The Book of Cold Cases by Simone St. James

Shea is a receptionist in a doctor’s office and makes a crime podcast in the evenings. She wants to interview a woman accused of but acquitted of murdering two men forty years ago, Beth Greer. Beth is a rich heiress who lives alone in the family mansion after her father was shot and her mother died in a car accident. Mystery surrounds Beth. She reaches out to Shea to talk about what happened forty years ago. Little by little, Shea is exposed to Beth’s life and secrets and the further she digs the more dangerous it all becomes. 5 stars for this well-written haunted mystery!

What Lies in the Woods by Kate Alice Marshall

Book edition:

Three eleven year old girls entered the woods and two came out. One of them had been stabbed so the other two girls got help and testified that a serial killer rapist was to blame. Years later, when the three girls have become adults, the killer dies in prison. The three women meet and discuss how relieved but worried they are about a secret they’re hiding. The mystery of their secret becomes many mysteries buried, one on top of another. This is a delightfully twisted and unexpected mystery, 5 stars!

Edgewood by Kristen Ciccarelli

Mystery, fantasy, adventure and romance!

Emeline Lark lives in Montreal where she’s trying to leave her forest hometown of Edgewood in the past. She’s on the verge of becoming a singer with a recording company but as she performs she sees signs of the Edgewood Forest creeping onto the stage. Emeline sees a mysterious hooded stranger in the audience who becomes the key to her past and future, unbeknownst to her at the time. Pa, her grandfather, has dementia and when she goes home to take care of him, she’s pulled into the Edgewood Forest and her life is thrown into upheaval and danger. To free herself from the evil and corrupted Wood King, Emeline will have to dig deep and get to the bottom of the forest curse.

5 solid stars!!! Mystery, fantasy, action and romance.

Likes/dislikes:
The writing pulled me into the story with incredible world building and mysterious surroundings and characters. Hawthorn is a fascinating character. The story has action, tenderness and a roller coaster of emotions.
Language: R for 14 swears and 3 f-bombs
Mature content: R for Sex on page 295 that doesn’t mention genitals and is described vaguely; non-detailed oral sex on page 340. The relationship between the two characters is a loving one and the sex is because of this love for each other.
Violence: PG for Stabbing of the Shadowskin creatures, no blood involved; danger and Shadowskins chasing people.
Ethncity: Predominantly white in Montreal and Edgewood but mixed colors of skin in the otherworldly forest of the Wood King.

Daughters of Nri by Reni K. Amayo

Twins, stolen and separated!

Naala gets reprimanded for getting dirt all over her wedding gown that Gini designed and sewed. Sinai is trying to avoid a bully. These two young women are twins separated soon after they were born and they have no idea that the other one exists. Twins are forbidden and usually killed because the leader has heard a prophecy that twins will be his undoing. The girls’ parents were royalty, also unknown to them. Their mother died after giving birth to them and their father planned on keeping them safe afterwards but the girls were stolen and their father died of a broken heart. Now Naala and Sinai are living separate lives and know nothing about each other, their parents or the prophecy. Naala has just escaped the slaying of her village and is living on the run with other survivors of Eze’s army. Sinai has made a pact with a magical older lady and now she’s supposed to be spying on Eze. The mythology was all new to me since I didn’t have much background knowledge of the specific culture and I enjoyed learning about that. I would have liked more action and development of the characters but still a good read, 4 stars!

Blade of Secrets by Tricia Levenseller

A fun, dangerous adventure with the added touch of magic!

Ziva is a magical blacksmith who creates weapons with a touch of magic added. She lives with her younger sister Temra. Their parents were killed when Ziva was five. They lived at an orphanage and then Ziva was trained by a blacksmith until he retired. Ziva and Temra now run a smithy business together. Ziva’s abilities are widely known and when a warlord gives her a job, she’s thrilled. Until she discovers the warlord’s plans to conquer the kingdom and enslave the people. She decides to take her magical weapons and run with her sister. They take Petrik, a scholar, and Kellyn, a mercenary, along for safety. They head to their father’s family that they’ve never met, thinking that’s the safest place to go. On their travels, they deal with ambushes and the worry of trusting Petrik and Kellyn. Their grandmother welcomes them when they arrive and they attend religious services with her. The priestess delivers the sermon about the dangers of magic and that magic holders should be and will be killed. Ziva and Temra are terrified. That’s just another dangerous situation among many that they have to deal with on their mission to protect the kingdom from the warlord’s lofty, greedy goals. The group dynamics are interesting and their banter made me laugh several times. The book started off a bit slow in the first few pages but then picked up the pace and then I couldn’t stop reading it! A fun, dangerous adventure with the added touch of magic, 5 stars!

The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes

An unusual mystery that grabbed my attention!

An unusual mystery that grabbed my attention!
I read The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes as part of Reese’s Book Club January Pick. I’m so glad I read this book! It’s completely different than I thought it would be. I jumped right into reading without looking at the synopsis, so I didn’t know what to expect. The murders occurred in a way that I would have never imagined before. Prepared to be engaged in the author’s writing and held in perplexity in trying to figure out the mystery. It’s mellower than I expected but riveting and interesting all the same.
Maya struggles with sleeping because of an incident that happened seven years prior. Her friend died right in front of her and she suspects Frank of murder but she can’t prove or figure out how he killed her friend. She has taken Klonopin to help her sleep ever since her friend died but she has to go cold turkey because she lost her access to the medication. While dealing with withdrawal symptoms, she sees an online video of Frank with a woman dying right in front of him, all caught on a security camera. Maya immediately assumes Frank caused this woman’s death but it just looks like she fell over without him touching her at all. This video causes Maya to want to get to the bottom of her friend’s death and stop Frank from ever doing this again. Maya goes down a rabbit hole of past memories and current weirdness. She can’t trust her instincts, memories or what she has seen and she needs all the help she can get to stop Frank.

I enjoyed the author’s writing and mystery building skills!

The Second Death of Edie and Violet Bond by Amanda Glaze

Riveting, suspenseful and fun to read!

In 1885 Sacramento, amidst the fight for women’s rights, runaway twins work for a performance troupe as psychics. Edie is reserved while her twin Violet is theatrical. They conduct a seance for an elderly woman who recently lost her cat. While pretending that the cat’s spirit is with them in the room, Edie senses the Veil thinning and a cold, uncomfortable feeling enters the room. She douses the smoldering lavender and the feeling goes away. They’ve helped their customer feel comfort but they’re shaken. Edie’s and Violet’s mother had spiritualist powers and she helped her daughters learn how to be safe with the powers they inherited from her. When their mother dies due to a shadow spirit, their preacher father threatens to send them to an asylum so they run away. They join up with the troupe and meet like-minded women trying to make a living. Edie and Violet become embroiled in a mystery that’s bigger than they ever imagined and much more dangerous than they planned on. Riveting, suspenseful and fun to read, 5 stars!

Likes/dislikes:
I appreciate the author’s note explaining how she based this story on her deceased great grandmother and her twin sister, who both happened to be spiritualists. I was riveted throughout the entire book because the story is interesting and I love the characters. The danger and suspense are intense. The ethnicity is mixed with white, Italian and Black.

Language: PG for 4 swears and no f-bombs
Mature content: PG for a lesbian couple mentioned. Edie (female) and Laws (male)kissing.
Violence: PG-13 for An angry shadow spirit threatening spiritualists, kidnapping and trapping and a bloody death.

The Drowned Woods by Emily Lloyd-Jones

Once upon a time, Mer lives in the kingdom of Wales which is full of magic and conflict. Mer is a diviner of magic who wants a peaceful life after she’s escaped from the abusive prince. The spymaster that captured her for the prince years ago offers her a job that will give her revenge on the prince and lots of coin so she can start a new life somewhere safe. She meets the rest of the group that includes a lord’s cousin with a gambling debt, a man who seeks revenge, a man that made a deal with the Otherfolk and a past acquaintance who happens to be an excellent thief. The banter and dynamics keep their journey interesting and the danger builds to intense levels. Mer will have to choose between herself and others and that will help decide her fate and the fate of the kingdom. Incredible world building, 5 stars!

Likes/dislikes:
The prose is beautiful and the world building is incredible. I love the variety of characters, especially the Corgi dog. I like how this book ties into the author’s book, The Bone Houses. The ethnicity is European.
Language: PG for one swear and no f-bombs
Violence: PG-13
Bandits burning homes with families inside. A young girl being taken from her family. Fighting to the death. A knife buried by the prince into a spy’s eye. A water horse bites a man in half. A giant magical boar stabs a man with his tusk.
Mature Content: PG for kissing.

Five Survive by Holly Jackson

The intensity builds to the extreme!

Red is traveling in an RV to Florida with her friends to spend a week celebrating spring break together. They lose cell service and GPS capabilities then end up down a dead end road getting a flat tire. After replacing the flat tire with the spare, Red sees a red dot hovering around the RV and yells at the others to notice. They ignore her until they hear the gunshots that take out all four tires. The group runs into the RV for protection. The shooter leaves a walkie talkie for communication and tells them that one of them has a secret they need to share. The secret is going to be revealed, one way or another!

Likes/dislikes:
Oliver is annoying because he’s a know-it-all with a superiority complex. The mystery is interesting to try to unravel when a few characters allude to having secrets. The suspense builds intensely, which makes a riveting read.

Mature Content:
PG-13 for drinking

Language:
R for 20 swears and 105 f-bombs.

Violence:
PG-13 for Someone shoots at the RV and holds the travelers hostage inside. The sniper fatally shoots an elderly couple that stop to help. Bloody shootings. Attack with a knife.

Ethnicity:
Mixed, Korean, Mexican, white, African American

The Luminaries by Susan Dennard

A supernatural mystery!

Luminaries are hunters of nightmares. Winnie, sixteen, is about to start the trials that lead to becoming a hunter. She lives with her mother and brother. After her father was exposed as a spy, their family lost everything, including him. Now they struggle to make ends meet. Winnie is bullied by classmates that call her traitor because of her father. She is excited to become a hunter and draws every creature she sees with her wonderful artistic skills. On her first trial, Winnie accidentally stumbles onto a banshee that’s immediately beheaded by someone or something else. She carries the banshee head back to headquarters, completely in shock the whole time. As soon as other hunters see her holding the banshee head, they assume she hunted and killed it. Super impressed, the hunters don’t let Winnie get a word in and she’s finding it hard to speak anyway. After that, she and her family are celebrated and treated much better. Winnie is able to attend hunter school and her brother Darian is promoted. In the meantime, Winnie asks Jay to train her because she feels extremely behind since she hasn’t had access to teaching or coaching for the last four years. Jay agrees but Winnie has difficulty reading him. He’s aloof, strong, and oblivious to the attention and flirting of Winnie’s peers. Jay’s training helps Winnie with the trials but she keeps seeing the Whisperer that no other hunter has seen. As Winnie builds her skills, she discovers a coded message from her father and the book ends with the shocking deciphered note he left for her. A sequel to look forward to! Supernatural mystery, 4 stars!

Likes/dislikes:
I like the following:
-The quote from Grandpa Frank, “That’s why we’re called the Luminaries, Winnie, we are lanterns the forest can never snuff out”.
-The mystery of the Whisperer and the discovery of another mystery that leads into a sequel.
-I enjoyed the writing and that Winnie is an artist.
-I like Jay and the mystery surrounding his life.
Language Content: PG-13 for 16 swears, no f-bombs
Mature Content: PG-13 for underage drinking, mentions marijuana; LGBT side character
Violence: PG-13 for dead, ripped apart bodies, beheading