Synopsis from the Publisher:

Legendary tribal sleuths Leaphorn and Chee are back! The supremely talented daughter of New York Times bestselling author Tony Hillerman continues his popular series.

It happened in an instant. After a breakfast with colleagues, Navajo Nation Police Officer Bernadette Manuelito sees a sedan careen into the parking lot and hears a crack of gunfire. When the dust clears, someone very close to her is lying on the asphalt in a pool of blood. With the victim in the hospital fighting for his life, every person in the squad and the local FBI office are hell-bent on catching the gunman. Bernie, too, wants in on the investigation, especially when her husband, Sergeant Jim Chee, is put in charge of finding the shooter.

Bernie and Chee discover that a cold case involving Chee’s former boss and partner, retired lieutenant Joe Leaphorn, may hold the key to the shooting. Digging into the old investigation with fresh eyes and new urgency, husband and wife find themselves inching closer to the truth with every clue…and closer to a killer who will do anything to prevent justice from taking its course.

Series: A Leaphorn, Chee & Manuelito Novel, #1 | Leaphorn & Chee, #19
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: October 1, 2013
Source: Purchased (Paperback)
Rating: 3.75 Stars

Quick Thoughts:

I absolutely loved the Dark Winds TV series which was based on the Leaphorn & Chee books by Tony Hillerman. SPIDER WOMAN’S DAUGHTER is the first of the series written by his daughter Anne after his death in 2008, and one that’s been on my TBR stack for a while.

In this 19th addition to the series, married Navajo Nation police officers Chee and Manualito set out to solve the case of who shot their dear friend and mentor. (I don’t know why the synopsis leaves out who the victim is, but I’ll not mention names either.)

What I liked:
• Stunning Southwestern descriptions of the Navajo Nation.
• Realistic and genuine cast of characters.
• Strong and clever woman protagonist.
• Enjoyed learning about indigenous art, rugs, and pottery.

What wasn’t my cup of tea:
• Mystery was hard to follow at times.
• Dozens of characters!
• The backstory of the mystery relied heavily on a previous book that I haven’t read. Lots of mentions of this book, so I felt like I was missing something.
• Chee made a careless and seemingly uncharacteristic mistake toward the end.

Overall, this was an enjoyable and unique police procedural, and I’m looking forward to catching up with the series.


Synopsis from the Publisher:

The Plot meets Please Join Us in this psychological suspense debut about a young author at an exclusive writer’s retreat that descends into a nightmare.

Alex has all but given up on her dreams of becoming a published author when she receives a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: attend an exclusive, month-long writing retreat at the estate of feminist horror writer Roza Vallo. Even the knowledge that Wren, her former best friend and current rival, is attending doesn’t dampen her excitement.

But when the attendees arrive, Roza drops a bombshell—they must all complete an entire novel from scratch during the next month, and the author of the best one will receive a life-changing seven-figure publishing deal. Determined to win this seemingly impossible contest, Alex buckles down and tries to ignore the strange happenings at the estate, including Roza’s erratic behavior, Wren’s cruel mind games, and the alleged haunting of the mansion itself. But when one of the writers vanishes during a snowstorm, Alex realizes that something very sinister is afoot. With the clock running out, she’s desperate to discover the truth and save herself.

A claustrophobic and propulsive thriller exploring the dark side of female friendships and fame, The Writing Retreat is the unputdownable debut novel from a compelling new talent.

Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Publication Date: February 21, 2023
Source: Review copy from Edelweiss
Rating: 2.5 Stars

Quick Thoughts:

It seems like most of my Goodreads friends loved this book, but unfortunately this debut thriller wasn’t for me. I was definitely intrigued by the premise. A famous author hosts a writing retreat at her remote mansion for five up and coming women writers under 30. Whoever writes the best novel during the short time they’re together will win a major publishing deal. However, with a snowstorm barreling down on them and mind games afoot, protagonist Alex and the other contestants learn all is not as it seems.

The first half of the book was pretty dull, but after the 50% mark it was somewhat entertaining and often downright bizarre. I loved the claustrophobic snowy setting, and also not knowing who was on which side of the game.

I found most of the characters to be annoying and childish, and some of their dialogue was painfully cringy. There was a “book written within a book” element that for me was boring and unnecessary. And some of what happened was just — strange. Demon sex? Yes, it’s in there. If strong sexual content is not your thing, please skip this.

From the blurb, I really thought I’d enjoy this one, but I guess you can’t love them all. Anyway, please check out the other reviews and decide for yourself!

Thank you to the publisher and Edelweiss for the opportunity to read and review this book.

GHOST 19 by Simone St. James

Synopsis from the Publisher:

A woman moves to a town where she becomes obsessed with watching the lives of her neighbors while stuck in a house that refuses to let her leave in this first ever short story from the New York Times bestselling author of The Book of Cold Cases.

Is there something wrong with Ginette Cox? It’s what everyone seems to think. When a doctor suggests that what she might need is less excitement, she packs up and moves from New York City to a house in suburban NY: 19 Howard Ave.

The town offers Ginette little in the way of entertainment in 1959, but at least she has interesting neighbors. Whether it’s the little girl with her doll or the couple and their mother-in-law, Ginette watches them from her window and makes up names and stories for them.

But it’s not all peaceful in suburbia. Ginette finds it hard to sleep in her new house. There are strange and scary noises coming from the basement, and she is trapped, either by a ghost or her own madness.

But when Ginette starts to think a murder has taken place and a mysterious man starts making terrifying appearances outside her window, it’s clear she must deal with whatever isn’t allowing her to escape this house…

Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: January 3, 2023
Source: Purchased (Nook)
Rating: 4 Stars

Very Quick Thoughts:

In GHOST 19, a Broadway actress suffering with mental health issues rents an ominous house in Upstate New York. I’m a big fan of Simone St. James’s ghost stories, and her talent shines in this short and creepy novella* set in 1959. The author created a sense of foreboding very quickly. Is Ginette really trapped inside the house by a restless spirit, or is the madness just inside her head? GHOST 19 is a spooky hors d’oeuvre-size gothic tale perfect for fans of haunted characters.

*Length: 80 pages.

BAD CREE by Jessica Johns

Synopsis from the Publisher:

In this gripping, horror-laced debut, a young Cree woman’s dreams lead her on a perilous journey of self-discovery that ultimately forces her to confront the toll of a legacy of violence on her family, her community and the land they call home.

When Mackenzie wakes up with a severed crow’s head in her hands, she panics. Only moments earlier she had been fending off masses of birds in a snow-covered forest. In bed, when she blinks, the head disappears.

Night after night, Mackenzie’s dreams return her to a memory from before her sister Sabrina’s untimely death: a weekend at the family’s lakefront campsite, long obscured by a fog of guilt. But when the waking world starts closing in, too — a murder of crows stalks her every move around the city, she wakes up from a dream of drowning throwing up water, and gets threatening text messages from someone claiming to be Sabrina —Mackenzie knows this is more than she can handle alone.

Traveling north to her rural hometown in Alberta, she finds her family still steeped in the same grief that she ran away to Vancouver to escape. They welcome her back, but their shaky reunion only seems to intensify her dreams — and make them more dangerous.

What really happened that night at the lake, and what did it have to do with Sabrina’s death? Only a bad Cree would put their family at risk, but what if whatever has been calling Mackenzie home was already inside?

Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: January 10, 2023
Source: Borrowed from the Library
Rating: 3 Stars

Very Quick Thoughts:

A young Cree woman returns home to face her terrifying dreams and find out what’s behind them. I was expecting a horror story, but BAD CREE turned out to be more a coming-of-age tale about processing grief and guilt. The book’s pacing was slow, and it lacked a strong plot, but I did like the Cree folklore and the strong family relationships presented. I enjoyed the supernatural elements, but was hoping for more suspense.


Synopsis from the Publisher:

A husband’s disappearance links two couples in this twisty thriller from master of suspense Mary Kubica.

Jake Hayes is missing. This much is certain. At first, his wife, Nina, thinks he is blowing off steam at a friend’s house after their heated fight the night before. But then a day goes by. Two days. Five. And Jake is still nowhere to be found.

Lily Scott, Nina’s friend and coworker, thinks she may have been the last to see Jake before he went missing. After Lily confesses everything to her husband, Christian, the two decide that nobody can find out what happened leading up to Jake’s disappearance, especially not Nina. But Nina is out there looking for her husband, and she won’t stop until the truth is discovered.

Publisher: Park Row
Publication Date: January 10, 2023
Source: Borrowed from the Library
Rating: 3.25 Stars

Quick Thoughts:

I’ve read all but one of Mary Kubica’s thrillers, so needless to say, I’m a fan. Her latest, JUST THE NICEST COUPLE, was good, but not my favorite. The story centers around a curious dilemma — a woman (Nina) is trying to locate her missing husband (Jake), while her friend (Lily) and her friend’s husband (Christian) try to hide what really happened to him.

“People say kind things about Christian and Lily all the time. Everyone thinks they’re just the nicest couple.” (…or are they?)

This book was a quick read that kept me guessing, and wraps up with a surprising twist. It was an interesting change of pace that the husband was missing this time. I did think the characters were a bit flat (dull?). Writing wise, the sentences were mostly short and choppy, and the ending was too abrupt. I’m left with questions regarding the ending twist, and where the story picks up eight months later. Not her best work, but I’m still a fan.