Things in Jars by Jess Kid

OIP During the 1800’s in dreary London, a female investigator/doctor’s assistant and a ghost only she (and animals) can see, try to solve the mystery of a kidnapping of a strange child whose origin is unknown.

Birdie Devine is called into service to locate a child, Christabel Berwick, the secret child of Edmund Berwick.  Having just come off a case where she was unable to save the child she was looking for, and having just run into a ghost, Rudy, who says they have met in the past but refuses to tell her how they know each other, she is hesitant to take the case.

But she does decide to look for the kidnapped child, and through a series of (mis)adventures begins to put the pieces of the puzzle together as to what happened to Christabel.

Throughout the story, we get glimpses of Birdie’s past.  As an orphan, she was sold from one person to another, ending up in the family of a doctor.  Although life was good and she learned much as his assistant, some family members and staff had cruel intentions.

As Birdie moves around London with her band of merry, quirky, characters, her maid Cora with a beard, Rudy her ghost and other oddball circus types, she begins to uncover what exactly happened to Christabel and perhaps more important, where she came from.

In the spirit of Diane Setterfield and her novel Once Upon a River, Kidd creates a world of real life intrigue with creative fantasy and imagination.  She explores human’s flaws and shortcomings and how people treat others who are different from them.  The story is filled with mystery and imagination and incredible plot twists.

Thank you #NetGalley #AtriaBooks #ThingsinJars #JessKid for the advanced copy.

Gone At Midnight: The Mysterious Death of Elisa Lam by Jake Anderson

OIP In 2013 Elisa Lam was a 21-year-old student who checked into a seedy ominous hotel in Los Angeles, a hotel with a history of violence, suicides and death, and she never checked out.  What followed was probably the most bizarre investigation, one in which Elisa Lam in her death has been elevated to cult-like status.

After Elisa went missing and police were notified there was a search of the hotel.  They could not find her.  It was as if she had just up and vanished.  A week later when tenants and guests began to complain about the odor and color of the tap water in their sinks, and someone went onto the roof to look into the water tanks, they discovered to their horror Elisa’s naked body floating with her clothes beside her.  And this is truly when the mystery begins and still remains unsolved. How did she get there?

The book, Gone at Midnight chronicles Elisa Lam’s movements as best as can be done both by eyewitness and social media posts, the history of the Cecil Hotel, where she stayed and was found dead, a hotel where not one, but two serial killers stayed, an odd video which was mysteriously posted of Elisa in an elevator at the hotel which may be her last movements just before her disappearance (a video which you can see on YouTube) and if you are going to read the book I suggest you view; many conspiracy theories, law enforcement suppression of evidence and lastly how mental illness may have played a role.

Up to today, although the coroner finally ruled the death accidental, only after he first ruled it as inconclusive, there are more questions than answers as to what happened to Elisa and how she ended up in a water tank on a roof even though the roof had been searched by police and dog sniffers a week prior to finding her.

Author Jake Anderson became obsessed with the case (and still is) after seeing the initial  elevator video which shows Elisa’s odd behavior.  Was she being followed or was she having some sort of manic episode?  Anderson then found out the tape seems to have time missing from it.  Why?  He then began looking at Lam’s on-line social media presence which was abundant.  And stopped abruptly two days before her death.

He seems to find evidence of police/corporate conspiracy at the Cecil Hotel as well as evidence supression. With no official from the police department or the hotel willing to talk to him about anything, Anderson begins looking on the internet at website conspiracy sites and finds a plethora of information, some real and some outlandish.  He then must sift through the reality versus the imagined.

Gone at Midnight, although a true story, reads like a psychological horror novel. Anderson meticulously takes the reader through the evidence, or lack of, the witnesses, some whom have disappeared, and the emotional mental journey Elisa Lam seemed to be on at the time of her death.

Will there ever be any type of resolution as to what really happened to Elisa Lam? If Jake Anderson has his way there most certainly will.

Thank you to #NetGalley #Citadel #JakeAnderson #GoneAtMidnight for the advanced copy.

 

 

Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes by Kathleen West

OIP Julia Abbot lives and dies for her children.  Especially for their achievements! In the upper snobby community of Liston Heights success is important, winning a must and bragging just a fact of life.

So when Julia takes it upon herself to march down to the high school to see if her son received a plum role in the school play (a role she and her husband properly earned him by donating a costume room to the Arts Department), and she accidently injures one of the students who was trying to see if they had gotten a part in the play, it was just her average day.  Until a video shows up on Facebook showing her punching the girl in the stomach.

Isobel Johnson is a popular Liston Heights English teacher whose liberal ideas are a bit too much for the conservative parents of her students.  After receiving a threatening phone call on her home phone, Isobel finds herself and her beliefs being questioned.  If she conforms to the school’s medieval standards nothing will happen.  But, if she continues down the other path, of giving her students other ways of learning things, she may lose her job.  When she chooses to continue her method of teaching, the parents rebel and she is suspended pending an investigation.

Julia does not like Isobel.  For many reasons but the main one is her daughter adores Isobel and looks up to her.  Isobel just wants to be a good teacher and a good person. But as both women seem to be in the fight of their lives, they suddenly find themselves shunned by the community. Julia, once the gossip queen, is now the one being gossiped about.

Social media plays an important part in the story.  First, there is a Facebook page called Inside Liston run by someone named Lisa Lions where parents can go and complain about their student’s teachers.  It is also where parents can post videos which then go viral.  Or where parents can dig into teacher’s pasts and post terrible secrets.  All of this going on and the administration doesn’t have a clue.

Could parents really get a teacher fired over posts from a Facebook page? Who is Lisa Lions? And how can a community of students get together and help a teacher? What lessons can be learned from all the drama?

Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes is a very funny look at the new normal.  It allows the reader to understand that in this day and age social media can hurt someone or help them.  It is cringeworthy in the sense that sadly, some of us are very familiar with the likes of a Julia, who seems to have a bone to pick with just about everybody, but perhaps her true angst is with herself.  It also takes a look at the politics of school life which includes bad behavior from not only the students, but the parents, administration and even the teachers.  I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Thank you to Berkley/Penguin Random House for sending me the advanced copy.

 

Do You Mind If I Cancel? by Gary Janetti

untitled I have been a fan of Gary Janetti for years.  I follow him on twitter and I am told his Instagram is hilarious.  He constantly amazes me with his outrageously odd tweets.

I have also followed his career.  As a producer and writer on Family Guy, the original Will & Grace, to being the executive producer and creator of Vicious, a hysterical show about  an English couple, Freddie and Stuart, who have been together for over 50 years and their love/hate relationship with each other and their small group of quirky friends, he has certainly left his mark.

So with all that said, I was excited to read his book of essays, Do You Mind If I Cancel.  But what I soon discovered was that Janetti had an extremely lonely childhood, who had no friends at school, who would run home after school to eat lunch (as there was no one to each lunch with at school) and watch a soap opera One Life to Live, one which he continued to watch until its end over 30 years later.  He relied on his incredible imagination to keep him occupied and to drive his mother crazy!

He made his first friend while attending college at Hofstra University, where he also had his first relationship.  After college he became a “writer” in name only.  He said he was one, but never seemed to get around to being one. He was just waiting for the right time. To supplement his “writing” career he took on odd jobs. He was a receptionist, he did bike tours for American teenagers through Europe, but he spent most of his twenties as an overnight bellhop at a hotel in New York.

Essays also include his undying love for Patti Lupone, visiting the One Life to Live set as a child, traveling as a young boy and falling in love for the first time.

Although the pieces are funny and unconventional, as I believe he really is, there is also a feeling of sadness, loss, a missing out during his childhood, something I think we can all identify with to a certain degree.

And of course there was his moment of realization in which the soon to be thirty year old Janetti moves from being a “writer” to becoming an accomplished writer and producer and never looking back. Until now.

The Look-Alike by Erica Spindler

OIP Sienna Scott has always been told she looks exactly like her mother.  But when your mother has suffered from paranoid delusions all your life, it may not be exactly what you want to hear.

As a college student, Sienna accidentally stumbled upon a dead body on campus.  Clearly traumatized she tried to assist the police with everything she saw.  But between her father’s attitude of her not getting involved and her mother’s paranoia, Sienna starts to unravel.  It’s only when she realizes that she and the dead girl were wearing the same jacket that she begins to wonder if she had been the actual intended target.  When she mentions this to her parents she is sent to live in London with her grandmother.

Flashforward 10 years when Sienna, a chef now, decides to come back home and stay.  With her father having passed, she chooses to live with her mother whose delusions seem to have gotten worse through the years and her paranoia even stronger.

She finds out the Chief who was in charge of the school murder is retiring and he wants to reopen the case to see if he can give closure to the family as his last accomplishment.

But what ends up happening is Sienna seems to be the target of someone, reopening her fears that she was actually the intended victim.  Was it really her that the person was after?  Or is she becoming her mother and developing a mental illness she has kept hidden through the years?  She begins her own investigation into the truth.

Scared and confused she turns to those who knew her then and to some she has recently met.  But are they protectors or killers?  How does she know? Or is she just being paranoid…like her mother!

The Look-Alike is a terrific psychological thriller with a little romance thrown in which I must admit I had figured out at about page 100, oh yes, I am that good…WRONG!  Spindler throws enough sneaky clues to lead you down one path, only for you to discover you have been led down a dead end!

My thanks to both NetGalley and Goodreads for the advanced copies.

The Book of Candlelight by Ellery Adams

OIP The Book of Candlelight is the next installment of the Secret, Book & Scone Society series.  Adams once again outdoes herself with a great cozy mystery and a subplot of a group of tough women who must deal with their past mistakes, which they do by relying on each other for help.

Our heroine, Nora Pennington who owns the Miracle Books store in Miracle Springs, North Carolina finds the body of a pottery maker, Danny, a Cherokee.  Although the death has been classified as accidental, Nora does not think it was. Danny was found near a rock with a painted red bird, a symbol Danny always used on the bottom of his pottery.  His wife Marie has no idea why he was at the spot he died.

Meanwhile, with a new inn opening up in town, and a new friend, Sheldon, who has offered to assist Nora at the store, and the Secret, Book & Scone Society seeming to be targeted by someone who has vandalized their property, the town, which has been deluged by rain for weeks, seems a bit unsettled.

The new owner of the Inn of Mist and Roses, Lou and her best friend Pat discover while doing renovations a mysterious diary which had been hidden.  Then they find a picture of a red bird on a newly located wall.  Could this red bird, the bird on the stone and the one on Danny’s pottery be connected?  But why?

Then a second body is discovered and this one was no accident.  The Society begins to research the diary and the birds.  But could their investigating get someone else killed? Or can the strength of some tough, intelligent women take down a murderer?

One thing is for sure.  What they find will change many lives in the small town of Miracle Springs.

Thank you #NetGalley #KensingtonBooks #TheBookofCandlelight #ElleryAdam for the advanced copy.

The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick

OIP The Library of Lost and Found is a charming and uplifting story about a woman who always took time for everybody’s needs, but never for herself.  It’s about family secrets and regrets.  It’s about finding your inner strength in yourself and allowing others into your life.

Martha Storm is a librarian whose sole purpose on earth seems to be to help others.  When her parents became ill, she chose to stay with them and care for them instead of moving to New York with her fiancé, the love of her life,  even though her sister lived in the same English seaside town as their parents.  She allows her workmates to take advantage of her.  One makes her do their laundry, one makes her take care of their fish.  Her boss discourages her from applying for promotions.  Her sister even makes her mend her children’s clothes.

So when a stranger leaves a book of stories written by her dead grandmother, she is excited, but very confused.  You see, the book was printed three years after her grandmother’s death.

The mysterious book starts Martha thinking about her past.  Memories begin to flood back, some good and some not so great.  She decides she needs to play detective and figure out the puzzle of the book.  Martha, who lives in a bubble of her own making, must push her fears aside and begin to venture into reality. Fearful of journeying out of her comfort zone, and also frightened of what she may find out, Martha begins her trek.  She starts to grow stronger.

And strength is what she needs as she discovers family secrets from the past which everyone knew except her.  She has come so far, how does she not let the past overwhelm her again? How does she forgive those who have hurt her?

The Library of Lost and Found is a magical story of love, loss and life.  It proves without a doubt that no matter what, you can always start over again.