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.

Drop Dead Gorgeous by Rachel Gibson

Drop Dead Gorgeous is a remarkably funny, poignant, upliftingly unique book about death!

Brittany Lynn Snider, bless her heart is a young hairdresser from a small town in Texas. She works at her mother’s hair shop and enjoys BBQ, coloring her hair and boys. But after Church one day, she lies to her mother and takes her mom’s minivan on a road trip to meet a Tinder date. Oops…she dies on the way. But she wakes up in the hospital to not only see her body on life support, but a cast of characters who are in the same boat as she is…. waiting to figure out if they will live or die. There are rules in this warped world which must be followed. There is a waiting room for them where they are able to watch movies or television shows such as 7th Heaven over and over again.

While there she meets a young beautiful woman who not only looks like a model but looks like a pretty wealthy model to boot. Her name is Edie, and she seems to have bandages wrapped around her wrist and is tied down to her bed. Hmm… Edie befriends Brittany Lynn and tries to bribe her. If Brittany Lynn gets to go to Heaven, if she lets Edie go instead, she will pay her nicely for the favor. But Brittany Lynn decides to put her fate in the higher power’s hands.

So, when it looks like Brittany Lynn’s time has come to go to Heaven, she embraces it, but sneaky Edie decides to push her out of the way and is able to jump ahead. But what Edie doesn’t realize is God always has a plan. While Edie is being dealt with upstairs, Brittany Lynn is given a choice to return to a body, but not her own, Edie’s. You see Edie jumped into Brittany Lynn’s body! Edie’s is up for grabs.

Brittany Lynn decides to be put into Edie’s comatose body, thinking when she wakes up, she can explain to everyone what happened. But that’s not what transpires. She realizes she has to pretend she is Edie, for the rest of her life, and if she thought Edie was nasty for the short time she knew her, well, nothing could possibly prepare her for Edie’s life!

When she awakes, she fakes amnesia so no one will question why she can’t remember anyone or anything of Edie’s life. She discovers Edie was not very liked, even by her own immediate family. Quite frankly with her attitude, she is surprised even her faithful dog liked her, even though the dog does not seem to care for Brittany Lynn one bit. As she begins to maneuver the rich life of a not so nice person, all she can really think about is getting back home and trying to make her parents see she is not dead but just looks different.

But there is one person Brittany Lynn seems to have her eye on. Someone who Edie hated and had not spoken to in years. What on earth is she going to do? How does she learn to live in this gorgeous body in a penthouse filled with incredible clothes and shoes yet tame the Edie beast? She just wants her real mom, considering Edie’s mom and dad possibly left their feelings at the mansion door years ago when it came to Edie’s antics.

But then Brittany Lynn has an idea. Will it work? Can she sway her parents into seeing who she really is? Does she even know who she is anymore? Edie’s family certainly doesn’t know or understand this Edie. All she can do is try to change Edie which is easier said than done!

As for the real Edie? Well, you’ll just have to read the story to find out what happened to her!

The story is filled with laughs, soul-searching and love. What an incredible uplifting story about such a sad topic.

Thank you to #Goodreads #GalleryBooks #RachelGibson #DropDeadGorgeous for the advanced copy.

The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert

When two strangers from different backgrounds meet, there is uncomfortable mistrust which as time goes by begins to form the foundation of a beautiful love story.

Sanna Lund works at her family’s apple orchard farm in Wisconsin. The orchard has been in the family for generations. Although the orchard has always been profitable, over the past few years it has seen fewer customers. Sanna’s passion is making cider from the apples. Her father bought her equipment to help. But unbeknownst to her he spent the last of their savings on the new equipment, leaving them unable to pay bills. Now, her brother is pressuring her and her father to sell the orchard to an amusement company.

Sanna knows no other world. Her life is one simple routine after another. She even still dates her boyfriend from high school, once a week, even though they aren’t really dating! She has no friends other than her trees and refuses to discuss her mother, whom she calls “The Egg Donor” who left them years ago. Sanna thinks her life is complete.

Enter Isaac Banks. Banks and his young son Sebastian are from California. Isaac is a tech person. They have been on a summer road trip visiting places which pique their interest. Isaac loves his son dearly, and has some horrible news to tell him, but just can’t find a way to do it, so he continues to avoid the conversation.

When Isaac and Sebastion meet an older woman as they pass through Door County, a small town, she tells them they would love the simplicity of the town and she knows for a fact that the Lunds are looking for summer help. They decide to go visit the orchard and are hired on the spot By Sanna’s father, much to her horror. First, she doesn’t think they need help and second, she does not particularly care for children. She seems to have forgotten that as a child, she and her brother use to have incredible fun playing in the orchard.

But when Sanna’s father is terribly injured in an accident, Isaac steps up to the plate to assist the family and the orchard. As Sanna begins to rely more and more on Isaac she begins to see and feel differently about well, everything!

But Sanna’s brother has made HIS decision. It is time to sell, and he won’t take no for an answer. How will they be able to hold on to their beautiful apple orchard when they have no money? And with Isaac and Sebastian heading back to California, where does that leave Sanna? Isaac has become one of the only people she has ever trusted.

Reichert once again has written a touching story about love, loss and finding one’s way even when you feel horribly lost.

Hello Molly by Molly Shannon

Saturday Night Live’s Molly Shannon is famous for her funny characters, sketches and slapstick comedy. But this Cincinatti born actress and comedian has written an incredibly funny, inspiring memoir. It is quite the homage to her late parents, especially her dad.

As we discover in the first chapter, Molly’s life was turned upside down when at the age of only four, her mother, younger sister and cousin were killed in a car accident in which her father fell asleep at the wheel. Waking up in the hospital no one wanted to tell her what happened and all she kept saying was she wanted her mom. Her life and her sister Mary’s changed forever after the tragedy.

As Molly, her older sister and father tried to adjust to the new family dynamics, their father, who never really recovered psychologically or physically from the accident was at a loss as to how to move on. He turned to drinking and Molly became his best friend. He would get jealous if Molly wanted to go out with her friends and she would have to prepare herself when she knew she had to tell him she would be going out. He did not understand why she would want to go out when they could have fun together. There were times when anger would get the best of her father and he would lash out screaming. Molly and her sister became adept at knowing what mood he was in just by the way he would enter their apartment.

But, for all her father’s faults, he was her biggest fan. She feels her creativity came from the crazy situations her father would get them into and then get them out of. From the moment she decided to become an actress, he pushed her to pursue a career, telling her never to take no for an answer and just keep pushing herself because he knew she could do it.

So that is just what Molly did. After graduating from college in New York, Molly headed to Los Angeles where she began waiting tables and trying to find work and an agent. It was there that she began the creation of Mary Catherine Gallager, a young Catholic schoolgirl who was prone to anxiety and clumsiness. The tagline “Superstar” is actually a nod to a childhood friend. She even had her own one woman show which she would invite all the guests from the restaurant, (and even homeless people) as well.

She and one of her male friends actually had a hustle where they would claim to be calling from playwright David Mamet’s office late on Friday afternoons recommending each other to the casting offices and setting up appointments for each other. They would each have to get five meetings before they could call it a day. Talk about persistence and genius!

But then she was finally cast on Saturday Night Live where she worked with Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler and Cheri Oteri. And she became a “superstar”! That portion of the book is filled with wonderfully funny stories about how certain sketches came to fruition and all the back-stage drama that comes along with working with different personalities on a weekly basis. Throughout this time her biggest cheerleader was her dad who was still dealing with heartbreaking conflicts but was a favorite friend to all the cast at SNL.

As you read and understand Molly’s tragedies and triumphs, you also get the feeling after all these years that perhaps Molly is also healing herself and putting all the heartbreak behind. One theme throughout the book is her hope that upon reading, women who want to break into the business can learn that they must be more persistent and stronger and wiser as well as think outside the box when it comes to getting their foot in a door.

Hello, Molly is a fantastic memoir filled with heartwarming stories, some funny and some horribly sad, but certainly gives the reader a perspective into Shannon’s upbeat personality, her wisdom and her charm.

Thank you #NetGalley #HarperCollins #MollyShannon #HelloMolly for the advanced copy.

The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth

The Younger Wife is a wonderful mystery puzzle in which pieces from the past and present are fitted together and by the end you have a completed masterpiece!

The story begins at a wedding and the narrator is unknown to the reader. During a wedding ceremony something bad happens. What? We have no idea. Then the real account begins.

Stephen Aston a prominent well-liked doctor is getting married to a much younger woman Heather Wisher. They met while Heather, an interior decorator was working on he and his wife Pam’s house. Pam unfortunately was in the beginning stages of dementia and is now in an institute. Stephen and Pam fell in love and Stephen has divorced Pam and proposed to Heather.

Stephen has two adult children. Rachel, a baker and Tully, a stay-at-home mom. Both are livid that their father is marrying this younger woman. They think she is only after his money and doesn’t really care about him. How could their father desert their mother this way?

But both Rachel and Tully have their own issues. Tully has been stealing trinkets from stores since she was eleven years old. For some reason when her anxiety gets too high, this calms her down. She has never told anyone about her habit, not even her husband. Now she has just found out that her husband Sonny made a bad business choice and they have lost everything. Her kleptomania has kicked into high gear.

Rachel was a beautiful young athletic woman back in the day who went on constant dates and was a runner. Until something happened and she stopped. She stopped dating and she stopped running. Now, her anxiety is lessened by food, particularly the sweets she bakes.

Heather, the now fiancée of Stephen has herself had a disturbing life. Her father was an alcoholic who beat her mother. Although she truly loves Stephen, she has not told him about her past because she is embarrassed and is afraid of losing him. In the back of her mind, she has always been terrified she would make the same mistake in marriage just as her mother did. She understands Stephen’s daughter’s concerns but wants to try and gain their trust.

Then Rachel finds a hot water bottle in the closet of her parent’s house and in it is almost one hundred thousand dollars in cash and mysterious notes in her mother’s handwriting. As Rachel tries to figure out where this money came from, a difficult feat since her mother has very little memory left, she begins to wonder if this money was something her mother had been stashing in secret to get away from her father.

Rachel begins to think back on all the “accidents” her mother had had while she was growing up and begins to think perhaps, they were actually something else. She begins to see her father in a different light and her concern turns to Heather.

So, what happened right after the ceremony? Someone was hurt, but who?

The Younger Wife weaves this curiously mysterious story throughout the book in true Hepworth fashion and explodes in the incredible last few pages and will leave you shaking your head in wonder!

Thank you #NetGalley #St.Martin’sPress #TheYoungerWife #SallyHepworth for the advanced copy.

The Lifeguards by Amanda Eyre Ward

The Lifeguards is an intense and shocking story about the different struggles within families, for the children and their parents. It’s a story about the loss of innocence and rites of passages intertwined with an incredibly fast-paced murder mystery with a jaw-dropping ending!

Liza, Annette and Whitney are three mothers who have been best friends for years. They would do anything for their own children and each other’s families. They live in an upscale Texas neighborhood. Although the women consider each other best friends, Liza and Annette would do anything for Whitney’s approval and attention.

Liza is a single mother of a fifteen-year-old son named Charlie. When she fled her home life after finding herself pregnant, she ended up here. Whitney was her first friend and has since helped Liza in so many ways. But Liza has secrets and tries to fit in with the other women. Although she pretends to have it all, she struggles to make ends meet. Charlie is her life. She is overprotective of him and although she knows this, she can’t stop it from happening. Charlie only wants an answer to a simple question. Who is my father?

Annette is married to Louis and has a son nicknamed Bobcat. Louis feels superior to his wife and sometimes expects the same from his son. He is the man of the house and makes no bones about that fact. Annette worries how Bobcat will turn out with Louis as his father. She misses her family but enjoys the lifestyle Louis is able to give her, something she did not have growing up. In the meantime, Bobcat is trying to find his way in life navigating his parents, friends and puberty.

Whitney is a famous and established real estate agent whose family hurts for nothing. She and her husband Jules have different styles of parenting. She parents…Jules doesn’t. They have twins. Xavier is very conscientious and considerate, and he tries to please everybody. Roma is a bad seed. She tortures her brother and has since they were young. She is spoiled and her behavior is overlooked by her parents. Although recently, her actions seem to be getting worse. Xavier is scared of Roma and fears she will kill him.

The three boys have been best friends since childhood and this summer they have become Lifeguards. One night the boys come home late, and they tell their mothers that they found a woman’s body on the greenbelt she is dead. They swear they don’t know what happened to her, but their actions say otherwise. No matter how hard the mothers try, the boys refuse to give the full truth, so they think. What are they hiding?

As the investigation begins it at first seems to be ruled a drug overdose, but one of the boys’ shin guards is found at the site of the body as well as a picture of the three friends. The women begin to panic, but the boys still insist they know nothing.

Then one of them is arrested.

The chapters switch back and forth from the day of the incident to the present day. We begin to see what happened before the body was found and after the body was discovered and what the police learn during the investigation.

As the boys lies begin to unravel, their parents, especially their mothers go into protection mode. The mother’s will not believe their child could do such a thing. All they want to do is safeguard their families. But the children are not the only ones who are keeping secrets and by the end of the investigation everyone will be stunned at its conclusion.

A mother’s love has no limits…

Thank you #NetGalley #BallentineBooks #AmandaEyreWard #TheLifeguards for the advanced copy.

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

Written in Egan’s poetic conversational prose, this novel takes the reader on a transcendental ride around the world and into the cosmos. We are introduced to characters who are separate, yet cleverly intertwined in ways one cannot imagine.

Throughout the story we learn about these eccentric individuals, their good, bad, happy and completely messed up lives. But don’t fear! There is humor sprinkled into the memories of these individuals whose age range consists of babies to the elderly to the ageless.

Bix Bouton owns a company called Own Your Own Unconsciousness where people are able to download and share their memories to look at themselves or to transfer to others. It is these memories the reader is able to glimpse as the narrative progresses. The story questions the validity of technology as to whether there is harm in too much advancement versus the simpler life of less complicated times.

Egan’s mastery is shown in the way she is able to work the character’s personalities separately, but then show how they are connected through each other. The reader begins to see a plot and story emerge rather than being given what will happen at the beginning.

The Candy House is a satisfying, interesting, heartbreaking yet funny story told magnificently through an imaginative art of technology with superior characters and their tarnished flaws which are certainly relatable.

Thank you #NetGalley #Scribner #JenniferEgan #TheCandyHouse for the advanced copy.