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 MISSING YEARS by Lexie Elliott {Review}


Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: April 23, 2019
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★


An eerie, old Scottish manor in the middle of nowhere that’s now hers.

Ailsa Calder has inherited half of a house. The other half belongs to a man who disappeared without a trace twenty-seven years ago—her father.

Leaving London behind to settle the inheritance from her mother’s estate, Ailsa returns to her childhood home, nestled amongst the craggy peaks of the Scottish Highlands, joined by the half-sister who’s almost a stranger to her.

Ailsa can’t escape the claustrophobic feeling that the house itself is watching her—as if her past hungers to consume her. She also can’t ignore how the neighbourhood animals refuse to set one foot within the gates of the garden.

When the first nighttime intruder shows up, Ailsa fears that the manor’s careless rugged beauty could cost her everything.


Ailsa Calder has just inherited half of her childhood home, an estate known as the Manse in Scotland. The other half is owned by her father who has been missing for over 25 years. Legally she can’t do anything with the property until her father is found, except live there, which is what she decides to do.

THE MISSING YEARS is a quiet suspense novel. Ailsa’s return to the Manse isn’t celebrated by all she comes in contact with, and odd occurrences keep happening in and around the house. The heart of the book is the mystery of her father’s disappearance, the toll it’s taken on her over the years, and what answers the eerie old manor home can give her.

I enjoyed the setting most of all, the house full of secrets and memories, standing among “the craggy peaks of the Scottish Highlands.” Sounds amazing and gothic! On the flip side, I was hoping for a faster pace and more twists. Though the build up was slow, the ending was wild.

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

MAGRUDER’S CURIOSITY CABINET by H.P. Wood {Review}

Magruder's Curiosity Cabinet
Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet by H.P. Wood
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

MAGRUDER’S CURIOSITY CABINET is a peculiar book with a large cast of odd and colorful characters.

In 1904, Coney Island draws thousands of visitors to its spectacular new amusement park called Dreamland. Seventeen-year old Kitty arrives there with her mother from South Africa, only to end up alone and homeless when her mother falls ill, then mysteriously disappears. Kitty befriends the “Unusuals” working at Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet, a museum of the strange and unusual, and they agree to help her find her mother.

This book was quirky, but also rather dark and sad. My favorite parts were meeting the “Unusuals,” who at the time were society’s outcasts. They got by the best they could. Though I enjoyed the characters, there were too many, and at times they were hard to keep track of. Magruder’s museum sounds like a place I’d love to explore. So many exhibits – from fascinating and creepy to gross!

MAGRUDER’S was an ok read for me. I never felt fully invested in the story, but I thought the author did a wonderful job bringing Coney Island at the turn of the last century to life.

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


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THE SUSPECT by Fiona Barton {Review}


Series: Kate Waters, #3
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: January 22, 2019
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: 


The New York Times bestselling author of The Widow returns with a brand new novel of twisting psychological suspense about every parent’s worst nightmare…

When two eighteen-year-old girls go missing in Thailand, their families are thrust into the international spotlight: desperate, bereft, and frantic with worry. What were the girls up to before they disappeared?

Journalist Kate Waters always does everything she can to be first to the story, first with the exclusive, first to discover the truth—and this time is no exception. But she can’t help but think of her own son, whom she hasn’t seen in two years, since he left home to go travelling.

As the case of the missing girls unfolds, they will all find that even this far away, danger can lie closer to home than you might think…


Two 18-year old girls, Alex and Rosie, go missing while on holiday in Thailand. After their parents notify police, reporter Kate Waters jumps at the chance to cover the story. This time, however, the tables have turned on Kate. She discovers that her son who’s been living in Thailand may somehow be involved. What happens when her own family is thrust in the spotlight?

The story is told in short chapters and alternating POVs – the reporter, the detective, the mother, and one of the missing girls. The opening grabbed my attention, though I had a harder time staying engaged with this book versus the first two in the series. At about the 30% mark, the major twist (IMO) was revealed. I thought, huh. Now what’s going to happen for another 300 pages? The middle moved by slowly, but things picked up closer to the end.

I very much enjoyed The Widow and The Child, but something was a bit off about this one. The premise was intriguing, but the execution didn’t grab me, and I never warmed to the characters unfortunately!

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


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LEAVE NO TRACE by Mindy Mejia {Review}

Leave No Trace
LEAVE NO TRACE by Mindy Mejia
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mindy Mejia’s latest novel is part mystery/part survivalist story, set in and near Minnesota’s wilderness area called the Boundary Waters. A boy named Lucas disappeared with his father in this place, and a decade later at age 19 he makes a rather violent reappearance. Where has he been for 10 years, and what happened to his father?

Unwilling to communicate with authorities, Lucas is sent to a mental health facility, where he’s assigned to Maya Stark, a young speech therapist, in hopes she’ll make a connection with him. Maya is struggling with her own troubling secrets and personal issues, and on top of that Lucas proves to be a very difficult patient.

I’m left with a lukewarm feeling towards this book. I was drawn in by the unique premise and loved the survivalist aspects of the story and the wilderness descriptions. I did keep wondering how the pieces of the puzzle would fit, and I liked the twist that brought everything together.

On the other hand, I felt like this book was too slow paced to be a suspense/thriller. I struggled to become invested in the characters, and Maya, in particular, I never cared for. She wasn’t that interesting and her actions were downright unethical. I also never understood why a 23-year old speech therapist with little experience would be put in charge of a high-profile, dangerous patient.

I adored Mindy Mejia’s first book, and though LEAVE NO TRACE didn’t thrill me as much, I will definitely keep an eye out for her next novel.

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