I adore epistolary novels. I feel like I am the “fly on the wall” in the writers’ life. Meet Me at the Museum is one of the best of that style of novel that I have read.
Tina has recently lost her best friend. She is past 60 and thinking that her opportunity for fulfilling her life goals is fast escaping her. She decides to see the prehistoric Tollund man (a real object located in the Silkeborg Museum in Denmark) so she writes to her old pen pal who works at the museum. Unfortunately, he has died but the current museum’s curator, Anders, responds. Thus begins the short and romantic tale Meet Me at the Museum.
In the first letter Tina writes,
“it must have occurred to you that what you thought would happen when you were young, never did.”
Who of us over a certain age hasn’t had that feeling of regret at roads not taken? The love story and tale of second chances regardless of your circumstances is beautifully written with just the right tone. This book has many asides that discuss archeology, knitting, farming, and opera among many more subjects. But ultimately it is a fictional memoir of two strangers’ lives made closer by their impersonal method of communicating by letter. Using such a slow and detached medium allowed both Tina and Anders to talk about their true feeling without embarrassment much like Americans talk to a therapist.
I enjoyed both of their stories though they veered from sorrowful to joyful to resigned and back. It is definitely a compelling read. I stayed up past midnight and read it in one sitting. Meet Me at the Museum is perfect for fans of Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook. 4 stars!
Thanks to Flatiron Books and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Literary Fiction, New Books, Romance Tagged with: Aug 7 2018
A pregnant Brazilian lands in an airport in Switzerland. She calls the police because an assassin is hunting her. When the police fail to stop the killer, a young girl appears saying she just wants the lady’s fetus. So begins Undead Messiah 1, an exciting thriller wrapped within a horror manga.
Who hasn’t been entranced by a video game, movie or book and after it’s over you still feel like it has leached into your real life? Tim loves ZAC, a zombie video game, and the Walking Dead television show. He begins to see zombie threats everywhere. However, just because he’s paranoid, doesn’t mean there aren’t zombies running amok.
I loved the innovative plot. Unfortunately, I can’t describe my favorite part since it will spoil the surprise. As a huge fan of the Walking Dead comics, I thought this book would be perfect for me. And it was. Nerdy gamer thinks he can kill real zombies until he meets one. If only there was a wireless controller for real life (heavy sigh…). The art, especially the chapter titles, perfectly set the mood and clearly illustrated the plot.
Undead Messiah 1 has elements of horror, mystery, fantasy, post-apocalyptic thriller and even romance. I can’t wait for the second volume, which comes out November 6, 2018. It is highly recommended for all manga fans looking for something different. 4 stars!
Thanks to ToykoPop and Edelweiss+ for an advanced copy.
Posted in Graphic Novel, Horror, Mystery & Thrillers, Paranormal, Romance Tagged with: Jul 19 2018, Manga
Ethan is Craving His Best Friend’s Ex in this perfect light summer read.
Ethan and Mason are best friends. When they see Crissanne at a college party, Mason, always the impulsive one, approaches her. Mason and Crissanne have a romantic relationship but Ethan is envious and regretful that he didn’t approach Crissanne first. Twelve years later, Crissanne knocks on Ethan’s door in Cole’s Hill Texas. She and Mason, who live together in Los Angeles, have broken up. Crissanne’s feelings of friendship for Ethan begin to deepen. Ethan reluctantly reciprocates but worries that Crissanne is only using him to make Mason jealous. When tragedy strikes, will it drive Crissanne and Ethan together or force them apart?
The tug of war between guilt and desire is well defined in Craving His Best Friend’s Ex. Both Ethan and Crissanne’s conflicting feeling make sense. The story is compelling and the sexual tension is hot. Craving His Best Friend’s Ex is a great beach read. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Harlequin Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in New Books, Romance Tagged with: Aug 7 2018, Texas
Ghosted, the word, is when a hookup quietly ignores your texts, calls, emails and other online communications. Ghosted, the book, is a wonderful twisty love story.
Sarah and Eddie, both in their late 30s, spend a romantic week together after meeting unexpectedly. As Eddie is leaving for a holiday in Spain, both vow to meet up again after his return. However, Sarah hears nothing. Her increasingly frantic texts, calls, Facebook messages and emails go unanswered. Her best friends tell her to move on. But Sarah is convinced something tragic has happened to Eddie and just can’t let go.
Ghosted is a delightful summer beach read for mystery lovers. The story of the romance evolving, told in flashbacks, is just as entrancing as the mystery of Eddie’s disappearance. Also, Smelly has to be the best, and probably the most accurate, name for a dog either in fiction or in real life. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Pamela Dorman Books, and Edelweiss+ for an advanced copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books, Romance Tagged with: Jul 24 2018
Amy and Richard stumble upon another body in the second novel in the Blue Ridge Library series, Shelved Under Murder.
Amy is the head librarian and Sunny is her assistant at the perpetually underfunded Blue Ridge library. Sunny convinces a local artist to donate three paintings to the library. While retrieving them, Amy and Richard find the artist, Rachel LeBlanc, stabbed to death in her artist’s studio. In the same studio are several art forgeries hidden in a secret closet.
The romantic relationships shine more than the mysteries in Shelved Under Murder. My biggest complaint is that there are no gray areas in the characters. They are either devils or saints. In addition, no one has much of a reason to be a villain other than for the love of money. With such shallow motives, this book receives 3 stars.
Be aware that Shelved Under Murder describes the conclusion of the first book, including the murderer’s name, multiple times so plan to read them in order.
Thanks to the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, Romance Tagged with: cozy mystery, Jul 10 2018
Meh…Providence is not a place I enjoyed visiting.
While a junior in high school in Providence Rhode Island, Jon is kidnapped. His best friend and possible love of his life, Chloe, is heartbroken. However, she and his parents eventually assume he is dead and move on with their lives.
Four years later, Jon wakes up. His only clue to what happened is a note from his former substitute teacher and captor, Mr. Blair, in a beaten-up paperback copy of The Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft. The note states.
“You were in a medically induced coma. You are free. […] You have power. […] We did good work down here, Jon, and it will be interesting to see the way things play out. You’re welcome, Jon.”
Six years later, Eggs is a Providence police detective looking for the cause of a rash of heart attack deaths in young adults. His department believes they were natural deaths but Eggs is obsessed. Eggs and his wife, Lo, have an institutionalized son, Chuckie.
Providence is a fantasy in the vain of the 2012 film Chronicle and perhaps Stephen King’s Carrie. While it contains the love story of Jon and Chloe, it is not strictly a romance like the author’s most popular book, You. I didn’t read You so I had no previously conceived ideas for this novel. Judging by other reviews, if you loved You, you will not like Providence much.
My biggest issue with Providence is with the characters. None are sympathetic. Poor Jon had all his problems thrust upon him but as a reader I truly didn’t care what happened to him. Chloe is so indecisive that I felt like slapping her. Her high school friends after Jon’s disappearance feel like 80s movie stereotypes (the popular girl, the jock, the art girl). Eggs’ feeling toward his son do not seem genuine but are obviously a plot device.
Another issue is the plot slows to a crawl in the middle of the book. If I wasn’t reading a review copy, I would have put it down or at best skipped to the ending.
Some readers seemed to enjoy this book. To me, it seemed derivative, slow, and populated solely with unsympathetic characters. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend it except to hardcore Lovecraft fans. 2 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Random House-Lenny Books, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Fantasy, Mystery & Thrillers, Paranormal, Romance Tagged with: Jun 19 2018
Southern paranormal cozy mystery with ghosts, witches and a murder or two.
Hope, Faith and Charity plan to open a Wiccan school and white witches’ potion shop in rural Sunflower County Mississippi. Sarah Booth Delaney and her partner in the Delaney Detective Agency, Tinkie Richmond, are paid to dig up some dirt on the three newcomers. The witches cast a spell to make Tinkie pregnant and Sarah Booth hook up with the hunky Sheriff Coleman. Soon, someone is killed. Was the victim scared to death by the mysterious force in the apple orchard?
Charmed Bones is #18 in the series but it reads fine as a standalone. Reading the synopsis above, the plot sounds overblown but it is totally believable while immersed in the book. I found the quirky Southern characters were the best part of Charmed Bones. By the end of the book, all seemed like genuine friends that I wanted to spend more time with. Now I just have to decide to continue the series from here or start at #1. This entry deserves 4 stars!
Thanks to Minotaur and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, Paranormal, Romance Tagged with: ghosts, May 15 2018
Great finish almost makes it worth reading the rest of The Favorite Sister.
Brett, Stephanie and Jen are the sole remaining season 1 cast members on the new season 4 of the Real Housewives-esque reality show, Goal Diggers. The show ostensibly empowers women, while provoking as many fights among them as possible. Brett is the “thick” lesbian African-American CEO of SPOKE. The company is a spin class empire that donates electric bikes to Morocco girls so they can avoid being raped while hauling water daily from their towns’ well. Stephanie is an author and married to Vince, a wannabe actor. Jen is a vegan CEO. Lauren, who arrived season 2 as Jen’s friend is CEO of Sadie, a dating app where women chose the men first.
The Favorite Sister is full of lying, conniving and cheating. There is murder and attempted murder in here too but not until late in the book. My problem is that the characters are not sympathetic at all. After some foreshadowing, I spent the first half of the book waiting for the murder to occur. I didn’t even care who was the victim. I just wanted something to shake the self-centered complacency out of one of these b*tches. There is a q&a with the author at the end of the book explaining how she loves the housewives shows but dislikes how they turn women against each other. But she wrote a book about the exact same process. Maybe it was sarcastic farce that I just didn’t get. Once the thriller part of the book started, well past halfway, I enjoyed the twists. I’m just not sure I would have read that far if I hadn’t received this book from NetGalley. The last half of the book gets 4 stars and the first gets 2 making an average of 3 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Simon & Schuster, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, Romance Tagged with: May 15 2018, Reality Shows
Romance, history, southern charm, friendships, family and secrets swirl in the High Tide Club.
At 99, Josephine is dying on her half of an island off the coast of Georgia. She calls Brooke, an attorney, to help search for her best friends, Ruth, Millie and Varina, from over 80 years earlier. Josephine had a falling out with her friends but now wants to deed her island home to them or their descendants. She also wants Brooke to stop the state from taking her home under eminent domain.
Brooke is a single mother with a 3-year old son and has a past as a runaway bride. She also has plenty of bills that are barely covered by her one-woman law firm. She needs to keep Josephine as a client despite the ethical issues of one of the friends being her grandmother. To setup the trust for Josephine, Brooke asks her old boss and mentor, Gabe, for help.
Alternating between the 1940s and current day, the reason for the friends’ schism and the disappearance of one’s finance is slowly revealed. The High Tide Club is a perfect beach read: light and frothy with a murderous undertow. It is recommended for both mystery, thriller, historical fiction and especially romantic suspense fans. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Historical Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers, Romance Tagged with: family drama, May 8 2018, WWII
Like light science fiction, fantasy and/or romance? Don’t mind a slow build-up to a fantastic finish? If so, the Coincidence Makers is for you.
Emily, Eric and Guy meet in a 16-month training class for Coincidence Makers (CMs). CMs are secret agents that work for the government. They “are creators of possibilities, givers of hints, winkers of tempting winks, discoverers of options.” Some examples of their work is Lennon meeting Paul McCartney, the development of corn flakes, and the discovery of penicillin. There are other behind-the-scenes government workers too like imaginary friends, dream weavers, luck distributors, etc.
I love the idea of mixing Men in Black with Harry Potter’s first year at Hogwarts. However, the execution was rather sluggish for the first half. I enjoyed the flashbacks to their schooling much more than their jobs immediately after graduation. I think it would have been better as a trilogy of books with the first only showing the training, the second standard CM work and the third book showing the highest level of CM work. With all of those topics put in this relatively short novel, it seems like an opportunity for a more in depth exploration of this world was missed. For the intriguing world, the Coincidence Makers receives 3 stars. However, the excellent ending ups the stars to 4.
The Coincidence Makers is recommended for soft science fiction or fantasy readers that are willing to wait patiently for a big payoff. Don’t quit reading before the halfway mark as the finale is definitely worth a few more hours of your time. If you are not patient, just wait for the sure to be awesome movie (or movies) based on this book.
Thanks to the publisher, St. Martins Press, and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Fantasy, Romance, Science Fiction Tagged with: genre mash-up, Mar 6 2018, original
“In Alaska you can make one mistake. One. The second one will kill you.”
It’s 1974 and the world is imploding. Watergate. Vietnam. Black panthers. Gas shortages. Protests. Revolutionaries. Kidnappings. Serial Killers. After receiving an unexpected inheritance, thirteen year old Leni and her parents, Cora and Ernt, move to rural Alaska. With no running water or electricity, the family work hard to make their house a home before winter sets in. As their friendly neighbor Large Marge says, winter “will cull the herd, and fast.”
Ernt has dark moods and nightmares since returning from Vietnam. The moods get darker in the long and frigid Alaskan winters. Cora takes the brunt of it. Leni dreams of a life for herself and her mom away from Ernt.
Seeing a family spiraling downwards into death and madness, The Great Alone puts the reader into an untenable situation along with Leni. Run away alone leaving her mother to her fate or fight the monster who used to be her loving father. This gripping thriller grabs the reader by the throat and causes their real life to be put on hold as they rush to read the conclusion. The Great Alone is highly recommended. Be warned! Starting this compelling novel at bedtime may reduce sleep time significantly. 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, St. Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Literary Fiction, Romance Tagged with: Feb 6 2018
When does love and attraction turn into obsession?
Sam Grist is a college student in Kate Youngblood’s writing workshop. Kate is impressed with his writing style. She is also feeling a “strong river current” pulling her towards him. However, Kate is hoping to get tenure. Starting an affair with a student would not be smart and might even be career-ending. Her first crime novel was moderately successful but her agent hates her latest book. She needs the teaching job to support herself now that her husband has left her for a much younger woman.
Sam also has strong feelings for Kate. He stares at her with longing during class. Soon he starts following her and peeps in her windows. His obsession only grows from there.
Watch Me is a slow-burning thriller alternating between Kate and Sam’s point of view. At first, a reader feels sympathy for Sam’s love for Kate. It seems like a heartfelt student’s crush on his older college professor. But then Sam begins to go too far. As Sam’s history is revealed, his intentions begin to look much darker. The eerie atmosphere and Sam’s darkening worldview propel the plot forward even though the action doesn’t really start until more than a third into the book.
Watch Me is highly recommended to fans of character-driven psychological suspense. The relationship between Kate and Sam resembles the one between Agent Starling and Hannibal Lecter. It is obviously not healthy and will probably end badly but it is both a compelling and unsettling trip to that end. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, St. Martin’s Griffin, and NetGalley for the advance review copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, Romance Tagged with: Jan 23 2018, psychological suspense, student-teacher romance
Formulaic mystery with a small town atmosphere and a refreshing romance.
Amy Webber has run back to her aunt’s house in small town Taylorsford Virginia following a disastrous and public breakup with her boyfriend. Her job as a public library Director with only one employee, Sunny Fields, is fun but not high-paying. When a person is found murdered in the library’s archives the game is afoot for Amy and Sunny. Amy also stumbles upon an old family secret and a possible town scandal.
I enjoyed the romantic aspect of Murder for the Books much more than the three mysteries within the plot. One problem with setting mysteries in small towns is that there are not enough suspects to make the mystery difficult to solve. Plus it seemed as though the debut author, Victoria Gilbert, tried to shove too many plots into one book. There were the three mysteries, romances for three couples in town, and even a potential ghost story within this short book. Hopefully, the next entry in the Blue Ridge Library series will limit its focus by including only one romance and mystery while also using the unique rural library setting much more.
While I was underwhelmed by the mystery plots, I totally enjoyed Amy and Richard’s romance especially how the body issues were handled. Therefore, I recommend Murder for the Books more for romance readers than mystery ones. However, I will read the next book in the series, Shelved Under Murder, to see where the author leads the characters after its publication in July 10, 2018. 3 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Crooked Lane Books, and NetGalley for an advanced review copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, Romance Tagged with: Dec 12 2017, ghosts, series
A fun “King of the Nerds” meets Jeopardy summer camp is the setting for this entertaining young adult romance.
Ever Lawrence is determined to make her own way in life. She won’t become a lawyer like her Dad, a local community theater actress who sells real estate like her Stepmom or join the Air Force like her Mom. She loves Octavia Butler’s novels and decides to get a free scholarship to the only school that has a Science Fiction Literature degree, Rayevich College. Taking a test and writing an awesome essay gets her into Camp Onward where at least one attendee will win the coveted scholarship at the conclusion of the camp. The contests required to win vary between the physical and the intellectual. Ever tries not to be distracted by her growing attraction to one of the other campers, her strange roommate and even stranger resident adviser.
Not Now, Not Ever is a humorous take on Much Ado about Nothing. However, I enjoyed the frequent Oscar Wilde quotes and pop culture references even more. The characters are believable and the finale is great. The machinations of some of the campers are laugh-out-loud funny. Even though I am far from a young adult, I loved the characters, plot and the setting. 4 stars!
I won an advanced reader copy of Not Now, Not Ever in a Goodreads giveaway but that has not impacted my review. This book will be released on November 21, 2017.
Posted in Romance, Teen & Young Adult Tagged with: Funny, Nerdy, Nov 21 2017
Fun and quick chick-lit read set in Darwin Australia. The swing dancing background of Don’t Mean a Thing makes it perfect for fans of Dancing with the Stars!
Macie joins the Royal Australian Air Force after a bad break up with her verbally abusive ex-boyfriend. She finds not only a career but a swing dancing hobby and a sexy new boyfriend, Matt. However, Macie has questions. Is Matt still involved with his swing dancing partner for the past ten years, Nadiene? Why does Macie’s hot new co-worker, Jeremy, keep flirting with her when he knows she is involved with Matt?
Don’t Mean a Thing is firmly in the chick-lit genre. However, it adds a twist by making the heroine an aircraftwoman in Darwin Australia and providing extensive information about swing dancing. The use of Australian slang is fun for non-Australian readers. Thongs are sandals. Togs are clothes. Budgie smugglers are the favorite swimwear of Borat. As an aircraftwoman, Macie works supporting aircraft at military airports. She, and the reader, get to travel to several nearby countries including Malaysia.
I decided to read this genre as a palate cleanser after reading the extremely scary, Kill Creek (see my review at dianereviewsbooks.com/Kill-Creek). Yet, I really enjoyed it. Don’t Mean a Thing and its author, Renee Conoulty, are a fresh voice in the chick-lit genre. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Kindred Ink Press, and Netgalley for a review copy.
Posted in Romance Tagged with: air force, Australia, swing dancing
Genre-bending sci-fi mythological humorous apocalyptical romance.
Holy Crap! The World is Ending! has something for everyone. A woman meets her soulmate in a Barnes & Noble just as an asteroid is about to collide with Earth. There is something otherworldly about his looks but little does our heroine know. He is actually an alien sent to Earth to determine whether humankind can stop battling each other long enough to be moved to another planet.
Okay, the plot I just described seems lame but the book is actually fascinating and humorous. The author throws in hundreds of pop culture references (i.e., Harry Potter, Duck Dodgers, the illuminati, Bigfoot). There are many similarities between the alien names and Sumerian mythology. To say any more would be a spoiler. The romance is heartfelt and believable. The interactions between the heroine’s friends are hilarious. Which would you say is more likely to float-a raft made of Twinkies or Ding Dongs? I have to side with the Ding Dongs personally.
Even though this book is hard to categorize to recommend it for a particular type of reader, that is also its charm. I would highly recommend it to anyone bored of formulaic stories. It would also be a good choice for fans of The Simpsons for its humor and free use of decades of pop culture references. It has some R-rated sex scenes so it wouldn’t be appropriate for readers under 16.
Thanks to the publisher, Alien Abduction Press, and netgalley for an advance review copy in exchange for an honest review. This book will be published on September 21, 2017.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Romance, Science Fiction Tagged with: #24in48 Readathon 2017, Alien, Funny, Sept 2017