Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Mother-Daughter Murder Night

Multi-generational family dynamics imbue this exciting well-drawn and well-plotted supersleuth whodunnit about murders in a coastal California town.

In Mother-Daughter Murder Night, first time novelist Nina Simon appealingly integrates spirited family dynamics with the intricacies of a complex whodunnit.


Three generations of women shack up together in a little house in Elkhorn Slough, a coastal town in Monterey Bay, Calif. This all comes about when family matriarch, Lana Rubicon--a 57-year-old, take-charge real estate mogul--faces an advanced cancer diagnosis. While undergoing treatment, her daughter, Beth, a geriatric nurse, insists that Lana, from Santa Monica, come and live with her and her daughter, Lana’s granddaughter, 15-year-old “Jack.” Lana and Beth’s contentious relationship had been riddled with angst ever since Lana became a single mother when Beth was just a rebellious teenager. Navigating the emotional minefield of Lana’s present illness and trigger points from the past, the strong, fiercely independent, mother and daughter are forced to bury the hatchet when a young man who works for a local land trust is found murdered. When the police investigation draws Jack, a kayak tour guide, into the list of suspects, Beth and Lana, who long-ago shared a passion for watching Columbo TV crime stories, put their amateur detective skills to work. They become determined to exonerate Jack and root out the real killer—but not before another murder takes place that ups the ante.


Simon has skillfully crafted a multi-generational study of disparate characters where surprising, immensely well-plotted crimes and clues will keep mystery readers guessing.



Mother-Daughter Murder Night: A Novel by Nina Simon

William Morrow, $30.00 hardcover, 9780063315044, 368 pages  

Publishing Date: September 5, 2023

To order this book on INDIEBOUND/Bookshop.Org, link HERE


NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (September 8, 2023), link HERE



Tuesday, November 14, 2023

The Purest Bond

An entertaining, thoroughly researched and profoundly informative book addressing the tremendous impact dogs have on human lives.


“Dogs…serve as a sort of balm to the mental health struggles and ongoing stress that are plaguing people worldwide. Our canine companions help us feel grounded and present-minded, leading by example,” writes authors Jenn Golbeck (The Golden Ratio Cookbook) and Stacey Colino (Unlock Your Menopause Type). In The Purest Bond: Understanding the Human-Canine Connection, they present an entertaining, insightful treatise on the impact dogs have on human life. This writing duo--with accomplished backgrounds in academic, scientific, and psychological issues--weaves together groundbreaking research and down-to-earth stories that explore the many benefits of the human-canine bond.


Supported by scientific information, the narrative weaves in psychological studies examining how dogs impact, support, and improve the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the human condition. A thorough section on aging dogs and coping with loss and grief is most compassionately rendered.


“In exchange for us feeding, loving, and caring for them, (dogs) pay us back many times over.” The gratifying research culled and entertainingly presented by Golbeck and Colino, will change the lives of dog lovers and readers similarly.


The Purest Bone: Understanding the Human-Canine Connection by Jen Golbeck and Stacey Colino

Atria Books, $28.00 hardcover, 9781668007846, 256 pages

Publishing Date: November 14, 2023

To order this book on INDIEBOUND/Bookshop.Org, link HERE

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

The Sunset Years of Agnes Sharp

A clever, crowd-pleasing cozy mystery about a lovable band of geriatrics swept up into a dark, at times madcap, murder investigation.

A band of lovable geriatrics who share a house in the quiet English countryside find themselves swept up in a murder investigation that escalates in The Sunset Years of Agnes Sharp, a smart, clever cozy mystery by Leonie Swann (translated from the German by Amy Bojang).


The story is set at Sunset Hall, a dilapidated house in Duck End that belongs to Agnes Sharp, retired from the police force. Agnes now shares her domicile with five other, eccentric pensioners—three women and two men. The housemates long to stay independent and live on their own while battling memory lapses, hearing and vision loss, bad backs, hips, and more. However, when the body of a resident turns up dead in their garden shed, and a gun goes missing, their world is turned upside-down. Before the seniors can retrieve what they believe is the murder weapon, another aged woman is slain nearby. Can the two deaths be connected? This launches the housemates--and their pet tortoise--on a conniving, often madcap quest to find the killer while pitted against a host of obstacles, including their own limitations.


Swann’s perceptive storytelling resides amidst the offbeat—as evidenced in her other cozy, Three Bags Full, where a flock of ingenious sheep solves the murder of their shepherd. Via The Sunset Years of Agnes Sharp, Swann once again perfectly balances playfulness and poignancy. She exposes and celebrates the elderly and infirm--their predicaments and secrets--delivering a refreshingly fun crowd-pleaser sure to charm mystery readers of all ages.



The Sunset Years of Agnes Sharp by Leonie Swann (translated from the German by Amy Bojang)  

Soho Crime, $27.95 hardcover, 9780778387121, 360 pages

Publishing Date: August 29, 2023

To order this book on INDIEBOUND/Bookshop.Org, link HERE


NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (September 1, 2023), link HERE

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

The Little Italian Hotel


A tender, hopeful story about a woman who, after her marriage comes undone, sets off on an inspiring Italian holiday with four strangers.

Five strangers are brought together on an Italian holiday in The Little Italian Hotel, a sweetly immersive novel brimming with the hope of new beginnings by Phaedra Patrick.


To celebrate 25-years of marriage, Ginny Splinter--a 49-year-old,  problem-solving, British radio talk show host--surprises her husband, Adrian, by planning an upscale trip to Italy for just the two of them. But when she presents the gift, Adrian announces that he doesn’t want to go on a vacation. He wants a divorce. Shaken and jarred, heartsick Ginny decides, on a lark, to invite four loyal listeners, at random, to accompany her on the trip instead. This is accomplished by her swapping out the pricy luxury accommodations she’d planned for her and Adrian in Vigornuovo, a small Italian village in Bologna, (10, 48) in exchange for more modest lodgings for she and her guests. The five strangers--ranging in age from 27 to 80--meet for the first time, where they all set off, touring Venice and Florence. The sights of Italy may be wonders to behold, but the life stories of the strangers--each on the cusp of change in his and her own life--prove equally enriching amidst the journey.


Patrick (The Messy Lives of Book People) is a beautiful writer of optimistic stories that probe the true meaning of life and the human quest to find happiness and fulfillment. In The Little Italian Hotel, she once again mines the bittersweet landscape of the human heart with great tenderness, insight, and wisdom.



The Little Italian Hotel by Phaedra Patrick

Park Row (Harlequin/Harper Collins), $18.99 original paperback, 9780778387121, 320 pages, Publishing Date: June 6, 2023

To order this book on INDIEBOUND/Bookshop.Org, link HERE


NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (June 6, 2023), link HERE

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

What the Dead Know

A dedicated medical examiner from the City of New York shares fascinating, soul-searching stories that came to define her career—and her life.

Barbara Butcher is one tough lady. Only the second woman ever appointed to serve as a death investigator in Manhattan, she helped solve crimes that could’ve calloused and darkened her heart many times over. However, in her fascinating, down to earth memoir, What the Dead Know, she tells riveting personal stories about investigating homicides, suicides, and tragic accidents that moved and changed her life in extraordinary ways.


Butcher came to the profession through a series of unexpected, fortunate events. A teen who suffered from depression and suicidal impulses--and experimented with drugs--she struggled for direction after high school. A woman she worked for at a nursing home took note of Butcher’s potential and encouraged her to become a physician assistant. College coursework on anatomy, physiology, chemistry, pathology, and solving diagnosis puzzles lit a fire under Butcher’s ambitions. She did work stints in surgery and gynecology, and went on to earn a master’s degree in public health. Just as Butcher was en route to a cushy but boring career as a hospital administrator, her personal life unraveled. After she hit rock bottom, she found Alcoholics Anonymous and some career counseling. Butcher was deemed best suited for a career as a coroner.


Inquisitive readers--especially fans of mysteries and true crime--will be captivated by Butcher’s appealing, conversational writing style. She presents a trove of detailed, sobering case studies of how notorious investigations--including a chilling section about her work during 9-11--often wore her down while also expanding her skill set and intellect, enriching the depths of her character. 


What the Dead Know: Learning About Life as a New York City Death Investigator by Barbara Butcher

Simon and Schuster, $26.99 hardcover, 288 pages, 9781982179380

Publishing Date: June 20, 2023


To order this book on INDIEBOUND/Bookshop.Org, link HERE


NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly different from) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review as published on Shelf Awareness for the Book Trade (May 11, 2023), link HERE

A shortened version of this same review was published on Shelf Awareness for Readers (June 23, 2023). Link HERE to read that review.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Must Love Flowers

A gentle, heartfelt story about a grieving widow--and those suffering similarly in her orbit--who gets her life back on track.

Starting over is the central theme of Must Love Flowers, a tender, graceful novel written by Debbie Macomber. 


Joan Sample of Seattle, Wash., is a 54-year-old mother of two adult sons who has been widowed for four years. Since her husband’s passing, she’s become paralyzed by grief. Even her flower garden, once her pride and joy, has become grossly overgrown. When the town sends a condemning notice about the state of her property, she is finally propelled out of her emotional malaise. She joins a grief support group and sets out in search of hiring a landscaper “who must love flowers.” She enlists Phil Harrison—a quiet, private local. When she later crosses paths with Phil at the support group, she learns that he, too, is burdened by grief and loss of his own. As Joan’s broken heart begins to heal, she decides, on a lark, to take in a border, Maggie Herbert, a hard-working college student who longs to escape her abusive, alcoholic father. Thus begins a journey of second chances for each of these lost, wounded, and struggling souls. As they forge ahead in rebuilding their lives, friendship and romance find each of them along the way. 


Examining the gentle nuances of multi-generational smalltown life is what Macomber (The Best Is Yet to Come, It’s Better This Way) does best. In Must Love Flowers, Macomber’s heartfelt storytelling is on full display, showing how hope can rebloom when cultivated with kindness, caring, and love.


Must Love Flowers by Debbie Macomber

Ballantine Books, $28.00 hardcover, 9780593600559, 336 pages

Publishing Date: July 11, 2023

To order this book on INDIEBOUND/Bookshop.Org, link HERE


NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review on Shelf Awareness: Reader's Edition (July 14, 2023), link HERE

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

Mrs. Plansky's Revenge

A fresh, dynamic cozy mystery where a strong, likable 71-year-old Florida widow is scammed of her life savings and sets off on a quest for justice.

Spencer Quinn is the author of the fun and wildly successful Chet and Bernie mysteries, a long-running series that features a talking dog and his human, crime-solving, private-eye partner. In Mrs. Plansky’s Revenge, Quinn launches a fresh, new dynamic series featuring an aging heroine who becomes embroiled in an exciting, adventurous mystery.  

Recent widow, Mrs. Loretta Plansky, is discerning and spry; a 71-year-old tennis-player. She and her husband, Norm, were a sophisticated couple who made millions with their unlikely invention of a “toaster knife,” a knife that actually toasts bread while you slice it. In order to retire, Loretta and Norm, parents of two adult children, sold the business with high hopes of living a leisurely Florida lifestyle of ease and comfort. However, things didn’t quite go according to plan. Norm died, and then Mrs. Plansky, hip replaced, decided to downsize. She moved from their large home into a new residence, an “itty-bitty” condo on Little Pine Lake—situated only a few miles from keeping tabs on her pesky, temperamental, 98-year-old father, who resides in an upscale assisted living community. Mrs. Plansky’s children and grandchildren don’t live nearby, but they climb out of the woodwork, gracious and attentive as can be when they need something—mainly money. 

When tired and spent Mrs. Plansky receives a frantic, distressing phone call from someone whom she believes is her grandson--he needs $10,000 to post bail for a DUI arrest--she gives him what he asks for without question. Mrs. Plansky later learns, however, the call was a fraud perpetrated by overseas criminals who proceeded to wipe out her entire nest egg. When the police and FBI conclude they don’t have enough evidence to solve the whodunnit, Mrs. Plansky becomes intent on taking charge and seeking justice. 

Quinn’s (Bark to the Future, Of Mutts and Men) briskly plotted nail-biter takes unexpected twists and turns nicely balanced by Mrs. Plansky turning to the ghost of her husband. He serves as a silent, tender touchstone empowering her amidst a courageous, complicated quest for retribution. Fearless Mrs.Plansky barrels past her comfort zone and the limitations of her years, setting off to Romania where she plunges head-long into danger. Her age never becomes a detriment. Rather, she works it to her advantage, employing great ingenuity to solve a crime that elevates her into an immensely likeable, wholly appealing heroine.


Mrs. Plansky’s Revenge by Spencer Quinn

Forge Books, $26.99 hardcover, 304 pages, 9781250843333

Publishing Date: July 25, 2023

To order this book on INDIEBOUND/Bookshop.Org, link HERE


NOTE: This review is a reprint and is being posted (in a slightly different from) with the permission of Shelf Awareness. To read this review as published on Shelf Awareness for the Book Trade (June 5, 2023), link HERE

A shortened version of this review was published on Shelf Awareness for Readers (July 28, 2023). Link HERE to read that review.