.

The women must all gather their strength in so many ways to face the outcome of the mysterious deaths with the mysterious books. Will Hester’s fiancée walk away from her when he finds out what she has done? Will Hester even survive whoever it is who seems to have taken a deadly dislike of her!

The Vanishing Type is another wonderful cozy mystery about a group of women who support each other no matter what the fallout. There are even book references throughout the story which are then chronicled at the end in case the reader has interest. My only question is, when will Sheldon become a true member?

Thank you #NetGalley #KensingtonCozies #ElleryAdams #TheVanishingType for the advanced copy.

Start Without Me by Gary Janetti

Will and Grace writer and creator of the BBC hit series Vicious has once again put a group of humorous, scathing, lighthearted yet warm book of essays together which will make some who are old enough laugh even harder!

In this new collection, Gary reminisces about some memories from childhood, and as a young adult as well as, and in Gary’s classic style, complains about what irks him, and quite frankly many things do. A loner since he left his mother’s womb, he will easily admit to never being a people person. I believe because of this his other senses have taken over and his outlook on life is a bit quirky, but funny in all the right places.

As someone who would rather spend time alone, Gary spent his younger years with his best friend, the television. He would spend summers in front of the tv rather than being outside. Later, as a young adult he would change this as he continually tried to perfect the perfect tan, but that’s another funny essay. One summer his mother made him go to summer day camp. It lasted three days. Then he was back to watching all his stories down in the basement again, constantly asking his mother to please put the air-conditioning on and her replying, we had it on yesterday.

In another essay he tells a witty and truly genius story getting out of gym. In high school Gary really had no friends and he was not athletic, so when it came to a quarter of football in gym, Gary was adamant he would not take that quarter. Now Gary went to a Catholic high school with nuns. So, he decided to go to the guidance counselor during gym time and tell her this story about how he was upset with his home life because his parents were divorcing (they were not) and his mother was drinking (she was not). She was so taken aback by his story that she continued the whole quarter to give him a pass from gym class so he could come talk to her. As he began to run out of drama, he would throw in bits from the soap operas he would watch when he got home from school! The nun was mesmerized.

I think my favorite essay was “Irene” about the first neighbor they met when they moved into the house his parents still live in over fifty years ago. She came over to introduce herself and told them she had lived on the street the longest of any of the neighbors. Her mother became best friends with her through the years and she became Gary’s second mother, telling her things he perhaps would not say to his parents. It’s a beautifully written piece and shows Gary actually does have a heart!

An extremely funny story is the one in which Gary tells the reader he moves constantly. The reason being he does not want to talk to the neighbors. It’s too much pressure for him. He would rather be late for an appointment than go outside when one of the neighbors is out there. And when he has accidently actually conversed with a neighbor? Well, you will just have to read the essay!

Start Without Me is a truly hilarious look at Gary Janetti’s life. For some, the essays some of which span the 1980’s and 90’s will be incredibly relatable! Janetti is a quiet man who does not appreciate interacting with people, which in the business he is in is quite the oxymoron. He sometimes writes what we all sometimes feel with incredible style and incredible timing!

Thank you #NetGalley #HenryHoltandCo. #GaryJanetti #StartWithoutMe for the advanced copy.

The Children on the Hill by Jennifer McMahon

Jennifer McMahon is in my opinion the queen of creepily crafted storytelling and The Children on the Hill is just her latest in a long list of horrifyingly suspenseful twisty novels.

In 1978 Violet and her brother Eric seemed to be living a quiet, happy life with their grandmother (Gran), a psychiatrist and Director of a psychiatric facility in Vermont. Dr. Helen Hildreth, although busy with work and her research always made time for her grandchildren. They had homecooked meals, homeschooled and rode everywhere on their bikes, including the drive-in movies. Their memories of their grandmother include her favorite gin, her cigarettes and her lighter.

Then one day Gran introduces them to another child, about their age named Iris. Iris does not speak, looks dirty and wears a cap she refuses to take off. She seems to be unable to do the simplest things. But as Iris spends more time with Violet and Eric, she begins to become more comfortable, even beginning to speak to them. Gran pulls Violet aside and asks her to be her eyes and ears on Iris’s progressions. Violet feels very important.

As the days go by, Violet and Eric invite Iris to join their monster club. Both have always been fascinated with monsters and hunt them around their property endlessly. Their favorite drive-in movie choices are always those in which monsters appear, Frankenstein being their absolute favorite. They are so sure monsters exist they write a book about them and keep it in their secret clubhouse. They are awaiting their first sighting of a monster eagerly.

As Iris and Violet begin to become close, Violet begins to feel Iris is her sister. As Iris starts to open up to Violet about her unusual memory loss such as not knowing her last name, Violet begins to question where Iris actually came from. She begins to doubt her Gran’s story.

Jump ahead to 2019 when a woman named Lizzy Shelley, the host of a podcast called Monsters Among Us who travels the United States in search of monsters. She is headed to Vermont to look into the disappearance of a young teenager who the locals believe was taken by a mysterious woman called Rattling Jane, notorious for taking young women. Lizzy knows from her searches of monsters that this type of disappearance has occurred in a few other states, and she is trying to figure out who is behind the vanishings. These young women have never been seen again.

But Lizzy thinks she knows who the monster really is, although she can’t prove it. But that is why she is here in Vermont, to hopefully find the missing girl before she disappears forever and put an end to this monster. This particular monster has haunted Lizzy since her childhood. This monster, she knows, is her sister.

The Children on the Hill is a terrifying acknowledgement to Mary Shelley’s masterpiece, Frankenstein. Included in the story are Easter eggs from Shelley’s own monster book scattered throughout the story. The novel is suspenseful and intriguing and will keep the reader up late into the night, but if you are up late, be careful of the monsters!

Thank you #NetGalley #Gallery/ScoutPress #JenniferMcMahon #TheChildrenontheHill for the advanced copy.