Thoughts on Books (#23)

“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.” ― Lauren DeStefano


The Book of Cold Cases
The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

★ Publication date on March 15, 2022 ★

True crime podcasts are popular themes in thrillers these days, and in this book we have a cold cases blogger named Shea who lands an interview with Beth, the woman acquitted of murdering two men 40 years earlier. Shea has been long obsessed with this case, partly because it happened in her home town of Claire Lake, Oregon. If Beth didn’t kill those men, then who did? Beth has been reclusive for decades, hiding alone in her family’s creepy mansion, and also hiding the truth.

Usually I’m a huge fan of Simone St. James’ ghostly elements, but this time the paranormal didn’t fit particularly well. THE BOOK OF COLD CASES was more of a dysfunctional family drama with a murder mystery mixed in, and unfortunately the mystery gets solved too quickly! While I enjoyed the premise and characters, I thought the story moved slowly overall, and I kind of questioned the point of including the woo-woo. Liked this one, but didn’t love it.

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


Mrs. March
Mrs. March
by Virginia Feito
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

A wealthy New York housewife is horrified to learn that the pitiful protagonist of her husband’s latest novel might be based on her.

This book was a strange experience! I’m not exactly sure when the the story is set, probably mid-20th century. I would describe MRS. MARCH as literary suspense, or maybe a character study of a woman’s descent into madness. There’s even a murder mystery mixed in.

We only know the main character as “Mrs. March” until the very last sentence when her first name is revealed. I’m not sure I get the significance of that, still thinking it over. She’s definitely unreliable and filled with inner turmoil, and her husband’s new book sets her on a downward spiral.

The writing was good, and I enjoyed the Shirley Jackson/Daphne du Maurier influence throughout. It’s not exactly a fun read, but it did keep me glued to the pages. Borrowed from the library.


A Lesson in Vengeance
A Lesson in Vengeance
by Victoria Lee
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Felicity Morrow returns to the prestigious Dalloway School a year after her girlfriend’s death, but finds she’s still haunted by Alex’s memory and the school’s dark history of witchcraft and murder.

I enjoyed the gothic atmosphere, but that’s about it. For most of the book, I just didn’t get the point. Weak plot, pretentious characters. Had some intriguing twists near the end, but kind of boring overall. Borrowed from the library.

SECOND SLEEP by Diane Stanley


Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Release Date: November 2, 2021

★ Middle Grade Magical Realism ★

“The time by the lake is everything perfect about a childhood summer. And maybe, these nights also hold the answers Max is looking for…”

SECOND SLEEP is a very sweet middle grade book with an original magical premise that I enjoyed. When Max’s mother disappears, his grandmother takes him and younger sister Rosie to the family’s cabin by the lake, a special place where their mom spent her childhood summers. There Max and Rosie find themselves in an alternate dream world filled with kids who share a unique connection. Max soon realizes that his new friends may help him solve the mystery of his missing mother.

I think middle grade readers will have fun with the magical realism in this book. The dream world is never explained, it just is. I loved the friendships that were formed there, between kids that wouldn’t even know each other in the real world (you’ll find out why!).

There were two things that bothered me in this book. One was how formal the dialogue seemed, even with the younger characters. This may be in part because I listened to a synthetic voice galley, and the delivery made it seem stiff. Second was the story behind the mystery and a certain character’s decisions that made me so mad, though a young reader would probably see it differently. I’m glad Max was ultimately able to express his feelings about the situation.

SECOND SLEEP is a lovely story of friendship, dealing with unavoidable change, and holding onto childhood magic for as long as possible. It will leave readers with a lot to think about. — 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

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

AN OCCASIONALLY HAPPY FAMILY by Cliff Burke


Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 18, 2021

Bittersweet & funny. AN OCCASIONALLY HAPPY FAMILY is about two teens and their father dealing with loss, and just because one member is ready to move on, the others might not be.

Can a disastrous road trip help the Ripley family face their grief after the loss of their mom? Not only is camping at Big Bend National Park the last place Theo and his sister Laura want to spend their summer vacation, their dad has a doozy of a surprise: meeting his new girlfriend.

This book made me teary eyed, and kept me laughing out loud at the witty dialogue. The characters were realistic and I could empathize with each one. The humorous banter and misadventures helped balance the seriousness in the story. Enjoyed! (Borrowed from the library.)