THOUGHTS ON BOOKS (#6): Five Mini Reviews


Undead Girl Gang
Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don’t read a lot of YA books, but every once in a while one comes along that catches my eye – especially one that sounds like a combination of Heathers and The Craft. I wasn’t wowed by the book, though it was a quirky read, with some fun parts and sad moments too. With such an interesting premise – a novice witch raising a gang of zombie girls from the dead to solve their murders – I was hoping for a little more. I’m bummed that the mystery got lost in a lot of the stereotypical high school drama and caricatures (which slowed down the plot for me). Good book, not great. Thank you to Penguin’s First to Read Program for providing me a review copy.


Close to Home (DI Adam Fawley, #1)
Close to Home by Cara Hunter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

CLOSE TO HOME was part contemporary domestic thriller and part police procedural, though probably too heavy on the investigation side for my liking. DI Adam Fawley is the main investigator, though it flipped back and forth between him and other detectives. I felt like it didn’t matter which detective did what, as they needed more personality or back story to grab my attention. The mystery of the missing girl was intriguing and had plenty of twists. The big reveal at the end was great but kind of out there. This book has gotten lots of great reviews, though for some reason I had a hard time really getting into it. Not bad, but didn’t wow. Thank you to Penguin’s First to Read Program for a review copy.


Blackwater Lake
Blackwater Lake by Maggie James
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was my first read of 2018! What secrets are hidden at Blackwater Lake? I was very impressed with this novella. Though short in length, the book’s characters and plot were well developed. Great mystery/suspense, and a freebie from B&N too. Would love to read more from Maggie James.


A Stranger in the House
A Stranger in the House by Shari Lapena
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, you can’t love them all. Almost DNF’d this book at 33%, but decided to skim the rest just to see where it went. The premise was certainly intriguing, but the slow pace, implausible situations, and wooden characters turned me off. I’d maybe give this book 1.5 stars? I thought her first book, The Couple Next Door, was entertaining, suspenseful, and fun, but unfortunately A Stranger in the House didn’t work for me.


Tin Man
Tin Man by Sarah Winman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Beautifully written, dreamy almost, and heartbreaking subject matter. Nevertheless, I’m in the minority as I didn’t love this book. It lacked a strong plot and felt disjointed, and I also felt like I was observing these characters from a distance instead of being a part of their stories. In the end it seems like I missed something in Tin Man that everyone else easily found.


“A book is a device to ignite the imagination.” – Alan Bennett

THOUGHTS ON BOOKS (#5): Wicked Plants (Audiobook) / An American Witch in Paris


Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities
Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities by Amy Stewart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

WICKED PLANTS was an Audible Daily Deal, and with that title and cover, I couldn’t resist downloading it. The book is a curious and often unsettling encyclopedia of plants that have caused harm in one way or another throughout the centuries. I don’t think a lot about plants being dangerous, but after reading this I definitely should. I was surprised that even some everyday foods can be harmful. (There’s a reason cashews aren’t sold in their shell.) However the most harmful of plants kills nearly 6 million people per year. (You can probably guess what it is.)

The audiobook was narrated by Coleen Marlo, and she did a fabulous job making each culprit plant seem down right sinister. I will say that I also checked out the hardcover of this book so I could see the illustrations and read the scientific names of all the plants. There were many presented and they moved by quickly, so it was nice to have a physical copy to reference.


An American Witch in Paris (Harlequin Nocturne)
An American Witch in Paris by Michele Hauf
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

A straight-laced vampire and a saucy American witch come together in Paris to save humanity. Vampire Ethan and witch Tuesday are memorable leads, with an intriguing supporting cast aiding their perilous mission. The world-building and conflicts were exciting. I haven’t read a paranormal romance in a long time, so this book was a lot of fun. One thing that didn’t work for me was some of what Tuesday was saying or thinking didn’t fit with a centuries-old witch. (Example: She would call troublesome men “Richards” instead of … well, you know.) AN AMERICAN WITCH IN PARIS is loosely tied to others Michele Hauf has published with Nocturne, though it can easily be read stand-alone. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a review copy of this book.


“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” ― Marcus Tullius Cicero

DEATH OVERDUE by Allison Brook

Death Overdue (A Haunted Library Mystery, #1)
DEATH OVERDUE by Allison Brook
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A haunted library and Halloween? DEATH OVERDUE pulled me in with some of my favorite elements. Main character Carrie Singleton is the new head of programs and events at Clover Ridge’s local library. Unfortunately it’s not exactly smooth sailing at first. Carrie discovers the ghost of a former librarian haunting the stacks, learns that not everyone at the library is thrilled with her getting the job, and hosts her first event where the keynote speaker is murdered. Carrie is convinced his death is tied to the unsolved murder of another library employee 15 years earlier, so she does some investigating on her own.

This new series has potential, especially for fans of paranormal cozies and library settings. The two interwoven murder mysteries were intriguing, though it took a while for me to get into the story. I felt like there were too many details of daily happenings that slowed down the flow at times. I also wanted the library ghost to be more integral to the plot, and for Carrie’s reaction to the ghost be more – realistic? She wasn’t freaked out in the least bit. I think Carrie’s character overall needs to be spiced up a bit as the series continues.

The Halloween elements in DEATH OVERDUE were a lot of fun. Will see where the author goes with the next book.

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

WHISPERS OF WARNING by Jessica Estevao


Publisher: Berkley Books
Release Date: September 19, 2017
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★


The latest in a dazzling new historical mystery series featuring Ruby Proulx, a psychic with a questionable past who suddenly finds her future most uncertain…

Partially reformed con artist Ruby Proulx is starting to feel at home in her aunt’s seaside hotel. She loves the feeling of being rooted in one place and also feels a sense of purpose as she helps her aunt keep her business afloat by acting as a psychic medium for the hotel’s metaphysically inclined guests.

When one of the guests, renowned Spiritualist and outspoken suffragist Sophronia Foster Eldridge, checks into the hotel for a month-long stay, Ruby finds her sense of purpose expand outside the confines of home and family. Sophronia takes Ruby under her wing and mentors her in the mediumistic abilities, encouraging her to work for a woman’s right to vote. But not everyone is as happy with Sophronia’s appearance in Old Orchard. When her body is found floating in the saltwater plunge pool of a local bathhouse, Ruby takes it upon herself to solve the murder, and in the process learns that Sophronia was hiding some secrets of her own.


WHISPERS OF WARNING is the second book in Jessica Estevao’s A Change of Fortune Mystery series, though it can easily be read standalone. This enjoyable character-driven novel set at the turn of the last century is as much historical fiction as it is mystery, with just a touch of the paranormal.

The women’s suffrage movement of the late 1890s and the popularity of spiritualism at the time take center stage in this book. Clever and unconventional protagonist Ruby Proulx lives and works at her aunt’s seaside hotel in Maine as a medium, a job she’s well suited for as she’s had voices to guide her throughout her life. When a rally brings famous suffragist Sophronia Foster Eldridge to the hotel, Ruby is thrilled, especially when Sophronia becomes her mentor. Unfortunately the controversial woman is found dead not long after her arrival, and amateur sleuth Ruby is suspicious.

I would have liked the murder to take place sooner than the halfway point that it did, though reading about the sometimes turbulent suffrage movement from Ruby’s point of view held my interest. The metaphysical elements added a nice touch to the story without overwhelming it. I also loved the Victorian hotel and Maine coastal setting. Lovely! Ruby is an engaging main character, and I’d love to go back and read the first book to learn more of her backstory.

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

A GHOSTLY LIGHT by Juliet Blackwell


Series: Haunted Home Renovation, #7
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: June 27, 2017
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★


In the latest mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Give Up the Ghost, it will take a beacon of ghostly intervention to guide contractor Mel Turner to the truth.

Dangerous tides ahead…

When her friend Alicia hires Turner Construction to renovate a historic lighthouse in the San Francisco Bay, Mel Turner can’t wait to get her hands dirty. Alicia plans to transform the island property into a welcoming inn, and while Mel has never attempted a project so ambitious—or so tall—before, she’s definitely up for the challenge.

But trouble soon arises when Alicia’s abusive ex-husband shows up to threaten both her and Mel, and later turns up dead at the base of the lighthouse stairs. With no other suspects in sight, things start looking choppy for Alicia. Now, if Mel wants to clear her friend’s name, she’ll need the help of the lighthouse’s resident ghosts to shine a light on the real culprit…


This is the seventh book in the Haunted Home Renovation series, starring Mel Turner, renovator extraordinaire. Her unique specialties are restoring historic places around the San Francisco area, communicating with ghosts, and solving murder mysteries that frequently pop up on her construction sites.

I greatly enjoyed Mel’s latest project, the restoration of a lighthouse and its keeper’s house in San Francisco Bay. The rich history and romance of lighthouses are fascinating, though tragedy and grief are parts of their past too, as Mel quickly discovers.

There are really two mysteries in this book to solve. The first involves the death of Mel’s friend Alicia’s ex-husband, an abusive jerk who shows up on the island unexpectedly and takes a fatal tumble down the lighthouse stairs. The second (and my favorite mystery) is about the mournful ghost who haunts the tower. Hers is a heart-wrenching story, and I easily got into the research Mel had to do to get all the pieces to fit.

A GHOSTLY LIGHT is an enjoyable cozy with likable characters, and the paranormal element makes it even more intriguing. I’ve read one previous book in this series, so I knew some of the backstory, but I think you’d be fine jumping in here.

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