ELLIE AND THE HARPMAKER by Hazel Prior {Review}


Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: August 6, 2019
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★


A rich, heartwarming and charming debut novel that reminds us that sometimes you find love in the most unexpected places.

Dan Hollis lives a happy, solitary life carving exquisite Celtic harps in his barn in the countryside of the English moors. Here he can be himself, away from social situations that he doesn’t always get right or completely understand.

On the anniversary of her beloved father’s death, Ellie Jacobs takes a walk in the woods and comes across Dan’s barn. She is enchanted by his collection. Dan gives her a harp made of cherrywood to match her cherry socks. He stores it for her, ready for whenever she’d like to take lessons.

Ellie begins visiting Dan almost daily and quickly learns that he isn’t like other people. He makes her sandwiches precisely cut into triangles and repeatedly counts the (seventeen) steps of the wooden staircase to the upstairs practice room. Ellie soon realizes Dan isn’t just different; in many ways, his world is better, and he gives her a fresh perspective on her own life.


Dan is a harpmaker, crafting gorgeous Celtic harps in his barn in the English countryside. Ellie is a housewife who stumbles upon Dan’s barn one day. He gives her a harp that matches the color of her socks, giving Ellie’s humdrum life a gentle nudge in a different direction.

I love Celtic harp music, so the description of this book pulled me in. I enjoyed Dan’s character the most. He was a bit quirky with a unique way of seeing the world. On the other hand I struggled with Ellie’s character. She came off as part flighty and part doormat, though I appreciate what she did for Dan as the story progressed. (Not everything though!)

ELLIE AND THE HARPMAKER was a light and sweet story with an almost fairy tale quality to it. I was not quite convinced of the romance between the two main characters, but it is a lovely story of friendship, and also finding one’s self identity.

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

THE ESCAPE ROOM by Megan Goldin {Review}


Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: July 30, 2019
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★


In Megan Goldin’s unforgettable debut, The Escape Room, four young Wall Street rising stars discover the price of ambition when an escape room challenge turns into a lethal game of revenge.

Welcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive.

In the lucrative world of finance, Vincent, Jules, Sylvie, and Sam are at the top of their game. They’ve mastered the art of the deal and celebrate their success in style ― but a life of extreme luxury always comes at a cost.

Invited to participate in an escape room as a team-building exercise, the ferociously competitive co-workers crowd into the elevator of a high rise building, eager to prove themselves. But when the lights go off and the doors stay shut, it quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary competition: they’re caught in a dangerous game of survival.

Trapped in the dark, the colleagues must put aside their bitter rivalries and work together to solve cryptic clues to break free. But as the game begins to reveal the team’s darkest secrets, they realize there’s a price to be paid for the terrible deeds they committed in their ruthless climb up the corporate ladder. As tempers fray, and the clues turn deadly, they must solve one final chilling puzzle: which one of them will kill in order to survive?


THE ESCAPE ROOM is a crazy & claustrophobic thrill ride. Four of the most unlikable investment bankers you’ll ever come across are summoned to a team-building exercise in the elevator of a vacant high rise office building. They’re not inside long before realizing there’s something sinister about this particular escape room challenge…

I went into this book not knowing much about the plot, and I think that’s the best way to read it. The chapters alternate between time in the elevator, and time before, where we get a good look at the four “contestants,” Vincent, Sylvie, Sam, and Jules. Really, their life & work style made me cringe. It’s hard to believe people would live, work, and behave this way for the sake of money, money, money.

It was fun trying to figure out the puzzle as the elevator occupants sweated away & got to learn more about each other than they bargained for. This book is a darkly satisfying thriller that might make you think twice about willingly entering an escape room!

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

THE TURN OF THE KEY by Ruth Ware {Review}


Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Release Date: August 6, 2019
Source: Review copy from Edelweiss
Rating: ★★★★★


When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder.

Writing to her lawyer from prison, she struggles to explain the unravelling events that led to her incarceration. It wasn’t just the constant surveillance from the cameras installed around the house, or the malfunctioning technology that woke the household with booming music, or turned the lights off at the worst possible time. It wasn’t just the girls, who turned out to be a far cry from the immaculately behaved model children she met at her interview. It wasn’t even the way she was left alone for weeks at a time, with no adults around apart from the enigmatic handyman, Jack Grant.

It was everything.

She knows she’s made mistakes. She admits that she lied to obtain the post, and that her behavior toward the children wasn’t always ideal. She’s not innocent, by any means. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty—at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, The Turn of the Key is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.


I absolutely loved it! THE TURN OF THE KEY is creepy, twisted, and disturbing, and totally absorbing — a modern-day The Turn of the Screw, but far more entertaining.

Rowan Caine’s new dream job as nanny for the seemingly perfect Elincourt family quickly turned into her worst nightmare. Their remote home in the Scottish Highlands called Heatherbrae House was an unusual hybrid of modern “smart” design and spooky Gothic Victorian. Inside its walls, cameras were watching, machines were listening for your next command, and Rowan was isolated with four young girls and whatever was causing the disturbances at night…

I enjoyed that this book was written in epistolary format, as desperate letters written by Rowan to a lawyer as she’s in prison awaiting trial for murder. The build up of suspense was fantastic, and the ominous atmosphere of Heatherbrae House kept me on edge. Had I been in Rowan’s situation, I would have been scared witless!

THE TURN OF THE KEY is another excellent thriller from Ruth Ware. Highly recommended to fans of eerie modern Gothics.

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

DEATH IN A BUDAPEST BUTTERFLY by Julia Buckley {Review}


Series: A Hungarian Tea House Mystery, #1
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: July 30, 2019
Source: Penguin’s First to Read Program
Rating: ★★★★


Hana Keller serves up European-style cakes and teas in her family-owned tea house, but when a customer keels over from a poisoned cuppa, Hana and her tea-leaf reading grandmother will have to help catch a killer in the first Hungarian Tea House Mystery from Julia Buckley.

Hana Keller and her family run Maggie’s Tea House, an establishment heavily influenced by the family’s Hungarian heritage and specializing in a European-style traditional tea service. But one of the shop’s largest draws is Hana’s eccentric grandmother, Juliana, renowned for her ability to read the future in the leaves at the bottom of customers’ cups. Lately, however, her readings have become alarmingly ominous and seemingly related to old Hungarian legends…

When a guest is poisoned at a tea event, Juliana’s dire predictions appear to have come true. Things are brought to a boil when Hana’s beloved Anna Weatherley butterfly teacup becomes the center of the murder investigation as it carried the poisoned tea. The cup is claimed as evidence by a handsome police detective, and the pretty Tea House is suddenly endangered. Hana and her family must catch the killer to save their business and bring the beautiful Budapest Butterfly back home where it belongs.


Vasorrú Bába!

Hungarian folklore, European high tea, and just a touch of the paranormal come together to make DEATH IN A BUDAPEST BUTTERFLY a delightful start to a new cozy mystery series!

Three generations of the Horvath/Keller family run Maggie’s Tea House in suburban Chicago. Hana, her mother Maggie, and grandmother Juliana are shaken when a guest is poisoned to death at one of their events. With a murderer on the loose and their business in danger, Hana is willing to help Detective Erik Wolf with his investigation and do a bit of sleuthing on her own.

The Hungarian history, culture, and myths blended throughout this book made for an enjoyable and unique cozy mystery. I also loved the budding romance between Hana and Erik. Looking forward to seeing what happens next!

P.S. How amazing is that book cover!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Penguin’s First to Read Program in exchange for an honest review.

Quick Thoughts: THE LYING GAME by Ruth Ware


Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Release Date: July 25, 2017
Source: Review copy from Edelweiss
Rating: ★★★½


On a cool June morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten along a tidal estuary known as the Reach. Before she can stop him, the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick, but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister…

The next morning, three women in and around London—Fatima, Thea, and Isabel—receive the text they had always hoped would NEVER come, from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only, “I need you.”

The four girls were best friends at Salten, a second rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel. Each different in their own way, the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game, telling lies at every turn to both fellow boarders and faculty, with varying states of serious and flippant nature that were disturbing enough to ensure that everyone steered clear of them. The myriad and complicated rules of the game are strict: no lying to each other—ever. Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out. But their little game had consequences, and the girls were all expelled in their final year of school under mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the school’s eccentric art teacher, Ambrose (who also happens to be Kate’s father).

Atmospheric, twisty, and with just the right amount of chill that will keep you wrong-footed—which has now become Ruth Ware’s signature style—The Lying Game is sure to be her next big bestseller. Another unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.


THE LYING GAME is told from the perspective of Isa Wilde, a 30-something Londoner and mother of a baby girl. Isa befriended Kate, Fatima, and Thea as a teen when they attended Salten House, a boarding school in a small coastal English town. The foursome had a “lying game” they liked to play, which of course earned them the reputation of being cruel liars. After tragedy strikes and they’re faced with a scandal at school, the girls leave Salten House and go separate ways, but the stress of what happened there will continue to haunt them. Fast forward 17 years, and the four women must return to Salten to face the lies of their past.

I have mixed feelings about this book. Ruth Ware is one of my favorite authors, but I don’t think this book had the best build up of tension. Lots of drama though! I was very curious about the mystery that the women were hiding, but I felt like the plot was a bit too slow moving. I think I would have preferred hearing other characters’ POVs instead of just staying in Isa’s head. I did love the creepy atmosphere of the setting. Kate’s home is a tumbledown mill right on the water. A solid mystery, though I was hoping for more suspense, less drama.

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