Luck, Love & Lemon Pie by Amy E. Reichert

As MJ Boudreaux sits anxiously waiting for her very late husband to meet her to celebrate their anniversary at a restaurant to which she has brought a lemon pie, lovingly made by someone other than herself, a pie which at one time during their long relationship had been a symbol of their love and affection for each other many years ago, she begins to realize they are no longer those two people.

Yes, work, children and life have taken its toll on them, always having to put other’s needs before their own. Especially MJ who not only works, but takes care of the house, children, husband and dog. Her husband Chris seems no worse for the wear as he appears content to work and play poker, something he enjoys so much that he is late for their lunch! So as MJ sits waiting, she decides things need to change in their marriage. They are drifting away from each other. She can feel it. They must try and have more in common, go on date nights, anything to rekindle the spark they use to have.

It’s then she realizes poker may be the glue she needs to hold this relationship together! She will learn and play so they can go together. Not a novice to the game, she worked at a bar during college, where she met Chris, and her mother owned a bar when she was a child which use to hold poker games. She did use to watch them play. At first Chris is wary of MJ’s plan, especially when they have a friendly game at home which does not go so well, but Chris agrees spending more time together, even if it is at at casino might be enjoyable.

After her first poker experience at the casino, MJ decides she needs some practice. She discovers she may actually have a knack for cards and reading opponents. She begins going separate from Chris to hone her skills, so much so that she decides to enter a poker tournament whose prize is a trip to Las Vegas and lessons from the top poker player who also is a handsome bachelor.

Chris seems supportive at first, but when MJ begins to neglect not only him, but their children in order to spend time practicing at the casino, the rejection hits him hard. And when MJ wins the tournament he decides not to go to Las Vegas with her.

An idea which was suppose to bring them together, now seems to have separated them even further. With MJ going to Las Vegas and Chris staying home with the kids, the situation goes from bad to worse. What happens in Vegas is suppose to stay in Vegas right? But not in this case! Will MJ be able to repair her marriage before it is irrevocably broken? This may not be as easy as a simple slice of lemon pie!

Reichert, author of the Coincidence of Coconut Cake has once again mastered the telling of a love story with characters who are a bit flawed and yet she is able to teach us all lessons in life and love.

Welcome to the United States of Anxiety by Jen Lancaster

I have been reading Jen Lancaster’s books since I happened on her book of essays called Bitter is the New Black while shopping at BJ’s many, many years ago. I have always enjoyed her snarky wit and her boldness in the midst of social awkwardness.

Welcome to the United States of Anxiety is her new book of essays which sometimes reads more like a dissertation, but correctly points out the chaos and confusion of the new norms while trying to navigate social media which sometimes (well, most times) consumes our lives. Social media can take time away from your real life, although it feels like real life, it can also impede our daily life and cause anxiousness, even depression.

She rightfully explains how years prior to any type of social media one could make a mistake, dress improperly, have a disagreement with a friend and it would be over so quickly, you would forget whatever happened. Now, with social media, not only can a small incident turn into a major war, it can last for eternity where it can be brought up again and again.

Lancaster’s biting humor and sarcasm are still visible in these new essays, but she also backs up all her information with statistics which, given the age we live in now, seems extremely appropriate.

Her essay on The State of Our Stressed-Out Union, explains how social media has opened up a new world to people who grew up in an era where most things were private, where no one outside of the family had access to secret information and those who did would take it to the grave. Her parents, as most during that time of innocence, allowed their children to never wear seatbelts, never lock the doors, make no calls after 10 o’clock p.m., (way too expensive) or even… we have a prowler? Oh, probably a boy from the high school worries! Everyone seemed to be of the same easygoing mindset.

Now, with social media, one can be influenced into what to eat, think, wear, feel or even which “influencer” that’s a thing too now, should influence YOU. Lancaster tells the story of being on Facebook and connecting with an old friend, only to find their beliefs might not exactly be the same and stressing out as to whether to block the person or just never go on Facebook again. Now this is a stress no one ever saw coming back in the 80’s or 90’s!

A powerful essay is how she had to distance herself from her mother, a relationship which was complicated to begin with, and how the power of social media actually became a tool her mother was able to use against her.

Welcome to the United States of Anxiety is a funny, sadly very true story of where we were, how far we have come and where we are trending. Now I need to go check twitter to see if anyone liked the last tweet!

Thank you #NetGalley #LittleA #WelcometotheUnitedStatesof Anxiety #JenLancaster for the advanced copy.

First Date by Sue Watson

First Date is an intense psychological thriller on steroids with one shocking revelation after another culminating into an explosive ending!

All Hannah wants in life is to fall in love and settle down with someone. She wants her happily ever after. Unfortunately, most of her relationships end badly with some such as her last being very bitter.

Through her best friend’s prodding, she decides to join a dating app and seems to strike gold on her first pick. Alex, her date, is a lawyer, wants the same number of children, even the same type of dog! His work compliments her work as a social worker. They both had somewhat bad childhoods and can relate to one another on so many levels.

They have an immediate connection and he invites her over to his house for dinner. During dinner, although still smitten, Hannah sees perhaps a few tiny cracks, but chalks them up to getting to know someone new.

On the other hand, Hannah’s friends and workmates seem to feel she is jumping into this relationship too quickly. Perhaps she should slow down. But Hannah truly believes he is the one. It doesn’t matter that he possibly has hidden a few issues from his past relationship from her. She herself thinks her ex-boyfriend could be stalking her so she somewhat understands. Hannah chalks it up to being in a new relationship and not wanting to mess things up. Or maybe he is just trying too hard.

But then Hannah begins to run out of excuses for Alex’s very odd behavior. She finally admits to herself, something her best friend has been constantly telling her, that she could be dating someone who is a bit crazy. And now not only are her friends concerned, but she is as well!

When strange this begin to happen to Hannah she becomes convinced that not only is Alex not her dream boyfriend, but possibly a sociopathic stalking nightmare! It seems he wants her all to himself and will go to any length to have her. What has she gotten herself into?? How on earth does she get herself out?

As First Date races to its highly unanticipated, jaw-dropping conclusion, we can only hope Hannah will come out of this experience with better intuition as to who her next boyfriend should be.

Thank you so much #NetGalley #Bookouture #FirstDate #SueWatson for the advanced copy.

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep

Furious Hours is an intense true-crime thriller in which through impeccable fact-checking weaves two life stories, one of the Reverend Willie Maxwell, a rural preacher whose family members seem to die under mysterious circumstances which always somehow leads to the Reverend being able to collect a life insurance policy he had on them, and the beloved author of To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee, who decides to write a book about the trial of the man who killed Maxwell at the wake of Maxwell’s step-daughter.

But the book delves much deeper into both their life stories. The Reverend, who is shot point blank in front of many witnesses by a man who believed the Reverend not only had been scamming and killing people for many years but had an incredibly illegal past, (especially for a clergyman) who was never charged with any crimes due to many factors. His past and the trial of his killer are incredible drama with the outcome of the trial even more unexpected.

Lee, who had not written a book since Mockingbird, decides after reading about the Maxwell case to research the Reverend and the murder trial as well as the outcome of the trial itself. It delves deeply into her thought process and hours of research both by investigating and interviewing as many of the witnesses as possible.

Furious Hours is also a concise biography of Lee’s life, her trials and tribulations, her love of her family, her on and off love affair with alcohol and her decades long writer’s block that seemed to cast a shadow on her both in the publishing community, but more so in her own psyche as she seemed not to be able to live up to her own perfectionism.

It also suggests theories as to why she and her life-long friend, Truman Capote, stopped talking. It suggests that her assistance as his researcher during the writing of his book In Cold Blood was one of the inspirations for her to begin her own research on the Reverend Maxwell case.

There is also a mystery within the book which sadly is still unsolved to this day. Although Lee told people she had begun the writing process of the book on Maxwell…at least four chapters which were allegedly read by someone, the book was never found in her possessions when she died. Had she finished the book? If so, where is it? Or who has it? Unfortunately, the answers to these questions may only be known to the reclusive Harper Lee who took them with her when she died.`

Don’t Look for Me by Wendy Walker

Molly Clarke once had it all. A loving husband and three terrific children. Then in an instant it all changed due to a terrible accident which left her family broken, and Molly fighting to put them back together.

On a stormy night, after feeling rejected once again by her children, she runs out of gas on a highway close to a gas station which has already closed. When a man and his young daughter drive by as she has begun walking in the pouring rain and offer her a ride, she at first hesitates, but then takes him up on his offer.

And then Molly just disappears.

Her clothes and a note which says she needs to get away are found in a room at the local casino. Her family and the police begin a massive search for Molly which yields no clues as to where she could have gone. Then rewards are offered to no avail. As Molly’s husband begins to believe she really has decided to leave them, her daughter Nicole refuses to let it go. Perhaps it is due to the guilt she feels as she relives the conversation she had with her mother the last time she saw her.

Then Nicole receives a tip from a woman who says she saw someone that matches her mother’s description get into a pick-up truck with a broken headlight the night Molly disappeared. Against her father’s wishes, Nicole decides to go back to the small town where her mother went missing and meet with the woman. What she discovers when she goes back is that her mother’s cold case is now brimming with local suspects.

She begins to learn the townsfolk know how to keep secrets buried and not everyone wants to give up what they know to her. But she persists and she begins to unravel the unknowns and starts to piece together an unbelievable story. But what could any of this have to do with her mother’s disappearance?

Then Nicole discovers the horrific truth which has her racing to find her mother before it is too late for both of them.

Don’t Look for Me is a twisted, devious psychological thriller which continually leaves the read both gasping and wanting more.

Thank you #NetGalley #St.Martin’sPress #WendyWalker #Don’tLookforMe for the advanced copy.

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

Eight Perfect Murders is just that…perfect!

Bookstore owner and murder mystery lover Malcom Kershaw is shocked when an FBI agent comes into his store in Boston one snowy day to ask him some questions about a blog post he wrote years ago. Malcolm had put together what he thought were the eight perfect murder mysteries in which the murder could not be solved. Some on the list were books by Agatha Christie, Donna Tartt and Patricia Highsmith to name a few of the eight.

Questions are asked of him as to who knew he had written this list because it seems someone is could possibly be taking the murder plots from these books and killing people in a similar manner. Malcolm does not see a link to him, but decides to assist the FBI by getting information on some of the murders and rereading the books on his list.

Then he discovers one of his customers who had moved away a few years ago was a possible murder victim on the list. That’s when he begins to think this is no coincidence. And that is something Malcom cannot afford to happen. He does not want some of his past perilous decisions to be made public.

As he tries to put the pieces together he wonders if this could have anything to do with the death of his wife Claire who tragically died in a car accident on New Year’s Eve a few years ago. But what could the list have to do with Claire’s murder? Then he begins to suspect someone is following him. He tries to trace people from his past in hopes of finding the murderer in the present.

But then those being murdered begin to be people he has asked about. Malcom finds himself in his own terrifying eight perfect murders, afraid he will be one himself.

Eight Perfect Murders is a fantastic page turner with of course, the perfect ending to the perfect murder.

The Vacation by T.M. Logan

For Kate, her family, her friends and their families this week long vacation to France is a well deserved getaway to relax and catch up. It was suppose to be the dream vacation of a lifetime. A villa in France looking over the Mediterranean Sea, relaxing days by the ocean, wine flowing, enjoying each other’s company for friends who have not seen each other for a while.

But unfortunately, this vacation will not be that leisurely. As Kate and her family arrive at the villa, Kate reads a text on her husband’s phone which takes her breath away. She discovers he is having an affair. And heartbreakingly it’s with someone who is on vacation with her…one of her best friends.

Now all Kate wants to do is find out which of her friends has betrayed her and wants to break up her family. But what she begins to uncover is betrayal. Deep secrets seems to be front and center between this group of friends. It seems unbeknownst to her, there is family dysfunction running rampant in all these seemingly “perfect” families.

We have Rowan who owns her own company and is in the process of selling it and can not afford to have any type of scandal associated with her. Another friend Jennifer has two out of control boys whose behavior she chooses to overlook, even though her husband is a psychologist, and then there is Izzy, still single years after her fiancee was killed.

When Kate finally confronts her cheating husband he refuses to even engage in a conversation about what she has uncovered. So she takes matters into her own hand and sends a text from her husband’s phone asking to meet with the person (whose name in his phone is CoralGirl) to finally get the answer he will not give her.

And who she sees coming toward her will shake her to the core. But secrets can be deceiving, not every secret is what it seems to be. Some with secrets would rather kill than have what they know come out. It is clear this vacation will not end well. What is unclear is will they all survive.

The Vacation is a great psychological thriller with so many secrets you never want it to end, but you want to finish the book in one sitting because you can’t wait to see how it ends.

Thank you #NetGalley #St.Martin’sPress #T.M.Logan #TheVacation for the advanced copy.

Harvest: The True Story of Alien Abduction by G.L. Davies

Whether or not you believe in UFO’s or aliens, this story will chill you to the bone.

If this story is in fact true, the premise of the tale and its ramifications could possibly change or sway your opinions as to whether there are aliens in the vast beyond, or if they have been on our planet for a very long time.

As in past G.L. Davies’ books, he once again interviews and researches a claim, in the past hauntings, in this case a woman, who believes she was abducted in 2009 by aliens not just once but many times over a certain period. To this day she is terrified of what she saw and that they will return.

Through interview questions we learn how Susan’s (not her real name) life spiraled out of control after she had some sort of incident while sleeping in a barn loft while attending a friend get together. Not really sure what to think, Susan tries to shrug the episode off and continue on with her life until a second happening occurred which involved herself and her then boyfriend.

Then Susan began to have dreams…horrible nightmarish dreams in which she is visited by family members who have passed as well as small alien-like figures. Dreams in which she encountered women like herself and somehow was able to communicate with them. Post-visitations, she would become sick for days vomiting and having nosebleeds, as well as other symptoms. Susan, who lived with her aunt at the time began to notice her aunt begin to seem ill as well. Finally, her aunt asked her to please move out and move back in with her parents.

As she tells what she believes took place, giving Davies impeccable and detailed descriptions of the encounters such as where they were, details and descriptions of the aliens, other humans encountered, she begins to see what she describes as visions of some catastrophic event in which she is not sure will end the world or be a horrific incident in the future.

As Susan’s life begins to be overtaken by these visions, and the the thought of when the next one will come, she decides to cut-off communication with her family and friends for fear they will somehow become pulled into whatever is happening. She now lives a very lonely existence in fear of sleeping, in fear of her unknown.

Whether Susan has really been visited by aliens, or whether this is something else, the specificity of her memory must lead one to ask did this really happen to Susan? I will leave you with this quote which Davies begins his book:

Two possibilities exist: either we are alone in the universe or we are not. Both are equally terrifying.

-Arthur C. Clark

Thank you to #JohnHuntPublishingCompany #NetGalley #G.L.Davies #Harvest:TheTrueStoryofAlienAbduction for the advanced copy. The book will be out on November 1.

The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty

The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty was not what I expected. It was so much more! I was surprised by the elements of both the suspense and mystery the book had. It was a well-written story about secrets, lies and betrayals. The changing narrative made the story even more enjoyable and intense.

Joni, Deb, Trina and Eden have been friends since they were children. Even when Eden had to unexpectedly move away for her father’s job for six months, their bond could not be broken.

As the years passed and the girls became women and their lives began to change what with careers and babies and husbands, although close, they were not able to see each other as much. So when Joni puts a beach weekend together for them just like they use to do everyone is excited and pleased.

During their first night, while reminiscing about the past and drinking way too much a suggestion is made for each to write anonymous letter with a secret they never revealed to the group. The letters would be read and all would have to guess which friend the letter belonged to.

What starts out as a fun idea begins to go terribly wrong when secrets which should never have seen the light of day are exposed. From a hidden pregnancy to a friend’s crush on another friend’s husband, the letters begin to tear the group apart. And of course no one knows whose letters are whose. They can only guess.

Then late one night Joni finds the remnants of a fifth letter in the fireplace which was supposed to have been burned. But it was not, and although the whole letter cannot be seen, the parts which can are extremely disturbing. One of them hates one of the friends so much that they have thoughts of harming them. With this information at hand, how does she proceed?

Best friends tell each other everything right? So when secrets begin to spill out about jobs, children and husbands, how can they reconcile their relationships? Is it too much for their friendships to continue? But more important, who wants to harm one of them and who do they want to harm?

With an explosive ending The Fifth Letter is a wonderfully suspenseful story about friendships and how they endure and change and how past secrets can come back to haunt not only the keeper but everybody else.

Special thank you to Goodreads and William Morrow for the free copy of the book.

Christmas Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke

It’s that wonderful time of year again when Joanne Fluke, author of the Hannah Swensen series, comes out with her now annual (it seems) Christmas book. These books always give us Hannah fans a glimpse of Hannah’s life prior to the Hannah we all know and love now. It also gives us a peek as to how certain things became what they are now in the present.

In Christmas Cupcake Murder, Hanna befriends a homeless man who has no memory of who he is or how he even got to Lake Eden. When Hannah and her mother find him unconscious in an empty store, they immediately seek help.

While in the hospital it is discovered that the man does not even remember his name. So it is agreed upon that they give him the name Joe Doe. Although he has no memory of people and places, certain things jog his memory. For example he has a memory of he and his mother going to get a special something to add to her German chocolate cupcakes. It also seems he has a knack for fixing antique furniture.

As they get to know Joe and his kindness, Hannah, her mother and the whole gang decide they must try to find out who Joe really is. Because Joe is not a missing person, the Chief will not allow any investigating, so the crew must depend on other tips and bits of memory which Joe tells them.

Along with the mystery of who Joe is we also learn just how and why Hannah’s mother and her best friend Carrie decided to open the antique store.

And of course while all this mystery is swirling in Lake Eden, Lisa and Hannah are busy creating new recipes for the holiday season, which of course, are included at the end of the chapters.

Can Hannah solve the mystery of who Joe really is? And if so, what really happened to him?

A Hannah Swensen mystery is always a quick, cozy read which will put a smile on your face and perhaps even give you a new recipe try!

Always a yummy read!

Thank you #NetGalley #JoanneFluke #ChristmasCupcakeMurder for the advanced copy. The book will be out on September 29.