It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder (A Catering Hall Mystery #3) by Maria DiRico

Pages: 304

Publisher; Kensington

Published: October 26, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Source: NetGalley

Available Formats: Digital, Audio, and Paperback

My Review: This series is so fun to read. I love “the family”, Nonna and her cronies, and the setting. You never know what you are going to get into when you open the book but you are guaranteed a good time.

Book 3 shows us how small our world really is and how we all know someone who knows someone. You may not see the connection right away but it is there. I was reminded of that this past weekend in my own life. A connection was made that was shocking. No murder was involved in my real-life situation but Mia was not able to say the same.

Even though this is book 3 you can pick it up with any book. I suggest you read this for the current holiday season. I don’t think you will be disappointed. We have decorating wars, crazy nativity scenes, and lots of Christmas murder. Take time to look at the cover of the book and enjoy all the interesting Christmas decorations.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions expressed above are entirely my own.

NetGalley: Astoria, Queens, is decorated within an inch of its life for the Christmas season, and Mia Carina is juggling her job at the Belle View catering hall with a case of murder…

Mia’s busy with a full schedule of events at the family business—among them an over-the-top Nativity-themed first birthday party and a Sweet Sixteen for a teen drama queen. But her personal life is even more challenging. Her estranged mother has returned—and her lifelong friend Jamie has discovered a shocking secret about his past. He’s so angry that he starts hanging out with Lorenzo, who claims to be his long-lost brother—even after it becomes clear that Lorenzo’s story is as fake as a plastic Christmas tree.
Then a body turns up among the elves in a Santa’s-workshop lawn display, and amateur sleuth Mia has a buffet of suspects to choose from. Amid the holiday celebrations, she intends to find out who’s the guilty party…

To the Tome of Murder (Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery #7) by Lauren Elliott

Pages: 304

Publisher: Kensington]

Published: October 26, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Source: NetGalley

Available Formats, Digital, Audio, and Mass Market Paperback

My Review: I am amazed at how this series is progressing. Each book is better and better. I will admit when I finished the first book I did not like Addie. She got on my nerves but now I love her. She is working through her grief and her past and learning to love and trust again. She is making friends and looks for the good in everyone she meets.

I still do not like Simon though. There is just something about him that turns me off as being perfect for Addie. I am still not sure Mark is perfect either. I think I like her single.

Book 7 takes place around Thanksgiving and is filled with love, thankfulness, and murder. Murder is always on the menu. Interesting ending. I am ready for more.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions expressed above are entirely my own.

NetGalley: Three weeks before Thanksgiving, bookshop owner Addie Greyborne already has a full plate—and a killer on her case…
Addie’s determined to turn a seemingly ordinary November in coastal Greyborne Harbor into one for the books. The windows of her shop display carefully curated works by American writers, including a rare selection of traditional holiday recipes from the influential 19th-century publication Godey’s Ladies Magazine. And then there’s the town’s Civil War-era themed cooking and baking competition, with a hefty cash prize and free publicity going to the winning dish…
But when she finds her cousin’s boyfriend murdered, a stunned Addie reluctantly realizes she may be the only person who can blow the cover off a grisly crime. With so many unanswered questions surrounding the victim’s death, Addie must figure out the strange connection between a mysterious vintage briefcase, the disappearance of a first edition copy of Sarah Josepha Hale’s famous nursery rhyme, “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” and a dangerously well-read culprit…

The Wish by Nicholas Sparks

Pages: 387

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Published: September 28, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Source: Hardcover from Public Library

Available Formats: Digital, Audio, and Hardcover

My Review: It has been a few books of NS since I had the same feeling as I did when I first read The Notebook and The Wish finally delivered. A feeling of all-encompassing love filled with heartbreak.

I unashamedly cried at the end of this book. I closed it gently with a sense of love and happiness.

Read with tissues on hand and be prepared to not be able to put the book down.

Goodreads: 1996 was the year that changed everything for Maggie Dawes. Sent away at sixteen to live with an aunt she barely knew in Ocracoke, a remote village on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, she could think only of the friends and family she left behind . . . until she meets Bryce Trickett, one of the few teenagers on the island. Handsome, genuine, and newly admitted to West Point, Bryce gradually shows her how much there is to love about the wind-swept beach town—and introduces her to photography, a passion that will define the rest of her life.

By 2019, Maggie is a renowned travel photographer. She splits her time between running a successful gallery in New York and photographing remote locations around the world. But this year she is unexpectedly grounded over Christmas, struggling to come to terms with a sobering medical diagnosis. Increasingly dependent on a young assistant, she finds herself becoming close to him.

As they count down the last days of the season together, she begins to tell him the story of another Christmas, decades earlier—and the love that set her on a course she never could have imagined.

Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger

Pages: 400

Publisher: Park Row

Published: October 5, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Source: Hardcover Public Library Book

Available Formats: Digital, Audio, and Hardcover

My Review: If you are on the fence about online dating I would suggest NOT reading this book. Wowzers, a tad scary.

I was hooked through the entire book and couldn’t wait for the conclusion. It would have been a five-star read but the imaginary friend aspect throughout kind of threw me off.

This is the second Lisa Unger book I have read and I see more in my future.

Goodreads: Secrets, obsession and vengeance converge in this riveting thriller about an online dating match turned deadly cat-and-mouse game, from the New York Times bestselling author of Confessions on the 7:45.

Think twice before you swipe.

She met him through a dating app. An intriguing picture on a screen, a date at a downtown bar. What she thought might be just a quick hookup quickly became much more. She fell for him—hard. It happens sometimes, a powerful connection with a perfect stranger takes you by surprise. Could it be love?

But then, just as things were getting real, he stood her up. Then he disappeared—profiles deleted, phone disconnected. She was ghosted.

Maybe it was her fault. She shared too much, too fast. But isn’t that always what women think—that they’re the ones to blame? Soon she learns there were others. Girls who thought they were in love. Girls who later went missing. She had been looking for a connection, but now she’s looking for answers. Chasing a digital trail into his dark past—and hers—she finds herself on a dangerous hunt. And she’s not sure whether she’s the predator—or the prey.

Allergic: A Graphic Novel by Megan Wagner Lloyd (Michelle Mee Nutter – Illustrator)

Pages: 240

Publisher: Graphix

Published: March 2, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Source: Hardcover Public Library Book

Available Formats: Digital, Hardcover, and Paperback

My Review: The perfect graphic novel to read with your children when thinking about pet ownership and how to handle disappointment if not able to have a pet.

I found the portrayal of Maggie spot on for her age.

A clean, sweet read that I cannot wait to share with my students.

Goodreads: A coming-of-age middle-grade graphic novel featuring a girl with severe allergies who just wants to find the perfect pet!

At home, Maggie is the odd one out. Her parents are preoccupied with getting ready for a new baby, and her younger brothers are twins and always in their own world. Maggie loves animals and thinks a new puppy to call her own is the answer, but when she goes to select one on her birthday, she breaks out in hives and rashes. She’s severely allergic to anything with fur!

Can Maggie outsmart her allergies and find the perfect pet? With illustrations by Michelle Mee Nutter, Megan Wagner Lloyd uses inspiration from her own experiences with allergies to tell a heartfelt story of family, friendship, and finding a place to belong.

The Forest of Vanishing Stars by Kristen Harmel

Pages: 356

Publisher: Gallery Books

Published: July 6, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Source: Hardcover Public Library Books and Overdrive Audiobook (through Public Library)

Available Formats: Digital, Audio, and Hardcover

My Review: I started reading this book but found myself not as interested as I expected. Before giving up I decided to try the audiobook and I am glad I did. I found it much more engrossing. The narrator was excellent in character voices, the foreign language, and capturing the feelings of fear.

Just when you think there cannot be an untouched way to show the horrors and heroism of World War Two there comes a book that makes the reader gasp in surprise.

Goodreads: The New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Lost Names returns with an evocative coming-of-age World War II story about a young woman who uses her knowledge of the wilderness to help Jewish refugees escape the Nazis—until a secret from her past threatens everything.

After being stolen from her wealthy German parents and raised in the unforgiving wilderness of eastern Europe, a young woman finds herself alone in 1941 after her kidnapper dies. Her solitary existence is interrupted, however, when she happens upon a group of Jews fleeing the Nazi terror. Stunned to learn what’s happening in the outside world, she vows to teach the group all she can about surviving in the forest—and in turn, they teach her some surprising lessons about opening her heart after years of isolation. But when she is betrayed and escapes into a German-occupied village, her past and present come together in a shocking collision that could change everything.

Inspired by incredible true stories of survival against staggering odds, and suffused with the journey-from-the-wilderness elements that made Where the Crawdads Sing a worldwide phenomenon, The Forest of Vanishing Stars is a heart-wrenching and suspenseful novel.

We Are the Brennans by Tracy Lange

Pages: 274

Publisher: Celadon Books

Published: August 3, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Source: Hardcover Public Library Book

Available Formats: Digital, Audio, and Hardcover

My Review: An engrossing family drama you will not want to put down.

We are introduced to the Brennans, an American Irish family, when Sunday, the lone girl, has an accident that requires one of her brothers to visit her in California. She returns to her family home on the East coast and must face her past which has a detrimental secret that changed everyone’s lives.

This is a strong debut novel. You can tell the author wrote what she knows (large family) and was not afraid to touch family taboo subjects (DUIs, sexual assaults, unplanned pregnancies, marital strife).

No detailed sex scenes and if there was foul language it was so minor I do not remember it. A fast read that kept me interested from beginning to end.

Goodreads: When twenty-nine-year-old Sunday Brennan wakes up in a Los Angeles hospital, bruised and battered after a drunk driving accident she caused, she swallows her pride and goes home to her family in New York. But it’s not easy. She deserted them all—and her high school sweetheart—five years before with little explanation, and they’ve got questions.

Sunday is determined to rebuild her life back on the east coast, even if it does mean tiptoeing around resentful brothers and an ex-fiancé. The longer she stays, however, the more she realizes they need her just as much as she needs them. When a dangerous man from her past brings her family’s pub business to the brink of financial ruin, the only way to protect them is to upend all their secrets—secrets that have damaged the family for generations and will threaten everything they know about their lives. In the aftermath, the Brennan family is forced to confront painful mistakes—and ultimately find a way forward, together.

The Body in the Beauty Parlor (A Jazzi Zanders #6 by Judi Lynn

Pages: 204

Publisher: Lyrical Press

Published: March 2, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Source: Hoopla (Public Library App) Audiobook

Available Formats: Digital, Audio, and Paperback

My Review: Wow, there was so much going on in this book and it kept my interest from beginning to end. I finished in less than 24 hours as I was hooked.

I opted to listen to the audiobook through my library’s Hoopla app and was not disappointed. The narrator was wonderful. Perfect accent for Indiana and read all parts with the correct tone.

I found it very interesting that the last several books have focused on babies and Jazzi keeps saying “in the future.” Hmm…could it happen sooner than later? I’m all for it as long as Jazzi keeps being represented as a strong woman with a career. I wish I had even half her talent as a remodeler.

Book six takes place around Easter and has two main murders and a cold case. The author did great in connecting them in different ways.

A quick entertaining read for cozy mystery lovers.

Goodreads: In addition to her house-flipping talents, Jazzi Zanders is breaking ground as a sleuth. But she’s going to need every tool at her disposal to solve two crimes . . .

In their hair salon, Jazzi’s sister Olivia and mother are savvy businesswomen whose creativity brings fashion and flair to the folks of Rivers Bluff, Indiana. So when their newest hairstylist Misty is caught scamming clients’ debit cards and selling beauty products during off hours to pocket the profits, Olivia fires her. But Misty retaliates by hitting back with a defamation lawsuit—which she is more than happy to drop if Olivia pays her ten grand.

But neither blackmail nor courtroom fees are accrued after Misty’s body is discovered in the salon with Olivia’s scissors stuck in her chest. Olivia may be the number one suspect, but her murdered employee had a reputation for making enemies.

Then Jazzi’s ex Chad appears, asking for help with his marital strife. This already awkward situation worsens when Chad’s wife vanishes and the police investigate him. Now, it’s up to Jazzi to clear both her sister’s and ex’s names while the killer—or killers—could be a mere hair breadth’s away . . . 

Boiled Over (Maine Clambake #2) by Barbara Ross

Pages: 304

Publisher: Kensington

Published: May 6, 2014

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Source: Kindle E-book

Avaiable Formats: Digital, Large Print Paperback, and Mass Market Paperback

My Review: Oh, my stars, what a great mystery. I couldn’t flip the pages fast enough. The ending makes me what to chuck everything else I need to read and read book three pronto.

I enjoyed how real Julia is with her concerns about if she should stay in Busmans Harbor. She enjoyed her life in NYC but understands her family needs her. Plus she has begun a relationship with her childhood crush. Does one stay for love? Is she in love?

The mystery was very interesting. Shows how people are connected in so many ways. I didn’t guess the murderer.

I really enjoyed learning about the town’s history and about blueberry harvesting.

Several yummy recipes are included. I have plans for two already.

Goodreads: For Julia Snowden, the Founder’s Day summer celebration in Busman’s Harbor, Maine, means helping her family’s clambake company to prepare an authentic taste of New England seafood. Any Mainer will tell you that a real clambake needs wood for the fire . . . so why is there a foot sticking out of the oven?

The townspeople want to pin the murder of the RV park owner on Cabe Stone, a new employee of the Snowden Family Clambake Company–who bolted from the crime scene and disappeared.

Julia knows having another murder associated with her family’s business is a recipe for disaster . . . but who is the killer? Cooking up a proper investigation doesn’t leave much time for the rest of Julia’s life, and this is one killer who’ll do anything to stop her from digging up clues . . . 

A Christmas Courtship (Berlin Bookmobile #3) by Shelly Shepard Gray

Pages: 317

Publisher: Gallery Books

Published: October 19, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Source: NetGalley

Available Formats: Digital, Audio, Hardcover, and Paperback

My Review: I don’t think I have read an Amish book by SSG yet that I have not loved. They are clean, wholesome, romantic reads that make your heart happy. Definitely, books that Atlee should read for romance ideas. This entire series has become a favorite that I will reread in the years to come. The covers are gorgeous and inviting.

The only aspect I did not like in this book was I thought Sadie’s children were very spoiled and whiny. BUT, I am not sure I would have raised my children any different after the abuse they experienced with their father. Yes, you read that correctly. Abuse. It touches every community even the Amish. Again, a great book to teach us not to judge. You never know someone’s entire story and you never know how you would react until you experience their life.

You can read the series in any order as each book is written as a standalone.

I received a complimentary copy from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions expressed above are entirely my own.

NetGalley: In this endearing Christmas tale, a bookmobile librarian knows just the novel to help an Amish bachelor woo his next-door neighbor in the latest installment of the “charming” (Carla Laureano, RITA Award–winning author of Five Days in Skye) Berlin Bookmobile series.

A solitary sort, forty-two-year-old Atle Petersheim spends his time hard at work in his wood shop. But as the days get long, he realizes just how lonely he’s become. When his longtime crush, Sadie Mast, a widow and mother of three, asks him to help her build a room in their barn for her son Cale, Atle can’t say no. Eager to pursue Sadie at last, he turns to bookmobile librarian Sarah Anne Miller for courting advice. More than happy to help, Sarah Anne decides the best way to learn about love is through books—romance novels to be precise.

Between completing holiday orders for her flourishing food business, helping Cale navigate a dramatic new relationship with his boss’s daughter, and coming to terms with the trauma her late husband had inflicted upon her and her children—not to mention Atle showing up at her door with flowers—Sadie is in over her head. Though Atle’s efforts are initially clumsy and his declarations a bit awkward, Sadie can’t help but be charmed by him. He’s patient and kind…and at times even seems to know far more about romance than he’s let on.

Another delightful romance about the “transformative powers of love, hope, and faith” (Publishers Weekly), A Christmas Courtship is the perfect holiday read.