Book Review: Girl Can’t Help It by Max Allan Collins

Goodreads Summary:

 A rock band’s reunion is looking more like a farewell tour in a captivating mystery by New York Times bestselling and award-winning crime master Max Allan Collins.

No sooner do Hot Rod and the Pistons reunite for their induction into the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, than two band members take a final bow. Both alleged suicides. A tragic way to go out. A bum way for one-hit wonders to be remembered. But it’s Labor Day weekend. The show must go on.

With replacements at the ready, the Pistons are back on home turf to headline the first ever Rock and Country Music Fest. Police Chief Krista Larson and her father, Keith, are there listening. And watching. Because they suspect there may be more to the band members’ untimely deaths than anyone else can see.

As Krista and Keith navigate the investigation, a dark picture of the band’s rocky history begins to take center stage. As betrayal, revenge, and blackmail start playing out in the present, the father-daughter team fear that this encore may be the band’s finale. 

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this book!! I had another book that I was supposed to be reading, but kept gravitating back to this one instead. I felt like I was cheating on my other book, so I decided to let that one go to concentrate on this one. I was hooked and needed to know what was going to happen next!

Hot Rod and the Pistons are a local band that made it big, had its heyday, then faded away. They may have been gone but the certainly were not forgotten, as they had still had groupies and fans, as their induction into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame concert proved. The band hit the the stage with the same attitude and vigor as in their youth, and the crowd ate it up! This was the kick-off to their reunion tour, but unfortunately, two band members were not going to make it.

Krista Larson, chief of police in Galena, Iowa where the second death occurs, follows her suspicions with the help of her father, retired detective Keith Larson, who has consulted on high-profile cases before. Something seems off to them, not quite right. Keith had only just been with the second band member shortly before he died, and things are not adding up.

Their investigation navigates many obstacles, but behind the scenes there are.so.many.secrets! Blackmail, revenge, just general ugliness rearing its head. And the final conclusion – wow!

I enjoyed all the rock and roll references and scene in this book, and I loved the relationship between Keith and Krista, and their own personal landmines they had to navigate as well! This was a thrilling read that had me hooked from the start!

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Book Reviews- Willow Tree Hall 1-3

Ah this little series was such a fun series to read! When I found it on Kindle, I thought I would give it a go. The covers were so inviting, the premise sounded promising, and I really needed something light and easy. And this series lived up to all of those expectations!

Love Begins at Willow Tree Hall starts with the story of Annie and Sam. Annie is the housekeeper for Willow Tree Hall, and de facto caretaker for its two elderly residents, Arthur and Rose, a brother and sister duo. Their respective grandsons and grandnephews had careers that took them around the world and they never seemed to find their way back home too often, especially eldest grandson Sam. Sam and his brother Will therefore were unaware of just how decrepit and crumbling Willow Tree Hall was becoming – or really even how much help their loved ones needed. When Arthur has a fall that lands him in the hospital, Sam soon learns what is going on at the Hall, and things slowly but surely begin to change…

Summer Secrets at Willow Tree Hall centers on Annie’s best friend from school, Eleanor, and one of Sam’s musicians that he manages, Tom. Eleanor finds herself back in her hometown after an extended time away, and is drawn to the Hall while she takes her care of her mother, who has injured her foot and needs help taking care of her menagerie of animals. I think that was my favorite part, all the animals in this book! They are not front and center by any means, but they endear me to Eleanor and her mother. Then a stray English Setter enters the scene, and he stole my heart. I had my own scared, skinny, stray English Setter at one point named Penny, so Dylan was a great bonus for me.

A Winter Wedding at Willow Tree Hall is all about Will and Skye. Will is still hanging out in the Alps, managing his construction company and many short relationships – until he isn’t anymore. He lands back at the Hall, at odds with his situation and himself, truth be told. He has been harboring a secret for a very long time as well, that has been slowly poisoning him and his relationships, with his family and in love. Skye and her Airstream had planned on just a quick stop at the Hall on her way to stay with her sister, after a lifetime of taking care of people while neglecting her own dreams and desires. She learns she has inherited half of a Lodge on the Hall’s estate – and the other co-owner is Will. Their story was my favorite of them all!

There is nothing too intense about these reads, and they are perfect for that reading escape, curled up in your favorite spot with your favorite beverage.

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Book Review: Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts

Goodreads Summary:

A dying billionaire sends one woman and a cast of dreamers and rivals on a citywide treasure hunt in this irresistible novel by the author of Bellweather Rhapsody.

Tuesday Mooney is a loner. She keeps to herself, begrudgingly socializes, and spends much of her time watching old Twin Peaks and X-Files DVDs. But when Vincent Pryce, Boston’s most eccentric billionaire, dies—leaving behind an epic treasure hunt through the city, with clues inspired by his hero, Edgar Allan Poe—Tuesday’s adventure finally begins.

Puzzle-loving Tuesday searches for clue after clue, joined by a ragtag crew: a wisecracking friend, an adoring teen neighbor, and a handsome, cagey young heir. The hunt tests their mettle, and with other teams from around the city also vying for the promised prize—a share of Pryce’s immense wealth—they must move quickly. Pryce’s clues can’t be cracked with sharp wit alone; the searchers must summon the courage to face painful ghosts from their pasts (some more vivid than others) and discover their most guarded desires and dreams.

A deliciously funny ode to imagination, overflowing with love letters to art, from The Westing Game to Madonna to the Knights of the Round Table, Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts is the perfect read for thrill seekers, wanderers, word lovers, and anyone looking for an escape to the extraordinary.

My thoughts:

This book was so full of things that I love! I really could not put it down.

Tuesday Mooney is a wonderful character. She has a job, a routine, a life that she loves as a prospect researcher, which I didn’t even know was a job but it sounds right up my alley. She has a friend or two, and even though she keeps other people at a distance, doesn’t really feel lonely. She is content. Until a fateful fundraiser, where Vincent Pryce dies, setting into motion a large-scale scavenger hunt where Pryce’s mass treasure is the prize.

All of sudden Tuesday’s world is thrown into a tizzy. She wants more than anything to win that prize, solve that riddle. Her social circle expands as other things fall apart; life is not so carefully ordered for Miss Mooney anymore. And I loved that. I loved that her world that she so carefully crafted was spun upside down by her absolute passion and drive to complete this challenge.

This books takes you on many journeys, through different motivations and desires and personal quests, all wrapped up in one big mystery. I completely loved it and need to read more by this author ASAP!

A Few Quick Book Reviews

It’s been a minute since I have posted a review, but I have read some great books so far this year that I wanted to share my thoughts on, especially the Cozy Minimalist Home! That book feels like a game changer!

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Cozy Minimalist Home: I loved this book! I found it so inspiring. We live in a small house – like 900 sq feet. I love this house, it was my grandparent’s, my mom grew up here, but it is small. And it always worked for Billy and I. Then we added a child to our family, and not only does he have all the toys and books and everything that most kids do, he also has a lot of equipment, like walkers and wheelchairs. I had to get creative with space, and also get rid of some of my stuff just to save on time, since I didn’t want to spend my days just cleaning them away. I began rethinking our spaces and getting rid of things, but it didn’t feel… cozy. I loved the new open feeling, the lightness, but I still needed some warmth. And this book really showed me how to add that touch of cozy. Instead of having a bunch of stuff that maybe is not as important, you choose what you want in your room thoughtfully. Add in those cozy touches without overdoing – a warm, comfy blanket, pillows, a great rug.. books. For me, bits of natural elements are really important too. There is a little bit more to it than that, but Smith has clear, simple, easy steps you should take in order when thinking about your space that make so much sense! I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to pare down yet still keep that cozy warm feeling! We are slowly redoing our house, room by room, and what I have learned is definitely going to come in handy. (and I just wanted to add, this applies to any size home!)

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw: This cover is gorgeous, isn’t it? I had just read The Wicked Deep when this book came out, and it sounded so perfect for me. A woods, secrets, winter, magic… I love all of these things! I actually started reading it on the first night of a full moon, which is purely coincidence but it was funny because this book begins on a full moon in winter, just like when I began reading it. It sort of set the mood. And I loved this book. I think the woods have always been a foreboding setting throughout history and literature – warnings to not go into the woods alone, or at night, bad news lurks within. And there is an otherworldy feeling to standing in a quiet wood in the dark. I think this book captures that perfectly, that feeling of almost unease. Nora Walker, like the women in her family before her, can communicate with her woods, and right now, it is telling her something is amiss. I really enjoyed this atmospheric read!

The Secret Life of the Owl by John Lewis-Stempel: Lewis-Stempel is one of my favorite authors to read. He has such a way of describing his surroundings and the natural world that just invites you in, and makes you want to know more. This short little book about owls is no different. I love owls, and this book was a great journey through folklore and poetry and facts about owls. If you love owls, I wouldn’t miss this one. It’s not overly scientific and includes mythology and other fun bits about hoo-hoos as Wyatt likes to say.

Puddles and Pinecones

Over the weekend the weatherman predicted torrential rain storms, flooding, and then to top it all off, ice. Well, it did rain, a very drizzly cold rain that did do a little flooding, and raised the rivers and creeks a little bit higher. We had plans to stay inside and do fun things there for most of the day and night, but..we couldn’t resist a little splashing in puddles first!

Wyatt wears AFO’s – braces for his feet to help him stand stronger when he is working on walking and standing. We love his braces, they are great tools to help him. But they also make it hard to buy shoes and boots, boots especially, as we can’t really manipulate his foot into one with the stiff braces. But we found that Butler boots have enough give in them that they slide fairly easily right over the braces – so we ordered him a pair of bright cheery yellow boots, his favorite color, and perfect for adding some sunshine to a dreary day. Then it rained and we got our wish to go stomp around in the puddles!

The cutest little stomp and splash ever!

While we are all excited that we found boots that work with his needs, Wyatt is more excited about the fact that he now has gumboots like the character and kids on one of his favorite shows, Scout and the Gumboot Kids! This very morning while we were watching one before school (they are short and perfect for a moment like this!) Wyatt went and got his boots out and started putting them on, just like Scout and the Gumboot Kids. Gumboots are another name for rain boots, or wellies, whatever you want to call them, and this show is adorable, with nature mysteries presented by a felt mouse in his own little cardigan and gumboots. The episodes are short, with a quick mystery that includes clues, and a mindful moment, which I am hoping to incorporate more of into our lives. The talented Jessie Farrell also provides the music and song for these episodes, with lovely lilting tunes that are so catchy that kids don’t even realize they are learning as they are singing along. As a companion to the Scout series, there is also Daisy and the Gumboot Kids, and Daisy is a crafty little mouse full of ideas for nature crafts. We love these shows and I love the inspiration they provide, while teaching Wyatt about all sorts of things – caterpillars and butterflies, space, agates, trees, dinosaurs are some of our favorites!

Not only is this series on television, they are now a series of books published by Firefly Books! We were lucky enough to receive a set of four signed books before Christmas, and now that the holidays are over, we really have time to spend looking through them together and talking about what we read. These books are beautiful, with full page artwork that captures the eye and attention, as page-size photos of the characters that Wyatt loves, solving the mysteries on paper within a book! Each book also contains two pages of field notes that relate to the mystery, mindful moments, and a nature craft. There is so much within the pages to inspire creativity and learning! We have been having a lot of fun with them. We also received a cute little coloring and activity book, a signed CD of Jessie Farrell’s music for the show, and stickers!

Today we spent some time reading through the books a little after school – Wyatt likes to “read” them to me too.

After we read about bird feeders and butterflies, I had a book and craft set up in the other room waiting for us.

We read the book, The Wooden Timekeeper, and talked about conifer trees, pincones, and the rings on trees, and how when you count them you can find the age of the tree. Wyatt really liked playing with the pinecones and petrified wood the best.

I showed him the pictures in the book of the craft, and let him choose whether we made an owl, bear, or mouse. My sweet boy chose to make an owl, my favorite! It was a group effort, with him doing the gluing while I helped out with the placement and cutting. We had a great time reading and making this little owl together! And look how cute!

Scout and the Gumboot Kids and the series, both on television and the books by Firefly Books are such a great resource for kids to learn, and entertaining and cute to boot! (yeah, see what I did there..)

Thanks to Firefly Books for the wonderful gift of the books, CD and extra little fun things!

Book Review: Alone in the Wild

Goodreads Summary:

Every season in Rockton seems to bring a new challenge. At least that’s what Detective Casey Duncan has felt since she decided to call this place home. Between all the secretive residents, the sometimes-hostile settlers outside, and the surrounding wilderness, there’s always something to worry about.

While on a much needed camping vacation with her boyfriend, Sheriff Eric Dalton, Casey hears a baby crying in the woods. The sound leads them to a tragic scene: a woman buried under the snow, murdered, a baby still alive in her arms.

A town that doesn’t let anyone in under the age of eighteen, Rockton must take care of its youngest resident yet while solving another murder and finding out where the baby came from – and whether she’s better off where she is.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong again delivers an engaging, tense thriller set in perhaps the most interesting town in all of contemporary crime fiction. 

My Thoughts:

I can’t say enough how much I love these series! I think the whole concept is brilliant, and in every book, Armstrong keeps growing this idea, adding in more layers and considerations. I love the characters, the setting, the overall idea and plot arcs – and this book was no exception.

This book begins with finding a baby in the snow, wailing away tucked in the arms of a murdered woman. A horrifying situation anywhere you go, but in the middle of the Yukon it takes on a whole new meaning, a place with little to no services other than what you can do for your own survival outside of your chosen town or community. Because that is the other big thing that happens in this book; we finally get to visit all the neighbors, and you find that Rockton isn’t really as completely isolated as one might think. There are a lot of people roaming about that wilderness, despite all the isolation.

Casey of course knows that she needs to find where this baby comes from, and she and Dalton embark on many excursions into the wild, visiting the few neighboring villages and encampments. I will say, that was the only kind of slow part in this book, all the repetitiveness of them going out again and slogging through the snow and woods. It made sense, but I guess I felt I was too much a part of that part of the journey. But we meet so many new characters – in fact in this book, we see far less of the Rockton residents as Casey and Dalton trek all over the Yukon practically solving the mystery behind the baby. The story that unfolds is fascinating and keeps you guessing. We also learn a few new things about Casey, and about Casey and Dalton as a couple in this book, as we watch them evolve.

I loved this book and I am really looking forward to the next one already!!

Thank you to NetGalley for the advance copy in return for an honest review!

My Favorite Reads of 2019

Hey all! I can’t believe it is this time of the year already! Wowzer. I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday or at least a few great days in December.

I feel like I read some pretty great books this year! I don’t keep up on my Goodreads very well – I get about halfway through the year and forget, so I can’t give stats which is a bummer, because I love everyone’s stats posts. Goals for next year! I know that I read a lot of nature books, thrillers, some magical realism, cozy mysteries, and some romances. And probably some other things too! I also participated in Paris in July which was so fun, and also Nonfiction November, which was pretty spectacular. I feel like I have a great idea of what to expect of them both next year and I am looking forward to them both again.

As I look back, some books I just really liked. My list is sort of based on just what I actually really loved, whether it was a bestseller or not – just a book that I really couldn’t stop reading and wanted more of when I was done. So, that being said, here they are!

I can’t believe this is the first time I had ever read Anne. Now I love her to pieces. And The Wolf Wilder was so so good. If you are going to read it, read it when it is cold – and if you live somewhere warm, just turn that air conditioning way down! Lol.

My love for these two books is real. The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating touched my soul, and The Wood I read first, and then read aloud to Billy and Wyatt over the course of this year, that is how much I loved it. John Lewis-Stempel is one of my very favorite authors to read and I am slowly making my way through his books.

I am pretty sure this is the first time I have had two graphic novels on my list! I absolutely adored Pumpkinheads, but what can you expect from Rainbow Rowell, but greatness, in my opinion. And Brazen – I picked this up on a whim at the library then read it cover to cover without stopping during Wyatt’s nap. I never reviewed it properly but it was seriously amazing.

These are three new to me authors – and I believe Luanne G. Smith and Glendy Vanderah are new authors in general! I loved each of these books for different reasons, but I can’t wait to read more by all of them. Read my review of The Vine Witch here, and Where the Forest Meets the Stars here. And hey I did review Brazen! A mini-one in the same post as Leaving Time!

Hands down my favorite book of the entire year. I am always a little skeptical of big best sellers for some reason, but when Gulfside Musings posted that she loved it, I gave it a shot. And I am so glad that I did. It was everything – nature and mystery and emotional. It was spectacular and I recommended it to everyone I know.