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Murder in the First Edition

Addison Greyborne’s eyes glistened with the reflection of the glimmering snowflakes hanging from the delicate fairy lights she’d retrieved from her aunt’s attic. – First Line – Murder in the First Edition.

The back cover of this book says – Lauren Elliott devoured Nancy Drew before graduating to Agatha Christie. Eventually she tried her hand at penning a novel herself and is currently working on the next Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery. I do like to see if there is any information about why the author chose to write a book or series. I tried unsuccessfully to find more information about this author.

This is a new series to me and I broke my own rule by not starting with the first in the series. I chose this book by the cover and that it was set around Christmas time and wanted a holiday book to read. From the blurb, I went on to purchase a second in this series set in January. It is part of my January to be read list.

This series involves a character who inherited her aunt’s book store and all of the characters she meets in the small town in seaside New England. We learn that she had been engaged but her fiancé died. In this book, his father shows up and at first she is excited to think that he wanted to spend time with her over the holiday since it appears she has no family. We learn fairly soon that she wants to like him but he has secrets that she fears make him not such a wonderful person. When she realizes he didn’t come mainly to see her, her excitement dims. She had already determined that he liked his ladies and when he attracts the eye of a local friend, she becomes concerned that he will break the woman’s heart.

When Teresa Lang, a local woman who was in charge of a charity auction that Addie had donated a first edition of -A Christmas Carol, falls down a flight of stairs to her death while the book disappears. Addie suspects murder because the book had been valued at $60,00, plenty reason for some people to kill. Because her fiancé’s father, who also has an interest in books may have been the last person to see her alive, Addie fears he could have had something to do with her death. Several other questionable characters come on the scene and she starts to question their true identity. Addie sets up a white board and notes what happened, with suspects and clues. A couple close friends get involved in the investigation with her.

Besides investigating a murder, she juggles two suitors, a past love, a local police officer, and a local doctor. Both are currently involved in the Teresa Lang death. The police officer tells her to leave it alone and let the police handle it but, of course, she ignores him. The doctor became involved by examining the body. There is plenty of sparring between the two prospective lovers and personally I might have liked this sub plot better if Addie had actually made a choice between the two men.

I can’t say I will commit to reading the whole series but since I bought the book set in January, I will read that one. Hopefully the author will resolve the romantic sub-plot and leave me feeling better at the end of that book. This book was well written but it felt fairly predictable. I feel most cozies do tend to do that and most of the time I am okay with that as long as they sprinkle a few surprises along the way. If you haven’t read this series and like the cozy genre, I would suggest you check it out maybe with the first in the series. I may have missed something by not starting at the beginning. If all goes well with the next book, I probably will do that too. If you have read this series, let me know what you think.

I look forward to sharing more reads with you in 2021. Celebrate safely and have a very Happy New Year!

Until next time,

Virginia

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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January 2021 To Be Read

Today we are being pounded with a snow storm. Sounds like a good day to read a book. I am almost done with one of my December reads and plan to have a review posted on Thursday.

This is a fairly ambitious stack of books for next month but hey it doesn’t hurt to stretch ourselves. As always I will always feel good if I read at least four a month. Even though I am retired, I seem to have found so many things to do to keep busy. Besides starting a new writing project next month, I am also President of our local chapter of Sisters in Crime. Though we only meet monthly, and in 2020 most meetings were virtual. We will be continuing that until it is safe to meet in person. This year besides focusing on writing, we will be reading a few books and reviewing, as well.

I will post a follow-up for my December reads early in January. Did I meet my goal of at least four or did I surpass it? You will have to wait and see.

As I said, I am developing a new mystery novel to write and I am excited to start something new. After a conversation at my last Sinc meeting, it became clear most of the authors and writers swear by Hallie Ephron’s – Writing and Selling the Mystery Novel. I am basing my writing goals around using this book. Currently I am reading and filling out the worksheets to develop the story now. I will be aiming for a first draft by the end of June. I will slip a little bit about this goal into my blog posts to keep you informed, just in case you’re interested.

I am enjoying our rather one-sided conversations but it would be great if you could chime in once in a while. I would love to see how many other people out there actually read my blog and either like it or have some suggestions to make it better. I watch a lot of YouTube and the BookTubers on there. I am trying to fashion this blog after some of those. There is something comforting to hear others talk about books. My reviews are deliberately vague because I don’t want to be guilty of spoilers.

I also will be choosing my favorite book read each month and for the year. I will probably slip in more bookish content as I find it to add, as well. I do enjoy writing this blog and I do hope someone finds it interesting enough to follow.

I really would appreciate your comments and if you have a blog that you would like me to support, please comment and let me know.

Until next time, happy new year.

Virginia

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Mr. Dickens and His Carol

“On that unseasonably warm November day at One Devonshire Terrace, Christmas was not in his head at all.” first line from Mr. Dickens and His Carol.

This is an entertaining take on how Charles Dickens may have come up with writing his famous Christmas story. The author, Samantha Silva, included some facts along with her fiction. I watched an interview with the author on a YouTube channel recently and it took her 15 years to write this novel. It started out as a screenplay that she sold four times but it failed to be produced so she re-wrote as a novel. The author is a writer and screenwriter based in Idaho and this is her debut novel.

The story opens with Charles Dickens who was a rock star for his time. He lived in a spectacular family home with his five children and a wife in labor with their sixth child. He has been riding a high with his success and being a generous man he has been helping both family, friends, and charities financially and happy to do so. Until he is told by his publisher that his most recent work – Chuzzlewit is not selling.

The publisher blackmails Dickens into writing another book before Christmas or they will deduct a portion of his sales to cover their losses. Which might not have been so bad but Christmas was only a few weeks away. At first Dickens refuses to be told what to do by his publisher. That works until he realizes how much his debt currently is and that if he did allow them to cut his sales that it could ruin him financially.

Dickens receives a letter from the woman who left him for another man when he was younger. She broke his heart but her letter tells him she must see him and foolishly he agrees. He soon regrets it but before he knows it the woman has stopped by his own home and speaks with his wife, asking her to have him autograph the letter she’d sent. Mrs. Dickens did not take that very well.

In the middle of planning their Christmas celebration with painters re-painting the front door and entry way, food being delivered for their annual party, and a tree delivered to actually be put inside their home, which was something new to the Victorians; he starts realizing that he may not have a choice about writing the book. His wife takes the children to Scotland with her family, telling him he is no longer the man she married and leaves him home alone.

Dickens has always had a habit of walking many miles at night to work through his troubles and finds himself at the very Inn where he’d written his first story. It reminds him of his earlier relationship that had gone wrong. Though his former lady friend hadn’t been a muse in the usual sense, he had succeeded just to prove her wrong. Now he feels as if he has no muse.

During his nightly walks he meets a younger actress he’d met briefly while he was a young actor on a small town square in London. He soon starts to think she may be the muse he is seeking. They are attracted to each other but both agree that nothing can come of it but they do become friends. During the telling of this story, we are introduced to the major characters from A Christmas Carol.

This was a delightful holiday story. After watching the interview, much of what was written was pulled from his biography. Chuzzlewit did fail and his publisher did request a book because of a clause in his contract. He had an old girlfriend who he felt had been his muse, who had left him for a man she felt could provide better for her and forced Dickens to prove her wrong. This story has an interesting twist at the end that was fitting for a holiday tale about a ghost story.

I loved the way the author weaved characters into this novel who became important characters in A Christmas Carol, like Tiny Tim, Cratchit, Marley, and of course Scrooge. This will be a keeper on my shelf. I may not read it every year but possibly every other. I do think I will add A Christmas Carol to my December list for 2021. Though I have seen several movie versions, I haven’t actually ever read the novel. Now I will have a quest to find a nice collectible edition.

I have been enjoying the days leading up to Christmas. Even though we will not be spending the day with our children, I have attempted to shop, decorate, and cook a few things for me and the hubby. It has cut into my reading time so probably will not meet my monthly goal of four books read this month. I hope you are finding some joy in this most difficult time. I wish you and yours a most glorious Christmas or whatever holiday you may be celebrating. I hope you find peace in your hearts and maybe a tiny bit of time to read a good book.

Until next time,

Virginia

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street

Smoky silhouettes of church spires stamped against the bruised skies of a Charleston morning give testament to the reason why it’s called the Holy City. The steepled skyline at dawn is a familiar sight for early risers who enjoy a respite from the heat and humidity in summer, or appreciate the beauty of the sunrise through the Cooper River Bridge, or like hearing the chirps and calls of the thousands of birds and insects that populate our corner of the world.

Others, like me, awaken early only to shorten the night, to quiet the secret stirrings of the restless dead who wander during the darkest hours between sunset and sunrise. – An excerpt from Karen White’s The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street.

I bought this book a year ago in December 2019. Long before we knew what 2020 held for us. I chose to wait to read it this December because I needed to catch up with the books I hadn’t read in this series, so starting last summer I began the series from book one – The House on Tradd Street.

If I love a series, I will attempt to come back and finish them. I did love this series from the beginning. I read the first two books and didn’t realize that the series had continued for this long. In fact, this is book six in the series and seven will be out sometime in 2021. From a recent interview on YouTube with this author, book seven will be the last but Karen White says she has thought that before and her publisher has asked for more, so she ends her books with an epilogue in case her contract is extended.

This series of books is set in modern day Charleston and the main character, Melanie is an OCD Realtor who sees dead people and has to deal with houses that often have a few ghosts hanging around. The author says that some people say that Melanie has many of her own traits. She denies that Melanie is based on herself but does admit they have similarities and that she owns a labeling gun and knows how to use it.

Even though each book can be read alone, I would suggest reading the series from the beginning so that you can be introduced to the cast of supporting characters.

Melanie is compelled to deal with older homes, as a Realtor, but as the story begins, she actually hates them. She hates that most have a ghost or two lingering around the property that try to get her attention. She sings Abba songs to distract herself. If the ghosts weren’t enough, she also looks at the houses as money pits. As the series begins, she is not prepared when she inherits the house on Tradd Street. If not for her best friend Dr. Sophie Wallen-Arasi an archeologist who teaches at the local university and is a preservationist of old homes, Melanie probably would have sold the house at first sight.

During the series you meet more characters some good and some not so good, she adds a bit of romance, and always shows the importance of family.

Karen wrote the first book in this series in 2005 and it was published in 2008. She has written 19 other stand alone books besides this series plus a couple books that she has co-written with a couple other authors. Her stand alone books are more emotionally charged and she always looks forward to writing another in the Tradd Street series because she doesn’t have to start all over again with each book. She knows these characters and it feels like visiting old friends.

This series is infused with humor. The characters are well rounded and the plot lines are interesting. The ghost stories are not the kind that will keep you up at night by scaring you but the plot line may keep you up because of your need to finish the book.

I have a background in real estate and that may have been what initially drew me to these books. As a Realtor, I do know that most agents I worked with do have their own ghost stories. I did have one listing that made me a believer. I never actually saw a ghost and they didn’t talk to me but I definitely felt like someone was in the house with me when I knew I was alone.

Love this series and will be sad to see it come to an end. I know this author has other books for me to discover so that will hopefully ease any withdrawal pains. If you have not read this series and you like a mystery infused with a little bit of southern history centered around beautiful old homes that have ghosts, I highly recommend the Tradd Street Series. In case you’re interested – here is the order they go in:

The House on Tradd Street

The Girl on Legare Street

The Strangers on Montague Street

Return to Tradd Street

The Guests on South Battery

The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street.

I hope you are breezing through this holiday season and finding joy in each day. If I miss my Thursday post, it is because of the holidays and I have not finished my current read but I will be back next week with a new one.

Happy reading,

Virginia

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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December – More Books

Mr. Dickens and His Carol and TCM Christmas at the Movies.

I now have two more books I am adding to my December to be read pile. Mr. Dickens and His Carol will definitely bump one of my current list but TCM Christmas at the Movies is a book I plan to read a little every day. If I don’t complete it this month. I will save it to continue reading next December.

I am about half way through Karen White’s Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street and I can possibly see a late night coming up before I am done reading it. Sometimes toward the end I can’t wait to finish and since I am retired, I stay up longer than I probably should. I do love this series and will discuss more about it when I review this book.

I hope you are not too busy with holiday stuff that you are not finding time to read. Besides reading, hubby and I have been walking daily and driving around looking at Christmas lights. Hopefully we can keep the walking up even after the cold weather invades Iowa. Surprisingly, that has become my favorite part of the day, just ahead of reading. I will try to have the attitude of the people in Denmark. They say there is no such thing as a bad day, only not dressing properly for the weather, (or something like that).

At least reading isn’t dependent on the weather, unless there is a storm that knocks the electricity out. This is really not going where I had intended. Just find happiness in each day and if that involves reading, I hope you can squeak out enough time to enjoy a good book and maybe a little hot chocolate or tea.

Until next time,

Virginia

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer

“The night this all started, I was in a black Irish mood. And that was before I learned my friend was dead.” Joe Biden – the fictional character.

I bought this book over a year a go on a whim. I figured someday it might be of value because of who the protagonist was. This is a fictional novel that uses living people within the story – mainly Joe Biden and Barack Obama. I really thought it would be something that would make my grandkids scratch their heads when they found it in my stash of books. I also didn’t expect it to be so good.

As I said, I bought this book over a year ago and it sat in my to be read pile, thinking it may never actually be read. Well since the election and now former Vice President Biden will be our next President, I thought it might be time to check it our. I am glad I did.

This was a very well written story that pulled me in from the beginning and kept me reading until 2:30 AM to find out how it would end. It isn’t really a cozy mystery but it also isn’t very graphic as far as the violence. It is a murder mystery so you have to expect a murder or two.

Joe Biden is known for having spent a great deal of time riding the Amtrak train to work when he was a Senator. Supposedly in this book, he became friends with some of the people who worked on the trains. This book begins with the death of an Amtrak conductor, Finn.

When the story begins, Joe is puttering around the house with Jill feeling neglected by Obama who seems to have gone on with his life doing all kinds of exciting things with other people. Joe is feeling neglected by his best friend but won’t admit it.

As the story opens, Biden hears a noise outside and grabs a weapon to investigate from his 7000 square foot lake home that sits on four acres in Delaware. He heads to the woods along his lot line and runs into Obama and his secret service men. Obama came to warn him that his friend the conductor has been found dead on a train track with a map to Biden’s house on him. The way he died seems a little odd and Joe doesn’t believe there is any way it could be a suicide so the two decide to investigate. Obama is concerned because Biden no longer has personal security. Apparently secret service is only given for the first six months after the Vice President leaves office. This kind of information made this book that much more interesting. Biden hadn’t felt the need to get private security and now Obama shows up to warn him that he may be in danger.

The story flows smoothly with the two as super sleuths getting involved in drug deals, cheap motels, and dark people. The author weaves a believable story that had a satisfying ending. In a way they felt like modern day Sherlock Holmes and Watson but way more cool.

The other thing I truly enjoyed was Biden’s voice. I felt like I could truly hear both Biden and Obama speaking as I read their character’s lines. Joe’s voice especially made me chuckle, frequently. Biden uses phrases like , “Cool your jets”, “Malarkey”, and “Hill of beans”, which really helped me visualize his character.

I did question whether to review this book, at first, because I didn’t want to get political but I took the time to read it and decided it was well worth my review. If you happen to be someone who might be offended, I do apologize but I am looking at this as the review of a mystery novel, period.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loves reading mysteries. I did pick up the sequel and will be reading that one sooner rather than later.

The is the last of my November reads to review. I hope you hang in for my December reads.

Andrew Shaffer is the New York Times best-selling author of Fifty Shames of Earl Grey and other malarkey. He lives in Lexington, Kentucky.

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

Non-Fiction November 2020

Daily Rituals by Mason Curry and Light the Dark – Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process were two of the three non-fiction books I read this month. They were both books that I read a chapter each day so have actually been dipping into these for a while. I did enjoy reading them. They were motivational and interesting, especially the Daily Rituals because I am curious and love discovering how other people settle into their day to create.

Daily Rituals had a few paragraphs about 161 different creators, (writers, artists, scientists, musicians, and dancers). Some I had heard of and others I hadn’t. The book gives you a glimpse at the creators daily life which sounds a little like being a voyeur but in a good way. The author found most of his information from biographies and auto biographies. If you need a little motivation in your life and are curious about the lives of others, I would recommend this book. This author has a similar book – Daily Rituals – Women at Work.

Light the Dark – is specific to authors. Forty-six authors provided an essay about a book that inspired them. Again, I was familiar with some of the authors but many I had never heard of. I am curious enough that I often followed up googling the author after reading their essays. The authors included were Stephen King, Elizabeth Gilbert, Junot Diaz, Amy Tan, Khaled Hosseini, Roxane Gay, Neil Gaiman, Marilynne Robinson, Michael Chabot, and Jonathan Lethem.

Stephen King wrote about opening lines and the book he chose was – Shoot by Douglas Fairbairn. King said that he doesn’t think conceptually while working on a first draft – he just writes. He said to try to get scientific about it is like trying to catch moonbeams in a jar. He does explain what he thinks is crucial to an opening line. He goes in-depth and as usual his writing advice is always on spot and what we need to hear.

Angela Flournoy chose Zora Neale Hurston’s – Mules and Men. At the time she was writing – The Turner House – the story of one family’s relationship, over the span of fifty years, with a house in the city of Detroit. She struggled with thinking – ‘Who do you think you are to be writing this book in the first place? I liked this piece because I think this is a question every writer asks themselves at some time. I wasn’t familiar with Angela Flournoy or Zora Neale Hurston before reading this essay but I did learn a little bit about them and their journey as a writer.

This book introduced me to more writers and I am always grateful for that. It also showed me that writers are people who struggle with their craft every day like most authors and writers I have met over the years. It also showed me how they kept going. Any writer friends who find themselves on that roller-coaster ride to create would probably find plenty of little gems of motivation within the covers of this book.

Out of all of the authors in the book, I had only ever met Amy Tan but there are many more I would like to meet in the future. It is interesting to see what little seed from a story inspired someone to start or continue a writing career. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves to write or read.

Until next time,

Virginia

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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December 2020 TBR

I am filling ( and feeling) my December 2020 to be read list with lots of holiday cheer. This is an ambitious list of books and doubt that I will make it through all but I will give it my best shot.

The first book that I have started is Karen White’s The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street. I actually bought this one last December and realized I needed to catch up with this series, so for the past year I started from the beginning and have now read everything in between. It is one of my favorite series, not only because it is a cozy mystery series but it also has a touch of paranormal with the old haunted houses in Charleston as the setting for these books. I will go into more detail when I actually finish this book and review later.

One is a Georgette Heyer – A Christmas Party – never read this author but I have heard good things and this was a gift from the past.

Of course I have to read a little Agatha Christie. Midwinter Murders contains short stories that would be good to read during the winter so if I don’t manage to finish this one in December it will definitely be on my January 2021 list.

The White Christmas Inn by Colleen Wright is actually a book I started last year but didn’t finish, so will hopefully finish this year.

Yuletide Homicide by Jennifer David Hesse is another series that I have yet to finish involving a character who practices Wicca secretly. Her books tend to be set around the Wiccan holidays.

The last two – A Merry Murder and Ringing in Murder by Kate Kingsbury are from a series that I have been reading for several years and is one of my yearly holiday favorites. They are cozy mysteries set pre-world war I in England at the Pennyfoot Hotel and the main character is Cecily Sinclair Baxter who always, against her husband’s, wishes gets involved with solving a murder.

I look forward to digging into these this month with something warm to drink, a blanket, and maybe the fireplace giving a warm glow to the room as I read.

I hope you are enjoying this holiday season, however you celebrate. Stay safe and read more.

Until next time,

Virginia

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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Books Read in November

The beginning of November I’d planned to read these books. As you will see, sometimes I get sidetracked and either read something else or get too busy to read all of them. This month I got side tracked.

Here are the books I did not get read:

Tough Cookie by Diane Mott Davidson – I decided to complete reading this older series because I had enjoyed it so much when I started reading it many years ago and with 2020, I needed an escape. I will get back to finishing this series in 2021.

The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield. I do want to read this book but it too will have to wait for next year.

Now for the books I did read:

Stranger Diary’s – Elly Griffiths

I’ll be Gone in the Dark – Michelle McNamara

Magic Lessons – Alice Hoffman

Light the Dark – Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process – Joe Fassler

Daily Rituals – Mason Currey

The Sun Down Motel – Simone St. James

Hope Never Dies – Andrew Shaffer

For this post I will list them only and review them individually. If you have been following my blog for the past month, you will notice that I have reviewed Stranger Diary’s, Magic Lessons, I’ll Be Gone by Dark, and The Sun Down Motel. If you want my take on these, please check out earlier posts for those reviews. Over the next few weeks, I will reviewing the rest.

Three of the books I read did fit into Non-fiction November and that was kind of fun. Will look forward to doing that again next year.

My goal each month will always be four books because depending on how busy I am, I think that is doable. This month, I surpassed that goal and that makes me happy. It always feels good to exceed a goal.

November was an enjoyable reading month. The one author I was familiar with was Alice Hoffman and it was an adventure to catch up with the Owens family saga. The rest of the authors were new to me. I hope to have another successful month of reading in December.

What are your reading goals for December? Are you planning to surround yourself with holiday books or finding time to finally read the one you’ve been waiting for the right time?

Let me know what you are reading. I am always looking for suggestions.

Until next time,

Virginia

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

The Sun Down Motel

The night it all ended, Vivian was alone.

This was one of those books I’ve seen circulating the BookTube channels for a while. I had wanted to read it in October because of that spooky thing but found it too late to start then.

This was a quick read. It definitely was a page turner. The last night I finished it at 3:30 A.M. the next morning. I could not put it down until I knew what was going on. Luckily I am retired so didn’t have to get up and go to work.

This is a story told by two protagonists. The current day one, Claire and her aunt from November 1980, Vivian. Claire was born after her aunt had disappeared and she decided to make it her mission to find out what really happened to her mother’s sister. She luckily or depending on how you look at it, unluckily took the same night shift job at The Sun Down Motel, where her aunt Vivian had disappeared.

Claire quickly picks up that something isn’t right at the motel. The mysterious scent of cigarette smoke, room doors opening and closing by themselves, the ghost of a young boy around the abandoned swinging pool, and one ghost whose anger causes the electricity to go out giving Claire a warning that it is time to leave.

The motel rarely has many guests and apparently most of them don’t notice what is going on. I thought that was a little odd.

The other half of the story is as Vivian shows the reader what did happen leading up to her disappearance. Both women snag onto the fact that they believe there is a serial killer in the area, killing women. Claire believes that same killer is still hanging around. The two women’s stories merge into a very satisfying ending.

Can’t call this a feel good novel but if you enjoy getting a scare every once in a while. This might be a good read for you.

Survived Thanksgiving 2020 style. I am finding myself reading way more than I ever did but that is normal. Reading has always been my escape.

Hope you too had a good Thanksgiving and may you find some joy in a good book.

Until next time,

Virginia

 
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Posted by on November 27, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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