“Miller Tavern has always had a reputation for being haunted. Very bad things happened here, homicidal crazy people…Serial killers before that was a thing.”—from The Seekers
Keri is a true crime writer hired to lend gravitas to a ghost hunter show called Truth Seekers. Carl, a young Hollywood A-lister, buys Miller Inn and Tavern. The tavern was the site of a brutal mass murder in 1926. Carl hopes the Truth Seekers will find evidence of ghosts to drive business to his inn. Instead, they find a brutally murdered FBI agent on a replica of the “torture table” in the inn’s basement.
The paranormal elements of the tale are used well to propel the plot forward. The romance between two of the characters along with their shared shock at their ability to see ghosts seems genuine. The history of Satanism and hexes was interesting too. My only complaint was my own fault. This is the 28th Krewe of Hunters novel but my first. I spent the first fifth of the book trying to keep the characters straight. The author appears to know this might become an issue by including a Cast of Characters at the beginning. However, many people were cast as walk-ons whose role didn’t warrant my memorizing their name and function. If I had read at least some of the previous entries in the series, this may not have been a problem.
If you like an atmospheric ghost story with some history, a small romance, and a slug of mystery, you will enjoy The Seekers. 4 stars!
Thanks to Harlequin, Mira, and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books, Paranormal, Romance Tagged with: Jul 23 2019
In the Bookish Life of Nina Hill, Nina is a book lover, a list manic, a cat owner, an introvert, and a nerdy trivia player. Nina is also me! (if I was a Millennial of course).
Nina loves her quiet, well-ordered life working in a bookstore, serving her cat Phil, playing on a pub trivia team, and above all losing herself in books. When she finds herself with a new large extended family after her unknown father’s death, her world threatens to teeter into disorder (or what OCD’ish Nina calls chaos).
While that is the plot in a nutshell, the heart’s blood of the Bookish Life of Nina Hill is Nina herself. All “bookworms” like myself will feel an immediate kinship to Nina. She’s adorable! While outwardly an introvert, Nina’s thoughts are full of snarky side eyes at the people surrounding her and pop/literary references like a book-reading Bart Simpson. Even with her love of her second favorite 19th century novel, Pride and Prejudice, Nina still is of the current century. She is a member of many clubs that sound like they came straight out of the nerdy section of the Meetup app.
Anyone who is female and likes to read will see themselves in Nina and truly enjoy this book. How can a reader not love a book that starts out with a quote from Sally Brown from Peanuts waxing poetic about library cards! It is highly recommended. I loved it and didn’t want it to end. 5 stars!
While I received an advanced review copy from Berkley Books and Edelweiss+ in exchange for my honest review, I also bought it on audio. The narrator, Emily Rankin, is exceptional and improved this already great book. I wish I could give it an extra star in audible form.
Posted in Audiobooks, Diane's Favorites, Humor, Literary Fiction, New Books, Romance, Women's Fiction Tagged with: Jul 9 2019
Take one part Benjamin Button, one part Age of Adaline, and one part a history of Grand Central Station. Stir together and you have Time After Time.
Joe is a leverman in 1937 in New York’s Grand Central Station. When he meets Nora, a confused young lady without either luggage or coat, he offers to walk her home. Along the way she vanishes. A year later, they meet again. She is still wearing the same tattered blue dress. Once Joe and Nora discover the restrictions of Nora’s universe, they begin to fall for each other. But Nora doesn’t age and Joe was already ten years older than her in 1937 making their future together uncertain.
I liked the three main characters of this novel: Joe, Nora, and most of all Grand Central Station. The history of the Station drew me in even more than the plot. As a frequent reader of thrillers, Time After Time seemed to move at a snail’s pace in the middle third. However, that may just be me. I also didn’t enjoy the ending of Joe and Nora’s love story. For literary or historical fiction readers, the pacing will probably be fine. In the author’s Q&A at the end of the book, the author explains that most of the story is based on true stories merged together. If you are a fan of historical romance, this is a good choice. 3 stars!
Thanks to Random House and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Historical Fiction, New Books, Romance Tagged with: Jun 11 2019, magical realism, time travel
In Limited Wish, Mark is a busy sixteen-year-old. He is still playing Dungeons & Dragons with his high school buddies. However, now he is a freshman at Cambridge University. He is getting over a breakup and finding a new love. He is battling cancer. All while dealing with time travel, paradoxes, and, of course, saving the universe.
This book is set six months following its predecessor in the Impossible Times trilogy, One Word Kill (reviewed here). The author provides an in depth spoiler-filled synopsis of the prior book in this book’s prologue but the series is best read in order, if possible. If you read the prologue in this book, you will ruin all the surprises in the first book.
Admittedly, math is not my favorite subject despite having taken it through calculus in college. I also never took a physics class anywhere due to my previously mentioned aversion to math. I do like string theory, in theory at least, so the time traveling multiple universe plot was fine. However, the parallel universes did get a bit confusing as the plot was much more complex than One Word Kill. However, there is still some human emotion and humor on hand here too. Overall, Limited Wish is highly recommended for science, math and science fiction fans. For all of us just regular thriller readers, I give it 4 stars and again recommend reading One Word Kill first. Still, I can’t wait for the final book in this series, Dispel Illusion, out in November 2019!
Thanks to 47North and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Kindle Unlimited, Mystery & Thrillers, New Books, Romance, Science Fiction Tagged with: May 28 2019, time travel
Four women look for love in All the Wrong Places and one ends up trapped by a serial killer.
Paige is having a bad few months. First, she loses her high-profile advertising job. Then she catches her cousin Heather, who has always copied her life choices, in bed with her boyfriend. To save money, Paige moves in with her seventy-year-old widowed mother, Joan. Paige’s best friend, Chloe, gets an anonymous tip and discovers her husband has recently set up profiles on several online dating sites.
All four woman decide to join Match Sticks to find new men. One is shown trapped by a serial killer in his apartment as the book opens. But which one?
All the Wrong Places balances a serial killer thriller plot with an excellent chick lit tale. It even has a bit of comic relief with hapless Heather. The mixture somehow works well making this a 4 star read!
Thanks to Ballantine Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, Romance Tagged with: Chick lit, Mar 12 2019
Daisy Jones & The Six is the best non-thriller that I have read this year!
Set in the turbulent late 1970s Sunset Boulevard band scene, The Six is a five member middle-of-road rock band who are effectively forced by their label to add a sexy new lead singer, Daisy Jones. Daisy is a free spirit who dresses and acts without worrying about what others think. She is also stunningly beautiful and a drug addict. The Six’ singer, Billy, has recently returned from rehab and is determined to not relapse for his wife and newborn daughter’s sake.
Daisy Jones & The Six is compulsively readable. I was late to work two out of the three days that I read it. I just had to read the next interview. While not a traditional thriller, the book has a mystery: why did the band break up. However, it was the convincing character interactions that heightened my enjoyment of the book. All the characters seemed so real with genuine and frequently conflicting emotions driving their actions. I can’t recommend this Reese’s Book Club pick highly enough. 5 stars!
Thanks to Ballantine Books and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Literary Fiction, Romance Tagged with: 1970s, Mar 5 2019, music
My Favorite Half-Night Stand tells the story of moving beyond the friend zone.
Reid, Chris, Alex, Ed and Millie are best friends and colleagues. They are all scientists and teachers at University of California Santa Barbara. When their college schedules a black tie dinner with President Obama, they worry about finding dates. They decide to use IRL, an online dating site to find some.
Millie’s real IRL profile attracts just douches and dick pics. Millie decides to create another profile for “Cat”. When she is matched with Reid, she becomes unexpectedly honest behind the anonymous profile and they hit it off. In the meantime, Reid and Millie have a somewhat drunken night of hot sex. They try to return to just being friends afterwards. But why is Millie jealous of Reid’s IRL girl Daisy? And why is Reid asking Millie about the mysterious Guy who she met on IRL? He doesn’t even realize Guy is actually him.
It is easy to see parallels between this story and Pride and Prejudice. In the latter book, British rules of politeness prevent the speaking of one’s mind. In My Favorite Half-Night Stand, it is nerdy shyness and introversion that prevents Reid and Millie from talking about their feelings. Overall, this a great book for a cold winter evening when you just want to settle in your book nook with some undemanding chick lit. 4 stars!
Thanks to Gallery Books and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Romance Tagged with: Chick lit, Dec 4 2018
The Girl with Sweetest Secret is an American brought over to London by her family to use their money to capture a title.
American Frances “Frankie” Bumgarten is surprised by a stranger in her family’s kitchen late at night. After almost braining the stranger with an old bread paddle, Frankie is embarrassed by her lack of a robe or any covering other than a thin nightgown. Frankie recognizes Reynard Boulton, aka the Fox, who is an heir to a Viscount and collects gossip as his trade. He is helping her Uncle Red return home from a long evening of gambling and drinking. The Fox has agreed to watch over Frankie and her sister in her brother-in-law’s absence so he was unable to use the gossip he acquired against Frankie and her family.
Later when the Fox and Frankie meet at a dance, they both feel a connection. Unfortunately, Frankie’s mother wants her to marry high in the aristocracy and a Prussian Duke is interested in her. When later, the Fox is almost ensnared in a family’s marriage trap, Frankie saves him from immediate shame. However, the Fox must have a duel with the family’s father. While Frankie, dressed as a boy, is watching, the duel is held. The action just escalates from there.
The Girl with Sweetest Secret is an action-packed and enjoyable Victorian historical romance. It is highly recommended for readers of that genre. 4 stars!
Thanks to Zebra Books and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Historical Fiction, Romance Tagged with: Nov 27 2018, Victorian
Lowdown, a romantic thriller set in the world of New York City’s mafia families, has the best first paragraph I’ve read in a long time:
“The first seven years you’re in the can, all you can think about is revenge. The next seven years you crave freedom and things you remember from before. You want to get laid more than you want to get even. After that you’re not so sure. You know you want to be on the other side, but you don’t trust your memories. People have died, gone to prison, disappeared. Places you remember have closed down. Freedom is just a dream, something you imagine often but incompletely. Part of you is scared of it. Prison has become your life. You may hate it, but it’s home. You’re not even sure if you hate it anymore. That’s what twenty-five years in the calendar shop does to you.”
Jimmy, a made man, is finally getting out of prison. He states:
”You are outside the prison gates. You’re fifty-eight years old and a newborn.”
But this is not just Jimmy’s story about reinventing himself after being a stand-up guy for twenty-five years, it also the story of young Milena. Milena is only thirteen when her story begins. She is an Italian teenage girl in the 1970s. Against the background of notorious NYC serial killers and the Vietnam war, her role is to get married and have children. Milena rebels against this stereotype by making poor choices in men and getting involved in crime. Eventually, she marries a made man and they have children. Her husband pulls her into his world with varying results.
Forgive me for quoting so much of the book but the language used is part of the charm of Lowdown. While it has mob killings and rats, it is more a love story of two people in a difficult setting finding each other. I love mafia movies and was expecting something along the lines of The Godfather. This is similar to the life story of Kay Adams-Corleone (Michael’s wife played by Diane Keaton) written after divorcing Michael. It is definitely more of a romance than a mafia book. It is recommended for readers who want an original perspective on mob life. 4.5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Permanent Press, and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, Romance Tagged with: mobster, Nov 30 2018
It’s that time of year when you look around at your assembled family during your holiday party and decide they look Relatively Normal. At least they will, after you read this laugh-out-loud book.
Cat runs an event planning company in New York City. She meets and becomes engaged to Ethan, an actuary. Ethan is a planner. After Ethan and Cat are engaged and living together for two years, he insists on their two families celebrating Thanksgiving together at Cat’s family farm in rural Illinois.
Cat doesn’t know to explain her family to Ethan. Her mom collects obscure household goods like shortbread pans and various cozies. Cat’s dad is staunchly Scottish. He plays the bagpipes badly and dresses up stuffed mice as Scottish heroes. Her grandmother, Nan, says whatever she thinks. Unfortunately, she is usually thinking with a sailor’s vocabulary due to numerous small strokes. Cat’s brother, Travis, is a 29-year-old clown college dropout living in his parent’s basement.
When Cat, Ethan and his parents get to the farm all hell breaks loose. Cat’s dad has invited Cat’s high school boyfriend and former love of her life, Sam, and his parents. Unfortunately, Dad forgot to mention Cat’s engagement.
The absurdity of the Scottish Thanksgiving dinner is hilarious. Cat’s family never lie so they don’t hesitate to tell her Ethan isn’t her perfect match. When a medical emergency occurs, Cat contemplates her relationship with Ethan and her still fiery feelings for Sam, a feeling that Sam shares.
Relatively Normal starts as a superb farce. When the romance begins to heat up between Cat and Sam, Cat must decide what is important for her. The characters are so believable. You’re rooting for them to make the best decisions and live happily ever after. I recommend this book both to fans of zany humor and non-explicit romance. If you like the Stephanie Plum series, you will also like Relatively Normal. 4 stars!
Thanks to 33 Partners Publishing and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Humor, Kindle Unlimited, Romance Tagged with: Family, Nov 20 2018
Enter this book giveaway to grab a paperback copy of A Devil of a Duke by Madeline Hunter. A Devil of a Duke is a sexy historical romance.
Giveaway begins November 22, 2018 at 12:01 A.M. PDT and ends November 30, 2018, at 11:59 P.M. PST.
How To Enter
Complete the entry form below.
Enter once per person.
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY.
Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older.
Winners will be selected at random on or about December 1, 2018.
Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law.
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Posted in Giveaways, Historical Fiction, Romance Tagged with: Nov 30 2018
Solace Island is where Maggie and Luke go to get over their broken hearts in this cute romance.
Maggie is unceremoniously dumped by her fiance of five years the night of her bachelorette party. She gives him two weeks to buy her out of their business and leaves town. Maggie goes to Solace Island, off the Washington Coast, with her older sister, Eve. There she meets the enigmatic Luke, who also has his a broken romance in his past.
Solace Island is a good romance with a bit of a mystery. I recommend it to romance fans. However, the mystery seemed like an afterthought so I can’t recommend it to mystery fans. 3 stars.
Thanks to the publisher, Berkley, and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, Romance Tagged with: Nov 6 2018
Séances are for Suckers is a humorous take on old school romantic mysteries like The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart.
Ellie is the youngest of a set of triplets. On her eighteenth birthday, her mother is killed and her sister descends into a vegetative state. Her brother is an elementary school gym teacher. To earn the money for her sister’s long-term care, Ellie works as a fake medium. Ridding families of their ghosts frequently means more psychological than psychic assistance.
When Nicholas approaches Ellie with a project, she can’t resist even though Nicholas knows she is a fake. He wants Ellie to prove to his elderly mother that her ghost, Xavier, is someone’s childish game.
Once at the family’s ancient estate, Ellie suspects everyone including Nicholas of causing the ghostly events. It doesn’t help that Nicholas is devilishly handsome and apparently rich too. Plus there is the man-of-all-work, Thomas, who is equally handsome but so much less complicated than Nicholas. When Ellie literally stumbles over a corpse who is gone before she returns with help, Ellie begins to believe that this particular ghost may be real.
I actually liked the romance more than the mystery. Like Ellie, I started to feel like part of the family and really wanted it not to be an intentional fake haunting for profit. Séances are for Suckers is a very enjoyable romantic read perfect for a cozy night in with only your cat (or dog, if you are one of those people) for company. 3.5 stars!
Thanks to Kensington Books and NetGalley for an advance copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, Paranormal, Romance Tagged with: family drama, Oct 30 2018, series
Writing nostalgia in Martinis and Memories
I love me some nostalgia. Even though I wasn’t particularly happy in myself in my teen years, I can conjure those moments within seconds. I can be back at a house party when I’m sixteen, and hear the music and remember sitting on the back step with the cool summer air of the evening, the friends I still call best by my side. I can remember the songs we sang along to, and the boys who seemed beautiful.
Nostalgia puts a sheen on everything, like a photo taken on a disposable camera – not sharp or even true sometimes, but distinct as the smell of burnt cookies or the clink of beer bottles.
The same is true for Bel – her past is a different world. One before she became Arabella Hailstone. Before The Martini Club, before burlesque. Back then she was just a kid who was good at ballet because her mother expected her to be. She was the girl who got up to train, expected to win every trophy, before studying, and working in the evenings. The girl who wasn’t too good to work in the chippy on the seafront if it took her one step closer to getting out of Eastbourne.
The people we love exist in the past and sometimes it’s impossible to bring them into the present – too much has changed, too much has been lost, or there’s things you can’t forgive. For Bel, and some of the other characters too, nostalgia is bittersweet – it feels good to escape into for a time, but if she wants to be who she is, who she’s become, she needs to let go.
I think many of us feel that – how do we keep the joy of the child we used to be, the innocence and excitement, whilst growing up and being safe? How do we merge two people to have the best of both? And what happens if the people you love can’t accept the new version of who you are?
In the novel, Bel is faced with three ghosts of her past – the boy she loved, the boy she married, and her mother. Each of them remembers her differently, and each struggles to find a way to know her as who she is now – but how much will she let them know about her new life?
I’m obsessed with nostalgia, with change and growth and being the best version of the person you can be. I’m all about leaving behind that which does not serve you, but every now and then I have a soft spot for the person you loved when the timing wasn’t quite right. And I think Bel does too.
Posted in Romance Tagged with: Aug 13 2018, author post
Martinis and Memories is the strong and empowering finale of the Martini Club trilogy.
“Smart girls don’t fall for the same bull**** twice.”
However, when Bel’s husband, Euan, walks into her burlesque, the Martini Club, she worries what his motivation is. Does he feel he should get a cut of her business? She walked out on him ten years ago because he was a deadweight on her dream of success. She certainly can’t afford to support him now. Business is down in the Club due to the downturn in the economy. Bel even had to tell her mother, Anna a former ballerina, that she needs to reduce the money that she sends her every month. However, when Anna shows up at her door saying living together would save money and be fun, Bel responds with dread that her mother’s perfectionist dragon mom persona will return.
Bel has remade herself three times. First, by running away with Euan. Second, by running away from Euan to open the Martini Club. Will either her mom, her husband or her money troubles force her to recreate herself again? If so, will she steal away with no warning as she had done in the past?
Bel is a genuine and sympathetic character. The setting within a London burlesque club is original. However, Anna and Euan seemed flat and one-note to me. I couldn’t get a clear read on their underlying motivations. Both just seemed selfish and shallow.
Martinis and Memories is a great beach read that will lift you out of your summer doldrums. Bel’s story is full of abrupt changes for the better and will surely motivate readers who may need to make some changes in their own life. There is a delicious recipe for a vodka espresso martini at the back of the book. The book does contain some strong language so it may not be appropriate for younger teens. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Canelo, for an advanced copy.
Posted in Romance Tagged with: Aug 13 2018, Burlesque, martini club
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, Romance Tagged with: Aug 7 2018