Death by Bubble Tea

DEATH BY BUBBLE TEA, by Jennifer Chow, pours a fun cozy mystery into a light-bulb glass (when you read this book, you’ll understand the reference).

This book, by Jennifer Chow, had so many things going for it. Family loyalty, the FOOD (holy moly, the food), and MURDER. This was a fun, relaxing mystery which was just what I needed during a stressful week. While cozy mysteries are on the lighter side of a murder mystery, they often provide the comfort and, well, cozy relaxing read we sometimes need.

Yale just got laid off at her beloved bookstore job. Her Instagram-worthy cousin, Celine, is visiting from Hong Kong. Yale is tasked with teaming up with Celine to have a food cart at a night event in their town. Someone dies after drinking Yale’s tea. All clues point to Yale and Celine and – there’s your mystery.

I loved Yale. She reminded me so much of myself in my twenties. She was a shy introvert who turned to books for companionship. Celine started off snobby, but grew into someone who valued things other than money by the end of the story.

I thought the pace of solving the mystery was a tad slow. DEATH BY BUBBLE TEA needed more conflict and perhaps red herrings.

I can’t wait for Jennifer’s next book. I’ve got my fingers crossed that Yale finds a love interest. That gal desperately needs one. For the next book I’m going to start reading it with a hot bowl of noodles and bubble tea.

Thank you NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for an e-copy of DEATH BY BUBBLE TEA, by Jennifer J. Chow, to review.

I rate DEATH BY BUBBLE TEA four out of five stars.

You’re Invited

That tagline: She’ll Wish She’d Never RSVP’D – so good! I love it.

Okay, okay, okay, I was SO excited to read YOU’RE INVITED by Amanda Jayatissa. I loved her first book, My Sweet Girl. YOU’RE INVITED did not disappoint.

Set in Sri Lanka, Amanda weaves a tale mostly told by our unreliable narrator, Amaya. She is determined to not let the wedding between her ex-best friend, Kaavi, and her ex-boyfriend, Spencer happen.

The story is told from a couple of points-of-view mixed in with interviews after Kaavi disappears on the day of her wedding.

The plot revolves around marriages and weddings. Particularly those in Sri Lanka. We see Kaavi dealing with the pressure from her family and community to get married before she’s deemed “too old.” We get glimpses of how arranged marriages work, how extravagant (and costly) weddings are in Sri Lanka.

The STRESS of making all these working parts come together is excruciating for Kaavi. And here Amaya, who has her own secrets and life issues, comes in like a wrecking ball ready to destroy the entire event.

I loved how the story would give little hints and breadcrumbs of secrets or twists and in the end everything comes together.

YOU’RE INVITED was a popcorn thriller that made for a great weekend of reading for me.

Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for providing me an e-copy of YOU’RE INVITED to review.

I rate YOU’RE INVITED five out of five stars.

One of the Girls

Greece is the backdrop for Lucy Clarke’s locked-estate mystery. ONE OF THE GIRLS is told by multiple characters who each have their own set of secrets.

I love plots set at bachelorette parties – ESPECIALLY British ones, called “hen-dos.” Throw in a locked-estate mystery in Greece alongside six women who have frenemy pasts and ah, this makes for a great summer read by Lucy Clarke.

Told from each woman’s point-of-view ONE OF THE GIRLS is a story that weaves each character together. These were childhood best friends, lovers, a future sister-in-law and a new-found friend all tied together by the bride’s upcoming nuptials.

The story dips in and out of the Greece waters on an estate that overlooks a cliff … you can see where this is going.

Secrets of past and present are told. There’s lots of day-drinking, skinny-dipping, backhanded compliments, open snark – this story has it all.

The one issue I have is the six points-of-view are a bit hard to keep up with.

This would be a good read for those who like mysteries (duh), dream of traveling to Greece, have close female friendships or have lost close female friendships.

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Group Putnam for an e-copy of ONE OF THE GIRLS to review.

I rate ONE OF THE GIRLS four out of five stars.

This Might Hurt

An intricate web of a plot involving a cult AND a female magician.

Thank you NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for providing me an e-copy of THIS MIGHT HURT by Stephanie Wrobel.

I loved Stephanie’s first book, Darling Rose Gold, so I was excited to be able to review her second book, THIS MIGHT HURT.

The story revolves around hard-worker Nat who is forced to find her estranged younger sister, Kit, at a program meant to help attendees improve their lives – in the fiction world, that’s code for a “cult.”

THIS MIGHT HURT provides a deep delve into the main characters’ pasts – which is needed, but becomes confusing right away. We get two backstories of two different sets of sisters. Once you figure out who means what to the plot, then all is well.

What I loved about the book is one of the sisters grows up wanting to be a … magician. This was such a unique career for a female character. She worked very hard at life, mostly due to her rigid, cold, father who naturally does not want her to be a magician. She loves Houdini, tricks, stunts, immunity to pain so much her hard work eventually does pay off. She becomes somewhat popular in the magician world.

This story deals with grief, familial guilt, loyalty to past relationships and devotion to new ones. There were several scenes which were a bit hard to read. However, I think everything in the story was necessary to make the plot work.

While the story wasn’t a mystery, it’s certainly a psychological thriller. There are head games at every twist and turn.

This is a good story for fans of Stephanie’s first book, cults and characters doing extreme things to make their lives right.

I rate THIS MIGHT HURT four out of five stars.

Good Rich People

Author Eliza Jane Brazier spins a tale of a dangerous game among the rich and poor in GOOD RICH PEOPLE. (I love this cover!)

Thank you NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for providing me an e-book copy of GOOD RICH PEOPLE. This book is … WEIRD. In a GOOD way.

This is a story about rich versus poor. Or is it poor versus rich?

Lyla and Graham are very rich. They get bored easily. As does Graham’s mother, aka Lyla’s mother-in-law. They like to play games. The object is to destroy their latest tenant – always somebody who needs help and is specifically chosen by Lyla’s mother-in-law.

We find out about the past tenants and their newest tenant, Demi, who has her own treasure trove of secrets. Demi is the Draw Four card to their UNO game. She is the Go Straight to Jail card in their Monopoly game.

While I don’t think people with loads of money to burn have fun trying to destroy other’s lives, I do think they get bored quite easily. I have no money, you see, so I’m never bored. le sigh.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this story, but I ended up enjoying it. It will make you mad, sad and glad you aren’t Lyla.

GOOD RICH PEOPLE, with the perfect cover, publishes on January 25!

I rate GOOD RICH PEOPLE four out of five stars.

The Maid

THE MAID, by author and book editor Nia Prose, is a unique take on a main character who actually loves her job, but finds herself the person of interest in a murder because of her position as a … hotel maid.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for an e-book copy of THE MAID by Nita Prose to review.

I love a sharp, precise, nuts and bolts type of mystery and THE MAID met all of my requirements. THE MAID reminded me of the movie, Clue, with the help of side characters featured in Murder, She Wrote. This was a cozy, but edgy, read about a woman who absolutely loved her job. This is not something we see in most books, particularly in the mystery genre.

Set in present time, we find the maid of a prestigious hotel, Molly, to be socially awkward, Molly is very good at her job. She loves being greeted each morning by her pressed maid uniform and sets about with her cleaning trolley ready to make each hotel room spotless for upcoming guests.

In one of the rooms she discovers the dead body of a regular guest. He is the husband of one of Molly’s few “friends.”

Molly, of course, finds herself to be a person of interest in his death. Molly has to ask for help from others in order to unravel the mystery of who killed the very-rich, very-rude Mr. Black.

The element I loved most about this book was the PRIDE Molly had for her job. Knowing that others view her as a hidden, unseen part of the hotel, Molly took great pride in her career. Most of us have something to complain about our jobs, even when we love them, but Molly was a different character in that she had no qualms with what she did on a daily basis. Albeit, she wished she made more money because she was financially strained due to bad decisions on her part (again, socially awkward).

I think this is a perfect whodunit for the new year. I can’t wait for the movie!

I rate THE MAID five out of five stars.

Never Saw Me Coming

NEVER SAW ME COMING is a thriller involving a murder within a university clinical study of … psychopaths. Let the lies begin!

First off: both the cover and the title wrap your attention in a blanket of fear. And then when you read the plot described as a “clinical study for psychopaths” whodunit – well, I’m here for it. I WAS HERE FOR IT ALL.

In typical Red Herring Wendy form, I’m last on the true crime bandwagon. And I can’t even say I’m on the bandwagon yet. I haven’t made the time to explore true crime podcasts, become a Murderino or even watch Dateline NBC, but, I find any book involving psychopaths fascinating. I always am left wanting more information. I think most of us unknowingly KNOW at least a couple of psychopaths (they are not the same as sociopaths, btw, take a look at google).

CONTENT WARNING: This book contains underage sexual assault, gore, drug usage, suicide attempts and characters with zero remorse.

University student, Chloe Sevre, has found herself attending college on a full scholarship thanks to being a psychopath. She knows this. She embraces it. She has no problem being who she is. It does not bother her in the least.

She is one of six students on campus involved in a clinical study of psychopaths. The point is, naturally, to teach these young people how to function daily in a world that they are mentally against.

Chloe does not care when one of their own is murdered because ol’ girl has her own agenda – she has followed a boy to that particular college to avenge what happened to her years ago.

Her plan is derailed when her own life is threatened and she is forced to team up with other members of the group to solve the murder. Imagine the walls of trust that have to come down in order for psychopaths to trust each other. Ha!

Most likely you will not cheer for author Vera Kurian’s characters, but her storytelling will keep you creeped out and wonder what would you do in the situations the group finds themselves in.

I rate NEVER SAW ME COMING four out of five stars.

My Sweet Girl

Amanda Jayatissa’s debut novel, MY SWEET GIRL, is a twisty, weird, fascinating thriller featuring the unreliable narrator, Paloma Evans.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing for providing an e-book copy for me to review. This book! So many feelings. Everything from the beautiful cover to the unreliable main character Paloma just left me in Thriller heaven.

There are not many characters to like in this book. Paloma, in particular, is not the “sweet girl” her adoptive parents dubbed her. She curses like a sailor – the F word is said in nearly every single page of the book (I loved this quality about her) and she just doesn’t like people. She is doing the best she can in a world that was constantly trying to make her be something that she wasn’t.

Paloma Evans was adopted from Sri Lanka by a white couple that had a bit of a savior complex, perhaps out of the goodness of their hearts, but also for the public accolades. Paloma knows this. She knows she was an accessory to them.

The book switches back-and-forth between Paloma’s past in Sri Lanka as a girl living in an orphanage with BFF Lihini and present time. As an adult, Paloma’s roommate knew her secrets from the orphanage and was about to start extorting her, that is until Paloma finds him dead in their apartment. From there the roller coaster begins.

Paloma is in therapy, which is somewhat helpful, but she also drinks a lot, has blackouts, isn’t sure if what she sees is real, and, oh, is convinced a ghost from the orphanage is haunting her.

The ending was a tad predictable, but for Amanda Jayatissa’s debut novel, I thought MY SWEET GIRL was a fascinating fall novel, just in time for Halloween.

I rate MY SWEET GIRL four out of five stars.

Kill All Your Darlings

In KILL ALL YOUR DARLINGS, English professor Connor Nye is an imposter pretending he wrote a novel that was actually written by a student of his who has been missing for two years.

I’ve been in the mood for slow burn thrillers lately. While I love action-packed, fast-paced tales, sometimes you just need a story to sink in, marinate and let questions like, “but how would …” or “why did …” pop into your head. In KILL ALL YOUR DARLINGS, author David Bell gives a read-and-relax plot that leaves us waiting in anticipation for the whodunit.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for the Advanced Reader Copy to review. KILL ALL YOUR DARLINGS will be published on Tuesday, July 6!

After years of struggling to write following the deaths of his wife and son, English professor Connor Nye publishes his first novel, a thriller about the murder of a young woman.

There’s just one problem: Connor didn’t write the book. His missing student did. And then she appears on his doorstep, alive and well, threatening to expose him.

Connor’s problems escalate when the police insist details in the novel implicate him in an unsolved murder from two years ago. When another murder occurs, Connor must clear his name by unraveling the horrifying secrets buried in his student’s manuscript.

KILL ALL YOUR DARLINGS is the first in my blog series “Posers and Imposters.” Our good-guy antagonist Connor is trying to navigate his grief while not losing his beloved job as a college professor/author, yet is carrying the lie that he is the author of a successful novel.

It was William Faulkner who said, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” What he meant was writers must get rid of any characters that the author may love, but do nothing to move the story along. And that is certainly what David accomplished in this novel. Each character is a thread to another character that lead to questions and answers of this book-within-a-book mystery.

While trying to move past his grief over the death of his family, an English professor finds himself the suspect in a student’s disappearance.

Readers get a glimpse into the pressures of gaining and keeping university tenure and the cold, hard truth that a lot of English professors are … not valued because they are unpublished.

Open KILL ALL YOUR DARLINGS on a night when you are ready to reminisce about college days and dream of being published. Oh, wait, that was for me to do. You just enjoy this tale of what a burden being an imposter can bring.

I rate KILL ALL YOUR DARLINGS four out of five stars.

The Hunting Wives

Set in Texas, THE HUNTING WIVES, focuses on a group of women who meet for skeet shooting, drinking bottles of wine, flirting with the town men with a side of murder.

Y’all. Y’all! It’s true – everything’s bigger in Texas, including rich women cliques, obsession and MMUURRDDER.

THE HUNTING WIVES, by May Cobb, is a sexy, campy, Texas posh of a novel that tells what happens when a housewife finally gets the stability she’s craved since her childhood only to find it it’s incredibly dull and ill-fitting.

Sophie O’Neill left behind an envy-inspiring career and the stressful, competitive life of big-city Chicago to settle down with her husband and young son in a small Texas town. It seems like the perfect life with a beautiful home in an idyllic rural community. But Sophie soon realizes that life is now too quiet, and she’s feeling bored and restless.

Then she meets Margot Banks, an alluring socialite who is part of an elite clique secretly known as the Hunting Wives. Sophie finds herself completely drawn to Margot and swept into her mysterious world of late-night target practice and dangerous partying. As Sophie’s curiosity gives way to full-blown obsession, she slips farther away from the safety of her family and deeper into this nest of vipers.

When the body of a teenage girl is discovered in the woods where the Hunting Wives meet, Sophie finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation and her life spiraling out of control. 

So you’ve got ladies with a lot of money getting together to skeet shoot in the woods – each one has their own Texas-sized personality – including monogamous Sophie and revenge-cheater Margot. Throw in a couple of inappropriate relationships with high school boys and a full-blown, platonic and sexual obsession and there’s THE HUNTING WIVES.

Stories about women cliques are fascinating. There’s always one alpha female leading the pack, one newbie who is always lost in some way, and there are the followers who will literally do anything the alpha wants. This usually ends in some destructive way with one or more of the group being kicked out.

A lot of these cliques happen in high school and college. Social media now showcases cliques among women over 40. Bring out the day-drinking moms, carpool lines, charcuterie parties and boom – it’s a clique.

Sophie just wants to be accepted by Margot and her harem of women. She loves her own life, but feels like something is missing. Margot notices this and latches onto Sophie by slowly seducing her. The problem for Sophie is, she is NOT Margot’s true love interest.

Sophie O’Neill is embroiled in a murder investigation because of her friendship and uber obsession with chic Margot Banks – the town socialite.

When the body of the town sweetheart is discovered, Sophie finds herself at the center of suspicion. Looking for help from Margot and the women, she realizes she’s been shunned. And there goes the newbie – kicked out of the group.

THE HUNTING WIVES has a Real Housewives of eastern Texas vibe. It’s a tale of warning about not thinking the grass is always greener on the other side, controlling your alcohol – seriously, this is important in the story, and keeping your friends close and your frenemies closer.

So grab your monogrammed tumbler, pour some Rosé wine into it, spritz yourself with bug spray and relax on your porch swing for the what-the-hell-is-happening-here story of THE HUNTING WIVES.

I rate THE HUNTING WIVES four out of five stars.