Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

The Phoenix Crown by
Kate Quinn and Janie Chang.
The book is being released by William Morrow and Company on February 13, 2024.

The book's jacket copy says: From bestselling authors Janie Chang and Kate Quinn, a thrilling and unforgettable narrative about the intertwined lives of two wronged women, spanning from the chaos of the San Francisco earthquake to the glittering palaces of Versailles.

San Francisco, 1906. In a city bustling with newly minted millionaires and scheming upstarts, two very different women hope to change their fortunes: Gemma, a golden-haired, silver-voiced soprano whose career desperately needs rekindling, and Suling, a petite and resolute Chinatown embroideress who is determined to escape an arranged marriage. Their paths cross when they are drawn into the orbit of Henry Thornton, a charming railroad magnate whose extraordinary collection of Chinese antiques includes the fabled Phoenix Crown, a legendary relic of Beijing's fallen Summer Palace.

His patronage offers Gemma and Suling the chance of a lifetime, but their lives are thrown into turmoil when a devastating earthquake rips San Francisco apart and Thornton disappears, leaving behind a mystery reaching further than anyone could have imagined . . . until the Phoenix Crown reappears five years later at a sumptuous Paris costume ball, drawing Gemma and Suling together in one last desperate quest for justice.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Review: Babbacombe's by Susan Scarlett

Warm, sweet, and wholesome are just some of the adjectives that apply to Susan Scarlett's (Noel Streatfeild) novels. Streatfeild is probably best known for her children's books (Ballet Shoes, et al) but her lovely, WWII, adult novels must have proved to be the kind of cozy, escapist reads that would have been embraced during wartime. In fact, they are still appealing today, even if they feel a little simplistic in their lack of nuance. Babbacombe's is the second of her novels that I've read and it was as charming as the first.

When the story opens, sweet, naive Beth Carson is graduating from school amidst a shower of compliments and despite wanting to go on and study further, she must take up a job to help her loving family, which lives paycheck to paycheck. Father George, who has worked faithfully at Babbacombe's department store for decades, has secured her a position as a junior assistant in Gowns. As Beth is starting her new job, cousin Dulcie, who is Beth's age, comes to live with the Carsons and she is also found a job at Babbacombe's. But she can't be more different than Beth. Dulcie is scheming, spoiled, and nasty, and her work ethic is non-existent. She causes stress for the family, none more so than when David Babbacombe, the son of the store owner, meets the pretty and natural Beth and continues to show an interest in her, despite her continued assertion that they have no future given their different class situation. Dulcie's machinations threaten everyone's happiness but in the end, good will triumph.

Scarlett gently highlights class difference here and plays into the trope of the cheerful working class. The story is predictable but still delightful for all that. The characters are quite one dimensional with Beth being good through and through and Dulcie being the villain at every turn but somehow this straightforward and uncomplicated rendering works for this easy, undemanding, and heartwarming, if unrealistic, read. It's a winsome book all the way around.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

When Grumpy Met Sunshine by
Charlotte Stein.
The book is being released by St. Martin's Griffin on February 6, 2024.

The book's jacket copy says: A steamy, opposites-attract romance with undeniable chemistry between a grumpy retired footballer and his fabulous and very sunshine-y ghostwriter.

When grumpy ex-footballer Alfie Harding gets badgered into selling his memoirs, he knows he's never going to be able to write them. He hates revealing a single thing about himself, is allergic to most emotions, and can't imagine doing a good job of putting pen to paper.

And so in walks curvy, cheery, cute as heck ghostwriter Mabel Willicker, who knows just how to sunshine and sass her way into getting every little detail out of Alfie. They banter and bicker their way to writing his life story, both of them sure they'll never be anything other than at odds.

But after their business arrangement is mistaken for a budding romance, the pair have to pretend to be an item for a public who's ravenous for more of this Cinderella story. Or at least, it feels like it's pretend--until each slow burn step in their fake relationship sparks a heat neither can control. Now they just have to decide: is this sizzling chemistry just for show? Or something so real it might just give them their fairytale ending?

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

Clover Hendry's Day Off by
Beth Morrey.
The book is being released by G. P. Putnam's Sons on January 30, 2024.

The book's jacket copy says: A hilarious and empowering perimenopausal Ferris Bueller's Day Off, about Clover Hendry, 46, and the day she decides to stop keeping the plates spinning, say F@#! it all, and finally get hers.

Today is not the day to mess with Clover Hendry.

Clover hasn't said "No" a day in her life. Until today. Normally a woman who tips her hairdresser even when the cut is hideous, is endlessly patient with her horrendous mother, and says yes every time her boss asks her to work late--today, things are going to be very different. Because Clover is taking the day off. Today, she's going to do and say whatever she likes, even if it means her whole life unravels.

What made Clover change her ways? Why doesn't she care anymore? There's more to this day than meets the eye.

Clover Hendry's Day Off is a joyful, raging, galvanizing story about putting life on pause, pleasing yourself, and getting your own back. Whatever it takes. Because when Clover stops caring, she can start living.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

Everyone on This Train Is a Suspect by
Benjamin Stevenson.
The book is being released by Mariner Books on January 30, 2024.

The book's jacket copy says: For fans of Richard Osman and Anthony Horowitz, a fiendishly fun locked room murder mystery from the author of the indie darling Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone --this time set on a train full of mystery writers, agents, editors, and fans.

Ernest Cunningham returns in a deliciously witty locked room (train) mystery.

When the Australian Mystery Writers' Society invited me to their crime-writing festival aboard the Ghan, the famous train between Darwin and Adelaide, I was hoping for some inspiration for my second book. Fiction, this time: I needed a break from real people killing each other. Obviously, that didn't pan out.

The program is a who's who of crime writing royalty:

the debut writer (me!)

the forensic science writer

the blockbuster writer

the legal thriller writer

the literary writer

the psychological suspense writer

But when one of us is murdered, the remaining authors quickly turn into five detectives. Together, we should know how to solve a crime.

Of course, we should also know how to commit one.

How can you find a killer when all the suspects know how to get away with murder?

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme was hosted by Breaking the Spine and is meant to highlight some great pre-publication books we all can't wait to get our grubby little mitts on. I'm choosing to continue the tradition even though she has stopped.

Love and Hot Chicken by
Mary Liza Hartong.
The book is being released by William Morrow on February 20, 2024.

The book's jacket copy says: The Chickie Shak is something of a historical landmark. Red clapboard walls, thriving wasp population, yard-toilets resplendent with sunflowers. My best friend Lee Ray and I used to come after our softball games and snag a picnic table while our mammas ordered the home team special. Truth is, most people around here order the same thing until the day somebody throws their ashes off a roller coaster at Dollywood. The line snakes around the building as far as you can see, the grimiest bunch of Jessies, Pearls, and Scooters you ever did behold, hobnobbing in the parking lot from noon until night.

When PJ Spoon returns home for her beloved daddy's funeral, she doesn't expect to stick around. Why abandon her PhD program at Vanderbilt for the humble charms of her hometown, Pennywhistle, Tennessee? Mamma's broken heart, that's why. But truth be told, PJ's own heart ain't doing too good either. She impulsively takes a job as a fry cook at Pennywhistle's beloved Chickie Shak, where locals gather for Nashville-style hot chicken. It may not be glamorous, but it's something to do.

Fate shakes up PJ's life again when the town rallies around the terribly retro and terribly fun Hot Chicken Pageant. PJ finally notices her cute redheaded coworker Boof, a singer-songwriter with a talent as striking as her curly hair, and learns to fear her smack-talking manager, Linda.

As PJ and Boof fall for each other, Boof's search for her birth mother--a Pennywhistle native--catapults the budding couple into a mystery that might be better left unsolved. The Chickie Shak pageant takes off, spurring old rivalries and new friendships in this tale of unexpected connections and new beginnings.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Review: A Deadly Bone to Pick by Peggy Rothschild

I like dogs. I like mysteries that aren't too gory. And I definitely like it when the person investigating the murder has some actual credentials for doing so, even if they no longer work at whatever gave them the credentials in the first place. Peggy Rothschild's A Deadly Bone to Pick, the first in a new mystery series, has all of these things wrapped together in an easy to read story.

Molly Madison is an ex-cop and PI whose husband's death and the ensuing scandal caused her to flee to California from the East Coast. She and her lovely golden retriever Harlow are moving into her new place when they meet Noodle, the enthusiastic and drooly Berdoodle whose physician owner basically neglects the friendly but unruly dog. Molly offers to provide Noodle with training and doggie daycare and her reputation as a dog wrangler takes off. It turns out that interacting with their dogs is a good way to meet the neighbors. But then Noodle uncovers a severed hand on the beach while Molly is walking the dogs. Since the cops don't seem to be making any progress in solving that mystery, Molly leans on her training and starts asking around. But her involvement leads to more murders and an assault, all on people who Molly had interacted with recently and the snarly, unpleasant detective on the case would love nothing more than to pin everything on Molly. Now she has no choice but to keep looking into all of it to clear her own name.

There's a lot of interesting information on dog training and agility mixed in with the mystery of the severed hand and who is attacking and killing women in the neighborhood. The fact that Molly is just meeting people as a new transplant to the area means that the beginning of the book is full of background, slowing the plot significantly. Then the resolution is quite fast, although since uncovering the killer is fairly easy, that might be forgiven. Molly is an appealing character and her back story is sparingly revealed so as to keep her background mysterious as long as possible. The dogs are major players in the book but they are never anything more than dogs, not unreasonably intuitive or overly anthropormorphized, which is nice. Over all, this is a quick and pleasant afternoon read.

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