DEATH OF A WANDERING WOLF by Julia Buckley

Series: A Hungarian Tea House Mystery, #2
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: June 30, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★


Hana Keller is enjoying a day off from serving up tea and delicious pastries at her family’s Hungarian Tea House when her downtime turns deadly.

The only thing Hana loves more than a good cuppa is finding a delicate porcelain treasure to add to her collection. She’s usually on the hunt for teacups but when she spots a rare wolf figurine at a local yard sale, she knows it’s her lucky day. Hana also knows the wolf is valuable and tells the seller that he’s charging too little for it. His reaction is peculiar–he says he received the wolf from someone he doesn’t trust and he just wants it out of his life.

Hana is inspecting her new prize when she finds a tiny microchip attached to the bottom of the porcelain wolf. When she shows the figure to her police detective boyfriend, Erik, Hana is shocked to learn that the chip is actually a tracking device. They decide to confront the seller about the sneaky sale but when they arrive at his house, they find him dead. Erik and Hana now must hunt a calculating killer who has no intentions of crying wolf when it comes to murder…


DEATH OF A WANDERING WOLF is the second book in the delightful Hungarian Tea House Mystery series. Hana Keller gets more than she bargained for at a yard sale, when the seller, a local artist, is murdered shortly after Hana scores some too good to be true deals. Hana uses her developing psychic ability and smarts to unlock the secrets in his paintings. Will his art reveal the identity of his killer?

I enjoyed this complex murder mystery that combines intriguing Hungarian culture and folklore, mysterious paintings, and a touch of the paranormal. It was great seeing Hana and Detective Erik Wolf’s relationship grow closer, and the introduction of Erik’s sisters was a lot of fun. I hope they make an appearance in future books. Hana and her family are wonderful characters who make this an engaging cozy mystery series. Highly recommended!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

What I’ve Been Reading Lately 📚

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” — Audrey Hepburn

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THE VANISHING HALF
by Britt Bennett
★★★★★
(sisters fiction, family drama, historical fiction, coming of age)

This was the B&N Book Club’s June selection. THE VANISHING HALF is a truly spellbinding novel. I was completely immersed in the characters’ lives, relationships, secrets, and struggles. I did not want the book to end! ♥ {Purchased}


THE WIFE STALKER
by Liv Constantine
★★★★
(domestic suspense, psychological thriller)

Alright, Liv Constantine, you got me with that twist. This was a fun, fast-paced psychological thriller with two dueling unreliable narrators. {Library}


STAMPED: RACISM, ANTIRACISM, AND YOU
by Jason Reynolds, Ibram X. Kendi
★★★★★
(non-fiction, young adult, civil and human rights, politics and government)

STAMPED is an eye-opening and informative book about the origins of racism and how it has been ingrained in our society for hundreds of years, and the people who have fought against it. This should be required reading for middle/high school students. I listened to this on audiobook — fantastic narration by the author Jason Reynolds. {Purchased}


THE NANNY
by Gilly Macmillan
★★★★
(gothic suspense, mystery, family drama)

What really happened to the nanny at Lake Hall all those many years ago? Enjoyable slow-burn mystery with Gothic undertones! Listened to on audiobook via Chirp. {Purchased}


THE SWEENEY SISTERS
by Lian Dolan
★★★
(sisters fiction, family drama, contemporary fiction)

This book may have my favorite cover art this year. 🙂 I enjoyed the premise and beginning of this book, where the three Sweeney sisters discover they have a 4th sister via a DNA testing database just after their father’s death. Overall though, the plot wasn’t very strong and lacked the emotional punch you’d expect. It was an ok read, just didn’t grab me completely. {Library}


 

THE DILEMMA by B.A. Paris

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: June 30, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★


A woman’s birthday party takes a dark turn in a poignant, heart-stopping new novel from the reigning queen of suspense, NYT and USA Today bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors, The Breakdown, and Bring Me Back.

Knowing the truth will destroy her. Keeping it secret will destroy him.

It’s Livia’s 40th birthday, and her husband Adam is throwing her the party of a lifetime to make up for the wedding they never had. Everyone she loves will be there, except her daughter Marnie, who’s studying abroad. But Livia is secretly glad Marnie won’t be there.

Livia has recently uncovered a secret about their daughter which, if revealed, will shake the foundation of their family to its core. She needs to tell Adam, but she’s waiting until the party is over so they can have this last happy time together.

Adam, meanwhile, has his own surprise for Livia: he’s arranged for Marnie to secretly fly back for the party. But before Marnie arrives, Adam hears some terrible news. Now he too is faced with a dilemma: Does he share what he’s learned with his wife? Is hiding the truth the same as telling a lie? And how far are Adam and Livia willing to go to protect the ones they love―and give each other a last few hours of happiness?


Not every book can be your cup of tea, and unfortunately this one wasn’t mine. THE DILEMMA is a domestic suspense novel with both husband and wife hiding dreadful secrets and not communicating. For me the book was terribly sad. Most suspense/thrillers are sad or disturbing in some way, but there’s an element or twist that still makes them satisfying — not the case here.

The blurb states that Adam is throwing his wife a 40th birthday bash, but that’s not really true. Livia has been planning and saving for this party for the past 20 years to make up for her small wedding. (???) She and Adam have different secrets about their daughter Marnie that they want to keep hidden so Livia’s birthday isn’t ruined. (???) I just can’t wrap my mind around these people’s priorities and way of thinking.

Though THE DILEMMA didn’t work for me, I appreciate the publisher giving me the opportunity to review this book.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

IN HER SHADOW by Kristin Miller

Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: April 21, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★½


A pregnant young woman becomes obsessed with the disappearance of her lover’s wife, only to discover that she may be headed for the same fate, in this novel from New York Times bestselling author Kristin Miller.

When secretary Colleen Roper becomes pregnant by her boss, Michael, he whisks her away to Ravenwood, his opulent estate. Abruptly thrust into a life of luxury she’s never known, Colleen finds the immense house suffused with the memory of Michael’s wife, Joanna, who left months ago and haunts her imagination. With rooms she’s prohibited from entering and a staff that greets her with hostility, there is little room for a new mistress of Ravenwood.

It’s not long before bones are unearthed in the grove across the street and Michael falls under the suspicion of detectives. The soon-to-be mother of his child finds herself hurled deeper into her lover’s dark past, a past filled with unfaithfulness and deception. Making a claim to her new life is harder than it seems—especially since she’s walking in the shadow of the hauntingly beautiful Joanna. As Colleen untangles truth from lies, she discovers that nothing is what it seems, and that some people will kill to keep their secrets as quiet as the dead.


Kristin Miller has penned a clever modern retelling of Daphne du Maurier’s REBECCA with its own delicious twists in her latest novel IN HER SHADOW. The young protagonist Colleen finds herself pregnant and living at Ravenwood, her boyfriend Michael’s lavish seaside estate. Months earlier, Michael’s wife Joanna left him and abandoned Ravenwood, yet Colleen still feels her oppressive control within its walls. The situation gets much worse when human remains are found across the street, and Michael becomes a suspect.

This book was an exciting combination of mystery and Gothic suspense that kept me guessing. Ravenwood was gorgeous but creepy, and I couldn’t wait to find out what secrets it held. The story is told from a few different characters’ perspective, and I was never quite sure who to trust. The surprising twist at the end was one I did NOT see coming, a definite what?!? moment. Enjoyed! 

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

KILLER CHARDONNAY by Kate Lansing


Series: A Colorado Wine Mystery, #1
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: May 26, 2020
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★½


A young winery owner won’t let one sour grape ruin the bunch in the first installment of this exciting cozy mystery series.

Parker Valentine has always dreamed of opening her own winery in her hometown of Boulder, Colorado. But she gets more than she bargained for when a food and wine critic unexpectedly shows up at Vino Valentine on opening day. A negative review could be fatal for her business, and not only does he seem to hate her chardonnay, he also collapses and dies shortly after drinking it.

Although Parker hoped that the attendees would put a cork in it, soon her winery is at the center of a social media firestorm. With #killerchardonnay trending online, Parker’s business is in danger of closing, and she has no choice but to investigate the murder herself.

To restore her reputation, catch a killer, and keep her struggling business open, Parker needs only one thing: some good proof.


KILLER CHARDONNAY is a smart and juicy beginning to the Colorado Wine Mystery series set in downtown Boulder. The opening day of Vino Valentine turns into a disaster for owner Parker Valentine when a local wine & food critic dies after sampling her chardonnay. Of course Parker is horrified that this means the end of all her hard work, unless she can prove that her wine had nothing to do with his death.

This is the first cozy mystery I’ve read that centers around a winery, and it was a lovely change of pace. The rich descriptions of gourmet food and wine were delightful. Parker and the supporting cast of characters were well-developed and relatable, and their interpersonal challenges added to the enjoyment of the story.

Parker is a clever and determined amateur sleuth, and I enjoyed the intriguing mystery she was faced with solving. KILLER CHARDONNAY is a fresh and modern cozy mystery that will appeal to foodies and wine lovers. Highly recommended!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.