Review: The Book of Candlelight

By Ellery Adams

Genre: Crime/Cozy Mystery

Published: January 2020

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


In the new Secret, Book, and Scone Society novel from New York Times bestselling author Ellery Adams, the rain in Miracle Springs, North Carolina, has been relentless—and a flood of trouble is about to be unleashed . . .
As the owner of Miracle Books, Nora Pennington figures all the wet weather this spring is at least good for business. The local inns are packed with stranded travelers, and among them Nora finds both new customers and a new friend, the sixtysomething Sheldon, who starts helping out at the store. Since a little rain never hurt anyone, Nora rides her bike over to the flea market one sodden day and buys a bowl from Danny, a Cherokee potter. It’ll make a great present for Nora’s EMT boyfriend, but the next day, a little rain turns into a lot of rain, and the Miracle River overflows it banks. Amid the wreckage of a collapsed footbridge, Danny’s body lies within the churning water.
Nora and the sheriff both doubt the ruling of accidental drowning, and Nora decides it’s time for the Secret, Book, and Scone Society to spring into action. When another body turns up, it becomes clearer that Danny’s death can’t be blamed on a natural disaster. A crucial clue may lie within the stone walls of the Inn of Mist and Roses: a diary, over a century old and spattered with candle wax, that leads Nora and her friends through a maze of intrigue—and onto the trail of a murderer . . .

This is the third book in the series, and as I hadn’t read the previous two, I struggled for a little while separating out Nora’s female friends. But once I had, I enjoyed this thoroughly. It’s another cozy mystery with a bookshop at the centre of it, which is fast becoming one of my favourite set-ups. There was plenty of mystery here, too, in addition to the central crime, and one twist that I didn’t see coming at all, but which was very satisfying.

The Book of Candlelight is a feel-good read with enough genuine emotion to keep it from feeling superficial. If you’re a fan of cozy mysteries, I recommend it. (But maybe read the first two books first!)

I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

What I Read in January 2020


As a reading year, 2020 has started with a bang! I read five books last month, with an average rating of 4.5, a new TwoBooks record!

I had two 5-star reads, and three 4-stars. Here are the books, in the order I read them.

TRICK OR MURDER?

By Debbie Young

Genre: Cozy Mystery

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐ ⭐

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When the strange new vicar arrives in Wendlebury Barrow, his ban on Halloween not only upsets the whole village, it also threatens to scupper Sophie Sayers’ fledgling romance with charismatic bookseller Hector Munro. What is the dark secret that the vicar is keeping about Hector, and whose is that body buried at the bottom of the vicarage bonfire on Guy Fawkes Night? 

To my mind, Debbie Young’s Sophie Sayers Village Mystery series is a cut above the usual standard of cozy mystery in characterisation and writing style, and this one was no exception. The denizens of this Cotswolds Village are irresistibly reminiscent of the characters from The Vicar of Dibley, and Sophie herself is an engaging and likeable heroine.

MURDER IN THE MANGER

By Debbie Young

GENRE: Cozy Mystery

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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When a mysterious stranger interrupts Sophie Sayers’ Nativity play to accuse the whole village of murdering a baby, Sophie Sayers’ imagination runs wild, as usual, not helped by the surprise arrival of her ex-boyfriend just as her new romance with charming local bookseller Hector Munro was starting to hot up. What secrets is the stranger hiding, and whose baby is it anyway? 

Yes, another Sophie Sayers book. January was so hot, dry, dusty and smoky here that a snowy English village seemed like a perfect place to escape to. Another fun read.


DON’T READ THE COMMENTS

By Eric Smith

GENRE: YA Contemporary

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Divya Sharma is a queen. Or she is when she’s playing Reclaim the Sun, the year’s hottest online game. Divya—better known as popular streaming gamer D1V—regularly leads her #AngstArmada on quests through the game’s vast and gorgeous virtual universe. But for Divya, this is more than just a game. Out in the real world, she’s trading her rising-star status for sponsorships to help her struggling single mom pay the rent.
Gaming is basically Aaron Jericho’s entire life. Much to his mother’s frustration, Aaron has zero interest in becoming a doctor like her, and spends his free time writing games for a local developer. At least he can escape into Reclaim the Sun—and with a trillion worlds to explore, disappearing should be easy. But to his surprise, he somehow ends up on the same remote planet as celebrity gamer D1V.
At home, Divya and Aaron grapple with their problems alone, but in the game, they have each other to face infinite new worlds…and the growing legion of trolls populating them. Soon the virtual harassment seeps into reality when a group called the Vox Populi begin launching real-world doxxing campaigns, threatening Aaron’s dreams and Divya’s actual life. The online trolls think they can drive her out of the game, but everything and everyone Divya cares about is on the line…
And she isn’t going down without a fight. 

My first 5-star read of 2020!

And who would have guessed it would be a YA Contemporary? Not me. But it’s absolutely brilliant: engaging, thought-provoking and just so entertaining. If you missed my full review, you can find it here.

BLACKBIRCH: THE BEGINNING

By K.M. Allan

Genre: YA Fantasy

RATING: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Welcome to Blackbirch. It’s a place no one forgets. Except for Josh Taylor.
The fatal car crash took more than 17-year-old Josh’s parents. It stole his memories and returned him to his birthplace, Blackbirch, a tourist town steeped in a history of witchcraft.
Amongst friends he’s forgotten and a life he doesn’t want, Josh is haunted by nightmares so believable he swears the girl in his dreams is real. Kallie is so captivating he ignores her blood-stained hands, but he can’t overlook the blue glow summoned to her skin.
Kallie says it’s an ancient magic they share and a secret worth hiding, because as Josh discovers, they aren’t the only gifted ones.
To restore his memories and find the true cause of the car accident, he must learn what’s real. And what secrets Blackbirch has buried in its woods.

Blackbirch: The Beginning is a great story with tons of atmosphere. A really exciting debut from K.M. Allan. And I have a strong feeling that now that everything has been set up so well, Book Two will be even better.

If you missed my full review, you can find it here.

SHIP OF MAGIC

By Robin Hobb

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Wizardwood, a sentient wood.
The most precious commodity in the world.
Like many other legendary wares, it comes only from the Rain River Wilds. But how can one trade with the Rain Wilders, when only a liveship fashioned from wizardwood can negotiate the perilous waters of the Rain River?
Rare and valuable a liveship will quicken only when three members, from successive generations, have died on board. The liveship Vivacia is about to undergo her quickening as Althea Vestrit’s father is carried on deck in his death-throes.
Althea waits for the ship that she loves more than anything else in the world to awaken. Only to discover that the Vivacia has been signed away in her father’s will to her brutal brother-in-law, Kyle Haven…

I found copies of all three books of Hobb’s Liveship Traders trilogy at a Lifeline Book Fair last year and snapped them up, knowing I wanted to read them some time. An opportunity to do a buddy read of Book 1 with a lively group of lovers of Epic Fantasy on Goodreads was the perfect opportunity.

Firstly, this is a long book. 880 pages in the edition I had, and it’s not one I wanted to skim. Hobb’s writing deserves more than that. So it took me almost the entire month of January to make my way through. And it was spectacular. Hobb’s world-building is detailed, stunning and wholly believable.

And her characters make you want to either hug them, cheer for them or throw them overboard to the sea serpents. Despite the blurb above, this story is by no means all about Althea. There is Wintrow, who wants to be a priest but is forced to bond with a liveship by his greedy father; Kennit, a very good pirate and a very bad man; Amber, who is mysterious; Malta who is infuriating in the way only a thirteen-year-old can be. And so many more. And then there are the liveships themselves, and even the serpents.

I could go on and on about this book, but I’ll leave it here and just say this is my kind of epic fantasy and I’ll be reading the rest of the trilogy. Oh, and the buddy read was a blast.


Your turn! What did you read in January? Any 5-star recommendations?

Review: BLACKBIRCH The Beginning

K.M. Allan


Genre: YA Fantasy
Release Date: 17 February 2020 (pre-orders available now)
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Welcome to Blackbirch. It’s a place no one forgets. Except for Josh Taylor.
The fatal car crash took more than 17-year-old Josh’s parents. It stole his memories and returned him to his birthplace, Blackbirch, a tourist town steeped in a history of witchcraft.
Amongst friends he’s forgotten and a life he doesn’t want, Josh is haunted by nightmares so believable he swears the girl in his dreams is real. Kallie is so captivating he ignores her blood-stained hands, but he can’t overlook the blue glow summoned to her skin.
Kallie says it’s an ancient magic they share and a secret worth hiding, because as Josh discovers, they aren’t the only gifted ones.
To restore his memories and find the true cause of the car accident, he must learn what’s real. And what secrets Blackbirch has buried in its woods.

From the very first page, this novel established a genuinely creepy and mysterious vibe that never let up, ramping to a climax that was action-packed and satisfying, and at the same time left me wanting more of these characters. Fortunately, there are several books to come in the Blackbirch series.

CONTINUE READING

Review: Don't Read the Comments

Eric Smith


Genre: YA Contemporary
Release Date: 20 January 2020
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Divya Sharma is a queen. Or she is when she’s playing Reclaim the Sun, the year’s hottest online game. Divya—better known as popular streaming gamer D1V—regularly leads her #AngstArmada on quests through the game’s vast and gorgeous virtual universe. But for Divya, this is more than just a game. Out in the real world, she’s trading her rising-star status for sponsorships to help her struggling single mom pay the rent.

Gaming is basically Aaron Jericho’s entire life. Much to his mother’s frustration, Aaron has zero interest in becoming a doctor like her, and spends his free time writing games for a local developer. At least he can escape into Reclaim the Sun—and with a trillion worlds to explore, disappearing should be easy. But to his surprise, he somehow ends up on the same remote planet as celebrity gamer D1V.
At home, Divya and Aaron grapple with their problems alone, but in the game, they have each other to face infinite new worlds…and the growing legion of trolls populating them. Soon the virtual harassment seeps into reality when a group called the Vox Populi begin launching real-world doxxing campaigns, threatening Aaron’s dreams and Divya’s actual life. The online trolls think they can drive her out of the game, but everything and everyone Divya cares about is on the line…

And she isn’t going down without a fight. 

It’s been a long time since a book made me want to stand up and cheer, or literally set my heart thumping, or brought tears to my eyes. This one did all three, not just once, but over and over.

CONTINUE READING

Review: Mom’s Perfect Boyfriend

By Crystal Hemmingway

Genre: Romance/ Science Fiction/ Comedy

Publisher: Galbadia Press

Edition: Paperback

Release date: June 2019

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ 1/2

Crystal has trouble saying no to her lonely, single mother. For 25 years, it wasn’t a problem. But when one small mistake leaves Crystal jilted, homeless and unemployed, she has to move back in with the one person who caused it all: her mother.

Goodreads blurb

I received an early reviewer’s copy of this from Galbadia Press, via Librarything. Romance is not my usual genre-of-choice, but I was intrigued by the structure, so I applied for a copy.

Look, I need to say up front that this is a very silly story with more than one unbelievable plot thread. But it’s meant to be lighthearted and a little comical, so I’m not holding the silliness against it.

CONTINUE READING

Review: Into the Water

By Paula Hawkins

Genre: Thriller

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

In the last days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help. Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules has been dragged back to the one place she hoped she had escaped for good, to care for the teenage girl her sister left behind. But Jules is afraid. So afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of knowing that Nel would never have jumped. And most of all she’s afraid of the water, and the place they call the Drowning Pool . . .

This was a difficult book to rate. In the end, I had to give it four stars because it is very well-written, structured and plotted. And yet…

CONTINUE READING