Book Review: The Rising Tide

In Ann Cleeves’ 10th Vera Stanhope mystery, The Rising Tide, the same group of friends have been meeting regularly for the last fifty years. They reunite at Holy Island off the coast in Northumberland —a place connected to the mainland by a causeway that is covered twice a day by the tide. They are there to celebrate the school trip where they all first met as teens and to remember the friend that they lost to those same deadly tidewaters at their first reunion.

In present day, on their first morning together, one from their group is found hanged. Rick Kelsall, a local celebrity and former journalist who was recently fired due to sexual assault complaints, is suspected to have committed suicide. When Northumberland Inspector Vera Stanhope is called in, she immediately suspects foul play and is more than a little delighted when she learns that the man has been murdered after all.

Vera’s team, family man Sergeant Joe Ashworth and Constable Holly Clarke join her as Vera leans there is more to the story than she thought. Soon, another member of the schoolmates has been killed and things get even more complex when Vera learns that the group has ties to her own Police Chief Commissioner Katherine Willmore. Vera, tenacious, intuitive and often underestimated, will get the killer, even if it’s one of her own.

Purists will want to start with book 1, The Crow Trap, but otherwise, don’t be afraid to jump right in with this latest entry in an award-winning police procedural series. With its atmospheric setting with its dangers of the rising tide, a complex plot filled with twists and turns and an absolute shocker of an ending that left me speechless, The Rising Tide is not to be missed.


New Historical Fiction

by Noelle Salazar

In 1940 during WWII, the Nazis occupied Haarlem, Netherlands. Lien and older sister Elif were teenagers when this happened. Both wanted to become part of the Dutch Resistance. Elif joined first. Before their father passed away, he taught the girls how to shoot. The pair underwent demanding training in order to become essential members of the Resistance. They were called upon to blow up bridges and trains, throw grenades, detonate bombs and occasionally kill someone. Lien became the marksman which became particularly useful on some of their assigned missions.

A great book for fans of WWII fiction!

The book is based on real-life sister operatives, sisters Truus and Freddie Oversteegen.


Book Review: Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson

The narrator of Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson, Ernest “Ern” Cunningham self-publishes how-to guides for would-be crime novelists. Ern, a fan of Golden Age mysteries like those of Conan Doyle and Christie, stresses to budding writers the need to follow Ronald Knox’s ten commandments of crime fiction. Ern mostly follows his own advice as he sets out to write this novel about his family, whose members have all indeed killed someone.

Ern has been on the outs with his family for several years—ever since he gave evidence in a murder trial that led to the incarceration of his brother Michael. Now that Michael is to be released, Ern has been ordered to attend a family reunion at a ski resort in the Australian Snowy Mountains. The morning after the Cunninghams arrive at the resort, a body of a stranger is found in the snow. When the local incompetent policeman arrives and arrests Michael for the crime, Ern decides to investigate what really happened.

Along the way, Ern shares his murderous family’s every dirty secret and dysfunction and leaves red herrings at every turn. Not only does Ern constantly break the fourth wall and talk directly to his readers about his story’s structure and the murderer’s possible motives, he also gives a head’s up when a scene or clue is important to the mystery’s resolution. Conversely, he also takes great pleasure in holding information back until it suits his needs. The result is a less than reliable narrator delivering up a sometimes-hilarious and totally engrossing classic crime story with a modern twist.

If you enjoy family dramas, clever locked-room mysteries solved by the use of logic, and quirky reads with plenty of laugh out loud moments, add Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone to your “to be read” pile. This first in a planned series has already been picked up for adaptation by HBO too. Get in on the ground floor and read it first!


Looking for a Sweet Read?

Raised by her Navy Admiral father, spoiled-rotten social influencer Maddy Montgomery’s life is pretty cushy until she is left at the altar by her successful doctor fiancé, and her dreams of being the perfect housewife are dashed. Coincidentally, Maddy has just inherited her Great-Aunt Octavia’s home and bakery. Because Octavia lived in New Bison, Michigan and not L. A., Maddy decides she will sell the lot to get back on her feet.

Upon arriving in New Bison to handle the sale, however, Maddy learns that her inheritance has strings attached. Per Octavia’s will, Maddy must live in the house and run the bakery for a full year before selling. Octavia has also left Maddy a not-so-little something else – in the form of a loving and fiercely protective, 200-pound slobbering English Mastiff named Baby!

Maddy doesn’t know the first thing about dogs, and she can’t even boil an egg. Lucky for her, she is welcomed with open arms by the delightful group of workers at Baby Cakes Bakery. They’ll even let Maddy continue hosting their monthly Sherlock Holmes mystery club and try to teach her to bake. But not everyone is happy that Maddy has come to town, and within 36 hours of her arrival, she is accused of murder and will need all the help she can get solving the crime.

Two Parts Sugar, One Part Murder by Valerie Burns is a delightful cozy mystery with a well-developed cast of characters, plenty of humor, delicious recipes to try at home and the most adorable giant dog I’ve read about in a long time. Don’t miss this fantastic start to a new series that will leave you eagerly awaiting the sequel.


Looking for a Bit of Romance?

Marlowe Banks, a talented Broadway costume designer ran off to L.A. after her last play’s design was panned. At the same time, Marlowe broke off her engagement to a fiancé who only made her feel bad about herself. Having taken a huge step down, Marlowe now works as a lowly production assistant on the cheesy hit television show, Heart’s Diner. Her boss is demanding, and her tasks are mostly menial, but at least, Marlowe rationalizes, she is still in the game.

The day that Marlowe accidentally dumps coffee on the show’s bad-boy megastar Angus Gordon, she is mortified. She is forced into his orbit again later that same week when she saves the day by stepping in front of the camera and into a walk-on role as a waitress. When the episode airs, a steamy look has been caught on film between Marlowe and Angus. Soon, the whole world starts “shipping” their characters. The writers give Marlowe more scenes, requiring more one-on-one time between her and Angus. But when Angus decides he wants to get to know the real Marlowe, off-screen, it’s going to take a lot more than a little charm to convince Marlow that Angus isn’t the arrogant actor he appears to be.

Marlowe Banks, Redesigned by Jacqueline Firkins is the best kind of contemporary romance –a smart and sexy slow burn with a thoughtful plot and compelling, believable and strong characters. If you loved The Devil Wears Prada, you’ll want to place your hold here –and then, be prepared to swoon!


Book Review: Lark Ascending by Silas House

In a future where fires ravage a North America that is run by extreme right-wing fundamentalists, 20-year-old Lark and his family have hidden away in the mountains of Maine for several years undisturbed. When ecological disasters begin to threaten their safety, their group secures passage on a boat headed to Ireland. After a terrible voyage they land, but only Lark has survived. Alone, he begins a harrowing journey by foot in search of Glendalough, a camp rumored to provide asylum. Along the way, Lark gains two companions – a dog named Seamus and Helen, a local woman who is familiar with the roads and the dangers of traveling them.

Lark Ascending by Silas House is a post-apocalyptic novel that is gorgeously written. Told by Lark at age 90, this novel about climate change, human behavior, resilience, survival and love will break your heart a few times on the way to its ultimately hopeful conclusion. Fans of Station Eleven and The Road should put this at the top of their to-read lists.


YA Book Review: Live Your Best Lie by Jessie Weaver

Summer Cartwright is a 16-year-old influencer living a charmed Hollywood, California life. She’s rich, well-connected, and she just signed a massive book deal for an upcoming tell-all style memoir. When a new post from Summer’s Instagram account announces that the social media star will be dead in the next five minutes, the guests are her Halloween party think it’s just part of the entertainment. Her friends know different. That’s not Summer’s brand. Something is wrong. There were right-Summer was actually dead. As the police begin to investigate, those closest to Summer begin their own search for the killer. The suspect list keeps growing as the motive for the murder appears to be the book she was working on. If Summer was dead, would the book and the dark secrets it was set to reveal go away?

Told from the points of view of Summer’s bff, Grace, Summer’s ex-boyfriend Adam, Summer’s number one fan, Cora, and her one-time roommate, Lanie, Live Your Best Lie is a twisted, suspenseful debut. The narrator does an excellent job of juggling the various character points of view as well as flashbacks, but the inclusion of social media posts and comments, police interviews, and newspaper articles make for an interesting read. A delightfully wicked read as well as a timely cautionary tale-social media never tells the whole story and influencers only show what they want you to see.

Hand this to fans of Karen McManus and Maureen Johnson and anyone else who likes to solve the puzzle along with the characters. The clues are there for the clever reader, but so are the red herrings. Readers who make it to the end will be rewarded with a final twist you won’t see coming.

Thank you to Netgalley, Disney Audiobooks, and Melissa de la Cruz Studios for an advanced reader copy.

A Page-Turner to Pick Up

by Dan Chaon

Will Bear lives off the grid and travels across the country with his 60-pound Pitbull named Flip. Will works as a ‘fixer’ in order to clear his and his terrible mother’s debts, and his jobs are most often illegal ones, like assisting with black-market adoptions and cleaning up murder sites and sometimes worse. Will goes by at least six other aliases and carries multiple burner phone in order to stay untraceable, and he micro-doses LSD daily in order to cope with his PTSD – which makes the line between the reality and imaginary more than a little fuzzy for him.

It is between gigs when Will receives a call from a young woman named Cammie, who claims to be his daughter. Will, a one-time prolific sperm donor, wants to believe that Cammie is the real deal, but also thinks that his boss, a shadowy organization that he distrusts, might be trying to lure him to his demise. And how would Cammie, a stranger, have access to one of his burner phone numbers anyway?

Set in a near future where implants monitor the country’s population and an ecological disaster has left New York City underwater, this unconventional buddy road trip and adventure novel makes for a dangerous and rough ride. Though not for every reader, Sleepwalk by Dan Chaon is a mix of dystopian, crime and literary fiction that stars a big-hearted contract killer who is desperate to make a real connection. Don’t miss this unusual, compelling and unforgettable read by one of my favorite Ohio authors.


Stay In…With a Laugh Out Loud Read

Ms. Demeanor
by Elinor Lipman

Jane Morgan, a 39-year-old attorney, is caught having sex on the roof of her high-rise Manhattan apartment at midnight by a nosy neighbor with binoculars. Jane is charged with indecent exposure and is both fired from her firm and sentenced to six months of home confinement.

Jane’s perpetual cheerleader and current bill payer, her identical twin sister Jackleen, encourages Jane to use this down time to embrace her love of cooking by demonstrating old fashioned recipes on TikTok. When Jane discovers and introduces herself to (coincidentally) a neighbor who is also under house arrest, Jackleen prompts Jane to charge him for three home cooked meals a week.

Perry, who wears a less-than-fashionable location-monitoring ankle bracelet of his own, is intrigued by Jane as they spend time together over her meals. Eventually, the two begin to share in other evening activities —making things awkward when Jackleen decides she wants to date Perry, too.

Cabin fever gets the best of Jane, and she takes things a bit too far when she learns that her peeping tom (aka the witness to nudity on the rooftop and reason for Jane’s home incarceration) has died. Jane is curious if there was foul play and gets her parents to attend the woman’s wake —resulting in Jane inadvertently orchestrating a “green card” wedding for a Polish expatriate whose Visa has expired.

If this all sounds a bit mad-cap, it is! This novel is equal parts romance, mystery, comedy, and sibling rivalry story. Pick up Ms. Demeanor by the always witty Elinor Lipman. This quick read with its snarky lead character, breezy banter and hilarious hi-jinx will leave you laughing out loud.


The Further Adventures of Finlay Donovan

Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun by Elle Cosimano is the third book in the Finlay Donovan series. This newest addition picks up where book two leaves off, so it’s best to read them in order. Click on the covers to find these titles in the catalog.

Here’s a quick recap:

Finlay Donovan is a stressed-out writer and mother to two young children with a deadline, writer’s block, and an infuriating ex-husband. She does not need any more drama in her life, but that’s exactly what she gets after a meeting with her agent in a crowded coffee shop. Overhearing Finlay describe the plot of her new book, a customer mistakes her for a contract killer. Before she knows it, Finlay accidentally finds herself involved in a real life crime! Book two brings back Finlay and the motely crew she gathered in the book one-Vero, her nanny with a secret past and Detective Nick Anthony, the dreamy hot cop. This time it appears that Finlay is not the only one who’s done with her Stephen, her ex. On top of everything else, he seems to have attracted the attention of the Russian mob! Which brings us to book three. The unresolved issues of the previous book are still in play, so it seems like a risky move to enroll in the Citizen’s Police Academy, but that’s exactly what Finlay and Vero do. Danger, romance, and hilarity ensue. Vero’s past secret is revealed, as is the identity of the mysterious hitman, EasyClean, but fans will rejoice in the knowledge that there are still loose ends and further adventures of Finlay and Vero to come.

This series is pure addictive escapism. Non-stop shenanigans, close calls, and toddler antics are par for the course with Finlay and Vero. Fans of witty banter, will-they-won’t-they sexual tension, and the ugly realities of parenthood with enjoy this series. Finlay and Vero are quite the dynamic duo and the love interests are dreamy.

Finlay Donovan Jumps the Gun is available January 31, 2023. Thank you to Netgalley and Minotaur Books for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.