Year-End Reading List

Hello, hello!  It’s the beginning of October and I have nothing useful to ramble about.  Confession: this year has been far less productive than I had hoped.  But I have been continually submitting despite not writing as regularly as I should.  I’ve written a few short pieces, am slowly revising one of my novels so I can start the agent hunt again, and have read pretty much every day that I wasn’t sick this year.  It’s nowhere near what I should have accomplished, but that’s life.  It’s my own fault.  I’ve decided that over the next three months, I will stop procrastinating and hit the revision as hard as I can, so that I can submit to agents again starting in January.  I will keep submitting my short pieces every Monday.  And I’ll keep reading, which brings me to the point of this post.  Here’s my planned year-end reading list in no particular order.

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As usual, I plan to read at least two books each month, one for my book reviews and one for fun.  I currently only have one of the book review choices picked out, so here is that one and my three “for fun” books.  I might try to squeeze a couple of others in if I have time.

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1. Black Rock Bay by Brianna Labuskes.  This will be October’s book review.  I was missing Maine and looking for something a little darker than a cozy, so I picked this one up from NetGalley.  Here’s the synopsis from GoodReads (where you can also find links to preorder it):

Detective Mia Hart never planned to return home. One terrifying summer night, Mia lost two of her closest friends to suicide. Scarred and broken, she fled St. Lucy’s, a small island off the coast of Maine.

Now fifteen years later, when the body of a journalist is fished out of the bay near St. Lucy’s cliffs, Mia is forced to help with the case—and face all she’s been running from. As she approaches the island, the wintery winds of Black Rock Bay usher Mia home again.

When Mia digs into the reporter’s death, she finds he left behind a written clue: It wasn’t suicide. Mia soon discovers it’s her own tragic past he was referring to. Now, as she tries to untangle a web of lies, Mia realizes that solving this case means becoming the next pawn in someone’s blood-chilling game of truth or die.

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2. The Missing Ones by Edwin Hill.  This is the second in his Hester Thursby mystery series.  I reviewed the first one here, and enjoyed it enough that I’m looking forward to this one.  It’s another one that seems to be on the darker side, but it actually falls in the cozy realm.  Also, I had no idea it was going to be set in Maine, so that’s just a bonus.  Here’s the GoodReads synopsis:

Hester Thursby has given up using her research skills to trace people who don’t want to be found. A traumatic case a few months ago unearthed a string of violent crimes, and left Hester riddled with self-doubt and guilt. Caring for a four-year-old is responsibility enough in a world filled with terrors Hester never could have imagined before.

Finisterre Island, off the coast of Maine, is ruggedly beautiful and remote—the kind of place tourists love to visit, though rarely for long. But not everyone who comes to the island is welcome. A dilapidated Victorian house has become home to a group of squatters and junkies, and strangers have a habit of bringing trouble with them. A young boy disappeared during the summer, and though he was found safely, the incident stirred suspicion among locals. Now another child is missing. Summoned to the island by a cryptic text, Hester discovers a community cleaning up from a devastating storm—and uncovers a murder.

Soon Hester begins to connect the crime and the missing children. And as she untangles the secrets at the center of the small community, she finds grudges and loyalties that run deep, poised to converge with a force that will once again shake her convictions about the very nature of right and wrong…

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3. The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl by Theodora Goss.  The third and final tale of the women in the Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series.  I fell in love with them from book one.  What’s not to love about the daughters of a bunch of villains and madmen running around saving the day?  Here’s the GoodReads synopsis:

Life’s always an adventure for the Athena Club… especially when one of their own has been kidnapped! After their thrilling European escapades rescuing Lucinda van Helsing, Mary Jekyll and her friends return home to discover that their friend and kitchen maid Alice has vanished— and so has their friend and employer Sherlock Holmes!

As they race to find Alice and bring her home safely, they discover that Alice and Sherlock’s kidnapping are only one small part of a plot that threatens Queen Victoria, and the very future of the British Empire. Can Mary, Diana, Beatrice, Catherine, and Justine save their friends—and save the Empire? Find out in the final installment of the fantastic and memorable Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club series.

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4. Wonton Terror by Vivien Chien.  It’s the fourth in her Noodle Shop Mystery series.  A true cozy series.  It’s just a fun bunch of books and I enjoy them.  Here’s the GoodReads synopsis:

The Asian community is kicking off summer with the return of its popular Cleveland Night Market festivities, and Lana Lee is excited to represent the Ho-Lee Noodle House booth with her favorite chef, Peter Huang. Lana is confident that the evening marks the beginning of a great season to come. Not only is she looking forward to the warm temperatures, but her birthday is only weeks away, her handsome boyfriend, Detective Adam Trudeau, is planning a romantic get-away. Life couldn’t be better.

But before she can get too accustomed to the idea of a carefree summer, an explosion involving a nearby food truck, Wonton on Wheels, kills one of the proprietors and injures several others in the nearby vicinity.

When the authorities discover that this was no accident, the family members of the dead man become the number-one suspects in a front-page murder story. Lana and her best friend, Megan Riley, fall back into detective mode. But as they uncover family secrets of abuse and angry costumers, Lana’s own family drama raises its head. Will Lana be able to juggle everything the universe is throwing at her, or has she jumped from the frying pan to the fire? 

What about you?  What’s on your year-end reading list?  Feel free to share your list here or on my social media pages!

Summer Reading List

Hello, hello!  It’s already the first day of May.  Can you believe it?  And even though it’s not technically summer, we’re starting to warm up around here, so I’ve been thinking about what to sit outside (at least until we hit the triple digits, then I’ll probably stay inside) and read.  Do you have your summer reading list ready?  I thought I would go ahead and share mine.  These are just my “for fun” books, not the ones I plan to review.  Also, the list is a work in progress, so I might add some or replace some.  Nothing is concrete, but these are all part of my current plan.

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Anyway, here are the books in no particular order!

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1. A Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman, Rafael AlbuquerqueRafael Scavone, and Dave Stewart.  It’s been a while since I’ve read a graphic novel, so this should be a fun read.  Not to mention that it’s a Lovecraftian Sherlock Holmes story with Gaiman at the helm, so it’s right up my alley.

From the back: This supernatural mystery set in the world of Sherlock Holmes and Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos features a brilliant detective and his partner as they try to solve a horrific murder.

The complex investigation takes the Baker Street investigators from the slums of Whitechapel all the way to the Queen’s Palace as they attempt to find the answers to this bizarre murder of cosmic horror!

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2. Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse.  It’s the second in The Sixth World series and I’ve been looking forward to it since I read and reviewed the first book.  Can’t wait to see what Maggie and Kai get up to this time!

From Amazon: It’s been four weeks since the bloody showdown at Black Mesa, and Maggie Hoskie, Diné monster hunter, is trying to make the best of things. Only her latest bounty hunt has gone sideways, she’s lost her only friend, Kai Arviso, and she’s somehow found herself responsible for a girl with a strange clan power.

Then the Goodacre twins show up at Maggie’s door with the news that Kai and the youngest Goodacre, Caleb, have fallen in with a mysterious cult, led by a figure out of Navajo legend called the White Locust. The Goodacres are convinced that Kai’s a true believer, but Maggie suspects there’s more to Kai’s new faith than meets the eye. She vows to track down the White Locust, then rescue Kai and make things right between them.

Her search leads her beyond the Walls of Dinétah and straight into the horrors of the Big Water world outside. With the aid of a motley collection of allies, Maggie must battle body harvesters, newborn casino gods and, ultimately, the White Locust himself. But the cult leader is nothing like she suspected, and Kai might not need rescuing after all. When the full scope of the White Locust’s plans are revealed, Maggie’s burgeoning trust in her friends, and herself, will be pushed to the breaking point, and not everyone will survive.

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3. Murder Lo Mein by Vivien Chien.  This is the third book in the A Noodle Shop Mystery series, of which I reviewed the first.  It’s a cute little cozy series and I really enjoy the characters even if the mysteries have been a little predictable so far.

From Amazon: Lana Lee’s stake in her family’s Chinese restaurant is higher than ever now that she’s been made manager. So when she enters Ho-Lee into Cleveland’s Best Noodle Contest, Lana makes it her business to win—at all costs. But when a local food critic receives a threatening note in a fortune cookie and is later found dead, face-down in a bowl of lo mein, all bets are off. . .

Now, along with her sweet-and-sour boyfriend Detective Adam Trudeau, Lana decides to take matters into her own hands and dig into the lives of everyone involved in the contest. But when she receives an ill-fated fortune, Lana realizes that in order to save the reputation of her restaurant, she needs to save herself first. . .

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4. Past Due for Murder by Victoria Gilbert.  This one is also the third cozy in a series (A Blue Ridge Library Mystery) where I reviewed the first one.  I really don’t know why I keep coming back to this series except that I find the love interest and side characters amusing, but I will give it another shot.

From Amazon: Spring has sprung in quaint Taylorsford, Virginia, and the mayor has revived the town’s long-defunct May Day celebration to boost tourism. As part of the festivities, library director Amy Webber is helping to organize a research project and presentation by a local folklore expert. All seems well at first—but spring takes on a sudden chill when a university student inexplicably vanishes during a bonfire. 

The local police cast a wide net to find the missing woman, but in a shocking turn of events, Amy’s swoon-worthy neighbor Richard Muir becomes a person of interest in the case. Not only is Richard the woman’s dance instructor, he also doesn’t have an alibi for the night the student vanished—or at least not one he’ll divulge, even to Amy. 

When the missing student is finally discovered lost in the mountains, with no memory of recent events—and a dead body lying nearby—an already disturbing mystery takes on a sinister new hue. Blessed with her innate curiosity and a librarian’s gift for research, Amy may be the only one who can learn the truth in Past Due for Murder, Victoria Gilbert’s third charming Blue Ridge Library mystery.

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5. Finding Baba Yaga by Jane Yolen.  Ever since I read Briar Rose, I’ve been meaning to look into more of Yolen’s work.  This seemed like a good opportunity for a quick read by an awesome author.

From Amazon: A young woman discovers the power to speak up and take control of her fate—a theme that has never been more timely than it is now…

You think you know this story.
You do not.

A harsh, controlling father. A quiescent mother. A house that feels like anything but a home. Natasha gathers the strength to leave, and comes upon a little house in the wood: A house that walks about on chicken feet and is inhabited by a fairy tale witch. In finding Baba Yaga, Natasha finds her voice, her power, herself

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6. A Hero Born: Legends of the Condor Heroes 1 by Jin Yong (translated by Anna Holmwood).  A friend sent me this one a few months ago and I haven’t had a chance to dig into it yet, so I’m looking forward to it.

From Amazon: China: 1200 A.D. The Song Empire has been invaded by its warlike Jurchen neighbours from the north. Half its territory and its historic capital lie in enemy hands; the peasants toil under the burden of the annual tribute demanded by the victors. Meanwhile, on the Mongolian steppe, a disparate nation of great warriors is about to be united by a warlord whose name will endure for eternity: Genghis Khan. Guo Jing, son of a murdered Song patriot, grew up with Genghis Khan’s army. He is humble, loyal, perhaps not altogether wise, and is fated from birth to one day confront an opponent who is the opposite of him in every way: privileged, cunning and flawlessly trained in the martial arts. Guided by his faithful shifus, The Seven Heroes of the South, Guo Jing must return to China – to the Garden of the Drunken Immortals in Jiaxing – to fulfil his destiny. But in a divided land riven by war and betrayal, his courage and his loyalties will be tested at every turn.

That’s my list so far!  Plus, I plan to read a poem every day starting today.  Recommendations for books or poetry are always welcome.  Feel free to share your own summer reading lists here or on my social media pages!

Year End Reading List

Hello, hello!  August is chugging along.  My revisions are going surprisingly well so far.  I keep waiting to hit a wall or something, but my sticky notes are keeping me on track.  Sometimes, my main character feels a bit too feminine, but I like him that way, so I’ll deal with it later if I have to.  Otherwise, I don’t have much to ramble about this week.  Because of that, I decided to share my reading-list-thus-far for September through December.  This list may or may not include books for my monthly reviews.  I haven’t decided on those yet.

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It’s a thing.  It’s not just me.

September’s reads:

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Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse.  I’m reading this for the reading group I’m in.  It sounds like something I’ll enjoy.  Here’s the description from Amazon:

While most of the world has drowned beneath the sudden rising waters of a climate apocalypse, Dinétah (formerly the Navajo reservation) has been reborn. The gods and heroes of legend walk the land, but so do monsters.

Maggie Hoskie is a Dinétah monster hunter, a supernaturally gifted killer. When a small town needs help finding a missing girl, Maggie is their last best hope. But what Maggie uncovers about the monster is much more terrifying than anything she could imagine.

Maggie reluctantly enlists the aid of Kai Arviso, an unconventional medicine man, and together they travel the rez, unraveling clues from ancient legends, trading favors with tricksters, and battling dark witchcraft in a patchwork world of deteriorating technology.

As Maggie discovers the truth behind the killings, she will have to confront her past if she wants to survive.

Welcome to the Sixth World.

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Dim Sum of All Fears by Vivien Chien.  It’s the second in the Noodle Shop Mystery series.  You can find my review of the first book here.  I enjoyed it enough that I’m giving this one a shot.  Here’s the description from Amazon:

Lana Lee is a dutiful daughter, waiting tables at her family’s Chinese restaurant even though she’d rather be doing just about anything else. Then, just when she has a chance for a “real” job, her parents take off to Taiwan, leaving Lana in charge. Surprising everyone—including herself—she turns out to be quite capable of running the place. Unfortunately, the newlyweds who just opened the souvenir store next door to Ho-Lee have turned up dead. . .and soon Lana finds herself in the midst of an Asia Village mystery.

Between running the Ho-Lee and trying to figure out whether the rock-solid Detective Adam Trudeau is actually her boyfriend, Lana knows she shouldn’t pry into the case. But the more she learns about the dead husband, his ex-wives, and all the murky details of the couple’s past, the more Lana thinks that this so-called murder/suicide is a straight-up order of murder. . .


October’s reads:

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The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss.  I’ve been meaning to try this one since it came out, but never quite got around to it.  Now, the reading group I’m in chose it for October, so I have no excuse not to read it.  Here’s Amazon’s description:

Mary Jekyll, alone and penniless following her parents’ death, is curious about the secrets of her father’s mysterious past. One clue in particular hints that Edward Hyde, her father’s former friend and a murderer, may be nearby, and there is a reward for information leading to his capture…a reward that would solve all of her immediate financial woes.

But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a feral child left to be raised by nuns. With the assistance of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary continues her search for the elusive Hyde, and soon befriends more women, all of whom have been created through terrifying experimentation: Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherin Moreau, and Justine Frankenstein.

When their investigations lead them to the discovery of a secret society of immoral and power-crazed scientists, the horrors of their past return. Now it is up to the monsters to finally triumph over the monstrous.

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Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna.  This one’s a bonus suggestion from the reading group.  It sounds cool, so I’m going to give it a shot.  I’m putting it down tentatively for an October read, but I might save it for later.  Here’s the description from Amazon:

When two young sisters disappear from a strip mall parking lot in a small Pennsylvania town, their devastated mother hires an enigmatic bounty hunter, Alice Vega, to help find the girls. Immediately shut out by a local police department already stretched thin by budget cuts and the growing OxyContin and meth epidemic, Vega enlists the help of a disgraced former cop, Max Caplan. Cap is a man trying to put the scandal of his past behind him and move on, but Vega needs his help to find the girls, and she will not be denied. 
   With little to go on, Vega and Cap will go to extraordinary lengths to untangle a dangerous web of lies, false leads, and complex relationships to find the girls before time runs out, and they are gone forever.


November’s read:

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European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss.  The second in her series.  The reading group I’m in decided to read both of Dora’s books in a row because she’s amazing.  I admit the length of this one is a little daunting (720 pages), but I can do it!  Especially if I can start a little early on it.  Here’s Amazon’s description:

Mary Jekyll’s life has been peaceful since she helped Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson solve the Whitechapel Murders. Beatrice Rappaccini, Catherine Moreau, Justine Frankenstein, and Mary’s sister Diana Hyde have settled into the Jekyll household in London, and although they sometimes quarrel, the members of the Athena Club get along as well as any five young women with very different personalities. At least they can always rely on Mrs. Poole.

But when Mary receives a telegram that Lucinda Van Helsing has been kidnapped, the Athena Club must travel to the Austro-Hungarian Empire to rescue yet another young woman who has been subjected to horrific experimentation. Where is Lucinda, and what has Professor Van Helsing been doing to his daughter? Can Mary, Diana, Beatrice, and Justine reach her in time?

Racing against the clock to save Lucinda from certain doom, the Athena Club embarks on a madcap journey across Europe. From Paris to Vienna to Budapest, Mary and her friends must make new allies, face old enemies, and finally confront the fearsome, secretive Alchemical Society. It’s time for these monstrous gentlewomen to overcome the past and create their own destinies.


December’s read:

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Sea Witch by Sarah Henning.  I’ve been looking forward to this one since I found out about it six months ago.  I was super happy when the reading group I’m in decided to give it a shot.  For now, I’ll save it for December, but if I get a chance, I might tackle this one earlier.  Here’s the description from Amazon:

Ever since her best friend Anna died, Evie has been an outcast in her small fishing town. Hiding her talents, mourning her loss, drowning in her guilt.

Then a girl with an uncanny resemblance to Anna appears on the shore, and the two girls catch the eyes of two charming princes. Suddenly Evie feels like she might finally have a chance at her own happily ever after.

But magic isn’t kind, and her new friend harbors secrets of her own. She can’t stay in Havnestad—or on two legs—without Evie’s help. And when Evie reaches deep into the power of her magic to save her friend’s humanity—and her prince’s heart—she discovers, too late, what she’s bargained away.


I’ll need to pick at least two more books to keep up with my two books a month goal, but I haven’t decided on all of them.  Plus, I have to wait for NetGalley to get back to me about some books to review.  I should probably get something festive for the holiday season.  Maybe a Christmas cozy?  Otherwise, this is my reading list until next year.  What’s on your list for the foreseeable future?  Feel free to share your list or suggestions or comments here or on my social media pages!

Thoughts On DEATH BY DUMPLING

Howdy, howdy!  Welcome to another last Wednesday of the month book review.  This month, I decided to go with another quick and fun cozy mystery.  It’s called Death by Dumpling, by Vivien Chien, and was released on March 27th.  Yes, I got another Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from NetGalley, so I must thank them and St. Martin’s Press for allowing me access to the book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.  Speaking of, let’s get to it!

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With a cover like that, who could resist picking this up?

Death by Dumpling follows Lana Lee as she starts working at her parents’ noodle house, something she never wanted to do.  She’s running away from a bad break up and the fact that she caused a scene while quitting her old job (this seems to be a common theme in many cozies).  All the attention of the mall where their restaurant is located seems to be on her.  At least until the property manager, Mr. Feng, winds up dead after eating shrimp dumplings from her parents’ restaurant.  Throw in a couple of potential suitors, a bestie who will indulge Lana’s PI fantasies, and a lot of mystery, and this book is the perfect recipe for a cozy.

As usual, I went into this story not really knowing what to expect.  And I was pleasantly surprised.  The characters are relateable.  Lana is sassy, outgoing, and definitely not the biggest snoop in this book.  She didn’t find the body, which was a nice change of pace from other cozies I’ve read.  She also had a decent reason to go snooping around.  It wasn’t that she was nosy that made her try to figure things out, though she certainly is, she was trying to clear the name of the restaurant’s head chef/her friend.  I found it to be a nice variation of the norm from other cozies I’m familiar with.

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Yeah.  And it’s not stalking, it’s social media analysis.

About the only complaint I had with this book was that I caught on to Mr. Feng’s big secret a little earlier than I think I was supposed to.  It wouldn’t have bothered me, except when Lana finds concrete proof, she still tries to make stupid excuses for the people involved.  I honestly think her mind would’ve gone exactly where it was supposed to go, instead of arguing with her bestie about it and trying to come up with an innocent excuse.  I get that the woman involved is like an aunt to Lana, but all the signs were there.  Why would she ignore them?  That part dragged a little bit for me.

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All the signs!

Otherwise, it was pretty easy to like this one.  The writing was succinct, but still conveyed a lot of personality.  Aside from dragging a little after I figured things out, the pacing swept me along.  I’m a super slow reader, but it only took me a week to finish this one.

Ultimately, I really enjoyed Death by Dumpling.  I’m definitely happy to see that book two, Dim Sum of All Fears, is due out in August.  It’s going on my reading list!

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Overall, I’d rate it 4 out of 5 stars.  If you’re looking for something quick and fun and you enjoy a saucy feel good mystery, it’s worth a look.