SMILE BEACH MURDER by Alicia Bessette

From author Alicia Bessette comes an all-new mystery series featuring Callie Padget, a former reporter turned bookshop clerk in the Outer Banks who is pulled into a deadly web of secrets when a mysterious fall at a lighthouse echoes a tragedy from her past.

When Callie is laid off from her reporting job, she returns to her hometown of Cattail Island and lands a gig at the local bookstore — the same one where she found comfort after her mother died.

In fact, the anniversary of her mother’s infamous death is approaching. Years ago, Teri Padget tumbled from the top of the lighthouse. As islanders are once again gossiping about the tragedy, devastating news strikes: the lighthouse has claimed another victim. Eva Meeks, of Meeks Hardware.

The police are calling it suicide, but Callie does not believe Eva jumped any more than she believes her mother did — especially because Callie knows that before her death, Eva had dug up a long-forgotten treasure hunt that could have put a target on Eva’s back.

In Callie’s search for answers, she enlists the help of some beloved books and several new friends, including the handsome local martial arts instructor, Toby Dodge. But when another death rocks Cattail Island, Callie must face her fears alone. As she earns enemies in pursuit of the truth, Callie knows she will either uncover the killer or become a victim herself.

Series: An Outer Banks Bookshop Mystery, #1
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: May 10, 2022
Source: Review copy from NetGalley

Set on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, SMILE BEACH MURDER is the perfect cozy mystery for summer reading. After being laid off from her job as a reporter, Callie Padget heads home to Cattail Island to live with her uncle and work at the local bookshop until she decides what to do next. When a family friend dies under suspicious circumstances, similarly to her mother’s death years before, Callie uses her investigative skills to search for the truth.

The striking cover drew me in, but the intriguing mystery, complete with a treasure hunt, had me hooked. Callie is a smart, compassionate, and clever main character, though some of her risky choices had me gritting my teeth! I enjoyed getting to know her family and friends, and there’s definitely a strong sense of community. Her budding romance with Toby Dodge was a fun addition to the story. This book is a wonderful start to a new series, and I’m looking forward to returning to Cattail Island soon. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

KILL ALL YOUR DARLINGS by David Bell


Publisher: Berkley Books
Release Date: July 6, 2021

✦ Plagiarism, murder, and a mystery inside a mystery in a Kentucky college town. ✦

To save his tenure, Professor Connor Nye must publish a novel, which has proved impossible since the death of his wife and son left him numb and uninspired. When one of his students disappears leaving behind a brilliant thesis paper, Connor submits it as his own book. However, after the novel is released, the missing student returns looking to collect the money Connor received for her work — or else.

But there’s much more to this layered story. What’s contained inside the plagiarized novel are words that could get certain people in a whole lot of trouble, including Connor. I enjoyed the conundrum he found himself in.

This is the 7th book I’ve read by David Bell, and I always know I’m in for a smart and twisty thriller when I pick one up. KILL ALL YOUR DARLINGS had less family drama than some of his previous books, but there was still plenty of tension and emotion to pull me in. — 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

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

THE STARS OF WHISTLING RIDGE by Cindy Baldwin


Publisher: Quill Tree Books
Release Date: June 15, 2021

✦ Middle Grade Magical Realism ✦

“Ivy Mae Bloom is almost thirteen years old, her name is almost a complete sentence, and her family’s RV is almost a home.”

THE STARS OF WHISTLING RIDGE is a magical middle grade story of a girl desperate for a forever home, and ultimately learning that “home” means more than just a stationary building. Ivy Mae Bloom’s mother and two aunts are fallen stars in human form, and they control the magic in different parts of the country. Ivy’s family is constantly on the move, traveling from place to place so her mother can help people by granting wishes.

Even though her mom warned her that sometimes wishes were unpredictable, Ivy steals the wish jars and dreams of a permeant home like her Aunt Agatha has in Whistling Ridge, North Carolina. Not long after, the family ends up stranded in Whistling Ridge, and they learn that the town is plagued by a sinister force destroying its magic. Ivy is then faced with a dilemma, since saving the town will mean having to move on again.

Ivy is a relatable character as she faces conflicts with her parents & siblings, the challenge of making new friends, and doing the right thing even if it means not getting what she wants. I enjoyed the mystery of Whistling Ridge’s curse, and how clever Ivy was to research the town’s history and try to fit the puzzle pieces together. The ending was satisfying with Ivy learning a lot about herself, her family, and what “home” truly means. Recommended to fans of magical realism and mystery. — 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

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