Happy birthday Nacho!

I’m putting books on pause for today to wish our sweet boy a very happy 1st birthday!! Every morning, the first thing he does when he wakes up is give me the smoochiest, slobberiest good morning kisses ♥! He’s an A+ snuggler, world class snorter, and I have never met another puppy who loves baths as much as he does. When we brought him home, he made our family complete.

If you want to see more pictures, head over to instagram!


Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh
Pub. Date: March 13, 2018
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Berkley!)
Summary: Two years ago, Tom and Caroline Johnson committed suicide, one seemingly unable to live without the other. Their adult daughter, Anna, is struggling to come to terms with her parents’ deaths, unable to comprehend why they chose to end their lives. Now with a young baby herself, she feels her mother’s presence keenly and is determined to find out what really happened to her parents. But as Anna digs up the past, someone is trying to stop her. She soon learns that nothing is as it seemed.
Genre: Mystery/Thriller

When I was first approached about reviewing Clare Mackintosh’s newest release, Let Me Lie, I initially hesitated. I love psychological thrillers, and her last novel, I See You, was enjoyable and engaging, but not entirely original (in my review I mentioned how I kept thinking of Law & Order and that the book could easily work as an episode). Still, Mackintosh is a genre darling and I finally caved and accepted.

Anna recently lost both her parents to suicide – her mother’s being an exact replica of her father’s. Her father was seen weighing down his pockets with rocks and placing his few belongings on the cliff edge at high tide. Mere months later, her mother’s death echoed her father’s, leaving Anna heartbroken. With the anniversary of her mother’s death rapidly approaching (along with Christmas, her mother died on December 21st), Anna isn’t shocked to see letters and notes in the mail. What does catch her eye, however, is a rather celebratory ‘happy anniversary’ card. A good intention that missed the mark, perhaps? Inside reads “Suicide? Think again,” convincing Anna there was more to her parents’ deaths than she originally thought.

Told in alternating voices: Anna; Murray, a semi-retired detective who decides to look into the case; and Anna’s mother, desperately missing her daughter and wanting to visit her once more, Let Me Lie is another intense and entertaining thriller that certainly held me captive until its final pages.

Rereading my review for I See You, it’s apparent Mackintosh seems to go for younger-woman-with-an-older-man. In Let Me Lie, Anna is 25. Grieving, she makes an appointment with a counselor and a few sessions later, Mark confesses he can no longer see Anna, his feelings for her have gone past professional. Less than a year later, Ella arrives. Mark is in his early 40s, Anna in her mid-20s. It could be a complete coincidence, but something interesting I noticed.

While the mystery aspect didn’t do too much for me (toward the end it became cheesy and a bit over the top – and the final page had me rolling my eyes), Let Me Lie put a HUGE emphasis on mental health that I thought was refreshing and handled really well. Not just Anna’s postpartum experiences, but Murray’s wife’s depression and BPD. Nearing 60, Sarah has good days, days where she’s alert and joyful, curious about Murray’s work and eager to help him solve the puzzles to crack the case. But she also has days where she can’t get out of bed, days where food just doesn’t seem to factor in, and over their 25-year marriage, Sarah has tried several times to commit suicide. Currently admitted to a hospital, Sarah doesn’t want to leave, she feels safe surrounded by the doctors and attendants and even the thought of a simple walk outdoors causes her to panic. Yet Murray deeply loves his wife and diligently visits, always hoping that today will be the day she wants to come home – he never knows for how long, but having her home with him is always something he looks forward to. Murray’s chapters were by far the best part of Let Me Lie – I would actually read an entire book that focused just on him he was that great.

The beginning of the novel was a bit slow-going with Anna trying to convince Murray to take another look into her parents’ deaths, but once he begins to wonder at the possibility of murder, the story took off and it was difficult to put this one down. That said, I do feel this one was just a mediocre read, particularly with the Big Reveals that dipped into trope territory. I feel that someone completely new to mysteries will find Let Me Lie absolutely riveting. In my review for I See You, I mentioned with that novel, Mackintosh didn’t exactly bring anything new to the genre, and the same could be said here. Still, I’m positive this one will be loved by many readers – and will make an excellent beach read come summer.


weekly wrap-up 3/18

• Today is my mom’s birthday! …and our town is currently without water ugh. I went to turn the faucet on this morning and noticed there was hardly anything coming out. Popped onto facebook and discovered a post shared to our community’s group – it wasn’t just my house having issues. My mom – who lives a few streets over – had REALLY low pressure too, but then there were people commenting who live on the other side on town who didn’t have water! I’m not sure if a main is even more damaged now OR if the water authority are in the process of fixing it, because now I’m totally without water. BOO.

• Matt is currently in Colorado with his dad visiting relatives, so it’s been just me and the pups since Thursday! For dinner a few nights ago I made a big sheet pan of honey mustard chicken w/ potatoes and green beans (inspired by this recipe and this one). Spicy and delicious and SO easy – plus it’s given me a few days’ worth of leftovers!

• Hey local friends! 32 Pittsburgh bars and restaurants that allow dogs.

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? I posted my February recap which included my first 5-star read of the year! (Make that, my ONLY 5-star read – so far!)

I also reviewed Andrew Wilson’s A Different Kind of Evil, the second book in a mystery series featuring Agatha Christie! Unfortunately, this seems to be a series where it’s a must that they’re read in order. There was so much talk of events that took place in the first book that I hat a hard time following along and getting invested in this one.

The Creativity Project edited by Colby Sharp
I was unfamiliar with this one before it landed on my doorstep but it sounds SO awesome! A ton of authors (Sherman Alexie, Tom Angleberger, R.J. Palacio, Kate Messner, Dav Pilkey, Lemony Snicket, etc) paired up to give one another writing prompts and then shared their responses. Toward the end of the book each writer gave the reader writing prompts too. HOW FUN! If you’re a parent of elementary school children or a teacher, this is definitely one to check out! Thank you, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers!


A Different Kind of Evil by Andrew Wilson

A Different Kind of Evil by Andrew Wilson
Pub. Date: March 13, 2018
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Atria!)
Summary: Two months after the events of A Talent for Murder, during which Agatha Christie “disappeared,” the famed mystery writer’s remarkable talent for detection has captured the attention of British Special Agent Davison.

Now, at his behest, she is traveling to the beautiful Canary Islands to investigate the strange and gruesome death of Douglas Greene, an agent of the British Secret Intelligence Service. As she embarks on a glamorous cruise ship to her destination, she suddenly hears a scream. Rushing over to the stern of the liner, she witnesses a woman fling herself over the side of the ship to her death.

After this shocking experience, she makes it to the Grand Hotel in a lush valley on the islands. There, she meets a diverse and fascinating cast of characters, including two men who are suspected to be involved in the murder of Douglas Greene: an occultist similar to Aleister Crowley; and the secretary to a prominent scholar, who may also be a Communist spy. But Agatha soon realizes that nothing is what it seems here and she is surprised to learn that the apparent suicide of the young woman on the ocean liner is related to the murder of Douglas Greene.
Genre: Historical Mystery

When I was first contacted about participating in the tour for this book, I couldn’t have been more excited. A mystery series featuring Agatha Christie?! UM YES PLEASE!

1927, the Canary Islands. The deadline for The Mystery of the Blue Train is rapidly approaching, headlines back home in England are abuzz with her mysterious 11-day disappearance, and her husband has recently taken up with another woman. Agatha Christie needs to get away. Unfortunately, her novels seem to have a way of playing out in real life: not only has she just witnessed a desperate young woman jump off a ship into the treacherous waters below, but she herself stumbled upon a second body. As Agatha digs deeper into the two deaths, she begins to believe the two are linked – but how?

I’ll admit that while I was looking forward to diving into this one – it seemed practically written for me! – once I started reading, I was a bit underwhelmed. Now, I’m the kind of reader that doesn’t feel the need to start with the first book in a series: my introduction to Rhys Bowen’s delightful Molly Murphy series was the 17th book, while I began the Aunt Dimity series with the 20th installment! Going into A Different Kind of Evil, I wasn’t concerned at all, it’s only the second book, what could I possibly be missing? …as it turns out, quite a bit. This sequel takes place a mere two months after the events of the first book and calls back to it more often than not. To the point where I had a hard time following the story. I had to set it aside more than once and nearly set it down for good. It wasn’t until well into the second half of the book that I really got my bearings and became invested in the mystery.

The cast of characters was great. Agatha, her nanny, her young daughter. The handsome widow of the young woman who jumped off the ship (and the illicit affair going on between him and the woman’s best friend), the local inspector, a sketchy doctor. One character in particular was especially devious: not only was he an occultist, but he also kept a garden of poison plants – and was possibly carrying on an intimate relationship with his own daughter?? With the exception of the incest storyline, these personalities were all ones familiar to readers of cozy mysteries and I enjoyed getting to know each one.

I was thinking about this book one night before bed and realized that, while I love books about Jane Austen novels and characters and retellings, I’ve never actually read an original and honestly have no interest. The opposite might hold true for Agatha Christie. If you know me, you know I’m absolutely obsessed with all things Poirot. Years ago I actually did a History 101 post about Agatha’s 11-day disappearance! Unfortunately, I’m wondering if retellings and spin offs simply can’t cut it: back in January I was thrilled to receive an anthology of early crime stories written by woman…sadly, In the Shadow of Agatha Christie turned out to be an DNF. While I wouldn’t neccesarily say A Different Kind of Evil is on that level – or bad at all! – it never captivated me as I had hoped it would and I do feel like I missed out on a good portion of the novel by not having read the first. I’m still intrigued by the premise and I can’t say no to Agatha, so perhaps one day I’ll try again, this time beginning with book one.


February 2018 recap


• I’m not much of a candy/cookie/sweets person, but I made an impulse buy this month: hot cinnamon Oreo’s. They were DELICIOUS!

• I’ve mentioned before that I’m also not big on television. That said, I’m completely caught up on my favorite show and wanted something to watch…I became HOOKED on Agatha Raisin. I tore through the first series, only to discover there is only the first series. The second is airing sometime this year I believe ughhhh At least I can dive into the books? With 20-some volumes I should be busy for a while!

• During the summer there’s a Cars & Coffee meet-up. Obviously it’s not happening right now, but there’s a couple we’ve gotten to know and we’ve been doing our own winter version. The boys bring out their cars and we head to the same coffee place (Generoasta in Warrendale, for all you local friends!) It’s fun, it gets us out of the house on these chilly days, and the coffee is SO fab.

• Do you tend to gravitate to a particular color or pattern with your wardrobe? For me, it’s stripes. And cats.

• Speaking of cats, I walked outside one morning after it snowed and found the most perfect (purrfect??) pawprints on our driveway!

• I’m a huge believer in shopping small, whether that’s sticking with local boutiques or hunting down online/etsy shops. A few weeks ago I ordered an adorable top from a local shop and the owner wrote the sweetest note. You’re not going to find this with chain stores ♥ While I have NO interest whatsoever in going back to retail, one of my favorite things about being a bookseller was that one-on-one connection I had with customers. We’d greet each other by name. When Matt & I were in the process of buying our first home, there were a few customers that were among the first to know. I had my regulars that would seek me out specifically for recommendations – and so did many of my coworkers. The next time you’re out shopping for clothes, for books, for music, skip the big box stores. You’ll be glad you did!

• In February I read 9 books: 3 audio, 6 print/e-books. That’s down from the 15 I read in January, but February was a bit of a slump for me, so I’m hoping to pick things up again in March! Out of the 9 books read, 0 were 5-stars. 4 were 4-stars (Dilbert 2.0 The Modern Era: 2001-2008 by Scott Adams, Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney, Until It Fades by K.A. Tucker, and Where the Wild Cherries Grow by Laura Madeleine). There was just 1 3-star read: Agatha’s First Case by M.C. Beaton, an Agatha Raisin short story. Laura Lippman’s Wilde Lake and David A. Fryxell’s Good Old Days, My Ass both garnered 2 stars and Jackson Pierce’s Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures was the sole 1-star read. Amy Bloom’s TERRIBLE White Houses was a DNF.


AS BRIGHT AS HEAVEN BY SUSAN MEISSNER was my first 5-star read of 2018 and, to this day, remains my only 5-star read of the year. A family makes the move from their rural community to bustling Philadelphia to help an elderly uncle with his funeral home business. The year is 1918, however, and the Spanish Flu has just descended on America. This one is told in four voices: Pauline and her three daughters, 15-year-old Evelyn; 12-year-old Maggie; and 6-year-old Willa. Each voice was so incredibly authentic, from the grief-stricken mother (her little boy recently passed away) to Maggie, lovesick with her first crush. Even little Willa felt genuine rather than an adult trying to write what a child might sound like. There were SO many storylines within this gorgeous book and – I’m not going to lie – I ugly cried. If you aren’t sold yet, maybe this’ll seal the deal: I finished this 400-page novel in a single sitting.

WHERE THE WILD CHERRIES GROW BY LAURA MADELEINE didn’t initially grab me the way her debut did. However, after a few chapters I was thoroughly immersed in this story and raced through it! Told in two voices, this one follows a young woman in 1919 – orphaned by both the Spanish Flu and WWI – as she flees her home and runs off to France. In 1969 a young solicitor is tasked with tracking down a young woman who seemingly vanished 50 years earlier so that the family can sell off a crumbling manor. Once I got going I couldn’t put this one down, especially once Emeline found herself taken in my a woman and her deaf son. So, so lovely – and my mouth was watering the entire time!








weekly wrap-up 3/11

• Yesterday my mom and I went to the Sewickley Soup Crawl and – no lie – I was SO stuffed I didn’t eat the rest of the day! 15 local shops served samples of soup and for three hours we walked around town tasting them! Hands down our favorite was the very first stop: Seafood Pot Pie. Delicious. I’ll post a full list on instagram, but a few others I especially enjoyed were dill, beet jalapeno, and jambalaya. At the end of the event everyone voted and the three winners this year were: 1. Seafood Pot Pie (♥), 2. Dill Pickle Soup, and 3. Welsh Rarebit Cheddar Ale Soup (this one sounded fab, but it was kind of disappointing).

• This list of 20 books by women of color you need to read this year looks like a great mix of older titles (The Color Purple, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings) and new (Children of Blood and Bone, When They Call You a Terrorist).

• This recipe for shredded chipotle chicken tacos looks incredible.

MISSED SOMETHING THIS WEEK? It was all about mini reviews on the blog this week! I shared 4 graphic novel reviews as well as 4 more mini reviews – this one was a mixed bag of great, okay, and a DNF.

Too Close to Breathe by Olivia Kiernan
This debut has been compared to Tana French’s work which is a-okay by me! A doctor is found hanging in her Dublin home, a textbook suicide case, right? Until the autopsy reveals poorly healed bones and stab wounds that were never disclosed in medical records. There’s also a new cut that was deliberately covered in paint. There’s ties to the deep web, a second body, and mysterious phone calls. I am SO ready for this one! Thank you, Dutton!

This week I also received approvals for TEN netgalley requests and instead of flooding this post with them I’m thinking it might be easier to do a part two??


4 mini-reviews for the weekend.

I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhon | March 27, 2018
Confession time. I read this in November. I KNOW. I’m kind of obsessed with anything Romanov, so when this book came onto the scene – written by the super talented Ariel Lawhon! – I couldn’t grab it fast enough (a massive perk of being auto-approved!). And the second I scored a copy I dove in. Told in two parts (that of Anna Anderson, beginning in the 1960s and going backward in time to 1920 and Anastasia, detailing the Revolution chronologically), I Was Anastasia keeps the reader guessing: was Anna Anderson really Anastasia? Anna certainly has the right look, the memories only a family member would have, the body now riddled with scars.

While there were some instances where Anna’s story left me scratching my head for a few chapters (characters or details are introduced, but because her part is told in reverse, it’s not until later the pieces fall into place), I really enjoyed the way Lawhon chose to tell her tale. Fans of Megan Miranda’s All the Missing Girls should have no problem keeping up with this one! I won’t give away any spoilers – I wasn’t quite sure what to think of the ending and mulled over it for a VERY long time – I will say that I was utterly captivated by I Was Anastasia. Also, I rarely read Author’s Notes, but Lawhon’s was fascinating. Not only did she go into further detail with the historical aspect (including which real life figures were omitted, which were blended into one character, the children’s puppies!) she also gave a quote I’ve been loving ever since: ‘And what else, really, is a novel than a 350-page sleepover?

A HUGE thank you to Doubleday for providing me with an ARC!

Final Girls by Riley Sager
When Stephen King calls a novel the first great thriller of the year, you listen. Unfortunately I didn’t and it wasn’t until a publicist put the paperback in my hands that I discovered what I had been missing. Three horrific massacres, three sole survivors. Dubbed the ‘final girls’ by the media, these women have dealt with their tragedy (and subsequent fame) in very different ways: one vanished entirely from the grid, one wrote a book and found a new lease on life by giving talks and becoming something of a motivational speaker, and Quincy launched a popular baking blog.

Then one day Quincy receives the devastating news that Lisa took her own life. Lisa, the one who chose to turn her horror into something positive. Sam, the third final girl, suddenly shows up on Quincy’s doorstep, insisting they speak. Could Lisa have truly committed suicide? What was her last email to Quincy all about?

I read this one in a single sitting on a snowy day and it was absolutely perfect. Although a few of the big twists and turns weren’t shockers to me, someone who hasn’t read hundreds of thrillers is sure to be surprised! Upon finishing this one, I immediately put it in my mom’s hands (and one of my sisters is next in line!) It says something about an author when, the second I heard about his upcoming release, The Last Time I Lied, I instantly put it on my TBR list!

A HUGE thank you to Dutton for providing me with a finished trade paperback!

White Houses by Amy Bloom
One of my most anticipated releases turned out to be one of the biggest disappointments. It’s no secret I LOVE biographical fiction – historical fiction that uses real figures from history – and this one takes on Eleanor Roosevelt. Not only that, but it focuses on her relationship with Lorena Hickok. UM YES PLEASE! …I DNF’d this one at 52%. How a book about an affair a First Lady had with another woman could be so boring is beyond me.

What really sealed the deal was when Lorena decided to run away with the circus at 14. White Houses went from boring to absurd. In one scene, Lorena discovers she likes girls when a performer, Uncle/Aunt Gerry, took her into a wagon, stripped, and then asked Lorena which side she preferred (the male or female side). I had such high hopes for this one, but no. Moving on.

A HUGE thank you to Random House for providing me with an e-ARC!

Kasey & Ivy by Alison Hughes
It’s been a minute since I read a Middle Grade novel! I’m a sucker for an eye-catching cover and Kasey & Ivy‘s instantly appealed to me. Told in a series of letters, Kasey writes to her best friend while stuck inside a hospital room. For the entire summer. What initially seemed like a bruise from a hit at soccer practice instead is a bit more serious – serious enough for Kasey to be admitted. If that wasn’t bad enough, the children’s wing is currently closed, so she’s spending her summer vacation on the geriatric floor.

Kasey & Ivy is a super short, super quick read that I tore through in a single sitting. Kasey developed into a great character, initially afraid, but by the end she helped the nurses and befriended several of the other patients. One moment in particular was SO sweet and totally made the book for me. Though the writing is a bit younger than what I normally find in Middle Grade, I can easily see this one finding readers!

A HUGE thank you to Orca for providing me with an e-ARC!