Thursday, December 31, 2020

Mistletoe by Alison Littlewood

After losing both her son and her husband, Leah is looking for change. 

And change is what she's getting after leaving the city behind and moving to Maitland Farm. The farm had been her husband's idea, originally. Leah is a Maitland, after all, so it seemed fortuitous when he found the listing. Now Leah has taken on the responsibility of bringing the farm back to life on her own, in hopes the massive undertaking will provide distraction as well as a fresh start. 

But Leah soon discovers that Maitland Farm has a dark history. A history that hangs over the land and weighs on everything it touches. A history that Leah isn't certain she wants to claim as her own. 

I don't recall when I first heard about the Victorian tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve, but it's a tradition I am 100% here for—reading, rather than telling in my case. And when you pair that with the delightful Icelandic tradition of gifting books on Christmas Eve and then spending the evening reading said books, well it's book nerd heaven!

I was trying to decide what this year's Christmas Eve ghost-y read would be when I stumbled upon a list of creepy holiday tales, a few of which I'd read and a few of which, including Mistletoe, I hadn't. It was kismet :)

I will start by saying that I expected to have a tough time reading this one. It's about a woman who's lost her son and her husband, neither of which are things I want to consider! Fortunately, Littlewood's expertise at atmosphere and chilling stories outweighed my post-partum anxiety associated with anything about dying kids!

Leah is moving to the middle of nowhere after her life has been upended. And it's understandable. It's the holiday season and she's alone, so why not start over in a place where you won't be reminded of the life you once had. 

Almost from the start, Leah experiences weirdness on the farm. Sounds that have to be more than the old house settling, a feeling of being watched...and then she spies a little boy playing in the barn. But both the boy and the odd doll he's carrying are very real—at least real enough for Leah to touch. The vision she has after touching the doll, though, that's a different story. 

As I mentioned, Littlewood is great at building atmosphere! The combination of remote setting, snow upon snow upon snow, and the sadness that hovers over Leah and her new home make Mistletoe an absolutely perfect creepy read for winter. And the folklore around mistletoe adds to that. 

Mistletoe isn't actually out in the States, so you'll have to order it through a venue that'll bring in imports. For that I am sorry—the Brits really do excellent horror, though!—I'm also sorry that I didn't get this one posted in time for a Christmas Eve recommendation if you also seek festive scary reads. But you can savor it any time (or save it for next year). 

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Excerpt: Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder by T.A. Willberg

Happy almost New Year, readers! Today I'm excited to share a bit of T.A. Willberg's debut, Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder, but first, a bit about the book:

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 at Miss Brickett’s receives a letter of warning, detailing a name, a time, and a place. 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.

Marion Lane, a first-year Inquirer-in-training, finds herself drawn ever deeper into the investigation. When her friend and colleague 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 murder mystery, with an exciting new heroine detective.

I am always on the hunt for a great new detective series and I cannot wait to start this one! Thanks to the publisher, I get to share the opening pages with all of you!

by T.A. Willberg


Somewhere in London
Friday, April 11, 1958
11:40 p.m.

Envelope encased, the carrier cylinder traveled through miles of pneumatic pipes from its place of origin to the dark, deep dungeon of the Filing Department—falling neatly from the end of the pipe and into the corresponding receiver box, as if by some magical, invisible postman.

A bell chimed as the envelope landed in receiver box fifty-five.

Michelle White’s eyes shot open as she lurched back from the edge of sleep. She blinked at the flashing yellow light on the noticeboard above her. It was her job to ensure all letters were sorted out the minute they arrived: those that met agency requirements were to be organized by date and slipped into the Inquirers’ in-box for later investigation. Those that did not went straight into the rubbish bin, and those of which she was unsure what to do with, into a looming pile on the desk. But crime and crookedness had been on the decline the last few weeks in London and so, assuming the letter would be a lead on something petty, Michelle White staggered across the Filing Department in no particular hurry.

She lifted the lid on receiver box fifty-five, the endpoint of a six-mile pneumatic tube that fed off from a letter case hidden in Passing Alley in Farringdon.

Envelopes and letters pulled from the receiver boxes were usually addressed to the agency in general: Dear people under the ground, or similar.

But tonight was different.

To Miss M. White, Inquirer.

It was odd, yet she couldn’t help smile at the thought of it. Michelle had once dreamed of becoming an Inquirer; she had come so close to the reality, too. But she was just not good enough. Not clever enough, not brave or talented enough. Not quite anything enough.

Ten years ago, at the age of twenty-two, she’d been recruited from a textile factory where she’d toiled long hours as a quality control assistant. But like everyone who came to work in the sunless labyrinth, Michelle had swiftly and without much consideration renounced the liberties of her previous, lackluster life in exchange for the opportunity to begin a new and thrilling vocation as an Inquirer, where she’d hoped to finally make use of her very particular set of skills.

But things had not quite turned out that way, which is why—instead of scouring London’s streets for criminals and delinquents—Michelle had ended up here, spending her evenings as the night-duty filing assistant in the establishment’s dullest department. In fact, had it not been for her other, far more satisfying role—that of Border Guard, protector of the secret—then perhaps she would have quit years ago.

But now Michelle wondered, as she stared at the envelope in her hand, how whoever had sent it knew where she worked or why they had considered her the worthy counsel of their troubles. She ran her thumb over the words—Miss M. White, Inquirer—as if they might be absorbed through her skin and become true.

For a moment, she was reluctant to open the envelope, concerned it might be a joke. One of the young apprentices playing a trick. She clenched her jaw at the thought, breathed, then entered the letter’s details into the register file: time and date received, receiver box number and her initials. But when she opened the envelope and read the final detail—the nature of the inquiry—her breath began to quicken.

The letter was short. A name, a time, a place and one simple revelation. And yet it unleashed a torrent of angst.

Several weeks ago, something had gone missing from her handbag—something invaluable, irreplaceable, something that might dredge up a secret long since buried across the Border. At first she’d been so certain of who had taken it, and for countless nights thereafter she’d turned in her sleep, anxious the nasty thief would soon come looking for the paired device she kept locked in her private office, and with that the secret would be uncovered.

But if the letter she’d just received was to be trusted, Michelle’s anxieties had been misplaced—the secret had already been discovered. She wasn’t sure how, or even why, but if she followed the letter’s directions, she might soon find out.

Though sirens of warning blared in her head, Michelle had already made up her mind. Of course she could take the letter to someone more qualified than herself, but it had been addressed to her—whoever had sent it had entrusted her with this, a most precious and urgent secret. And besides, as the letter had said, if only for tonight, Miss White was an Inquirer.

As instructed, she lit a match and held the letter under the flame. Once the paper had turned to ash, she packed up her things, grabbed her handbag, locked the office and rushed up the staircase toward the library. She stopped at the lock room gate, far on the other side of the grand hall of glorious bookshelves. The gate was ajar, just as she’d expected.

She stepped inside, pausing immediately as a wave of something cool and cutting passed in front of her, a curious thing. She rubbed her eyes and looked around the dully lit room, at the hundreds of steel drawers, safes in which were kept the agency’s most hallowed files and documents. The lock room, with its thick walls and high ceiling, was always chilled, but tonight it felt particularly so.


Something split from the wall behind her. She turned to the sound but saw only a shadow move across the room and something that looked like a large black box being removed from inside the wall. She hesitated, then moved a little closer. But it came again—a wave of cool air, dancing in front of her. She dabbed her eyes with the cuff of her sleeve; they were now surely playing tricks on her, for everything had turned to a strange blur of nothing. Michelle started to panic, her thoughts as unfocused as her eyesight. Her head began to spin. Her limbs to tingle. This might have been the moment she ran for her life, out of the lock room and away from the evil she now knew had been waiting for her there. But terror had immobilized her. There was nothing she could do to get her legs to move, not even when she heard the rush of footsteps, some behind her, some in front. Not even when she felt the brush of air against her neck.

“What’s happening,” she asked in a staggered groan. “I know you’re there…I know it was you…” She trailed off, the words in her head no longer making sense.

She dropped her handbag. Something hard rolled out and across the floor. She was too disorientated to realize what it was.

In a drawn-out moment that seemed to last forever, Michelle’s senses grew dull and viscous. She could no longer trust her eyesight, her ears. She might have seen an amorphous shape crouching in front of her. She might have seen it lift something from the floor. Certainly, however, she felt the sharp burn of a cold, ragged blade as it sunk quickly and easily through the delicate skin across her throat.

Warmth, darkness and nothing more.

Excerpted from Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder @ 2020 by Tessa Gukelberger, used with permission by Park Row Books/HarperCollins.

Author Bio: T.A. Willberg was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and holds a chiropractic masters degree from Durban University of Technology. MARION LANE AND THE MIDNIGHT MURDER is her debut novel and launch of her detective series. She currently lives in Malta with her partner.

What an excellent opening! 

Huge thanks to the publisher for providing the excerpt today! For more on T.A. Willberg and her work you can visit her website here. You can also like her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter and Instagram

Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder is out on shelves now, so be sure to snatch up a copy and settle in ASAP!

Monday, December 28, 2020

The Arctic Fury by Greer Macallister

Virginia Reeve is a woman with an undeniable talent for guiding people through tough terrain. Which is why the widow of Sir John Franklin hires her to lead an expedition to find the remains of her husband and his crew in the Arctic. 

The team is to be made up of women only, most of Jane Franklin's choosing. Her hope is that they will succeed where no team of men has before and bring back, if anything, proof of her husband's successes. 

But over a year later, Virginia is on trial, accused of having murdered one of her team. And Lady Franklin lays no claim at all to the expedition. 

So, I'm no stranger to the subject of this book. In fact, when I heard it was about the Franklin expedition, it immediately went to the top of my must-have-as-soon-as-humanly-possible list! It's a topic that's piqued my interest for a very long time. 

If you don't know, in 1845 Captain Sir John Franklin set sail with a crew and two ships, Erebus and Terror, to explore the Northwest Passage. The expedition did not end well. 

Much has been made about the quality of the canned food that was to get them through their trip. This particular aspect of the voyage is one that I studied in medical anthropology in the way back when times when I was in college. The solder used to seal the cans was lead and some have surmised that the crew were suffering from lead poisoning, which exacerbated conditions after they were trapped in the ice. 

Though the wreckage has been found, the final days of the expedition are excellent fodder for fiction. Dan Simmons's The Terror is just one and now there's The Arctic Fury

Let me first say that there was never an all female expedition to find Franklin. That aside, I absolutely love that Greer Macallister imagined what it would have been like had there been one! 

Limitations on women are a big part of this book, for obvious reasons. And Virginia, though she's a trusted guide, is undoubtedly held to a higher standard than a male counterpart simply by sake of the fact that she's on trial when the book begins. Of course the prosecution claims she tricked people into following her, blah, blah, blah. 

Macallister does a great job illustrating just how harrowing an adventure this would be. And I loved the characters she filled the team with. Some certainly could have done with more fleshing out, but with a large cast of characters, I thought she did a wonderful job of giving voice to their stories. I have a few favorites, as I'm sure most readers do :)

Virginia herself is fabulous! I quickly realized what her back story was, simply by recognizing some of the clues Macallister provided, but I won't ruin it for the rest of you. 

The Arctic Fury is not a light read by any means, but if you're a fan of historical fiction and snowy adventures, this is the read for you!

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Monday, December 21, 2020

A Princess for Christmas by Jenny Holiday

Leo Ricci never expected to be driving an actual princess around New York City. But when his sister Gabby insists he pull over for a damsel in distress, that's exactly what he ends up doing. 

Leo and his sister have been managing as best they can since their parents passed away. Leo, dropped out of college and has been driving a taxi part time and working as the super in their apartment building the rest of the time to make ends meet and support his eleven-year-old sister. With the holidays looming, all he can hope for is a quiet Christmas together, with their friend and cousin Dani, in front of the cardboard fireplace they put up to mimic the one they used to have in the family home. 

But their quiet plans for Christmas are upended when they meet Marie Accola, Princess of Eldovia!

Marie is only in New York for a few days to handle affairs of state in her father's place. But when her hired car dies en route to pick her up, leaving her stranded and dangerously close to missing her next appointment. Which is why she finds herself in an off duty cab driven by Leo Ricci. After hiring him to drive her the rest of the weekend, she finds herself warming to the NY native and even invites him and his sister to spend the holiday in Eldovia. Of course one thing leads to another and Marie finds herself falling for this completely innapropriate man. But at the very least, she's determined to enjoy her time with a man who makes her feel like a normal woman rather than royalty. 

Jenny Holiday's latest is a steamier version of a Hallmark Christmas movie and I am so here for it! See, I can be brought over to the light and happy side—occasionally!

In true holiday movie style, Leo is an everyday man and Marie is a princess. The tongue-in-cheek homage to Hallmark movies is not only obvious, it's played up to the nth degree with Leo regularly comparing the happenings to the famously kitsch holiday movie fare. 

Eldovia, a tiny kingdom in Europe, is a Christmas village in actual practice, even going so far as to celebrate with an annual Cocoa festival and ball every holiday. But both Leo and Marie enjoy the holiday season a little less these days thanks to personal loss. Leo's parents died in a car accident two Christmases ago and Marie's mother died just days before the holiday three years ago. Ever since, the holidays have had a little less magic for both of them. 

Until this year! Yes, this year brings magic and romance for them both. And of course it's a romance that cannot be, since Marie is royalty and Leo is anything but. We even know from the outset that not only does Marie have to marry strategically, but she's also already engaged! What we don't find out until later is that her engagement is one that neither she or her betrothed in any way wants. 

The book doesn't really offer any surprises, per se. But A Princess for Christmas is fun and charming. It's also, as I mentioned, much more steamy than any Hallmark movie you've watched lately :) Even more fun is the fact that it's not a one off: Jenny Holiday is planning three books in this vein—the second features Dani and there's a little excerpt at the end of this installment to tease you along!

Definitely a recommended read in these final days leading up to the holiday. 

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Adults by Caroline Hulse

Even though Matt and Claire are divorced and each seeing someone new, they want to spend the Christmas holiday together for the sake of their seven-year-old daughter, Scarlett. And so they've planned a weekend away at Happy Forest!

Alex isn't certain spending the holiday with her boyfriend and his ex and her new partner is the best idea, but she's willing to go along with it because it's what Matt wants. But when Scarlett and her imaginary friend, Posey, find out Alex is a scientist, sabotage is the first thing on their minds!

Patrick's own children don't have much to do with him since his divorce from their mother, which is why he wants to do the best he can by Claire's daughter, Scarlett. And if going along with a trip with Claire's ex is what it takes to prove he's the better man, he's certainly game for it. 

It's to be a weekend full of swimming, archery, spa treatments, and happy holiday celebration. But things start to go wrong almost from the very start. And by the end, well, to say things have gone awry would be a gross understatement. 

November was a heavy reading month! And I'm still not done with the Nordic Noir reads, but even I'll admit that with the gloomy winter weather and continued crap of 2020, some lighter reads aren't totally unwelcome. 

And then I came across Refinery29's "26 Holiday Books That Will Bring a Little Joy Back to 2020," which featured multiple titles in my TBR! Happy coincidence :)

The Adults released just days after I had my son, and I really wasn't getting much reading done at that point at all. So it lingered on my shelves, waiting for me to pick it up and dive in. 

The book begins with a call to emergency services after someone has been shot by an arrow. Which sets the tone quite nicely for this train wreck of a holiday vacation! 

Alex is, as mentioned, a scientist. And Matt is a bit of a mess. She forgives him when he forgets to tell her that Claire wants them all to spend the holiday together. She kind of has to, considering the trip has already been booked by the time he springs it on her. And it starts off rocky before they've event left, with Claire providing a suggested list of items for each couple to bring. 

Patrick, like Claire, is a lawyer. He thinks the weekend away is a terrible idea, but want to support Claire. Even more, he wants her to be okay with his decision to do an Ironman and he knows going along with the weekend away will get him that. 

All four of them are adults. They can be civil, friendly even. But of course things don't work out the way anyone planned! 

This one's not as breezy as In a Holidaze, but it is light. It's a dry and amusing read, one that actually moves quickly and is spurred on by the desire to find out how the holiday can devolve so dramatically as to end up with someone being shot! I'd love to see this adapted as a movie. I think it'd be excellent holiday film fodder, especially with a great British cast. 

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Monday, December 14, 2020

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

I cannot believe that I have never read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe before now! I've seen the movie a million times but never read it before. Now there's a sequel, though, and I thought it was high time (so that I could read the sequel and not feel like a terrible reader!). 

I won't include a synopsis here because I think pretty much everyone knows what the book is about. If you don't, Evelyn Couch, a woman on the brink of menopause, meets Ninny Threadgood while visiting her mother in law at a nursing home. Ninny regales Evelyn throughout the book with tales of her hometown, Whistle Stop. She hooks Evelyn with the hint of a murder but it's the people that keep Evelyn coming back. 

The book is told through flashbacks, newspaper articles, and Evelyn's story (which includes visits to the nursing home). 

This is a story about women and friendship and found family and love! So much love! That said, the book gave me a lot of laugh-out-loud moments, but the really heart-wrenching stuff hits so much harder in the movie. 

I will say that the movie is surprisingly pretty true to the book. It's more streamlined and simplified, but quite true. One difference is that Ruth doesn't show up until after Buddy dies, so she's not in love with him at all in the book. Also, the movie is told much more linearly than the book. 

We also get a little peek at Buddy Jr and other characters who really don't appear much or at all in the movie, and I really appreciated that. Even more specifically, the book delves into the life experiences of the black people in Whistle Stop more than the movie. Theirs are still side stories, but we get, for example, the different experiences between two brothers and their children. 

One of the things that surprised me the most was the difference between the way Ruth and Idgie's stories are treated between the book and the movie. The book was published in 1987, the movie released in 1991 and while I knew the movie hinted at Ruth and Idgie's relationship, it's clear in the book that they're together. Which was a pleasant surprise! No one takes issue with them being together! When Ruth returns, she flat out tells Idgie's parents that she'll never leave her again, which prompts Idgie's mother to comment about her not knowing what she's in for. Honestly, it was so refreshing knowing that this book has existed for so long and while I'm sure it's out there, I've never come across anyone complaining about this book or its content. 

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is pure enjoyment. It's a feel good book that'll make you mostly root for humanity again. What's more, it's a book that looks at women in particular. 

(By the way, I listened to this one on audio and the narrator is wonderful! She sounds like Jessica Tandy! The sequel's audio is read by the author herself.)

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Excerpt: The Last to See Her by Courtney Evan Tate

Good morning, readers! Today I get to share a taste of Courtney Evan Tate's The Last to See Her, courtesy of the publisher. 

Before we dive in, though, here's a bit about the book:

Genevieve, a writer, is about to finalize her divorce from her cheating husband Todd. So when her sister Meg, an ambitious physician, has a convention to attend in New York City, she invites Gen along to celebrate her return to single life. It will be a perfect sisters' getaway in the big city! But things go awry when, on their first evening at the hotel, Gen decides to take a late night walk and disappears without a trace. Eventually she is officially declared a missing person.

Suspicion soon falls on her sister Meg, who was the last person to see her.

Through twists and turns, it is revealed that Meg has been sleeping with her brother-in-law Todd... And then there is a question of a newly purchased insurance policy that just has just gone into effect before Gen’s disappearance. Both Todd and Meg deny any knowledge of it.

But has an actual crime been committed? Can it be proven? And if so, who is really the guilty one?

This kind of thriller is catnip for me, especially right now when I'm looking for fast-paced reads that I can really get lost in! How about you? 

Well, if that is your kind of thing, then buckle up! Here are the opening pages from The Last to See Her:

The Last to See Her
by Courtney Evan Tate


Genevieve tipped the courier and set the certified letter on the coffee table.

She knew what it was. She’d been waiting for it for almost a week.

Every day, she’d wondered, Will it be today?

And each day it wasn’t.

Until today.

Nervous energy buzzed through her fingers and toes, tingling through her veins, like ants scurrying in a thousand directions. She paced for a minute, stopping at the floor-to-ceiling windows, staring at the magnificent cityscape lining the horizon. Buildings burst through the hazy pollution, their tips scraping the clouds.

People far below her were bustling here and there, quick to walk, slow to linger. They had things to do, places to be, and she didn’t.

Not anymore.

She ripped open the envelope, pulling the banded documents out, scanning through the words, hunting for the official stamps and signatures that declared this an official act of the court.

They were all there.

This was real.

It was finally happening.

She focused her gaze on the words before her.

Honestly, they were simple.

The black-and-whiteness of them was stark and startling. There were no gray areas, no areas open to interpretation.

They reduced the last ten years of her life into a handful of legal phrases and technical terms. Incompatible differences associated with adultery, marriage dissolution and absolute divorce.

She stared at the words.

Soon, she would be absolutely divorced. She just had to sign the papers.

It had only taken six months of her life to iron out the details. To separate all of their worldly possessions into two camps, his and hers, to figure out who got what. Divorcing a lawyer was the only thing worse than being married to one. No matter that he was the one in err, because he repeatedly fucked someone else, he was out for blood and it took months to sort it all out.

But thank God no children were involved.

That’s what people kept saying, like it was a good thing or a blessing.

But if she’d had a child, she wouldn’t be all alone, and someone would still love her.

She felt like she was floundering. For so long, she’d put all of her energy into a man who hadn’t deemed her worthy to stay faithful to. That had done something to her self-confidence. Something terrible. It wounded her in places she hadn’t known she had, and now she had to figure out who she was without him.

She wasn’t Genevieve Tibault anymore, one half of a whole. She was Genevieve McCready again, and what was Genevieve McCready going to do now, now that she had to stand alone?

She pushed herself off the couch and ran water in her coffee cup. It was a habit Thad had taught her. He hated it when the cups developed coffee rings. She stared at the running water, and then set her cup down.

She didn’t have to do what he wanted anymore. If she wanted coffee rings or tea rings or any kind of fucking rings, she could have them.

It was an epiphany.

She was her own person again. It had been so long since she was a me instead of a we.

She looked around, at the condo she had fought so hard for…the marble floors that they couldn’t agree on—she’d wanted slate, he’d wanted marble—at the modern light fixtures that he’d gotten his way on, at even the tan wall colors. She’d wanted gray.

Why had she even wanted this place?

It was all Thad, and none of Genevieve.

A sense of exuberance, a strange jubilation, welled up in her as she searched online for a realtor and then dialed the phone.

Bubbles of excitement swelled in her belly as she arranged a time for the realtor to come see the place.

And then again, as she stared at a map.

Unlike Thad, someone who had spent years building up his legal practice and honing his networking skills in this one city, she could work from anywhere.

She wrote novels.

She could work in Antarctica if she wanted to.

She didn’t want to, but she could.

She already had a plan. She knew where she was going, and what she was doing. She just had to have the courage to do it.

She picked up the phone and called her only sister, Meghan.

“Meg, I’m moving home.”

Her sister paused. “Home as in…?”

“Cedarburg.” There was a long pregnant pause now.

“Um. Why would you want to move back to Wisconsin? You haven’t lived there in…”

“In eighteen years. Since I left for college. Yes.”


“I don’t know,” Gen said honestly. “I just feel a need to get back to my roots. I love Chicago, but the traffic and the noise…” She stared out from her twentieth floor windows again. Even from up here, even though the vehicles looked like Matchbox cars, she could still hear the honking. “This feels like Thad. I want to feel like me.”

“There’s nothing there,” Meg said carefully. “Nothing but fields and cold and—”

“And friendly people,” Gen interrupted. “And our parents, and familiarity, and open spaces, and distance from Thad.”

“But I won’t be there,” Meg reminded her gently. “I’m not moving back. I think you need to be near me, Gen. You need a support system. Divorce is no joke.”

“I know that,” Gen said patiently. “I’m the one living it. You’re still with your Prince Charming and point five children living the American Dream, and I’m the one sitting in an empty condo.”

She fought to keep the bitterness out of her voice, as she compared Meg’s bustling, messy home to her own stark and empty condo in her mind’s eye.

“I’ll tell Joey that you’re counting him as a point five,” Meg chuckled.

“Well, he’s only five, so it’s fitting. I mean, honestly. He’s not a whole person yet.”

They laughed again, and then Meg sobered up.

“Is this really something you want to do?”

Gen nodded. “Yeah. I think so.”

Meg took a big breath. “Well, let’s do it, then. I’ll help you with your condo, and finding a moving company, and looking online for a house there, and hell’s bells, we’ve got a lot to do!”

“You don’t have to help with all that…” Gen trailed off, but Meg interrupted with their life-long pact.

“Sisters forever,” she decreed. They’d used that pact since they were kids. Whenever one didn’t want to do something, the other would remind them “sisters forever,” and they would concede.

Gen realized she wasn’t going to get away with not letting Meg get her hands in all the new plans.

“Sisters forever,” she agreed.

“But first, you promised to go to my convention with me,” Meg reminded her.

Gen hesitated.

“Don’t tell me you forgot. New York City? Spa days, shopping—you need a new wardrobe, sis—and nights on the town. You promised.”

Gen paused again, and Meghan cajoled, “Pleassssse. We need this. You need this. It can be your divorce party.”

“Okay,” Gen found herself saying. “Fine. I’ll still come.”

Her sister squealed and Gen hung up before Meg could get too excited. She was moving away from everything she’d known for over a decade. Even though the world seemed unsettled and uncertain, for the first time in at least five years, she felt at peace.

Excerpted from The Last to See Her by Courtney Evan Tate, Copyright © 2020 by Lakehouse Press, Inc. Published by MIRA Books

Courtney Evan Tate is the nom de plume (and darker side) of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Courtney Cole. As Courtney Evan Tate, she is the author of Such Dark Things and I'll Be Watching You. Courtney grew up in rural Kansas and now lives with her husband and kids in Florida, where spends her days dreaming of new characters and storylines and surprising plot twists and writing them beneath rustling palm trees. Visit her on Facebook or at courtneycolewriters.com

Huge, huge thanks to the publisher for inviting me to take part in the tour today! 

The Last to See Her officially releases on December 15, so be sure to pre order a copy now!

Monday, December 7, 2020

In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren

Maelyn Jones and her family have always spent Christmas at a cabin in Park City. But this might just be their last!

Maelyn's parents and their best friends from college have made the cabin an annual tradition. It's meant that Mae and her brother grew up alongside Andrew and Theo, the owners' sons. In spite of that, or maybe because of it, Mae has had the most massive crush on Andrew since she was thirteen. Which is why it's such a shock that a couple of glasses of egg nog led to her making out with Theo! What's worse, Andrew saw the whole thing and Theo blows her off in the most awkward way!

But when Mae and her family are in a wreck just after leaving the cabin, she wakes up to find herself on a plane headed to the cabin...again. Of course she's thoroughly confused, but when it happens again she realizes the universe might be trying to tell her something. With her future and her fate in her hands, Mae gets a do-over like no other. And this time, she wants to be sure she does things right!

In a Holidaze is just as cute as you'd imagine a Christmas themed Groundhog Day to be in the hands of Christina Lauren! (Note this is my first time reading them, but I have heard wonderful things about their work and knew I was going to be in for a fun ride!)

Mae is not in a good place. She's unhappy with her job, living with her mom, and hasn't had a decent date in quite some time. But a drunken makeout session with one of her childhood friends isn't going to fix anything. In fact, she's afraid it could ruin everything considering their families are so close. But it's the news that the cabin is going up for sale that's more shocking than anything. 

So when she's given a chance to do it over, she can't actually decide what her mail goal should be: saving the cabin or finally confessing her feelings to her longtime crush. 

I adored Mae! She's at that age when she recognizes that she isn't happy but isn't too sure what to do about it. Expectations mean that she's already floundering simply by living with her mom. Plus, there's been all kinds of pressure for her end up with Theo, linking the families officially. But this is her chance to figure things out and, hopefully, get it right. And who hasn't ever dreamed of that? (It's certainly the theme of lots of books and movies!)

This latest from coauthors Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings is full of yuletide cheer, lots of laughs, and a ton of awkward moments. It's also kind of steamy!

In short, it's an excellent feel-good read that just begs to be read in one sitting, which makes it perfect for the season! And it's exactly what I was looking for: a fun and light read that transported me temporarily away from the stress of everyday life (and Covid)! Mae and her extended family of longtime friends made for great weekend companions. 

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The Third Sister by Sara Blaedel

Ilka Jensen is ready to give up. She's done all she can to keep her father's funeral home afloat, and she's failed. Now all she has to do is tie up loose ends and she can head home. 

But then Artie, her father's business partner, is brutally attacked. And then Sister Eileen lets slip something big concerning Ilka's father. Now Ilka has no choice but to stay in the States as she tries desperately to protect those around her! Unfortunately, the fallout from all of her father's secrets may finally prove to be her undoing. 

It's December and I know I'm not alone in feeling like this year has gone by incredibly slowly. Fortunately, I've had a string of great reads to get me through! 

I had absolutely no idea how Blaedel was going to tie up this series at all. And I must say, The Third Sister really was a satisfying conclusion. 

Of the series as a whole, this is the one that is most solidly crime fiction. Until this point, the first two were more family drama than crime (though it was absolutely there, it took a backseat to the rest of the story). But this one really does bring the crime 100%. 

Ilka has decided it's time to go home. This was my one beef with the trilogy, her waffling back and forth about leaving in the first place. It's understandable, given the circumstances (which Blaedel does explore), but the number of times she commits to leaving and decides not to certainly did start to become a bit of an alright-already! situation. 

But this time, she's really going to leave. Until some pretty heavy stuff goes down! First, Artie is attacked. And Ilka thinks she knows who's responsible, but she has no idea why they'd resort to such tactics. 

And then Sister Eileen, who's definitely been hiding things throughout the series, reveals something huge! And it really does explain her behavior in the previous two books :)

Now Ilka is more than stuck, she has to stay and finally, finally get to the bottom of what had been going on with her father. 

And she gets there! She finds out, through the series, why he left (which was all she wanted), why he stayed, and exactly what he'd been up to the whole time he'd been in Racine!

This is such a great read and such a perfect trilogy to binge! I read this third book in one day, which really has been a rare event since having a kid! And it was so much fun!

The Third Sister released in paperback last month, which is pretty perfect if you're looking for a great gift for a mystery fan (or a treat for yourself) this holiday season! And I absolutely do recommend arming yourself with all three books. Trust me, you will want to read these back to back!

Order a copy from your favorite indie via Bookshop!