Dead Perfect by Noelle Holten

Title: Dead Perfect
Author: Noelle Holten
Publisher: HarperCollins UK, One More Chapter
Source: NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. To be Published October 2020

Dead Perfect Book Cover

A murdered woman…

When the body of a young woman is found in a local park, DC Maggie Jamieson knows she’s dealing with no ordinary killer.  The murder victim has been disfigured; her outfit changed to resemble someone else.  Someone Maggie knows all too well…her close friend Dr Kate Moloney.

A determined detective…

Maggie is determined to keep her friend safe, but with Kate already struggling with a threatening stalker, Maggie now fears Kate’s life is in real danger.  Who else would want to harm Kate and why else would the killer be turning his victims into exact replicas – his living dolls?

Can Maggie find the depraved killer?  Or will Kate become his next living doll?

I didn’t enjoy much about this novel. Some of the ARCs I receive have formatting issues which I overlook but this went beyond that.

The Good:

  • The cover is awesome.
  • You don’t have to read any of the other books in the series to pick up on the characters, relationships, or the plot.
  • References to the last book were minimal.
  • The ending leaves an opening for fans to have another book in the DC Maggie Jamieson series.
  • I wasn’t able to identify who the serial killer was but I was able to mark off all of the suspects as they were presented.
  • Some of the chapters were of the serial killers actions and some were of the potential victim and main investigator.

The Bad:

  • The pacing was off. It was really slow until the end.
  • There was a lot of telling and not showing.
  • Dialogue could be stilted and awkward at times.

I received this book in May and it’s not set to be published until October. There’s probably another ARC copy floating around that’s gone through another round or two of edits.

The Last Place You Look by Kristen Lepionka

Title: The Last Place You Look
Author: Kristen Lepionka
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
Source: Columbus Metropolitan Library

Book Cover of The Last Place You Look

I listened to this on audio book so I missed small details that I’d normally catch when reading the ebook or print version but I still really enjoyed it. The narrator was perfect.

It has bits set in Columbus so it was nice to see my hometown so prominently featured. It has neighborhoods and restaurants that are still around so it didn’t come across as dated.

It was interesting reading this during a pandemic and a time of protests against police brutality and racial inequality. The accused murderer is a black man on death row for allegedly killing the parents of his white girlfriend who went missing the same night and is presumed dead. Roxane is going to parties to do more investigative work.

It’s really well written. There was a red herring that I didn’t believe, partly because it was halfway through the book and partly because Roxane was so adamant that it was the right answer. The situations in this book were taken from headlines.

Roxane Weary is a complicated character and I’m glad there are more books featuring her. (The fourth one comes out next month.)

Before this one was published, a mutual friend who knows Kristen said that Kristen had done a ride-along with the police as part of the research. Our mutual friend is a big pusher of Kristen’s books! 🙂

I actually met Kristen at The Great American Read Trivia Night 2018 at the Columbus Metropolitan Library. Our mutual friend got a lot of ribbing that night because she wasn’t there. I attended that night with members of my book club, which includes our mutual friend. Without knowing Kristen was there we all ended up at the same table.

Unfamiliar Familiars by Megan Lynn Kott and Justin DeVine

Title: Unfamiliar Familiars
Author: Megan Lynn Kott and Justin DeVine
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Source: NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Book cover for Unfamiliar Familiars

The witch and her black cat are an iconic partnership, but every witch is different—shouldn’t you have a familiar as unique and powerful as you are? Leave the toads and crows to the basic witches and consider some unconventional options when seeking your own arcane animal companion!

With a helpful quiz to get you started, UNFAMILIAR FAMILIARS is a lighthearted and humorous guide to finding the familiar best suited to your personality and particular magical needs. Filled with playful pop culture references, unusual and engaging animal facts, and aww-inducing artwork, UNFAMILIAR FAMILIARS brings a magical twist to the animal fact book for companion-seeking witches everywhere.

This was a spur of the moment pick from NetGalley. I follow the publisher on Instagram and during the pandemic they’ve been posting a lot of stories which I actually watch and don’t swipe through. This cover caught my eye and then seeing who the publisher was… I grabbed it.

It appeared it would be a lighthearted read and possibly provide some laughs. At 96 pages it could be read in a day or two, but why push yourself? These 40 unique familiars aren’t going anywhere.

The books notes what a familiar is, how to choose one, and how to summon one prior to explaining who would make a good match for each familiar. It’s important to remember that a familiar is not a servant or a pet!

According to a decision tree (if you don’t want to summon a familiar), the Ball Python would be a good match for me. They are a limbless cuddler known for getting along well with witches allergic to dander.

That’s me, exactly!

Great at hugs. Cool. Shed their skin every 4-6 weeks which require renewing the pact? Okay. Renaming must also be done and can’t be a repeat of the last 6 names. Ummm. I guess that’s why the witches they’re paired with must have good memories!

The drawings are all cute. The descriptions of the animals as familiars veer into silliness. Who doesn’t need a bit of silliness now and then? As the authors noted, if the facts couldn’t be found, then they just made it up.

Bonus points to Megan Lynn Kott for proclaiming Valiant, the 3-legged Corgi as her familiar. I would’ve done the same.

The Rural Diaries by Hilarie Burton

Title: The Rural Diaries
Author: Hilarie Burton 
Publisher: HarperOne
Source: Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Book Cover of The Rural Diaries by Hilarie Burton


New York Times Bestseller 

The beloved actress and star of One Tree Hill, White Collar, and Lethal Weapon, Hilarie Burton Morgan, tells the story of leaving Hollywood for a radically different kind of life in upstate New York with her husband Jeffrey Dean Morgan—a celebration of community, family, and the value of hard work in small town America.

While Hilarie Burton Morgan’s hectic lifestyle as an actress in New York and Los Angeles gave her a comfortable life, it did not fulfill her spiritually or emotionally. After the birth of their first son, she and her husband Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the star of The Walking Dead, decided to make a major change: they bought a working farm in Rhinebeck, New York, and began a new chapter in their lives.

The Rural Diaries chronicles her inspiring story of farm life: chopping wood, making dandelion wine, building chicken coops. Burton looks back at her transition from urban to country living—discovering how to manage a farm while raising her son and making friends with her new neighbors. She mixes charming stories of learning to raise alpacas and buying and revitalizing the town’s beloved candy store, Samuel’s Sweet Shop, with raw observations on the ups and downs of marriage and her struggles with secondary infertility. Burton also includes delicious recipes that can be made with fresh ingredients at home, as well as home renovation and gardening tips.

Burton’s charisma, wide eyed attitude, and fortitude—both internal and physical—propels this moving story of transformation and self-discovery. The Rural Diaries honors the values and lifestyle of small-town America and offers inspiration for anyone longing to embark on their own unconventional journey.

If you’re doing the Read Harder Challenge for 2020 this will qualify for the entry about a rural setting. I used it as my entry for that task.

So, the cover and the name caught my eye and I found the memoir aspect interesting. I didn’t know who she was – I wasn’t watching MTV when she was hosting Total Request Live. But at the mention of an incident of unwanted sexual contact on the set of the show, I recalled seeing her tweet about it. I am aware of her husband’s existence but I never think of him by his name. It’s his character’s name on The Walking Dead that makes me cringe and wonder how people can be awful to one another. 

Hilarie Burton Morgan’s book feels very authentic. It’s not a tell-all and she goes just enough into each story that you get the details of what happened without going so deep that the woman, her family, and her neighbors don’t have any privacy. 

She’s about to move to Paris, France when she meets a man 16 years her senior who she jokes is a midlife crisis. She ends up charmed and a new plan develops which involves a future Christmas tree farm. Stories about rural life, infertility, gender bias, coupledom, and being a good community member is what you’ll find in this book.

It was really very sweet and it’s obvious how much she cares for the animals that she’s been entrusted with to care for.

Swashbuckling Cats Virtual Launch Party with Tyche Books Tuesday May 26th

Swashbuckling Cats Book Cover
From Tyche Books:

Celebrate the release of SWASHBUCKLING CATS: NINE LIVES ON THE SEVEN SEAS with the editor and authors!

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter during the event time to participate. There will be readings, Q&A, and a pirate trivia contest! Door prizes will be awarded.

Enter a draw to win a signed print of the cover art by Sarah Dahlinger! Enter by posting a picture of you with your copy of Swashbuckling Cats! You will have a week to enter this draw. Draw will be conducted on June 2nd.

As this is a virtual event, it is strictly Bring Your Own Catnip.

Note: This event is being held from 1-4pm MDT.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Bite Size Book Review

Why did I read this book?

I read about the book in an email so I reserved it from the library. I listened to this on audio to keep me company while I prepped fruit for making a pear crisp.

What did I think of this book?

I really liked it! It has a lot of back and forth between internal memories of prior events and several days at the hunting lodge which might be confusing to some. Foley doesn’t tell you right away who gets murdered and the last third of the book is a wild ride.

Who should read this book?

Fans of Agatha Christie will probably love this.

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

Title: Big Summer
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Publisher: Atria Books
Source: Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Book Cover of Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

“Sexy and satisfying, Big Summer is the perfect quarantine read.” —USA TODAY

“The beach read to end all beach reads.” —Entertainment Weekly

“Big fun, and then some. It’s empowering and surprising—a reminder to put down the phone and enjoy each moment for what it is.” —The Washington Post

A deliciously funny, remarkably poignant, and simply unputdownable novel about the power of friendship, the lure of frenemies, and the importance of making peace with yourself through all life’s ups and down. From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Good in Bed and Best Friends ForeverBig Summer is the perfect escape with one of the most lovable heroines to come to the page in years.

Six years after the fight that ended their friendship, Daphne Berg is shocked when Drue Cavanaugh walks back into her life, looking as lovely and successful as ever, with a massive favor to ask. Daphne hasn’t spoken one word to Drue in all this time—she doesn’t even hate-follow her ex-best friend on social media—so when Drue asks if she will be her maid-of-honor at the society wedding of the summer, Daphne is rightfully speechless.

Drue was always the one who had everything—except the ability to hold onto friends. Meanwhile, Daphne’s no longer the same self-effacing sidekick she was back in high school. She’s built a life that she loves, including a growing career as a plus-size Instagram influencer. Letting glamorous, seductive Drue back into her life is risky, but it comes with an invitation to spend a weekend in a waterfront Cape Cod mansion. When Drue begs and pleads and dangles the prospect of cute single guys, Daphne finds herself powerless as ever to resist her friend’s siren song.

A sparkling novel about the complexities of female relationships, the pitfalls of living out loud and online, and the resilience of the human heart, Big Summer is a witty, moving story about family, friendship, and figuring out what matters most.

My reaction to this book would be head exploding emoji followed by screaming face emoji and ending with a smiling emoji.

I finished this on the heels of Mrs. Everything. Both novels feature female main characters doing the best they can, and trying to navigate relationships, but couldn’t be more different in style, tone, or plot. 

The head exploding emoji is because I was blown away that this was written by the same person as Mrs. Everything. The screaming face emoji because the plot took a turn and it went from an empowerment book into a mystery complete with Scooby gang. The smiling emoji is how I felt about it at the end. Happy I read it and so glad that my life is nothing like most of the characters.

This was a perfect read while staying at home to flatten the curve during the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic. It brought back happy memories of Top Sail beach vacations I’ve taken in the past. It was dramatic but it wasn’t serious and heavy. 

This was published on 5/5/2020 and already has over 80 people on the waiting list at my local library. I’m sure this will be a spring/summer hit.

Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai

Bite Size Book Review

Why did I read this book?

I happened to see this pop up in my email as being available. I read the first book in the series, Swipe Right, and liked it. There’s a trend in contemporary romances to build a series by focusing on one of the side characters from the first book. This series follows that trend.

What did I think of this book?

I listened to it on audio which I initially found hilarious. The characters are people of color and the voice used for the security guard/love interest sounded like an overly macho white man. The characters alternate chapters and it was just such a contrast to the woman’s voice that it made me laugh the first few times it happened. But I didn’t let it detract from the story. The event that kicks off the action for the characters to change is directly taken from a social media headline. I kept listening because I wanted to find out how they worked things out.

Who should read this book?

Fans of Alisha Rai, anyone who wants to escape a global pandemic for several hours, or wants sex scenes that don’t gloss over anything.

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

Title: Mrs. Everything
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Publisher: Atria Books
Source: Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Book Cover of Mrs. Everything


An instant New York Times bestseller

“A multigenerational narrative that’s nothing short of brilliant.” —People
“Simply unputdownable.” —Good Housekeeping
“The perfect book club pick.” —SheReads

Named a Best Book of Summer by Entertainment WeeklyCosmopolitanWoman’s DayPopSugarHelloGiggles, and Refinery29

From Jennifer Weiner, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Who Do You Love and In Her Shoes comes a smart, thoughtful, and timely exploration of two sisters’ lives from the 1950s to the present as they struggle to find their places—and be true to themselves—in a rapidly evolving world.

Do we change or does the world change us?

Jo and Bethie Kaufman were born into a world full of promise.

Growing up in 1950s Detroit, they live in a perfect “Dick and Jane” house, where their roles in the family are clearly defined. Jo is the tomboy, the bookish rebel with a passion to make the world more fair; Bethie is the pretty, feminine good girl, a would-be star who enjoys the power her beauty confers and dreams of a traditional life.

But the truth ends up looking different from what the girls imagined. Jo and Bethie survive traumas and tragedies. As their lives unfold against the background of free love and Vietnam, Woodstock and women’s lib, Bethie becomes an adventure-loving wild child who dives headlong into the counterculture and is up for anything (except settling down). Meanwhile, Jo becomes a proper young mother in Connecticut, a witness to the changing world instead of a participant. Neither woman inhabits the world she dreams of, nor has a life that feels authentic or brings her joy. Is it too late for the women to finally stake a claim on happily ever after?

In her most ambitious novel yet, Jennifer Weiner tells a story of two sisters who, with their different dreams and different paths, offer answers to the question: How should a woman be in the world?

I received this book for review about a year ago when I was reading a burst of ebooks. During the pandemic I find myself once again turning to my trusty ebook reader for new content. These days I’ve been alternating between ebooks and print books to give my eyes a rest from screen time. Just like I try to alternate between a tv show and a movie.

I’d started this last year and it was easy to fall back into the rhythm of the writing and recall what had happened to the sisters since the beginning of the book.

The novel ends just before the 2016 US Presidential election. Knowing what’s happened since then this book made me wistful about the hope present during that time. I’m younger than Jo and Bethie but I recall the hope that a woman reaching the highest political office would be a tangible achievement that women would be believed when they said something horrible was done to them by a man, that women could finally have true autonomy over our bodies, and be treated with respect by all.

Weiner deftly transitions between the two stories. They orbit each other, like moons on different rotations around the planet known as their childhood, coming together on occasion to have shared experiences. I really enjoyed that each character was fleshed out and had her own story in addition to their shared story.

Virtual Events

In this time of social distancing, everyone is trying to get by with what’s available to them. Unfortunately, I haven’t found anywhere that’s aggregating all the events that are being held.

I’ve watched quite a few of the Metropolitan Operas, and earlier today I watched a Jill Sobule Facebook Live video from the other week. Did you know Michael Chabon is reading picture books on YouTube? (Apparently his kids are giving him grief about the low view count to his channel.)

Anyway, HarperCollins does have a lot of events coming up this week for their authors. Here’s a link to their romance author events that are taking place this week.