Arc Review: Death Checked Out by Leah Dobrinska

Title: Death Checked Out
Author: Leah Dobrinska
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Cozy Mystery
Publication Date: December 6th, 2022
Publisher: Level Best Books
Rating: ⭐⭐✨

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“When in doubt, go to the library…and solve the murder mystery!
Greta Plank, library director in the small, lakeside town of Larkspur, Wisconsin, prefers her rose-tinted glasses extra rosy, thank you very much. It’s how she copes with the hard stuff in life…like her sister’s death and her ex-boyfriend’s deception. But Greta’s cheery resolve takes a hit when she stumbles upon a dead body on her way home from work. What she assumes is a terrible accident Greta soon learns is something more sinister, and to make matters worse, a new-to-town detective cites her as not only his primary source for the case, but his top suspect.
To clear her name and save her reputation, Greta decides to do some off-the-books clue cataloging of her own. After all, asking questions is what she does best. With the help of her fellow librarians and her lawyer mom, Greta flips through the pages of the murder, uncovering details about Larkspur’s real estate market and the deceased’s rare book collection as she tries to understand why anyone would have authored his death.
With friends and neighbors stacking up as both victims and suspects, Greta must cross reference the facts and put a hold on her idyllic worldview if she wants to get the full story without paying the fine of her life.” (Goodreads)

I’ve been getting into cozy mysteries a lot more and when I saw this one on Netgalley I figured why not give it a try! It had a librarian as the MC and that’s pretty cool to me.

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Greta who is a small-town library director. I didn’t think that she was a bad character in any way, but I didn’t feel a connection towards her or any of the other characters. They all just felt very basic and it didn’t feel like anyone had a personality. I think this is why I had such a hard time getting into the book. The romance, start of it/love interest, didn’t feel natural and I wasn’t a fan.

It doesn’t take long in the beginning to get the murder mystery started. I was actually kind of sad with the choice of the first victim and I didn’t even know them that well, ha. The best part of this book was definitely the murder mystery. I didn’t guess who it was or what the reasoning would be. The author does a good job keeping the reader off the trail and that can be hard to do.

Overall, this an alright read. I do wish the characters had a bit more personality. I think it would have helped to make this book shine. I did at least like the mystery!


Book Review: Buried in a Good Book by Tamara Berry

Title: Buried in a Good Book (By the Book Mysteries #1)
Author: Tamara Berry
Genre: Adult Cozy Mystery / Contemporary
Publication Date: May 24th, 2022
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

“A thriller writer who knows way more than anyone should about death and dismemberment
Her young daughter who’s more intrigued by dead bodies than she probably should be
An isolated cabin in the woods that’s probably―definitely―hiding something
The tiny mountain town that seems less than troubled by a sudden abundance of murders
Bestselling thriller writer Tess Harrow is almost at the end of her rope when she arrives with her teenage daughter at her grandfather’s rustic cabin in the woods. She hopes this will be a time for them to heal and bond after Tess’s recent divorce, but they’ve barely made it through the door when an explosion shakes the cabin. Suddenly it’s raining fish guts and…is that a human arm?
Tess was hardly convincing Gertie that a summer without Wi-Fi and running water would be an adventure. Now she’s thrust into a murder investigation, neighbors are saying they’ve spotted Bigfoot in the woods near her cabin, and the local sheriff is the spitting image of her character Detective Gabriel Gonzales―something he’s less than thrilled about. With so much more than her daughter’s summer plans at stake, it’s up to Tess to solve this case before anyone else gets hurt.” (Goodreads)

I was looking forward to this one after I saw it mentioned on here from Wendy W @ The Bashful Bookworm. If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have known about it!

The book is told from one point-of-view and it comes from Tess Harrow who is a bestselling thriller author. Her career definitely made the book more fun as there were distinct details from her books that made its way into reality, like the sheriff. A lot of the townsfolk have read her books as well. It’s always great to read a book that is also bookish in nature.

Tess Harrow is a very daring character. Her and her daughter end up in wild predicaments and Tess doesn’t let danger stop her from finding out the truth. I liked that she was a good mom and would do anything for her daughter, even if that meant letting go. It’s a tough thing to do but I admire Tess.

The sheriff was one of my favorite characters. He is very grumpy and goes by the book. I thought that him and Tess were an unlikely pair but they played off each other well.

I was very surprised by the plot and was definitely invested from the beginning. It is well paced and I wasn’t expecting the killer to be who it was. That is always a good thing!

Overall, this was a fun cozy mystery and I can’t wait to continue on with the series.

Arc Review: Spells for Forgetting by Adrienne Young

Title: Spells for Forgetting
Author: Adrienne Young
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Mystery / Magical Realism
Publication Date: September 27th, 2022
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“Emery Blackwood’s life changed forever the night her best friend was found dead and the love of her life, August Salt, was accused of murdering her. Years later, she is doing what her teenage self swore she never would: living a quiet existence on the misty, remote shores of Saoirse Island and running the family’s business, Blackwood’s Tea Shoppe Herbal Tonics & Tea Leaf Readings.
But when the island, rooted in folklore and magic, begins to show signs of strange happenings, Emery knows that something is coming. The morning she wakes to find that every single tree on Saoirse has turned color in a single night, August returns for the first time in fourteen years and unearths the past that the town has tried desperately to forget.
August knows he is not welcome on Saiorse, not after the night everything changed. As a fire raged on at the Salt family orchard, Lily Morgan was found dead in the dark woods, shaking the bedrock of their tight-knit community and branding August a murderer. When he returns to bury his mother’s ashes, he must confront the people who turned their backs on him and face the one wound from his past that has never healed—Emery.
The town has more than one reason to want August gone, and the emergence of deep betrayals and hidden promises spanning generations threaten to reveal the truth behind Lily’s mysterious death once and for all.” (Goodreads)

Let me just start by saying that I did like parts of this book. It isn’t a bad book. It’s a quick read and can be very atmospheric. The problem lies with how long it took me to get into the book and how the ending was lackluster to say the least.

The book is told from multiple point-of-views. Everyone that lives on this island has secrets and they aren’t going to let them out willingly. I can’t say that I had a character I liked more than the others. They were all okay and a few felt like they were only present for a couple scenes so I can’t say I ever got to know them all. That’s fine because this is a mystery after all.

There are a couple relationships that are key factors and do play into the plot but it’s a very subtle thing. Don’t go in expecting a lot on the romance level because you will not find it here. Again, that’s fine. It’s more about the mystery anyways.

It did take me awhile to get into the book. I don’t think I really wanted to continue reading until about the 25%ish mark or so. From there it kind of picks up. I will say that I am not sold on there being secrets and nothing really coming of it until further into the book. I understand it is to keep you reading but you are going to have to give me a little something something to keep me engaged.

The ending was the real deal breaker here. It was one of the most anti-climatic endings I have ever read. Some people may enjoy it, but it wasn’t for me.

Overall, this had it’s moments and I did like 2/3rds of it. I think that it will work for a lot people and maybe some will find the ending to be tolerable lol.

Audiobook Review: The Weekend Away by Sarah Alderson

Title: The Weekend Away
Author: Sarah Alderson
Genre: Adult Mystery / Thriller
Publication Date: April 13th, 2020
Publisher: Avon
Rating: ⭐⭐

“Miles from home. Trust no one. Suspect everyone.
Orla and Kate have been best friends forever. Together they’ve faced it all – be it Orla’s struggles as a new mother or Kate’s messy divorce. And whatever else happens in their lives, they can always look forward to their annual weekend away.
This year, they’re off to Lisbon: the perfect flat, the perfect view, the perfect itinerary. And what better way to kick things off in style than with the perfect night out?
But when Orla wakes up the next morning, Kate is gone. Brushed off by the police and with only a fuzzy memory of the night’s events, Orla is her friend’s only hope. As she frantically retraces their steps, Orla makes a series of shattering discoveries that threaten everything she holds dear. Because while Lisbon holds the secret of what happened that night, the truth may lie closer to home…” (Goodreads)

I picked this one up as an audiobook solely for the fact that it said Netflix, lol. It gets me every time!

Although there were some interesting elements, it just didn’t work for me. There were a lot of plot points and twists from characters to make you stay off track as to who it really was. Did I figure it out? No, but I wasn’t surprised to find out who actually did it. I didn’t like the ending since it was also open-ended and that just isn’t my thing.

None of the characters were likeable, not even the main character. She made really poor choices which also added to the plot but it didn’t make it likeable and so I could care less about her problems.

That’s honestly all I have to say about it, lol. I’m just not a fan of all the drama in thrillers and so it wasn’t to my taste and that is okay.

Arc Review: The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

Title: The Woman in the Library
Author: Sulari Gentill
Genre: Adult Mystery / Thriller
Publication Date: June 7th, 2022
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Rating: ⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

In every person’s story, there is something to hide…

The ornate reading room at the Boston Public Library is quiet, until the tranquility is shattered by a woman’s terrified scream. Security guards take charge immediately, instructing everyone inside to stay put until the threat is identified and contained. While they wait for the all-clear, four strangers, who’d happened to sit at the same table, pass the time in conversation and friendships are struck. Each has his or her own reasons for being in the reading room that morning—it just happens that one is a murderer.” (Goodreads)

This one, from the blurb, sounded like something up my alley. Never thought I would read about a murder in a library but here we are, lol.

I’m not going to lie, I had a hard time with this one. It was really due to the writing itself. I couldn’t connect to it in any way and it also didn’t add much to the personality of the characters. They felt a bit flat and made the book more plot driven than anything.

There are also these letters that are written by one of the character spread out between the book. They weren’t a favorite and kind of distracted me from the main plot. Since this is how the book started, I actually didn’t realize it was part of the book and thought the dedication had been in the front of the book. *facepalm*

Although there were some interesting plot twists that I didn’t see coming, it just didn’t make up for the disconnect from the writing.

Overall, I wish I had liked this one but every writing style won’t be made for me.

Arc Review: Under Lock & Skeleton Key (Secret Staircase Mystery #1) by Gigi Pandian

Title: Under Lock & Skeleton Key (Secret Staircase Mystery #1)
Author: Gigi Pandian
Genre: Adult Mystery / Cozy Mystery
Publication Date: March 22nd, 2022
Publisher: Minotaur
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“An impossible crime. A family legacy. The intrigue of hidden rooms and secret staircases.

After a disastrous accident derails Tempest Raj’s career, and life, she heads back to her childhood home in California to comfort herself with her grandfather’s Indian home-cooked meals. Though she resists, every day brings her closer to the inevitable: working for her father’s company. Secret Staircase Construction specializes in bringing the magic of childhood to all by transforming clients’ homes with sliding bookcases, intricate locks, backyard treehouses, and hidden reading nooks.

When Tempest visits her dad’s latest renovation project, her former stage double is discovered dead inside a wall that’s supposedly been sealed for more than a century. Fearing she was the intended victim, it’s up to Tempest to solve this seemingly impossible crime. But as she delves further into the mystery, Tempest can’t help but wonder if the Raj family curse that’s plagued her family for generations—something she used to swear didn’t exist—has finally come for her.” (Goodreads)

I’m not sure why I have never given cozy mysteries a chance until recently but I am glad I have! They are fun to read and very addictive. That was exactly the case for this one and I couldn’t help but want to binge it to find out who the murderer was.

The book follows Tempest Raj, a magician who almost died on stage and has come back home after the accident and derailment of her career. It’s not the first time that an accident has happened on stage when it comes to her family either. The Raj family has a curse that surrounds them and she hasn’t believed it until now.

I was very intrigued with Tempest and her career as a magician. Magic has always been fascinating and this book includes cool illusions and even mysterious houses with secret hidden ways. I liked learning about how she came to be involved with magic as well as the history of her family since she comes from a long line of magicians. She has always wondered who she is and where she belongs. I liked reading about her trying to piece it altogether in not-so-great circumstances. It made her feel real. Tempest is strong willed and even if those around her think she is in danger, she will stop at nothing to solve the mystery. It’s definitely very admirable, although dangerous!

Mysteries have always been fun because I get to try and figure out who did it as well with the information I have been handed throughout the book. To be honest, I really thought I had it but I was way in left field when I needed to be in right, haha. Although not figuring it out is also great because it means the story wasn’t predictable and it left me surprised with the reveal!

Besides the mystery, there is a couple of other things involved in the plot. I could see Tempest ending up in a relationship eventually since there could be a love triangle brewing. I also liked seeing Tempest rekindle an old friendship. This book will also make you quite hungry with all the talk that is surrounded by food!

Even though the bigger mystery of the book is solved by the end, the reader is still left wondering about the family curse. Since I see that this will be a series, it makes me even more curious and excited to read the next in hopes we find out more about it.

Overall, I liked this one a lot as it kept me intrigued throughout. I will definitely be looking out for the next in the series.

Arc Review: Homicide and Halo-Halo (Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery #2) by Mia P. Manansala

Title: Homicide and Halo-Halo (Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery #2)
Author: Mia P. Manansala
Genre: Adult Cozy Mystery / Contemporary
Publication Date: February 8th, 2022
Publisher: Berkley Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a complimentary earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“Things are heating up for Lila Macapagal. Not in her love life, which she insists on keeping nonexistent despite the attention of two very eligible bachelors. Or her professional life, since she can’t bring herself to open her new caf� after the unpleasantness that occurred a few months ago at her aunt’s Filipino restaurant, Tita Rosie’s Kitchen. No, things are heating up quite literally, since summer, her least favorite season, has just started.

To add to her feelings of sticky unease, Lila’s little town of Shady Palms has resurrected the Miss Teen Shady Palms Beauty Pageant, which she won many years ago–a fact that serves as a wedge between Lila and her cousin slash rival, Bernadette. But when the head judge of the pageant is murdered and Bernadette becomes the main suspect, the two must put aside their differences and solve the case–because it looks like one of them might be next.” (Goodreads)

After enjoying the first book to this cozy mystery series, I was excited to get started on the sequel. There were some interesting conversations to be had when it comes to women and how sleazy men can be. It also has descriptions of delicious food that made me hungry while reading! Unfortunately, some of the book did lack in areas and because of that it took me longer to finish.

The book is told from the point-of-view of one character and that is Lila Macapagal. She is dealing with the aftermath of what happened in the first book. Lila also finds herself swooped into another mystery when a fellow judge is found dead. She definitely has her hands full as she tries to solve the mystery, deal with her mental health, and make recipes for her new business adventure.

When it came to the plot, there was a lot going on. The first book ended with Lila making plans to go into business with her friend and the friend’s girlfriend. I thought that this would be a big part of the sequel but it was actually very minor. Even her friend wasn’t around as much. This may be due to new characters since the mystery now focuses on a pageant and the judges. The mystery also felt lackluster compared to the first. I just wasn’t as invested sadly.

There is a big focus on family and learning to deal with the past and the emotions that come with it instead of bottling it up. She also tries to understand her cousin more even if it is hard. I did like reading about Lila’s family once again. They are a great group! Plus, they are also always down to meddle with a mystery. Haha.

Overall, it was good but still a mixed bag. I can appreciate a lot of the book and the conversations that were had. It just felt like what should have been more of a priority in the plot was pushed back but this could also just be because my taste and what I wanted to see.

Arc Review: A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw

Title: A History of Wild Places
Author: Shea Ernshaw
Genre: Adult Mystery / Thriller
Publication Date: December 7th, 2021
Publisher: Atria Books
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for an earc to review! All opinions are my own.

“Travis Wren has an unusual talent for locating missing people. Hired by families as a last resort, he requires only a single object to find the person who has vanished. When he takes on the case of Maggie St. James—a well-known author of dark, macabre children’s books—he’s led to a place many believed to be only a legend.

Called Pastoral, this reclusive community was founded in the 1970s by like-minded people searching for a simpler way of life. By all accounts, the commune shouldn’t exist anymore and soon after Travis stumbles upon it…he disappears. Just like Maggie St. James.

Years later, Theo, a lifelong member of Pastoral, discovers Travis’s abandoned truck beyond the border of the community. No one is allowed in or out, not when there’s a risk of bringing a disease—rot—into Pastoral. Unraveling the mystery of what happened reveals secrets that Theo, his wife, Calla, and her sister, Bee, keep from one another. Secrets that prove their perfect, isolated world isn’t as safe as they believed—and that darkness takes many forms.

Hauntingly beautiful, hypnotic, and bewitching, A History of Wild Places is a story about fairy tales, our fear of the dark, and losing yourself within the wilderness of your mind.” (Goodreads)

This is my third book by this author. This one is not like her others as she has stepped out of YA to write an Adult Mystery / Thriller. I think those that have read her previous work will see her writing style is quite the same which was nice to see. However, this book wasn’t quite what I was expecting and although it was unique it didn’t hold onto my attention like I had hoped.

The book starts off with a guy named Travis Wren trying to track down an author by the name of Maggie St. James who went missing. This was definitely a good setup for the story as we learn a bit of background for Travis. It did give me urge to keep reading as well.

From that point on, the book switches to multiple point-of-views. Some I liked more than others. I will say that the character development really lacked and the book is definitely more plot based. I know other readers will be okay with this but for, I need more development to actually care for the characters and the situations they face.

The plot isn’t unique in the aspect of communes but the plot twists that came with it were. I did expect one thing but the rest were definitely out in left field. I’m not sold on the explanations for everything but maybe that’s just me. The book is also labeled as thriller but I just didn’t feel that. It was definitely mysterious but lacked the thrill I seeked.

Overall, this was okay/good read. It wasn’t what I was expecting but it wasn’t in a bad way I suppose. I’m not really sure how to really articulate my words for this one, haha. I guess if it sounds interesting to you, give it a try!

Book Review: Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

Title: Arsenic and Adobo
Author: Mia P. Manansala
Genre: Adult Mystery / Cozy Mystery
Publication Date: May 4th, 2021
Publisher: Berkley
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

The first book in a new culinary cozy series full of sharp humor and delectable dishes—one that might just be killer….

When Lila Macapagal moves back home to recover from a horrible breakup, her life seems to be following all the typical rom-com tropes. She’s tasked with saving her Tita Rosie’s failing restaurant, and she has to deal with a group of matchmaking aunties who shower her with love and judgment. But when a notoriously nasty food critic (who happens to be her ex-boyfriend) drops dead moments after a confrontation with Lila, her life quickly swerves from a Nora Ephron romp to an Agatha Christie case.

With the cops treating her like she’s the one and only suspect, and the shady landlord looking to finally kick the Macapagal family out and resell the storefront, Lila’s left with no choice but to conduct her own investigation. Armed with the nosy auntie network, her barista best bud, and her trusted Dachshund, Longanisa, Lila takes on this tasty, twisted case and soon finds her own neck on the chopping block…” (Goodreads)

Before this book I had never read a Cozy Mystery before. I have read books in the Mystery / Thriller genre but it was nice to read something less thrilling that still kept my attention and had me trying to guess the outcome of the murder!

Lila Macapagal has recently moved back to help her aunt and grandma with the family restaurant. She hasn’t had the best of time being back as her ex-boyfriend is a dillweed. Seriously, he is the worst! Now there has been a death at the restaurant and she must investigate to clear her name with the help of family, friends, and others in the community.

This book has a lot of togetherness whether it comes from the community or those closer to her like friends and family. I am always here for bonds like that because it just shows how caring those around us can be, even from people you don’t really know. Her friendship with Adeena is a great one but they do have their struggles as well. I liked seeing them work through it. I also loved her familial bonds! It reminded me a lot of the one from Dial A for Aunties.

When it came to the plot I was pleasantly surprised with the mystery of it all. I kept thinking I had it figured out but I was completely off! I really had no idea until just right before the big reveal, ha. It kept me intrigued and I honestly binged the whole book. It was hard to put down.

There is also a lot of talk about food. I liked the glossary in the beginning to help with pronunciation and giving a description of what it is. I have ate lumpia before and boy, did it make me hungry for it!

Overall, this was a really fun read. I’ll definitely be checking out more Cozy Mysteries and can’t wait for the next installment of this series.

Arc Review: Dial A for Aunites by Jesse Q. Sutanto

Title: Dial A for Aunties
Author: Jesse Q. Sutanto
Genre: Adult Contemporary / Romance / Mystery
Publication Date: April 27th, 2021
Publisher: Berkley

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for an earc to read in exchange for a review!

“A hilariously quirky novel that is equal parts murder mystery, rom-com, and a celebration of mothers and daughters as well as a deep dive into Chinese-Indonesian culture, by debut author Jesse Q. Sutanto.

1 (accidental) murder
2 thousand wedding guests
3 (maybe) cursed generations
4 meddling Asian aunties to the rescue!

When Meddelin Chan ends up accidentally killing her blind date, her meddlesome mother calls for her even more meddlesome aunties to help get rid of the body. Unfortunately, a dead body proves to be a lot more challenging to dispose of than one might anticipate, especially when it is accidentally shipped in a cake cooler to the over-the-top billionaire wedding Meddy, her Ma, and aunties are working, at an island resort on the California coastline. It’s the biggest job yet for their family wedding business—“Don’t leave your big day to chance, leave it to the Chans!”—and nothing, not even an unsavory corpse, will get in the way of her auntie’s perfect buttercream cake flowers.

But things go from inconvenient to downright torturous when Meddy’s great college love—and biggest heartbreak—makes a surprise appearance amid the wedding chaos. Is it possible to escape murder charges, charm her ex back into her life, and pull off a stunning wedding all in one weekend?” (Goodreads)

This book was definitely the most unique rom-com I have ever read by far.

Meddelin Chan has grown up knowing about a curse that ultimately leaves the women in her family menless. She stays close to home unlike her cousins and remains close to her family, which includes her aunts and her mother, and helps with their wedding business as a photographer.

The family in this book is one that I really liked. They were always there for her even if that means concealing a dead body, ha. Just like any other family, they also meddle especially her mom who tries to find her a husband. All of this played into the plot well and made for some funny moments. I also liked the author’s note about how the character’s resemble her family in ways.

I did mention funny moments and although I laughed a bit, there were also times that should have been funny but they just weren’t for me and I am sure this is just because of my own preference on what I find funny. My sense of humor is kind of bland and I do think other readers will like the quirkiness of the story more than me. But it’s not like I didn’t like it overall. I’m complicated. 🤷‍♀️😂

The romance is one that involves a second chance at love with the one who got away. There is a bit of development for it as there are past-tense chapters to explain what happened between them and why it didn’t work the first time. There isn’t too much development in the present-tense but I think this is due to the other plot points which I didn’t mind.

Overall, I liked this one and am looking forward to more books by this author.