Toucan Keep a Secret
August 13th, 2018 by diane92345

Toucan Keep a Secret about a thirty-year-old robbery and murder.

By all accounts, Junius Hagley was not a nice man. Frustrated by the paperwork to disintern his wife’s cremated remains, he took matters, and a crowbar, into his own hands to rectify the situation. When someone interrupts, and then murders him, Meg investigates for Pastor Robin, who is on pregnancy bedrest.

It’s always a pleasure to return to Meg’s world. After 23 books, her family and friends feel like my friends too. I would have liked more time with Michael and the boys—even with her ironwork—which were much more prevalent in the early entries in the series. Still Toucan Keep a Secret is a good cozy mystery worth 4 stars.

Thanks to Minotaur Books and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

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Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: , ,

Dopesick
August 10th, 2018 by diane92345

To an opioid user, either on “legal” OxyContin or heroin, the goal is to avoid the debilitating withdrawal of being Dopesick. Most have only two options, steal or sell the same drugs to other, usually new, users to finance their own habit.

Moving from rural Virginia in 1996 to suburbs and cities by the mid-2000s, the opioid crisis is now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50. More than 300,000 have died in the past 15 years and it is projected that the same number will die in the next five years.

This is a story of how doctors tried, and mostly failed, to alert the producer, the government, and finally the media to the very real dangers of OxyContin. But corporate and physician greed overrode the warnings. After the government did begin to notice the epidemic and strengthen the usage guidelines, users turned to illegal heroin to avoid the Dopesick caused by OxyContin withdrawal.

Dopesick has valuable information for anyone who has friends or relatives with an opioid problem. However, it doesn’t have many solutions. It does have one clear warning:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”—George Santayana

This same pattern of an overuse of a miracle drug becoming a scourge on the populace was first seen in 1864. Returning soldiers from the Civil War were prescribed morphine, which led to the same addiction and other social consequences as the OxyContin crisis.  Hopefully, it will not take all the current addicts’ deaths to move past the OxyContin epidemic as that was the way the Civil War era issue was resolved. 3 stars.

Thanks to the Little, Brown and Company and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

Posted in Non-fiction Tagged with: , ,

Meet Me at the Museum
August 9th, 2018 by diane92345

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:

Our House
August 9th, 2018 by diane92345

Can a soon-to-be ex-husband sell Our House without warning?

Bram and Fi are a typical London family with two young sons and most of their money tied up in their house. When Fi throws Bram out for adultery in their kids’ playhouse, Bram moves in with his mother until their finances are divided equally between them. When Fi pushes to keep the house “for the boys’ sake”, Fi and Bram decide to alternately stay in the house with their sons and in a separate small London flat. Fi comes home early from a business trip to find strangers moving into her house. Bram has sold the house to them and absconded with the 2 million selling price. Using alternating chapters with a podcast for Fi and Word documents for Bram, the real reason for the sale and the marriage dissolution is slowly revealed.

Despite having absolutely no empathy for either main character, I enjoyed this twisty tale of their lives. Stripping off the clothes of propriety shows some amazingly ugly truths. There are crimes both committed by and done to both Fi and Bram up to and including murder. Though the book drags a bit in the middle, the finale is well worth sticking with it. This book is highly recommended for readers who like a multitude of unexpected twists and turns in plot. As long as character likeability and a uniformly fast pace is not a requirement, Our House is worth 4 stars.

Thanks to the publisher, Berkeley, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: ,

Weekend at Thrackley
August 8th, 2018 by diane92345

Jim Henderson, unemployed for three years since WWI, gets an invitation from a friend of his father for a free Weekend at Thrackley. The mysterious owner, Edwin Carson, has something rather different planned than a typical country house weekend.

The residents are Mr. Carson’s daughter, Mary; his butler, Jacobson; and four other burly male servants. The guests are Freddie, Jim’s rich club mate; Lady Stone, a wealthy socialite; Raoul, a beautiful female entertainer; and finally poor—but still maintaining the facade—twins, Marilyn and Henry.

Weekend at Thrackley is a British debut mystery originally published in 1934. At the time, it was a best seller. It hasn’t held up as well as the Christie canon unfortunately. There are many long and irrelevant descriptions of people, places and bridge games that can safely be skimmed with no impact to the main plot. The biggest issue is that the plot itself has been remade a countless number of times since 1934. Think of the movies Clue and Murder by Death without the humor. Overall, even though I adore British golden age mysteries, I can’t recommend Weekend at Thrackley. 2 stars.

Thanks to Poisoned Pen Press and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: , ,

An Unwanted Guest
August 8th, 2018 by diane92345

A blizzard traps 9 guests, the owner and his son in this homage to And Then There Were None mixed with a bit of the Shining. The guests in An Unwanted Guest include:

  • Gwen Delaney in corporate public relations despite having a journalism degree and
  • Her college buddy, Riley Shuter, who suffers from PTSD from her work as an embedded journalist in Afghanistan
  • David Paley, New York criminal defense lawyer visiting alone
  • Ian Beeton, businessman staying with
  • Lauren Day, his girlfriend
  • Beverly Sullivan, working on her marriage to
  • Henry, who doesn’t love Beverly anymore
  • Dana Hart, drop-dead gorgeous fiancée to
  • Matthew Hutchinson, heir to a large New England fortune
  • Bradley, clerk and son of
  • James Harwood, the hotel’s owner and chef
  • Candice White, an author writing her next book

The Unwanted Guest is an excellent traditional mystery but with many twists and turns. Excellent misdirection and red herrings makes the conclusion rate up there with some of Dame Agatha’s finest. Perfect for armchair detectives up for a challenge. 5 stars! I can’t recommend this book highly enough! I loved it!

Thanks to the publisher, Pamela Dorman Books, and Edelweiss+ for an advanced copy.

Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with:

Essential oils
August 7th, 2018 by diane92345

If you are new to aromatherapy, Stephanie Tourles’s Essential Oils: A Beginner’s Guide is a perfect starting point.

The author lists the top 11 oils that every practitioner should have available:

  • German Chamomile
  • Roman chamomile
  • Clove bud
  • Eucalyptus
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Tea tree
  • Thyme.

She also lists 14 more oils that are nice to have but not essential.

For each oil, the history, its natural state, safety warnings, and what it cures both physically and psychologically are listed. Finally, each oil contains several recipes for its use. These recipes vary between balms, massage oils, roll-ons, mists, sprays, dropper bottles, bath salts, gels, beverages, and nasal “sniffer” tubes. Each recipe includes how to use the result. Many include recipe modifications for children and warnings about when usage in not recommended (i.e., on open wounds or for asthmatics). The recipes include deodorant, breath spray, toothpaste, mouthwash, bathroom spray, lip gloss, insect repellent, flavored toothpicks, and body wash. There are recipes that cure an amazing amount of illnesses like headaches, backaches, sore feet, dry hands, menstrual cramps, and acne. The recipes also assist healing of flu/colds, sinus infections, insect bites, hemorrhoids, dermatitis, eczema, burns and other wound care. Some recipes give psychological benefits like energy, stress reduction, concentration and happiness.

As the title indicates, this is a book only for those just starting their journey into aromatherapy. However, this book serves that reader well. It includes only the need-to-know information written in plain English—no chemistry degree needed. Most recipes need less than five ingredients. The in-depth coverage of a limited amount of oils mean the initial cost to try a few recipes would be lower than in more advanced books. If you are curious about aromatherapy, you should read this book. 4 stars.

Thanks to the publisher, Storey Publishing, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: ,

Writer's Guide to Wattpad
August 6th, 2018 by diane92345

The Writer’s Guide to Wattpad is an excellent resource for new writers and those frustrated with typical ebook distribution channels.

Wattpad allows writers to have a personal relationship with their readers while building their fan base and social media presence. While it is free and easy to create content, this book shares tips for increasing the benefits of using a non-monetized platform.

The Writer’s Guide to Wattpad is a loosely connected series of essays by real Wattpad users. Here are just a few of the over 20 articles. Wattpad readers are 23 times more likely to read a book with a cover. One essay gives concrete steps for getting a cover for $6 or less. One chapter covers the importance of choosing your Wattpad user name. Another explains how to use serialization to your advantage. Understanding your genre, fan base and competition is the subject of several essays. 90% of Wattpad users are young Gen Z or millennials. Those readers could be your lifelong fans. Cultivate them by responding to constructive comments and take the high road by ignoring unkind or irrelevant comments.

With over 65 million Wattpad users, it is hard to ignore it as a platform for writing success. It is a great tool to teach writers what works and what doesn’t as decided by readers rather than jaded or money-motivated publishers and agents.

The Writer’s Guide to Wattpad is a useful resource both on how to use Wattpad and whether its democratic feeling is correct for your writing or personal style. My only issue with the book is the format of providing 25 essays by multiple authors with no short intros connecting them together. 3 stars!

Thanks to Writer’s Digest Books and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

Posted in New Books, Non-fiction Tagged with: ,

Butterfly Conspiracy
August 6th, 2018 by diane92345

What Butterfly Conspiracy results in a woman’s death after a rare butterfly lands on her arm?

Merula is left by her mother at her family’s house as a baby five years after her mother’s escape from the rigid Victorian house’s rules. Luckily, Merula’s fascination with butterflies is supported by her Uncle Rupert.

In those sexist times, Merula’s rare butterfly, Attacus Atlas, must be displayed at a house party by the Royal Zoological Society as her Uncle’s work. When rich Lady Sophia drops dead after handling the rare butterfly, Uncle Rupert is arrested for murder. Merula is helped to escape the house party by Lord Raven Royston known for the public failure of his investments. The two search for the real how and why of Lady Sophia’s death while trying to stay one step before the police. The characters they meet are a treat.

Set in the same world as the Veronica Speedwell series, I enjoyed the self-effacing Merula’s world much better. The Butterfly Conspiracy is completely G rated which is more appropriate for the setting. Plus the mystery and the subtle romantic feeling between Merula and Royston seem more organic. I loved the twists leading up to the conclusion. I can’t wait for the next book in the Merriweather and Royston series.

This book is recommended for Veronica Speedwell fans as well as historical fiction fans that enjoy a good mystery or vice versa. 4 stars!

Thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for an advanced copy.

Posted in Historical Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: , ,

Craving His Best Friend's Ex
August 1st, 2018 by diane92345

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: ,