Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder By T.A. Willberg

Thank you to Park Row and Netgalley for gifting me a review copy in exchange for my honest review.

Publication Date: December 29, 2020

Publisher: Park Row

Pages: 336

Genre: Mystery; Historical

Rating: 4/5

This adventure filled mystery centers around Marion Lane who is a first year private detective apprentice at a secretive underground station. The book begins with a secretary at the agency, Mrs. White, being murdered and since this is a secret agency, we quickly learn that the list of suspects can be narrowed down to only people who work at the agency. At first, the murder doesn’t concern Marion much since she has a lot of work on her plate along with family drama to contend with. But when her mentor is framed for the murder she has no choice but to try to figure out who murdered Mrs. White.

Willberg has created a distinctive world set in the late 1950’s that is filled with technology and an interesting group of characters. I did find this story to be a bit slippery when it came to nailing down the details of the world and characters. It took quite a large chunk of the book for me to feel like I had a firm grasp on who some of these characters were. The more we learn about the world and get to know people more the more I enjoyed the story. And the story was a thrilling one involving some spooky details, nefarious characters and long held secrets.

I got strong Harry Potter vibes from this story since it is a pretty self contained building that Marion and her fellow apprentices are working at, as well as some other minor plot lines that occur. A big difference is that our characters are all adults and there is relatively low drama amongst them. I also loved all the Clue vibes (they even play Cluedo at one point!) and I think Willberg did a great job using these familiar tropes in a unique way.

I feel like this book, being the first in the series, really cemented the core of the world and the characters who fill it and the next book will just build on it. Which, I’m hoping means that I will find the next one easier to jump into since I did struggle quite a bit with the beginning of this book. If this book sounds like something you would enjoy then I do recommend you pick it up and try not to get discouraged by the rather slow beginning. It took me switching to an audiobook version for me to get past the first few chapters and I really enjoyed the narrator so I also recommend reading this book that way.

~Cassie

August TBR: ARC August Edition

I am in a desperate need to get a handle on all my Netgalley ARC’s so this month I am going to focus mostly on those and try to read as many as I can. With being so up and down with my health my Netgalley shelf has suffered and I would love to get a handle on it. Unfortunately, it is going to take more than just one month but I have to start somewhere, right? I actually completed my July TBR so I feel pretty confident that I can knock a lot of books off my list. I am planning on mood reading most of the ARCs I have so I don’t get burned out. However, I do have some books that I need to read for upcoming blog tours so I will share those with you. I also have one book that I am planning on reading this month that is not an ARC so I will share that first.

Literally Dead Book Club

Teddy Crutcher has won Teacher of the Year at the esteemed Belmont Academy, home to the best and brightest.

He says his wife couldn’t be more proud—though no one has seen her in a while.

Teddy really can’t be bothered with the death of a school parent that’s looking more and more like murder or the student digging a little too deep into Teddy’s personal life. His main focus is on pushing these kids to their full academic potential.

All he wants is for his colleagues—and the endlessly meddlesome parents—to stay out of his way.

It’s really too bad that sometimes excellence can come at such a high cost.

USA Today bestselling author Samantha Downing is back with her latest sneaky thriller set at a prestigious private school—complete with interfering parents, overeager students, and one teacher who just wants to teach them all a lesson…

Buzzwordathon

The buzzword for August is “time of day”. I have put this book on my TBR three times now so I’m hoping that I will actually read it this time!

The letter was short. A name, a time, a place.

Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder plunges readers into the heart of London, to the secret tunnels that exist far beneath the city streets. There, a mysterious group of detectives recruited for Miss Brickett’s Investigations & Inquiries use their cunning and gadgets to solve crimes that have stumped Scotland Yard.

Late one night in April 1958, a filing assistant for Miss Brickett’s named Michelle White receives a letter warning her that a heinous act is about to occur. She goes to investigate but finds the room empty. At the stroke of midnight, she is murdered by a killer she can’t see—her death the only sign she wasn’t alone. It becomes chillingly clear that the person responsible must also work for Miss Brickett’s, making everyone a suspect.

Almost unwillingly, Marion Lane, a first-year Inquirer-in-training, finds herself being drawn ever deeper into the investigation. When her friend and mentor is framed for the crime, to clear his name she must sort through the hidden alliances at Miss Brickett’s and secrets dating back to WWII. Masterful, clever and deliciously suspenseful, Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder is a fresh take on the Agatha Christie—style locked-room mystery with an exciting new heroine detective at the helm.

Blog Tours

Betrayal was just the beginning…

Melanie Hale is a devoted mother to her two children, a diligent caregiver to her ailing mother-in-law and a trusted neighbor in their wealthy Louisiana community. Above all, she’s a loving partner to her wonderful husband, Collin.

Then there are the parts of herself that Mel keeps hidden. She’s exhausted, worried and unfulfilled. So much so that one night, after a writers’ group meeting, Mel begins an affair with a successful local author named Luke. Suddenly she’s transformed into a role she doesn’t recognize—a woman who deceives with unseemly ease. A woman who might be capable of just about anything.

When Mel finds Luke’s dead body in his lavish rented house, she realizes just how high the stakes have become. Not only does she have to keep her affair a secret in order to preserve her marriage, but she desperately needs to avoid being implicated in Luke’s death. But who would want to kill him? Who else in her life is keeping secrets? And most terrifying of all, how far will they—and she—go to keep those secrets hidden?

From the author of When I Was You comes a spine-tingling new thriller about a mother’s worst nightmare come true, when her teenage daughter goes to a sleepover and doesn’t come back.

Whitney had some misgivings when she dropped her increasingly moody teenage daughter, Amelia, off at Lauren’s house. She’d never met the parents, and usually she’d go in, but Amelia clearly wasn’t going to let something so humiliating happen, so instead Whitney waved to her daughter before pulling away from the little house with the roses in front.

But when she goes back the next day, an elderly couple answers the door—Amelia and Lauren aren’t there, and this couple swears they never were, that she’s at the wrong house. As Whitney searches for Amelia, she uncovers a trail of lies her daughter has told her—from the Finsta account to rumors of a secret relationship. Does she really even know this girl she’s raised? And Amelia’s not the only one with secrets. Could Whitney’s own demons have something to do with her daughter’s disappearance, and can Whitney find her before it’s too late?

April French doesn’t do relationships and she never asks for more.

A long-standing regular at kink club Frankie’s, she’s kind of seen it all. As a trans woman, she’s used to being the scenic rest stop for others on their way to a happily-ever-after. She knows how desire works, and she keeps hers carefully boxed up to take out on weekends only.

After all, you can’t be let down if you never ask.

Then Dennis Martin walks into Frankie’s, fresh from Seattle and looking a little lost. April just meant to be friendly, but one flirtatious drink turns into one hot night.

When Dennis asks for her number, she gives it to him.

When he asks for her trust, well…that’s a little harder.

And when the desire she thought she had such a firm grip on comes alive with Dennis, April finds herself wanting passion, purpose and commitment.

But when their relationship moves from complicated to impossible, April will have to decide how much she’s willing to want.

~Cassie

Such A Quiet Place By Megan Miranda

Thank you to Netgalley and Simon and Schuster for providing with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Publication Date: July 13, 2021

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Pages: 352

Genre: Mystery

Rating: 4.5/5

This is a slow paced mystery that builds to a a very clever ending. The story starts off with Ruby, who just got out of prison due to her conviction being overturned, coming back to the neighborhood where she was accused of killing the couple next door. Our protagonist of this story is Harper, Ruby’s former roommate, and she is shocked when Ruby shows up at her house suddenly after being released. Harper actually testified on Ruby’s behalf during her trial but despite that and the overturned conviction she isn’t sure if Ruby is guilty or innocent. Alongside Ruby’s return Harper starts to receive menacing notes and realizes she needs to figure out exactly what happened that night a year ago.

The strongest part of this story for me was the characters and the locked room vibe of the story. The crime took place in a small community neighborhood where half the people also work at the same place. All the characters have something going on and since we only view them from Harper’s perspective we are never quite sure who we can or can’t trust. I also appreciated the fact that while the environment is seemingly wide open the actual plot kept it very contained. The neighborhood is just a regular one but because of the message board and the choices Miranda made the actual number of people who could have been involved is quite small. For that reason, I do think that you will not enjoy this book as much as I did if you don’t really care for character driven stories. The mystery was untangling before us but it happened at such a slow pace at times that if you need action for a story to matter to you then I would think twice about picking this particular mystery up. To me, the ending more then made up for whatever bits slowed the book down. It was a brilliant way to end the story while also remaining true to the message of the story. Which is how well do we really know our neighbors?

This is the third Megan Miranda book that I have read and I really enjoy her writing. She has such a methodical and mesmerizing way of unraveling a mystery. This would make a great beach/pool day read and I highly recommend to all my fellow mystery lovers. Or anyone in the market for a remarkable summer read.

~Cassie

His & Hers By Alice Feeney

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Publication Date: July 28, 2020

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Pages: 320

Genre: Thriller, Domestic thriller, Mystery

Rating: 4/5

His & Hers is a twisty tale filled with unreliable narrators with lots of secrets and an explosive ending. A woman is found murdered in the woods and we follow one of the detectives, Jack, and news reporter, Anna, as they are sucked into the investigation. As the story unfolds we also get flashbacks to when the characters were teenagers and we learn how the events from their past are related to what is happening currently.

We follow three narrators, Anna, Jack, and the killer which makes for a very interesting and enthralling read. There are constant reveals as the story is being told which makes it hard to put down. I had no clue as I was reading what was going to happen next. I did guess who the killer about half way through but that didn’t hamper my enjoyment at all. The beauty of this story is the way everything is slowly unraveled. I loved the back and forth way of telling the story primarily through Jack and Anna.

None of the characters are particularly likable which I think works because everyone that we meet in the story is suspicious. It does have the tired trope of an alcoholic British woman but I think Anna’s character is done in a way that it makes sense. This whole story takes place in two days which helps keep the pace of the book at a steady pace. I wasn’t a fan of how the flashbacks would happen seemingly out of nowhere. I would have preferred them to get their own chapter to help keep the format of the story consistent. However, the flashbacks not only (eventually) gave us the whole picture but they also served as a sort of foreshadowing of what was to come in the present storyline. There are a few trigger warnings though for things like sexual assault, rape, and the torture and mutilation of cats so please be aware of that.

Alice Feeney is the queen of the unreliable narrator and this book is no exception. This book does require some suspension of belief at certain points but overall Feeney does a great job of entertaining the reader. If you love domestic thrillers then this is one that I think you will really enjoy. It is getting to be that time of year where we are spending a lot of time outdoors and His & Hers would be a great one to throw into your bag and get lost into the world of Jack and Anna while you are at the pool/beach.

~Cassie

Tell No Lies By Allison Brennan

Thank you to MIRA for providing me with an ARC for this book in exchange for my honest review.

Publisher: MIRA

Publication Date: March 30, 2021

Pages: 432

Genre: Mystery, Crime

Rating: 4/5

Tell No Lies is Brennan’s second book in her Quinn and Costa series and where the first book in the series followed a serial killer, this book tackles a far more complex case involving environmental issues, drug and human trafficking among other legal issues. This book is very detailed and thorough which can make the story dense but I really enjoyed it because it felt like I was solving an authentic case with Matt Costa and his team.

Speaking of Costa and his team, I think this second book did a great job of incorporating more of the team and letting the reader get to know them better. Since the series is named after Kate Quinn and Matt Costa we know that they are going to be our primary focus but this book actually did a great job of spreading the story around to all the different team members. Both Detective Quinn and Agent Harris are working undercover for this case and that element was another brilliant choice by Brennan because we could authentically “see” what was happening from all aspects of the case.

Tell No Lies is like watching a movie or tv show come to life before your eyes which is a real testament to Brennan’s impeccable writing. Her attention to all the minute details is truly impressive and I admire her dedication to getting it all right. This book deals with some relevant and tough topics and some of it can be difficult to read, especially when it comes to the human trafficking aspect.

If you love crime procedurals then you will absolutely love this book. If you enjoy true crime then I also think this would be a great book to pick up because of how authentic it feels. You do have to put some time into watching the case slowly unfold which I don’t think every reader is going to want to do but I will link my blog tour post here for this book so you can check out the prologue of the story to see if you are interested in reading more.

~Cassie

Click here for my review of the first book in this series, Third to Die.

A Devotional Journey Through Proverbs By Our Daily Bread Ministries

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Publication Date: March 2, 2021

Publisher: Our Daily Bread Publishing

Pages: 152

Genre: Nonfiction, Bible Study

Rating: 4/5

This book is simply stunning inside and out with just as many calming and gorgeous leaves inside the covers as out. As beautiful as it it is, I also found it to be a very thought provoking look at the book of Proverbs and I do feel like I learned a lot from reading this. I do a daily Bible study every morning but this Lent season I was looking for a little bit more and this book provided that for me. Our Daily Journey has the daily Proverb to read plus additional commentary that relates the message to our lives a little more clearly. It also provides some historical context including the actual origin of some of the words that are used in the Bible that I found fascinating. Some of the historical elements did feel a little repetitive by the time we reached the end of the book and I wish they had gone for more of a variety of historical facts since I’m sure they are a plethora of things they could have chosen. Some of the days also included prayers that I found extremely helpful since my prayers are more conversations with God and I enjoyed having something structured. Overall, this is a book that I would love to include in my library and it could even be displayed since it is so beautiful and would be something nice to flip through occasionally now that I have read it.

~Cassie

Netgalley Review: We Went to the Woods by Caite Dolan-Leach

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for giving me a free copy of this book to read in exchange for my honest review.

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Title: We Went to the Woods

Author: Caite Dolan-Leach

Pages: 353

Genre: Adult Contemporary

Publication Date: July 2, 2019

Publisher: Random House

Rating: 4.5/5

This is my second Dolan-Leach novel this year and I can confidently say that she is a must read author for me. She is so incredibly talented at writing characters and compelling stories. We Went to the Woods is a story about a group of five friends who decide live off the grid and start their own commune. Two members of the group are hardcore environmentalists who are against anything unnatural happening to the earth. The other members of the commune are just interested in their friendship group and commune living. The group also has a close friendship with some members of another commune living nearby.  This story is told all from the perspective of Mack who has a shady past involving a reality show and another commune and who is extremely interested in the past history of the other communes who live/lived in and around their property.

Over time I found myself really invested in the members of the group and where their story was heading. From the very beginning the author lets the reader know that something bad happened to the group and Mack is telling us the story of how the group came to be and all the events that lead up to the terrible thing that happened. I was also happily surprised to see that some characters from the Dolan-Leach’s first book popped up in this story. It adds another level of excitement for me when it comes to her third book because I can’t wait to see if there is further overlap in her stories.

If you love character driven books I really think you would enjoy this. Also for anyone, like me, who is interested in cults you will really like the different perspectives this book gives for them. It is more of a background of how cults get started and innocuous they can start off. There is also a side story where Mack is investigating a commune (or better referred to as a cult) that existed a hundred years ago. We get glimpses into that group and what led to their downfall. For me, I find cults so fascinating because I don’t understand what draws people to them and this book really opened my eyes to how harmless and ordinary they can start off as/ be.

~Cassie

ARC Review: The Honeymoon by Rona Halsall

Thank you to Netgalley and Bookotoure for allowing me to read this book early in exchange for my honest review.

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Title: The Honeymoon

Author: Rona Halsall

Pages: 314

Publisher: Bookotoure

Publication Date: June 7, 2019

Genre: Thriller

Rating: 4/5

‘I’m your husband, Chloe. We’re a partnership now and we do what’s best for us as a couple. Staying here is going to be the best option.’ He picked up his drink and took a sip. ‘It’s not open for discussion. We’re not going home.’

Chloe had the dream wedding. Dan is her perfect man. They haven’t known each other for long, but as she walked down the aisle and saw him standing by the altar, tears glistening in his eyes, she knew this was forever.

Later, as they relax on a beautiful island, settling in to their new married life together, they congratulate themselves on their lovely wedding day, and Dan jokes that he’d like them to stay there forever.

But as the honeymoon goes on, he becomes increasingly adamant. They shouldn’t leave. In fact, he won’t let her…

An utterly gripping psychological thriller for fans of Gillian Flynn, Clare Mackintosh, and The Wife Between Us.

Goodreads

This is a better than average domestic thriller. I really liked the way the main character, Chloe, is always questioning and rationalizing her thinking when it comes to her husband Dan. She knows that things are wrong and instead of blindly going along with it she stands up for herself. Sometimes, it feels like too much rationalizing on her part but overall I think the author, Rona Halsall, does a good job of not making Chloe a doormat. Chloe and Dan’s relationship was definitely rushed but at the same time it felt authentic. I fully believed that Chloe loves Dan and I could feel her pain and confusion over what was happening.

In the beginning of the book there are flashbacks and I didn’t like that it didn’t continue throughout the whole story. If you are familiar with my reviews you know that I am big on how a story is formatted. I would have preferred for the book to keep the same flow throughout the story. Also, there were a few times where there were flashbacks within flashbacks and I didn’t find them necessary.

I enjoyed the bulk of the story from when the honeymoon starts until the ending. It was well paced and I liked all the revelations that came out. The ending felt a bit over the top for me but it was still a fun read. I also really enjoyed the whole character arc for Chloe and the growth that she makes as a character. The unpredictably of Dan made the book very suspenseful as well because I was never quite sure what he was going to do or how far he was going to go.

I think that a lot of people would enjoy this book. If you are a fan of romance and/or thrillers then I definitely suggest you check this book out. It does a fabulous job of pushing the limits on what seems like a basic domestic thriller.

~Cassie

ARC Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Griffin for letting me read an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

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Title: Red, White & Royal Blue

Author: Casey McQuiston

Pages: 425

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Publication Date: May 14, 2019

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Queer

Rating: 5/5

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which the First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

Goodreads

I don’t read a lot of romance but when I read the synopsis of this book I instantly wanted to read it because it is such an original idea. And it definitely delivered. I am obsessed with the romance between Alex and Henry and I loved how real their relationship felt. I can honestly spend pages gushing about how freaking cute the two of them are together but I want you all to discover that all on your own.

In fact, all the relationships in this book are incredibly well done and realistically told. All the flaws felt so real and the characters were all so well rounded. Also, this gives such a positive spin on politics and politicians and it was a breath of fresh air from the world that we live in. The characters were all working towards making the world a better place and it was done in a really non confrontational way.

This is a world that I want to live in. I was crying at the end of this book because I so badly want this to be the kind of world that my boys have when they are older. Where all our differences are celebrated and it’s ok to love whoever we want. Where people are strong enough to push past old ideas and ways of thinking. But it’s done from a place of love and compassion and not from a negative place.

Honestly, this book is just amazing and I really hope that everyone gives it a chance. This is such a positive book with an amazing love story that I think so many people will relate to. I liked how much Alex grew as a character throughout the story and watching him fall in love with Henry was one of the sweetest things I have ever read.

~Cassie

ARC Review: The Night Before by Wendy Walker

Thank you to Netgalley and St.Martin’s Press for allowing me to read an early copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

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Title: The Night Before

Author: Wendy Walker

Pages: 320

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Publication Date: May 14, 2019

Genre: Thriller

Rating: 2.5/5

First dates can be murder.

Riveting and compulsive, national bestselling author Wendy Walker’s The Night Before “takes you to deep, dark places few thrillers dare to go” as two sisters uncover long-buried secrets when an internet date spirals out of control.

Laura Lochner has never been lucky in love. She falls too hard and too fast, always choosing the wrong men. Devastated by the end of her last relationship, she fled her Wall Street job and New York City apartment for her sister’s home in the Connecticut suburb where they both grew up. Though still haunted by the tragedy that’s defined her entire life, Laura is determined to take one more chance on love with a man she’s met on an Internet dating site.

Rosie Ferro has spent most of her life worrying about her troubled sister. Fearless but fragile, Laura has always walked an emotional tightrope, and Rosie has always been there to catch her. Laura’s return, under mysterious circumstances, has cast a shadow over Rosie’s peaceful life with her husband and young son – a shadow that grows darker as Laura leaves the house for her blind date.

When Laura does not return home the following morning, Rosie fears the worst. She’s not responding to calls or texts, and she’s left no information about the man she planned to meet. As Rosie begins a desperate search to find her sister, she is not just worried about what this man might have done to Laura. She’s worried about what Laura may have done to him…

Goodreads

This is my second Wendy Walker book and I think she does a fabulous job writing characters. She does such a great job of putting the reader inside the character’s heads and making them feel so real. There were obviously some things I didn’t like about this book but her characters were a high point.

For most of the book I thought this was going to be a three star read because while I do enjoy her characters I didn’t connect to the actual story the way I wanted to. There were a few things that I didn’t see coming but I figured out the final twist pretty early on. Since I figured out the end twist so early I was really just anxious to get to that point so I don’t think I enjoyed the lead up to there as much as I could have.

The pacing of the story is really well done though so I feel confident that most of my problems with this book are an “it’s me not you” situation. The story is told from both Laura and her sister Rosie’s perspectives as well as parts of Laura’s therapy sessions. All these different parts helped tell the story in a suspenseful way. Things would build up to something and then it would switch to another perspective. Because of that this book just flies by and I really liked all the different reveals.

Some of the things that I didn’t like would be spoilers so I can’t really go into them. I can tell you that I knocked half a star off at the very end because I really don’t like when authors booksplain (I heard this recently and thought it was genius). I don’t need pages at the end of the story to explain things to me. If an author feels it is necessary than maybe a paragraph at the most but any more than that and it comes across as lazy storytelling. Sorry if that seems harsh but booksplaining is one of my bookish pet peeves.

Overall, this is an average (average doesn’t equal bad!) thriller that I think anyone who is a fan of thrillers will enjoy. I know I rated it low but I did enjoy 99% of this book. I also think that someone who enjoys women’s fiction would also like this book because a lot of Laura’s story has to do with dating and relationships. I am also going to link the other Wendy Walker book that I read because I gave that one four stars and I do think she is so great at fleshing out characters. Also, if you aren’t familiar with the name Wendy Walker I bet most of you have heard of her last book Emma in the Night. I think she has written five novels and I plan on reading all of them.

All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

~Cassie