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.

The Tenant by Katrine Engberg

images  The Tenant is an old-fashion who done it with flawed investigators who are bright and sassy, and a murder mystery which takes so many turns your head will spin.

Julie Stender is a woman in her twenties who is found murdered in her apartment with mysterious knife markings on her face.  A lovely girl who seemingly had no enemies, no one can understand why.

Incredibly, the owner of the building, Esther de Laurenti, a retired elderly woman who likes her wine, is in the process of writing her first mystery novel.  When she discovers the murder strangely coincides with the exact details of Julie’s death and her book, she is beside herself.

Enter Copenhagen detectives Jeppe Korner and his partner Anette Werner.  Korner is a miserably divorced, possibly hooked on pain killer’s gumshoe partnered with a junk food eating woman.

Trying to discover what the novel and the murder have in common is problematic as the only similarity is a party Esther threw for some of her writing friends.

What the partners must figure out is if Julie was killed intentionally by someone she knew or if someone killed her to mimic the details of the novel.  Nothing is quite as it seems and when the body count starts to add up and Esther goes missing, needless to say time begins to run out.

As the detectives begin to close in on a suspect, the strange truth begins to be exposed and thus begins the need for speed to save Esther and the murderer.

The Tenant is an explosive novel with incredible revelations and a satisfying ending.

Thank you #NetGalley #GalleryBooks # KatrineEngberg #TheTenant for the advanced copy.

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

OIP During 1940, artist Anna Dale won a contest to paint a mural for a post office in a small rural town called Edenton, North Carolina.  Having just lost her mother, she decides to accept the offer and heads there for what she thinks will be a three day stay.  There she is greeted by some folks with excitement, as they have never known a woman artist, but others, such as their own local artist Martin Drapple, who also had entered the contest but lost, and his wife, are not only not thrilled by her presence, but angry. Anna decides to stay in Edenton and create the mural there so she can include all of its people and landmarks.

As she begins the mural, she gets assistance from a few local high school children, one of whom is African American.  But race relations in this small town is very tense and sides seem to be drawn as to whether whites and blacks should be allowed to work together.  Anna decides to listen to herself rather than the townsfolk and ignores their warnings.

And that is where Anna Dale’s story seems to mysteriously end.  No one knows what ever happened to Anna Dale and no one knows where the mural ever ended up.

In 2018, Morgan Christopher who is in a North Carolina jail serving a sentence for a serious drunk driving accident suddenly gets an unexpected new lease on life.  In college Morgan had been working on an art degree.  When she is given an offer to restore an old mural by a certain date for her freedom from jail, she jumps at the chance.

Why she is the one who was chosen is just the first of many mysterious questions surrounding this mural and it’s artist Anna Dale.  As Morgan begins to adjust to her newfound freedom, and tries to come to terms with her former life, the restoration begins to take over her life.  What she starts to uncover under all the dirt, makes no sense.  It’s as if there are clues which have been hidden for some reason, but why?

Is Anna Dale just a crazy woman who had a breakdown while working on a mural? Or is there some deeper dark story she left behind which needs to be deciphered?  But how can you decipher something the trail of which went cold over 40 years ago?

Diane Chamberlain is a master of getting one’s attention and keeping it. From the very first page of Big Lies in a Small Town I was riveted as Chamberlain took mixed up pieces of a puzzle, by flipping back and forth chapters from Anna to Morgan, and began to fit them together one by one so we could find the beautiful secret picture being told.

Thank you to #NetGalley #St.Martin’sPress #DianeChamberlain #BigLiesinaSmallTown for the advanced copy.