June 14th, 2018 by Lil Pingwing
Series: A Magic Garden Mystery #1
Publication Date: May 8, 2018
Published by Crooked Lane Books
Cover image and synopsis from Goodreads:
Florist Fiona Knox’s life isn’t smelling so sweet these days. Her fiancé left her for their cake decorator. Then, her flower shop wilted after a chain florist opened next door. So when her godfather, Ian MacCallister, leaves her a cottage in the Scottish Highlands, Fiona jumps on the next plane to Edinburgh. Ian, after all, is the one who taught her to love flowers. But when Ian’s elderly caretaker Hamish MacGregor shows her to the cottage upon her arrival, she finds the once resplendent grounds of Duncreigan in a dreadful shambles—with a dead body in the garden.
Minutes into her arrival, Fiona is already being questioned by the handsome Chief Inspector Neil Craig and getting her passport seized. But it’s Craig’s fixation on Uncle Ian’s loyal caretaker, Hamish, as a prime suspect, that really makes her worried. As Fiona strolls the town, she quickly realizes there are a whole bouquet of suspects much more likely to have killed Alastair Croft, the dead lawyer who seems to have had more enemies than friends.
Now it’s up to Fiona to clear Hamish’s name before it’s too late in Flowers and Foul Play, national bestselling author Amanda Flower’s enchanting first Magic Garden mystery.
I will admit that I didn’t know if I wanted to finish this book after reading the first few chapters. I wasn’t certain if I would enjoy a book about a magical garden. I was terribly wrong — this book was such a page-turner that I ended up staying up too late trying to finish it.
Fiona Knox has come to the Scottish Highlands in order to visit the cottage that was left to her by her recently deceased godfather. Having just been left by her fiancé, and having lost her flower shop, Fiona quickly makes the trip to Scotland. However, soon after arriving Fiona finds the body of her godfather’s lawyer in her garden. When she arrives the garden looks dead, but she is told by the cottage’s caretaker, Hamish, that her presence will make the garden bloom again.
When Hamish becomes a suspect in the lawyer’s murder, Fiona works to solve the case and take suspicion off her friend.
I will admit that the idea of a magic garden turned me off initially. I didn’t really know what to make of it, but I am so happy I kept reading the book. I was excited to read a book set in the Scottish Highlands (I have been watching a lot of “Escape to the Country”, a BBC show that takes homeowners from big cities and helps them purchase homes in the countryside. My favourite ones are the episodes that take place in Scotland). Fiona’s new home is called Duncreigan, a small cottage outside of a village just south of Aberdeen. I loved the descriptions of the area, from the vegetation to the stone houses in the middle of the village.
Fiona quickly runs into some small-town politics when she starts exploring the village — it seems that she is viewed as an outsider, or is painted with the same brush as her godfather. From some of the locals at the pub, to the town minister, not everyone is happy to have a new American in town. But she does make friends with Presha, who owns a tea shop, and her twin brother Raj, who owns the laundromat. And she spends a lot of time with Hamish, who always has his red squirrel Duncan hanging around.
There was some romantic tension with Chief Inspector Neil Craig, but the relationship didn’t progress too far. Fiona seems to still be too upset after her breakup with her fiancé. I’m hoping that Fiona and Craig do start to date in the next book! He’s a great character.
I was sad when discovering who the murderer was, only because I really liked them. It was a bit of a twist for the author to choose a likeable character as the murderer, as I definitely wasn’t expecting it.
So while I initially was hesitant about reading a book with a magical theme, I realized very quickly how wrong I was. This book had a great setting, a great cast of characters and a mystery that was hard to solve. I highly recommend this series for anyone wanting to read a book that has gardens, Scotland, and a cozy small-town (or village) setting.
June 13th, 2018 by Pingwing
Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, and spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating.
Today my pick is The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas, out July 31 from Delacorte Press.
There are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook.
First there was the car accident—two girls gone after hitting a tree on a rainy night. Not long after, the murders happened. Those two girls were killed by the man next door. The police shot him, so no one will ever know why he did it. Monica’s sister was the last cheerleader to die. After her suicide, Sunnybrook High disbanded the cheer squad. No one wanted to be reminded of the girls they lost.
That was five years ago. Now the faculty and students at Sunnybrook High want to remember the lost cheerleaders. But for Monica, it’s not that easy. She just wants to forget. Only, Monica’s world is starting to unravel. There are the letters in her stepdad’s desk, an unearthed, years-old cell phone, a strange new friend at school. . . . Whatever happened five years ago isn’t over. Some people in town know more than they’re saying. And somehow Monica is at the center of it all.
There are no more cheerleaders in Sunnybrook, but that doesn’t mean anyone else is safe.
I’ve really enjoyed Kara Thomas’s other books (The Darkest Corners and Little Monsters) so I’ve been looking forward to her next one. This one sounds like a great mystery, and I can’t wait to read it!
What are you waiting on this week?
June 11th, 2018 by Pingwing
Series: A Maine Murder Mystery #1
Received from the publisher, for free, for review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Publication Date: June 12, 2018
Published by Crooked Lane Books
Cover image and synopsis from Goodreads:
Maine’s Quarry Island has a tight-knit community that’s built on a rock-solid foundation of family, tradition and hard work. But even on this small island, where everyone knows their neighbors, there are secrets that no one would dare to whisper.
Anna Winslow, her husband Burt and their teenage son have deep roots on Quarry Island. Burt and his brother, Carl, are lobstermen, just like their father and grandfather before them. And while some things on the island never seem to change, Anna’s life is about to take some drastically unexpected turns. First, Anna discovers that she has a younger sister, Izzie Jordan. Then, on the day she drives to Portland to meet Izzie for the first time, Carl’s lobster boat is found abandoned and adrift. Later that evening, his corpse is discovered—but he didn’t drown.
Whether it was an accident or murder, Carl’s sudden death has plunged Anna’s existence into deadly waters. Despite barely knowing one another and coming from very different backgrounds, Anna and Izzie unite to find the killer. With their family in crisis, the sisters strive to uncover the secrets hidden in Quarry Island—and, perhaps, the ones buried within their own hearts.
I was looking forward to starting this book — it is a first in a new cozy series set in Maine, on an island. Just that description alone was enough to get me interested. But then when I read in the introduction that this was the same author who wrote the Mainely Needlepoint series (under the name Lea Waite) I was definitely excited to start this book!
One way in which this series differed from the Mainely Needlepoint series is that it felt much more character-driven. While there is a murder, quite a bit of the start of the book followed Anna’s discovery of her long-lost sister, Izzie. Anna brings Izzie (who lives in Connecticut) to her small island once word spreads to her about her brother-in-law going missing while he was out fishing. There was quite a bit of depth and focus in this book on what it is like to live on an island, especially as someone who lives there full-time. People on the island appear to have a very close community and a strong bond within families, due to the hardship and challenge of living there year-round — both in terms of the weather conditions but also the difficult work that many of the residents engage in through fishing and lobstering. This sense of community and family sets an interesting contrast with Izzie, who was raised by an absentee father (the same one who abandoned Anna’s mother) and hasn’t experienced the strong bonds that Anna has with her mother and grandmother, who also live together on the island.
I liked the storyline of the long-lost sister. Anna and Izzie seem so different in ways — Izzie dreams of opening her own restaurant, whereas Anna — who married and had a child at a young age — struggles to even think of what dreams she has for her own life when Izzie asks her. They work well together, though, as they try to uncover who killed Carl, especially after Anna’s husband is arrested for the murder. Anna and Izzie make a great pair, and I love where their relationship moves to by the end of the first book. As someone who has sisters and considers them to be her closest friends, I love reading about them teaming up to solve crimes. I also enjoyed Anna and Izzie’s shared love of “Anne of Green Gables”.
I did get a little frustrated with Anna’s hesitation to question her teenage son on his knowledge of the murder. Granted, he seemed upset by the death of his uncle and seemed to struggle with a way to express it, which really just came out in him fighting with his mom and storming out of the house. As the mother of a young son this book made me nervous about his teenage years. 🙂
The murder mystery was excellent. I really enjoyed all the twists and turns, and wasn’t able to guess who the killer was. I also liked that the book wasn’t entirely about the mystery, but really was about these two sisters discovering each other and learning about life on Quarry Island. This was a great first book in a new series — so much so that I was disappointed when I finished the book and realized there wasn’t another for me to start reading immediately. I am highly anticipating when the next one comes out.
June 10th, 2018 by Pingwing
June 4 – 10
Happy Sunday! This week has been a bit of a tough one, between the Ontario election, the deaths of people I admire, and Trump being Trump, so I tried to disconnect from social media and spend my weekend doing things that made me happy. I played a lot of Pokemon, finished a great book, and watched all of HBO’s ‘Big Little Lies’, which was fantastic.
Thank you to PGC for sending Ghosted by Rosie Walsh my way – it came with a cute note and some candies!
I also purchsed Morgan Matson’s newest book, Save the Date. Her last couple of books have been so fantastic, so I’m really looking forward to reading this one.
I finished reading two books this week, and they were both so good: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, and an ARC of Sadie by Courtney Summers. I loved them both so much!
I’m still reading The Amateurs by Liz Harmer, and I started reading Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama. But after watching ‘Big Little Lies’, I really want to read another of Liane Moriarty’s books!
This past week, I posted my reviews of Marisha Pessl’s Neverworld Wake, and Caroline Kepnes’ You.
Time to get offline again for the rest of the weekend and get lost in a book. Happy reading!
June 8th, 2018 by Pingwing
Series: You #1
Publication Date: September 30, 2014
Published by Atria / Emily Bestler Books
Cover image and synopsis from Goodreads:
When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.
There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.
As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.
I read this for book club and I know people who really liked this book. I’ve mostly heard good things about it, and I did know going in that it was a dark, messed up book. I do generally enjoy reading those kinds of books, but there was something about this one that didn’t sit well with me.
I mentioned in my mini-review on Litsy that I think I just might not be in a place to find a story about a bad man doing bad things (particularly to women) entertaining. I like dark stories, I like messy characters, I like twisty stories, I often like characters who are supposed to be the villains, and I am not a squeamish reader, but this simply was not the right book for me.
I didn’t find Joe witty or funny or clever. He was an arrogant, pretentious, entitled, dangerous predator and as a reader, I got nothing out of being in his headspace. Even without the creepiness and stalking etc. I found him insufferable.
I’ve seen so many reviews where people mention finding Joe funny or charming or whatever but I absolutely did not and could not feel that way. And I really did try to lose myself in the book, but I couldn’t.
The story, when not bothering me with Joe’s stalking and misogyny, was also boring. Reading about Joe spending much of his time focused on Beck’s life, from a distance (e.g. reading her emails and spying on her), wasn’t particularly interesting to me.
At one point I thought that there was a potential storyline being foreshadowed that might have redeemed this book slightly for me, but it didn’t come to pass. The ending was disappointing and if it hadn’t been a book club pick I think I would have DNFd this well before finishing.
I really want to like every book I read and I don’t like writing negative reviews, and I seem to totally be the odd one out when it comes to You. I think everyone I know who’s read it enjoyed it.
Elements of this book reminded me of Perfect Days by Raphael Montes, which I read a couple of years ago. I thought that was an interesting, well-written book. It’s also messed up and twisted. But if I read that book now, I wonder if I would feel the same way about it.
So this definitely wasn’t the book for me, but like I said, I seem to be the odd one out. If you did read this and enjoy it, you may know that there’s a sequel and a TV adaptation in the works.