142 OSTRICHES by April Davila

Set against the unexpected splendor of an ostrich ranch in the California desert, April Dávila’s beautifully written debut conjures an absorbing and compelling heroine in a story of courage, family and forgiveness.

When Tallulah Jones was thirteen, her grandmother plucked her from the dank Oakland apartment she shared with her unreliable mom and brought her to the family ostrich ranch in the Mojave Desert. After eleven years caring for the curious, graceful birds, Tallulah accepts a job in Montana and prepares to leave home. But when Grandma Helen dies under strange circumstances, Tallulah inherits everything—just days before the birds inexplicably stop laying eggs.

Guarding the secret of the suddenly barren birds, Tallulah endeavors to force through a sale of the ranch, a task that is complicated by the arrival of her extended family. Their designs on the property, and deeply rooted dysfunction, threaten Tallulah’s ambitions and eventually her life. With no options left, Tallulah must pull her head out of the sand and face the fifty-year legacy of a family in turmoil: the reality of her grandmother’s death, her mother’s alcoholism, her uncle’s covetous anger, and the 142 ostriches whose lives are in her hands.

Publisher: Kensington
Publication Date: February 25, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley

★½

An ostrich ranch in the Mojave Desert is the unique setting in this beautifully written novel of self-discovery. The location drew me into the story, and the author did a wonderful job creating a sense of place. Did you know ostriches can grow up to nine feet tall and weigh over 300 pounds? I would be pretty nervous about taking eggs from their nests!

In 142 OSTRICHES, young 20-something Tallulah Jones begrudgingly inherits the family ranch from her grandmother who died under suspicious circumstances. Having lived and worked there since her early teens, she’s ready to make a quick sale and leave as soon as possible. But when the birds suddenly stop laying eggs, she’s forced to pause a moment and finally face decades of family dysfunction.

I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from this book, but I ended up greatly enjoying it. The characters were realistic and flawed, and in the end I could sympathize with all of them, even the not-so-likable ones. I’d highly recommend this family drama set in the stunning California desert to readers looking for something a bit different.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

THE FAVOR by Nora Murphy

A gripping debut domestic suspense novel, Nora Murphy’s thrilling The Favor explores with compassion and depth what can happen when women pushed to the limit take matters into their own hands.

Leaving would be dangerous. Staying could be worse.

Leah and McKenna have never met, though they have parallel lives.

They don’t — ever — find themselves in the same train carriage or meet accidentally at the gym or the coffee shop.

They don’t — ever — discuss their problems and find common ground.

They don’t — ever — acknowledge to each other that although their lives have all the trappings of success, wealth and happiness, they are, in fact, trapped.

Leah understands that what’s inside a home can be far more dangerous than what’s outside. So when she notices someone else who may be starting down the same path she’s on, she pays attention. She watches over McKenna from afar. Until one night she sees more than she bargained for. Leah knows she can’t save herself, but perhaps she can save McKenna.

Leah and McKenna have never met. But they will.

Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: May 31, 2022
Source: Borrowed from the library

½

THE FAVOR is an unsettling domestic suspense novel involving two affluent, professional women who are victims of spousal abuse. They don’t know each other, but when Leah observes McKenna from afar in her same perilous situation, she intervenes.

This book was so good — disturbing, but addictive. The author created two sympathetic characters in Leah and McKenna, and portrayed their struggle realistically. It could happen to anyone, and “just leaving” isn’t a safe or easy solution. Enter: the favor.

This well-plotted, slow burn tale had the right amount of suspense and dread woven in, with some wonderfully cathartic moments as well. Fantastic debut from Nora Murphy!

THE GIRL IN THE MIRROR by Rose Carlyle

Written with the chilling, twisty suspense of The Wife Between Us and Something in the Water, a seductive debut thriller about greed, lust, secrets, and deadly lies involving identical twin sisters.

Twin sisters Iris and Summer are startlingly alike, but beyond what the eye can see lies a darkness that sets them apart. Cynical and insecure, Iris has long been envious of Summer’s seemingly never-ending good fortune, including her perfect husband Adam.

Called to Thailand to help her sister sail the family yacht to the Seychelles, Iris nurtures her own secret hopes for what might happen on the journey. But when she unexpectedly finds herself alone in the middle of the Indian Ocean, everything changes. When she makes it to land, Iris allows herself to be swept up by Adam, who assumes that she is Summer.

Iris recklessly goes along with his mistake. Not only does she finally have the golden life she’s always envied, with her sister gone, she’s one step closer to the hundred-million-dollar inheritance left by her manipulative father. All Iris has to do is be the first of his seven children to produce an heir.

Iris’s “new” life lurches between glamorous dream and paranoid nightmare. On the edge of being exposed, how far will she go to ensure no one discovers the truth?

And just what did happen to Summer on the yacht?

Only Iris knows…

Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: October 20, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley

½

That ending…WHAT?!? I had to go over the last couple of pages again just to make sure I read everything right. Ugh! It was so twisted, but I loved it.

THE GIRL IN THE MIRROR is an addictive thriller/family drama filled with characters with the worst qualities, but I couldn’t stop reading. What a vicious, tangled web they got themselves into. Sometimes it’s difficult to make unlikable characters compelling, but the author succeeded here. I also loved the settings in this book, including a yacht in the Indian Ocean sailing to the Seychelles. Absolutely gorgeous, but also the perfect spot for something sinister. Read this for an exciting summery escape!

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

EVENFALL WITCHES B&B ☆ Cozy Mystery Series by Auralee Wallace



Book One: IN THE COMPANY OF WITCHES
Publication Date: October 19, 2021
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Review copy from NetGalley


When a guest dies in the B&B she helps her aunts run, a young witch must rely on some good old-fashioned investigating to clear her aunt’s name in this magical and charming new cozy mystery.

For four hundred years, the Warren witches have used their magic to quietly help the citizens of the sleepy New England town of Evenfall thrive. There’s never been a problem they couldn’t handle. But then Constance Graves — a local known for being argumentative and demanding — dies while staying at the bed and breakfast Brynn Warren maintains with her aunts. At first, it seems like an accident…but it soon becomes clear that there’s something more sinister at work, and Aunt Nora is shaping up to be the prime suspect.

There’s nothing Brynn wants more than to prove Nora’s innocence, and it hurts her to know that even two years ago that might have been easier. Brynn, after all, is a witch of the dead — a witch who can commune with ghosts. Ghosts never remember much about their deaths, but Constance might remember something about her life that would help crack the case. But Brynn hasn’t used her powers since her husband died, and isn’t even sure she still can. Brynn will just have to hope that her aunts’ magic and her own investigative skills will lead her to answers — and maybe back to the gift she once thought herself ready to give up forever.


★★★★½

If you loved the aunts in Practical Magic and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, I highly recommend you give this new magical cozy mystery series a try. There’s also a curious uncle who reminds me a bit of “we don’t talk about” Bruno who adds to the fun.

Brynn, their niece, has been unable to use her witchy powers of communicating with ghosts ever since her husband died. Somehow Brynn needs to get her witchery back to help Aunt Nora when she’s accused of murdering a guest in their New England B&B.

I enjoyed the spirited characters and their dynamics and witty banter. The murder mystery was complex and fast paced, and I enjoyed how the family’s magical powers helped with the investigation. There are additional layers of emotion and family drama that give the story extra depth. I’m excited to see this series continue!




Book Two: WHEN THE CROW’S AWAY
Publication Date: April 5, 2022
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Review copy from NetGalley


The ghost of a recently deceased chocolatier believes he was murdered, and it’s up to young witch Brynn Warren to use her magical gifts and old-fashioned sleuthing skills to find out how he really met his bitter end in this enchanting new Evenfall Witches B&B Mystery.

After spending months unable to use her powers, Brynn Warren is once again using her gift and working at her family’s bed-and-breakfast. Her heart is full, and although one of her aunts wonders if it might be a little more full with a bit of romance in her life, Brynn is certain that finding love again is not in her future. In fact, she can’t imagine anyone being more certain of anything…except for maybe, the recently deceased Mortimer Sweete. He’s certain he’s been murdered, and he wants Brynn’s help to bring his killer to justice.

Mort is positive he knows who killed him: his business partner’s wife, Cookie, who had been trying to get them to sell the candy shop for months. But Brynn doesn’t share his conviction. After all, the coroner ruled his death natural causes, and Mort did have health problems in life. But with Cookie putting up a For Sale sign for the shop already, Brynn knows she can’t just let it go.

Trying to solve a might-be murder while attempting to stop her aunt from meddling in her personal life seems like a recipe for disaster. If Brynn wants to bring Mort’s spirit peace, she’ll have to rely on all her skills — both magical and mundane — to uncover the truth.


★★★★½

WHEN THE CROW’S AWAY is a fantastic continuation of this paranormal cozy mystery series. Evenfall is an absolutely charming place, and it was great to be back with Brynn and her witchy aunts and uncle. This time Aunt Izzy does some meddling in Brynn’s love life, which she’s none to thrilled about. However, she does have a distraction in the ghost of a deceased candy maker who firmly believes he was murdered. Now that Brynn has her powers back, she’s ready to help.

This is one of the more emotional cozy mystery series I’ve read, because it deals with loss and grief in a deeper way. Plenty of family drama too! The murder mystery in this book was rather intriguing, and the twist at the end was totally unexpected. I love how the last chapter hinted at what’s to come in the next book and I am ready for it!

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a free copy of both books in exchange for an honest review.