Sunday, August 11, 2019

Favorite Reads for the First Half of 2019

It has been a strange, off reading year so far.  I've had some hard deaths and personal health issues to deal with, which have slowed down my reading and reviewing and blogging.  But, I'm hanging in here because those activities are my passion, and I especially need them when I can get them now.  I feel bad that I haven't gotten to some reading and reviews I want to, but I hope that the rest of the year will go a little more smoothly.  However, even though it's been a slow reading year, I have read some spectacular books, and I want to share with you some of my favorites for the first half of the year, through June 2019.   Here are twenty titles that have been especially great reading for me, including a couple of older titles that are new reading to me, or not so older titles that I have finally gotten to settle down to.  All of the books are ones that have thrilled me and given me great stories into which I could escape during a year that escape has been much needed.  

The Wrong Boy by Cathy AceCathy Ace categorizes The Wrong Boy as a "psychological suspense thriller," and there is no doubt that it is that.  Her finesse at building from the roots of village character life to a the chilling and thrilling story of a family's secrets tearing the village apart is the stuff of great storytelling.The setting of the small coastal village Rhosddraig in southern Wales with its ancient stone formations and the Dragon's Back island twisting into the sea comes alive for readers under the masterful writing of Ace.  The author makes it easy to become immersed in the Welsh culture of this village, which is both charming and sinister.  For the rest of my review, click on this link:  

The Stone Circle by Elly Griffiths
The 11th Ruth Galloway book, The Stone Circle, may be the most perfect book in the series. Author Elly Griffiths has stolen my heart all over again with this tale.  Set in Ruth’s home turf, or home marsh, this story takes us back full circle to where it all began in Crossing Places. With the Saltmarsh and Erik Anderssen and missing children and dead children and Ruth and Nelson working a case together and Cathbad the Druid involved. The very roots of this series guide this story, with ghosts of the past looming large. Truths are faced with the pain of a decade dancing around them.  Oh, how I loved this book. 
For the rest of my review, click on this link: 

Dark Streets, Cold Suburbs by Aimee Hix
Sometimes when reviewing a book, a single word speaks to me that encompasses what stands out about said book. With Aimee Hix's Dark Streets, Cold Suburbs, my mind goes to the word "solid."  Willa is a character who is evolving both in her personal issues and in her romantic relationship, and she takes both on in the same way she does bad guys, full force. Her strong character drives the action of the story, kicking ass and taking names as she goes. However, Hix has infused Willa with intense feelings for love and for those she loves, which keeps her from becoming a cold kickass. If Willa drives the story, her feelings for her loved ones and her desire for justice drive her.
For the rest of my review, click on this link:

The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye
There must always be people willing to stand up against the ills of society, the mistreatment of fellow human beings, and Lyndsay Faye gives readers these people’s stories so poignantly that we are forever touched by them. Her characters aren’t perfect people, they have their flaws, but they step up when the stepping is needed.  The Paragon Hotel is an important read. 
For the rest of my review, click on this link:

Watching You by Lisa Jewell

Pick a night or a day when you are in one of those waiting jobs, such as having plumbing work done or being without your car because it's in the shop. Or maybe not a waiting day, maybe a day when you are treating yourself to a pajama day of only doing something you want to do. Then, pick up Watching You by Lisa Jewell and have a gobsmacking good read.  
For the rest of my review, click on this link: 

The Lost Man by Jane Harper
Jane Harper has harnessed the power and vastness of the Australian outback into a story of a family struggling against the constant hardships of man versus nature and man vs. man. The small dot on a large map that encompasses the best and the worst of humankind, the story of the Bright family of Queensland, Australia could be a tragedy right out of Shakespeare or an epic saga of a generational farming family trying to hold on against the elements and their own personal shortcomings.  The Lost Man is not to be missed.
For the rest of my review, click on this link:

The Victory Garden by Rhys Bowen

Rhys Bowen captures the tragedies and hardships of the English people during WWI on a level of realism that places the reader in the minds and hearts of those struggling on the home front.  Young women who had previously been in well-defined roles according to their class in society found themselves coming together to fill the void on farms, in industry, in family-owned businesses, and as medical personnel both on the battlefields and in the hospitals. The Victory Garden truly takes you back in time and makes you feel it.
For the rest of my review, click on this link:

Murder in Just Cause by Anne CleelandWhat gives me so much enjoyment from these stories is that they are police procedurals with the procedure thoroughly tweaked by Acton. With his own sense of justice and Kathleen trying to tame it, the cat and mouse game is a hallmark of the series, the vehicle for the unraveling of clues.  DCI Acton's a man of many secrets, but his wife is one wily woman and manages to ferret them out with unerring accuracy.  Murder in Just Cause is another amazing read from Anne Cleeland, who always delivers.
For the rest of my review, click on this link:

Daughter of Moloka'i by Alan BrennertI have just realized that I didn't write a review for Daughter of Moloka'i by Alan Brennert.  I'll try to rectify that, but in the meantime let me just say that this book is the long-awaited sequel to Brennert's Moloka'i book, and it was well worth the wait.  The "daughter" is Ruth, the only child of the woman (Rachel Kalama) who was banished to the island of Moloka'i when she was found to have leprosy as a child.  Forced to give up the baby at birth, Rachel hasn't seen her daughter Ruth for 35 years when they are reunited.  During that time Ruth, who was adopted by a Japanese couple, moved with her adoptive family to California before WWII and suffered being interred in a Japanese Internment Camp.  It's a beautiful family story
as well as an historical look at California during WWII.

Drowned Under by Wendall ThomasThere is so much to love about Drowned Under, as Wendall Thomas is an extraordinary storyteller and writer. The characters are all fascinating, both the good eggs and the bad ones. Cyd's tasks may seem to be impossible, but the characters who become her partners in crime solving work with her in one crazy scenario after another to accomplish that impossible. From eighty-one-year-old Sister Ellery Magdalene Malcomb, former nun and Cyd's former teacher, to Koozer, the young steward who is fond of large tips, to the doctor, who makes Cyd's stomach feel bubbly in a god way.
For the rest of my review, click on this link:

The Night Visitors by Carol GoodmanThe Night Visitors by Carol Goodman begins on a bus ride at night in the cold and often unforgiving conditions of an upper New York state winter. The setting speaks to the desolation of Alice and Oren, two battered souls traveling on the bus to escape their abuser. Alice, in her thirties, and Oren, a ten-year-old boy who uses his love of Star Wars to dissociate from the brutalities of his situation, arrive in the small town of Delphi, New York in the middle of a snowstorm, Alice having called a hotline for help and being directed to that location. Mattie Lane is a seasoned, fiftyish social worker who is used to getting the late night calls to meet a bus.  The Night Visitors is a story of survival on so many levels, with twists from the past and the present that will rise up to shake the foundations of what you think you've figured out. It's a reader's paradise of unpredictability.   For the rest of my review, click on this link: 

Murder on Cape Cod by Maddie DayAs I anticipated, I loved the Cape Cod world seen in the small town of Westham, Massachusetts. Small local shops with a sense of real community amongst the people living there was just what I had hoped to find and did. After some years away, Mac Almeida returned to Westham to settle down and live in the comfort of her family and old friends. She is now ensconced into the area with her own business, a charming house behind the business, an African Grey parrot, the delectable owner of the local bakery as her boyfriend, and a cozy mystery book club she enjoys. Her parents are minutes away and her brother works in her bicycle shop.  Mac is making her way home from a meeting of the Cozy Capers Book Club in a dense fog when she stumbles upon the body of local handyman Jake Lacey, only feet away from her home sweet home.  You don't want to miss what happens next in Murder on Cape Cod by Maddie Day.
For the rest of my review, click on the link:

Catriona McPherson is a born storyteller, and whether it's a gruesome, dark tale or spirited, witty romp, she creates the characters who are perfect for their parts. The Last Ditch mysteries will entertain you page after page with humorous antics and witty dialogue, and Scot Soda is a great follow-up to Scot FreeLexy is trying hard to make her Halloween party on her houseboat an American celebration, in spite of her unfamiliarity with many of the non-Scottish traditions. There are some glitches, but Lexy and her friends from the Last Ditch are enjoying the infected toenail chips, the phlegm cups, and the hen's feet treats and the festive atmosphere of the creepy holiday. But, there's creepy cool and creepy bad, and when Lexy tries to pull up the beer chilling in the slough off her boat, the creepy gets way too bad and way too real. Tangled up in the rope and beer is a dead body, a real body …  For the rest of my review, click on this link: 

A Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary by Terry ShamesLoretta Singletary has a new haircut and is wearing make-up. But, Samuel Craddock has no idea what has sparked Loretta's new interest in her appearance until she turns up missing. Then he learns that his old friend, whom he had taken for granted as a pillar of the community and predictable down to the delicious cinnamon rolls she bakes has joined the 21st century by signing up for a senior citizens' online dating service.  While allowing for the fact that Loretta was spreading her wings into new territory outside of Jarrett and her beloved Baptist Church, Samuel knows that Loretta would not have just taken off without informing someone. A Risky Undertaking for Loretta Singletary by Terry Shames will please fans mightily.  For the rest of my review, click on this link:

A Deadly Feast by Lucy BurdetteA Deadly Feast sees Hayley gearing up for a busy Thanksgiving week. Not only is there the big turkey dinner with family and friends, she and Nathan Bransford are getting married the day after Thanksgiving. So, Hayley's trying to keep other activities to a minimum and have an uncomplicated build-up to her big day. There will be enough stress with her father, step-mother, and step-brother coming to town for a Thanksgiving Day meal and the wedding. Hayley is nervous about her father meeting Sam, her mother's new husband, and Nathan, Hayley's husband-to-be. Hayley's job as food critic at Key Zest, the online cultural zine for Key West, is looking like a breeze to get through during wedding week, as she only has to go on a seafood tour her friend Analise is running and do a write-up on it. But then, one of the attendees on the food tour dies, drops dead on the last stop, which is sadly her last stop ever. Lucy Burdette has given fans another great adventure in this series.   For the rest of my review, click on this link:

Queen of Spades by Kristi Belcamino
Queen of Spades by Kristi Belcamino is the story fans have been waiting for about Gia Santella's aunt from Sicily who is called the Queen of Spades for her particular calling card she leaves at her scenes of justice or revenge.  I have yet to read a Kristi Belcamino book that doesn't grab me up in its excitement. Her ability to engage the reader is masterful. And, who writing novels creates more kickass characters than Kristi--Gabriella Giovanni, Gia Santella, and now Eva Santella. Kristi Belcamino is truly the queen of kickass characters. Perhaps there should be an addendum to that title though, Queen of Kickass Characters with Heart. Each of these three strong women show their strength not only in how tough they can be, how they can fight, but also in how dedicated they are to righting a wrong. Eva, the Queen of Spades, could be a super-hero in any world of right versus evil. She is someone you will be invested in from the beginning of her tale.  For the rest of my review, click on this link:

Gallows Court by Martin Edwards was a much anticipated read for me, and although I had to wait to read it longer than I wanted to, it was so well worth the wait. Martin Edwards is as close to the King of Golden Age Mysteries as one can get. His work with the British Library Crime Classics series has resulted in the most thrilling anthologies and introductions to the collections. Martin's non-fiction The Golden Age of Murder, which is a comprehensive study of detective stories between WWI and WWII, won the Edgar, the Agatha, the H.R.F. Keating, and the Macavity awards, in addition to being shortlisted for an Anthony and the CWA Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction.Jacob Flint is a young journalist who is currently lead crime reporter for The Clarion. The manner in which he became the head of the paper's crime writing is one of the mysteries surrounding a rash of horrific murders in London. The former lead reporter was tragically hit by a car while pursuing the stories behind the murders. Jacob is sure that the scoop he's awaited lies with interviewing and gaining access to Rachel Savernake, the wealthy daughter of the deceased Judge Savernake, a judge known for his harsh reputation and his madness that lead him to live out his final years on an isolated island named Gaunt. Rachel has only recently left the island after her father's death there and returned to London where she has taken an interest in amateur detective work. Rachel herself has some questionable involvement and motivation behind this interest in the current murders and subsequent confessions of her father's former colleagues.   For the rest of my review, click on this link:   

Murder at Morrington Hall is the first book in the exciting new Stella and Lyndy series by Clara McKenna. Stella Kendrick is excited that her father has included her in his trip to England where he is taking his prize thoroughbred and a couple of other horses to an English estate where their stable is in dire need of new blood. Her father even included Stella's horse Tully that she rides so that she wouldn't miss him while in England.  And, while visiting, there will be a wedding to attend.  Or, this is the scenario Stella believes up until it becomes painfully obvious upon arrival and upon meeting Viscount "Lyndy" Lyndhurst, the son of Lord and Lady Atherly, that the real reason for the horses accompanying them is a marriage deal between the set of parents, that the wedding is to be hers.  One of the aspects of the series that interests me is the historical fact in which it's based of the American "Dollar Princesses," who married into British aristocracy for a better social standing and for a much-needed infusion of money for the British aristocrat whom the rich American woman was marrying.  For the rest of my review, click on this link: 

The Detective's Daughter by Lesley ThomsonAnother favorite for which I haven't written a review yet, but I have to include here is The Detective's Daughter by Lesley Thomson.  I have just started this amazing series called by the

same name as the title of this first book, the Detective's Daughter series, and I can't wait to get up to speed on it.  Stella is a cleaner (houses, businesses, etc.) who has inherited her detective father's astute, organized mind at solving murder.  Her quirky partner in solving murders is Jack Harmon, who drives a train for the underground tube and has a fantasy world that too often proves more real than not.  Up next is Ghost Girl in the series, and #7, The Playground Murders,  just came out in June.

They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell HallAnd, one more that I want to include sans review is They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall.  You probably know Rachel for her Detective Elouise Norton series, but this one is a thriller stand-alone, and it is indeed thrilling.  In a salute to Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None, one of my favorite Christie novels, Miriam Macy accepts an invitation to a private island, thinking she will have a luxurious vacation, only to find that she and the six other guests have come to face their sins.  It is an intense game of cat an mouse that will leave the reader breathless.  



  1. What a GREAT list! I've read and enjoyed many of them myself. :-)

    1. Ellen, you are so sweet to stop by and comment, especially since I'm remiss on catching up on your books. I promise I will get there, as I'm itching to crack up those beautiful covers and read those clever mysteries.

  2. So pleased you enjoyed The Wrong Boy enough to include it alongside all these wonderful books! Your support of our community is fantastic! Thanks :-)

    1. Cathy, first, thank you for commenting. I love supporting you amazing authors who work so hard to give your readers so many hours of enjoyment.

  3. Love your list because I enjoy seeing all the books I HAVEN'T read this year. And, actually, two of my favorite books from this year are ones I read in the last week. Great list Kathy!

    1. Thanks, Lesa. I'm always so happy to see you stop by my blog. It's hard to believe that there are actually books you haven't read. You read so many. I'd love to know what those two favorite books are. I know I'm having some awesome favorites that have come up in July, like The Chain, and in August, like Careful What You Wish For and The Murder List.