“Three Muses” by Martha Anne Toll | Book Review

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“World War II has come and gone, and John Curtin is still grappling with his guilt over singing for the Nazi kommandant who murdered his family. He wants to set up his own psychiatry practice but can’t keep his own demons at bay, haunted by his past and a fear of music.

After the sudden loss of her mother, Katya Symanova found solace in dance lessons and worked her way into the New York State Ballet. Blinded by infatuation, she finds herself in a toxic relationship with her mentor, choreographer Boris Yanakov, who must be in control at all times.

On a trip to Paris, John receives a ticket to a brand new ballet called Three Muses, and the featured ballerina Katya enraptures him. After a brief meeting at the stage door, they cross paths again back home in New York City and immediately connect over the childhood trauma they’ve both experienced. As they open up to one another, they establish a trust that neither have experienced before. Their relationship is rapidly progressing, but, perhaps, too good to be true because Katya has a secret that could derail the budding romance. Are they destined to last or just two ships passing in the night?”

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*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Regal House Publishing through NetGalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

The prologue introduces readers to psychiatry resident John Curtin and ballerina Katya Symanova, and we see their first meeting in Paris in 1963. The following chapters go back in time to flesh out their respective childhood trauma and young adulthood struggles, starting with eleven-year-old Janko Stein in a concentration camp and seven-year-old Katherine Sillman mourning the sudden loss of her mother. When the first few pages felt longer than they actually were, I was prepared to struggle through forty-two chapters at a snail’s pace. To my surprise, I flew through the first half in less than two days. I like the parallels between the struggles John and Katya experienced such as grief, growing up, and dating. The insights into life as a ballerina had me geeking out as a former dancer, and despite the jarring Holocaust imagery, the pieces of Jewish culture felt like a warm, familiar hug. 

The characters and character development are intriguing, but Katya’s decision-making infuriated me. Her relationship with Boris is a blindspot on purpose so I’m trying to let it go. Just know, I have many thought and many feelings. The writing is fine, but some of the transitions from scene to scene are so abrupt that it took me a moment to recalibrate as I was reading. The romance is what truly derails the story. Both John and Katya desired an emotional connection coming into their relationship, but they only connect up to a certain point. The dialogue and interactions are awkward, and beyond understanding one another over shared grief, there’s no chemistry.

The ending being what it is, my indifference towards the romance is unfortunate because it detracted from the underlying message. I understand what happened and why, but I’m not on board with the vehicle that got us there. Though John and Katya help each other find some peace, it still feels like a puzzle piece is misplaced. I can appreciate authors who take the road less traveled, but confusion is not a good feeling as a reader, especially at the end of a book that deals with such heavy subject matter. If something flew over my head, I accept that; perhaps I’m not compatible with Martha Anne Toll’s writing. The redeeming qualities earned a three-star rating, but I consider “Three Muses” a low three stars and something I don’t envision myself picking up again. I think it lacks re-readability, but it’s not a long read so give it a chance if a historical fiction romance set in post-WWII New York City with a heavy sprinkling of ballet piques your interest. Maybe you’ll glean more from it than I did.

*NOTE: The expected publication date is September 20th, 2022.

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Content Breakdown: 

*Disclaimer: I read an uncorrected ARC so certain things might be different in the final copy.

*Disclaimer 2: This section of my review is thorough and might contain SPOILERS.

Abandonment Issues: John’s mother told a Nazi soldier he could sing & begged for him to be taken somewhere where he could entertain. He didn’t understand why his mother pushed him away to be alone in the care of Nazis while she stayed with his little brother Max.

Katya didn’t find out about her mother’s alcoholism until she was older. She struggled with the revelation because it felt like her mother left on purpose, choosing alcohol over family which ultimately got her killed.

Abuse & Grooming: As a choreographer and teacher, Boris Yanakov is more hands-on than necessary, touching his dancers as much as he sees fit. While molding Katya into a prima ballerina, he touched her in inappropriate places under the guise of class corrections while she was a minor. She developed a girlhood crush and dreamed about his touch, wanting him to desire her despite an age gap of 20+ years. As an adult, she entered into a relationship with Boris, adapting to his sexually-charged creative process even though it made him behave in a frenzied manner at work and behind closed doors. He is self-centered & controlling, showing very little consideration for Katya’s feelings; he also has a reputation for sleeping with numerous women wherever he travels. He never gets violent, but there are times when he physically hurts Katya.

Example 1: When Boris wanted to leave a conversation, he squeezed Katya’s arm hard enough to make her wince despite her asking him to leave her be for a moment or two (“New York” chapter 16).

Example 2: When they slept together for the first time, Katya was a virgin, & Boris was not sensitive to that, leaving her in quite a bit of pain. She excused herself to cry in the bathroom (“Feast and Famine” chapter 13).

Alcohol & Smoking: Alcoholism, Bloody Marys, Bourbon, Cigarettes, Cigars, Drinking, Intoxication, Jack Daniels, Liquor, Smoking, Whiskey, Whiskey Sours, & Wine

Katya’s mother was an alcoholic and died while drunk. Katya tells John that she feels abandoned by her mother, and he reveals that recent science classified alcoholism as an illness, implying that her mother was sick & had little to no control over her actions.

Blood, Death, & Violence: John’s life story is told in detail throughout the book, describing his experience as a German Jew before, during, and after the Holocaust. There are mentions of Jews who died inside gas chambers, trains, & trucks as well as descriptions of dead bodies. John’s father was shot for violating curfew, & while John was the personal prisoner of a Nazi kommandant, his mother & brother Max died inside a gas chamber. When the concentration camp was seized by the Allies, John saw the remaining prisoners, all of them bald, emaciated, and disoriented.

Drunk and desperate for more alcohol, Katya’s mother was hit by a truck while crossing the street, dying instantly.

Katya falls during a performance and bleeds through her tights.

There is one mention of John attending his anatomy class and discussing the cadavers with classmates, one of which is a thirty-year-old woman who died of cancer. He describes her outer appearance and observes that her uterus shows signs of birth, meaning she left behind a child.

Brief mention of knife fights in Katya’s neighborhood

Brief mention of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination

Bullying & Insensitivty: After her mother’s death, a classmate tells Katherine she’s only being favored by Mrs. Slattery because “your mom croaked.”

Selma’s niece Rachel is described as a “short, big-breasted girl” which could be interpreted as a reference to weight or having a mature body at a young age.

When Rachel says she wants to be a teacher, Moe remarks “Nice profession for a woman.”

While learning the English language, John endured jokes about his accent and mistakes as a non-native speaker.

Maya doesn’t revere Boris Yanakov the way Katya does, calling him a variety of names such as “dictator” & “winter warhorse.” He isn’t a good man by a long shot, but these particular names coud be interpreted as culturally insensitive toward a person of Russian heritage.

Cheating: PLOT SPOILER – When Boris Yanakov & John Curtin meet, they realize that Katya has been in a relationship with both of them simultaneously.

Foster Parents: As a young teen rescued from a concentration camp with nowhere to live, John is taken in by Barney and Selma Katz, a Jewish American family.

Gossip: Before she knew the whole story about her mother’s struggles with alcohol which led to her death, Katherine heard people at church talking about it. 

Language: D*mn, G*odd*mn, H*ll, & J*sus

Loss: Barney and Selma’s son Buddy died fighting in Sicily during World War II. John’s parents and brother were killed during the Holocaust, leaving him on his own at the age of eleven. Katya’s mother died when she was seven, leaving her to be raised by a single father. Selma & John lose Barney to a sudden stroke; the gravesite service takes place in “Veiled Road” chapter 2.

Prejudice: Brief mention of a British choreographer who was thrown out of London for being homosexual

Psychiatry: I don’t have the knowledge or experience to critique how this subject was handled so I’ll just lay out what I observed:

The term “headshrinker” is used quite a few times, including by John’s college classmates in jest. 

John refers to his residency patients as “New York’s refuse pile given over to his care.” A few of them are described: Elton Miller is obsessed with the Catholic church & expects the Pope to call him. Former choir director Candida Jackson thinks she’s a singer at the Metropolitan Opera House, constantly talking about her fellow performers who don’t exist & needing to keep time to music that isn’t playing; these detailed fantasies give her headaches. There’s no description of Louisa Matthew’s condition, but after an episode of running down the halls & screaming, she’s restrained by two men while a nurse sedates her; John calls her “a living cadaver, all sinew & bone” & mentions that she has no family.

John’s training psychiatrist Dr. Roth leads him through sessions going over his childhood during the Holocaust. The process is grueling, & John thinks a dentist’s drill would be preferable. The doctor remains professionally emotionless & uses “we” as though he’s also reliving the horrific memories, irking John enough to want to quit several times. John refers to his younger self in third person & tries to show no emotion. Because he was forced to sing for a Nazi kommandant, he has an aversion to music. It’s never stated that he has PTSD, but I would assume he does, music being a major trigger. Eventually Dr. Roth pushes him to “face the music” & sing which is an extremely emotional experience. When their sessions come to an end, John knows he’s made progress, but he credits his relationship with Katya, not the doctor.

Racism & Segregation: John was rescued from the concentration camp by Black soldiers, but on the ship to America, he observes that the mess staff is Black, and the sailors are white. He later mentions that Americans refer to Black people as “n*gro*s.”

Rape: As a live-in prisoner of a Nazi kommandant, John saw female prisoners from the concentration camp enter the house and heard noises after they went upstairs with the soldiers, implying those women were being raped.

Religion: John’s biological and foster parents are Jewish so there are descriptions of Jewish holidays and the corresponding traditions.

Katherine’s mother was Catholic and attended Sunday mass, but she questioned some of Father Paul’s sermons. After her mother’s death, Katherine questioned why Jesus let such a tragedy happen. Her single father continued to take her to mass on Sundays in a small parish church. As an adult, she visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral for some peace & time to reflect.

While telling Katya about his journey to America & being taken in by a loving family, John says “It was as if the gods were looking after me.”

When John opens up to Katya about feeling like he failed his late mother, she says “I wish I could provide absolution like a priest. Jewish don’t do that, do they?” In the Catholic church, “absolution” is a formal release from guilt (obligation or punishment as well).

Sensual/Sexual: In the “Paris” prologue, John daydreams about his coworker Ann, imagining her naked body from head to toe. He observes her physical assets & mentions his attraction a few other times in the book.

After his horrific experience inside a concentration camp, John tried to replace his bad memories with good ones, imagining himself back at school mischieviously trying to look up girls’ skirts.

As a college student, John notices the way classmates and women on the train fill out their clothing, but he doesn’t know how to handle this attraction, too shy to approach one of them and broach the subject of dating. He frequently describes physical assets (breasts, legs, etc.)

After so many years under Boris’ influence, Katya considers her style & movements as a dancer as “sexual” in nature.

During a date, John feels Katya pressing her leg against his.

There are three kisses: “New York” chapters 9, 10, & 11.

There are four sex scenes: “Paris” prologue, “Feast and Famine” chapters 12 & 13, & “New York” chapter 11

There are four more brief sexual moments: “New York” chapters 2, 5, 7, & 12

Suicide: There is a brief mention of Jews who jumped out of windows when Nazis took over.

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🌟 Find author Martha Anne Toll here:

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“Shady Hollow” by Juneau Black | Book Review

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“In the woodland village of Shady Hollow, animals live side by side, predator and prey alike. Life is quiet, and the harmony is threatened by nothing bigger than local gossip. Reporter Vera Vixen is a recent transplant, and she doesn’t let anything stand in the way of getting the scoop. The most recent piece of news was the crowning of a new spelling bee champion, eight-year-old Ashley Chitters. When local grouch Otto Sumpf is found dead in the mill pond, the suspicious circumstances shake up the town and bring several issues to light. Vera is hot on the trail of the killer, putting herself in the direct path of danger. Has Miss Vixen met her match in murder, or will her nose for news solve the case before more bodies appear?”

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I’m going to keep my spiel short and sweet, just like “Shady Hollow. If you’re the kid who grew up watching Franklin and Little Bear on Nick Jr., this is the adult version with a pinch of murder and a dash of sleuthing. The setting is just as charming as the book cover advertises, and the story is the embodiment of cozy. Did I mention there’s a map of the town à la Hundred Acre Wood? My ideal day now has a new look: coffee at Joe’s Mug, hours of shopping at Nevermore Books, and lunch at the Bamboo Patch.

I flew through 219 pages and bought the other three books in the series before the ink had a chance to dry on Vera Vixen’s newspaper article. The pace is so soothing, and my only regret is picking this up during the heat of summer because it’s much more suited to a blanket nest and pumpkin spice latte; I would add chilly weather to the list, but I live in California so that only happens on one random week day in February, if we’re lucky. I’m struggling not to award this book with every star in existence, but the big reveal broke up the comfortable rhythm, not bad but more abrupt than it needed to be. My rating is an optimistic four stars, and I’m fully prepared for this to become a new favorite series and obsession I won’t shut up about. I’m dying from the adorableness as I speak so I’m leaving now to pick up the sequel because life outside Shady Hollow isn’t worth living.

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Content Breakdown: 

*Disclaimer: This section of my review is thorough and might contain SPOILERS.

Alcohol & Smoking: Mentions of Alcohol, Beer, Cigars, Cigar Smoking, Cordial, Intoxication, Liquor, Pipe Smoking, Spirits, & Wine

Blood, Death, & Violence: The murder investigation involves blood, drowning, a head wound, poison, stabbing by knife, & descriptions of dead bodies. 

A character is revealed to be a former surgeon whose license was revoked after a patient died during what should’ve been a routine surgery. 

There’s an attempted attack, the attacker loosening a boulder to roll down a hill & crush the victim; the victim suffers a few bruises from jumping out of the way. 

During a knife attack, the victim suffers a paw wound & multiple cuts from broken glass after an escape attempt through a window. 

Religion/Spirituality: Brief mention of spending one year living & praying in silence at a monastery 

During Otto’s funeral at the cemetery, we’re introduced to Parson James “Dusty” Conkers, a clergyman from Shady Hollow Church. 

Sensual/Sexual: There’s a character who’s treated with contempt due to her reputation as a serial dater who entertains many different men at her home, at least one of them married. Throughout the book, she’s referred to as “Home Wrecker,” “Hussy,” “Mistress,” & “Lover.”

Single Parenthood: Joe has been a single father to his son Joe Jr. ever since his wife left them without reason or warning.

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🌟 Find author Juneau Black here:

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*Note: “Juneau Black” is the pen name of authors Jocelyn Cole and Sharon Nagel.

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“A Line in the Sand” by Teri Wilson | Book Review

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“When his Uncle Henry retires, Max Miller moves to Turtle Beach, North Carolina, to take over his aquarium and sea turtle hospital. Little does he know the business is struggling, and he’s being called in to captain a sinking ship.

After a recent heartbreak that left her feeling lost, Molly Prince is desperately trying to find her direction in life. That’s easier said than done when you’re distracted by a new puppy named Urusla and overbearing advice from parents who own the beachfront house you’re living in.

Max and Molly meet during a near-drowning incident and feel instant attraction, but their acquaintance is quickly put to the test when uptight Max decides an aquarium is no place for a mermaid and her puppy, with or without the lobster costume. His first day on the job is a disaster, and he realizes his rash decision cost the aquarium its heart and soul. The town points their justified anger towards him, and he almost caves, but there’s something about Molly’s attitude that puts his defenses back up. He sticks by his decision and tries to manage the financial mess in front of him without thinking about the blonde mermaid who happens to be his next door neighbor. When things start to look up thanks to a fundraising idea from Molly and the unique ability of her puppy to sniff out sea turtle nests, the pair realize they might have no choice other than working together. Will they be able to get along and save a business they both love, or has the sun set on their chance at both friendship and romance?”

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*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Sourcebooks Casablanca through NetGalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

I don’t often dive into the romance genre, pun intended, but “A Line in the Sand” spoke to my inner child. As a 90s baby and 2000s kid, I was obsessed with Aquamarine, H2O: Just Add Water, and Lisa Frank. Summers were reserved for waking up early and swimming in the pool for at least three hours. Needless to say Teri Wilson’s romance between a marine biologist and mermaid might as well have been plucked from the imaginations of millenials. 

There were side elements that gave this book potential as a nice summer read. The North Carolina island setting almost made me feel positive towards summer, which is a feat if you know me as the cold-loving November baby that I am. The snippets of the senior citizen activity agenda had me feeling exhausted; that lively group put my sedentary life on blast, and I’ll admit I felt shamed into being more busy. Ethel Banks, Opal Lewinsky, and Mavis Hubbard, known around town as “Charlie’s Angels,” were hilarious, always sticking their noses where they don’t belong and trying to move things along between a certain couple. My favorite part was learning about the day-to-day operations of the aquarium and sea turtle hospital. If the Angels are giving a tour with complimentary frozen Milky Way lattes anytime soon, count me in!

Unfortunately this is where the aquatic fun ends. Even though it was supposed to be the crowning jewel, the romance was a huge letdown. There was a muddle of tropes: several handfuls of enemies to lovers with a dash of fake dating and insta-love. I don’t mind tropes, but pick a lane if none of the scenarios are going to go far enough to be worth the time. Everything felt skin deep and not fleshed out enough to make me feel invested in Max and Molly’s relationship. I was left feeling “meh” which is probably why I felt irrationally irritated by the overuse of Ursula’s breed “Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.” I know that breed is special to the author, but I think Ursula’s adorable face on the cover and the first or second mention of the full name is enough. I also didn’t love Molly as a character, although her love of The Great British Bake Off was a redeeming trait. She came off as petty and whiny at times which annoyed me as someone who’s more like Max, very serious and a little awkward in situations meant to be loose and fun.

I was much more invested in the last fourth of the book and flew through it so my rating is rounding out to three stars. This was not a new favorite, but perhaps it will work for readers more acquainted with the genre. I would recommend this book to romance fans but only those who genuinely enjoy an easy, fluffy read. Think of it as the literature version of a Hallmark movie, and you should be fine. Play an ocean ambience video for extra beachy vibes!

-> -> -> -> -> OUT ON AUGUST 2ND! <- <- <- <- <-

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Content Breakdown: 

*Disclaimer: I read an uncorrected ARC so certain things might change in the final copy.

Alcohol: Rosé, Whisky, Wine, general mentions of alcohol, & one instance of being drunk

Language: Molly uses the term “lady bits” while referring to her mermaid tail.

Ethal, Mavis, & Opal wear sun hats to SandFest, two of which say “Cheers Beaches” & “Resting Beach Face.”

Ethel & Opal argue over a game of Scrabble because one of them wants to use “vayjayjay” as a word.

Steaminess: Ethel Banks remarks in chapter 5 that Max is “even more good-looking dry than he is wet,” referring to his appearance after nearly drowning at the dog beach. 

Max and Molly constantly admire and think about each other’s physical assets (i.e. Max’s abs & Molly in her clamshell bustier & mermaid tail). Their physical contact stays in the realm of hand holding, hugging, almost-kissing, & kissing.

Toxic Relationship: There are several mentions of Molly’s previous boyfriend who cheated on her.

Violence: Max has a complicated relationship with his Uncle Henry; in chapter 3, he’s upset & contemplates killing Henry for real, though it’s not a serious threat. 

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🌟 Find author Teri Wilson here:

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“Wretched Waterpark” by Kiersten White | Book Review

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“The Sinister-Winterbottoms are looking forward to a family summer, but their parents abruptly change the plans in the middle of the night. Twelve-year-old twins Alexander and Theodora and their older sister Wilhelmina are dropped off with Aunt Saffronia, now stranded at a strange house in the care of a relative they’ve never met for the next few months. It quickly becomes clear she has no experience with children so her suggestion to visit a waterpark is eagerly accepted . . . until the siblings arrive at the front gates and realize Fathoms of Fun is equally as strange as their new accommodations. There are coffins instead of inner tubes and mausoleums instead of cabanas; the waterslides are tongues jutting out of the mouths of gargoyles sitting atop a tall, dark tower. Alexander, Theo, and Wil try their best to enjoy the vacation they’ve been handed, but the kookiness is too much to ignore and leads them to a disturbing mystery: The waterpark owner disappeared inside the Cold, Unknowable Sea, otherwise known as the wave pool. When Wil goes missing following a lead, the twins are left to sleuth on their own. Will they be able to save their sister and the waterpark before it’s too late?”

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*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Random House Children’s Books through NetGalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

I grew up in the “A Series of Unfortunate Events” era so the cover of “Wretched Waterpark” was enough to grab me, but the synopsis pushed it over the top. Lemony Snicket’s famous series has been mentioned along with Scooby-Doo for marketing purposes, but allow me to enlighten you on something even more synonymous with the Sinister Summer series: the Addams Family.  *snap snap*  Aunt Saffronia is Morticia’s twin with pale skin, long hair, and a black dress that makes her appear as though she’s floating instead of walking. Fathoms of Fun is a dream, nay, nightmare for the lost souls in search of a resting place . . . pardon me, vacation spot. The mystery is simple and easy to solve for adult readers, but I’m not holding that against a book aimed at a middle grade audience. The macabre atmosphere and humor are immaculate, and the tease of book two has me jumping out of my skin in anticipation of the September sequel. My rating is five stars, and I’m urging you to walk, DON’T RUN, to pick up this book if the summer heat has you missing spooky season.

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Content Breakdown:

*Disclaimer: I read an uncorrected ARC so certain things might change before the final copy is printed.

Adoption: It is briefly mentioned that the oldest Sinister-Winterbottom sibling Wilhelmina is adopted.

Blood: There is a conversation about blood in chapters 12 & 13.

Dark Humor: The siblings have to sign paperwork before entering the waterpark, & it mentions drowning & lost souls.

Upset about the summer plans forced on her & her siblings, Theo says she’s “gonna walk into traffic now.” Alexander responds by offering to test out the sharpness of a knife on her hand. When Wilhelmina doesn’t respond in a responsible way, they wonder if texting her about getting matching tattoos or ingesting small doses of poison would get her attention. Later on the twins tell Wil a man offered them candy & a ride in his van, which receives the same distracted response.

Disappearance: The owner of Fathoms of Fun walked into the wave pool one day and never came back out; this occurred off-page but is described a few times. More missing persons are mentioned later on.

Spooky: If you’re trying to gauge how dark this book gets, especially for young readers, I would recommend you compare it to things like “A Series of Unfortunate Events” & Scooby-Doo but especially the Addams Family. That is the exact level of macabre atmosphere & humor the reader needs to be comfortable with. Expect a casual mention of coffins or a character with the surname “Widow” or a joke about death. If you’re curious about the direction of the series, the next book is about vampires.

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🌟 Find author Kiersten White here:

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– Lauren Michele ❤️

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“The Thursday Murder Club” by Richard Osman | Book Review

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“Every Thursday, the Jigsaw Room in Coopers Chase retirement village is reserved for The Thursday Murder Club and their cold case discussions. Each of the four members comes from a unique background: former spy Elizabeth Best, former psychiatrist Ibrahim Arif, former nurse Joyce Meadowcroft, and former trade union leader Ron Ritchie. Crime is exciting to dissect from afar, but when a murder happens on their doorstep, the club jumps at the chance to solve a case in real time, even if their input is unwanted by local police. They contribute life experience and wisdom, but the victim is the unpopular owner of their retirement village so the suspect list is endless, and every answer leads to more questions. Will Elizabeth, Ibrahim, Joyce, and Ron be able to bring the killer to justice, or is a murder investigation too much to handle for four seventy-year-old retirees?”

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Seeing rave reviews beforehand drove my expectations sky high, but thankfully I had a pleasant reading experience. The small English village setting where everyone knows everyone gave me the cozy mystery vibes I was looking for. Warning: Do not expect a thrilling amount of action! Aside from the descriptions and discussions of criminal cases ranging from smuggling to murder, you’re following four sleuthing seventy-year-olds who live in a retirement community. They’re plucky and capable of more than expected but still have their limits. If you align your expectations with the acitivity levels of Marple or Poirot, you’ll have a much better chance of enjoying this slow but steady mystery.

Despite more than ten characters and one hundred chapters, the Thursday Murder Club stays front and center, mentioned or appearing in approximately seventy-five percent of the book. Included in those ninety chapters are twenty-five diary entries from Joyce Meadowcroft, giving personal updates as the murder investigation moves along. Joyce is definitely my favorite character so far. She brings medical knowledge to the table as a former nurse, and I relate to her being underestimated just because she’s quiet. Using that to her advantage, she gets the inside scoop and spreads the word before you even know she was there. Turning lemons into opportunity. I love it! I’m assuming the next three books will feature POV chapters from the other club members which is a nice way to get acquainted with the main characters. I’m excited to learn more about them, especially enigmatic, former spy Elizabeth. She has secrets, and I want to know every single one.

Let’s go back to what I discussed earlier because the one element holding “The Thursday Murder Club” back from a perfect rating is pace. I’ve read and loved slow burn mysteries before but this time found my attention wandering every few pages. I had to purpose to sit down and focus because I wasn’t feeling eager to dive back in. Eventually I got into a reading groove and enjoyed the story, even getting emotional a few times. It was interesting to read about an age group looking at the end of their life and dealing with the circumstances that come with that. The main characters carry some heavy burdens such as disrespect from younger persons, loved ones with dementia, and grief over the constant loss of friends and acquaintances. That kind of subject matter makes you realize there is no age when you know everything, and your days are smooth sailing. Every phase of life come with its own set of challenges, and you will always be a student, learning through the ups and downs. Struggles aside, I’m so glad I picked this up because the age aspect was outside my comfort zone and thought-provoking. I’m settling on four stars and recommend this book to cozy mystery fans who don’t mind a slow burn and a tear or two.

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Content Breakdown:

*WARNING: This section of my review is thorough and might contain SPOILERS.

Alcohol & Smoking: Mentions of a bar/pub, beer, being drunk/tipsy, B&H cigarettes, brandy, cigarette & pipe smoking, cuban cigars, a flask, gin & tonic, whisky, & wine

Crime: Mentions of arson, drug dealing, money laundering, murder, robbery, & smuggling

Drugs: Mentions of cocaine, counterfeit viagra, death by overdose, drug addict(s), fentanyl, heroin, opioids, a syringe of parpobarbital, & unspecified drugs as well as a company used as a front for drug dealing

Blood & Violence: There’s a discussion in chapter one about the murder of a woman stabbed multiple times with a kitchen knife under the breastbone; the case is mentioned a few more times with added detail such as the victim being left to bleed out & die.

Brief mention of a hypothetical bullet wound in the shoulder

One mention of a scoutmaster burned to death

A character is described as the type to break your arms or kill you if things don’t go his way.

One mention of torching someone’s car because of an argument

A murder is described as it happens in chapter ten: the victim is hit on the left temple with a spanner, & the blood pools around the body. There are many discussions later on about the circumstances using terms like “bludgeoned” & “blunt force trauma to the head.”

There are numerous mentions and a description of a pub shooting that left a young drug dealer dead, the bullet piercing his stomach. The driver who helped dump the body was also shot as a precaution to cover up the murder.

One mention of a situation in which foxes were killing ducks so a man killed the foxes.

During a discussion about the murder case, the mafia & triads are mentioned.

The Thursday Murder Club inspects & discusses the bones of a man they believe to be a murder victim shot in the femur.

Description of a bullet wound in the leg that bleeds out & leads to death

Two instances of death by syringe

Death & Loss: One mention of a character losing his mother at the age of 19; she died of a stroke while alone in her home.

Chapter 88 deals with grief over the loss of a spouse

Illness: Multiple appearances by former Thursday Murder Club member Penny who is bedridden & hooked up to a heart monitor. Doctors suspect she can’t hear anything, but her husband sits with her daily, & Elizabeth frequently visits to share all the Coopers Chase gossip.

In Chapter 24, there is heartbreaking detail about Elizabeth’s husband Stephen who has some form of dementia. She takes care of him the best she can, simultaneously trying to keep her own mind healthy. He makes a few appearances throughout the book.

Misogyny: While having a business conversation, Ian thinks about the woman across from him, picking apart her appearance which disgusts him: her fifty-year-old face with no botox, her un-moisturized hands, & her wardrobe which implies to him that she’s given up on life. He manages to slip in the thought that they’re the same age, but men & women are different when it comes to age & aging. Major eye roll!

Language: Ars*, Bull, Chr*st, Chr*st’s Sake, D*mn, H*ll, J*s*s, Middle finger, Screw it, Silly sod, & WTF

DCI Chris Hudson says “OK, folks, I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” in jest, meaning he’ll share his latest discoveries in the case if his team will share their latest discoveries.

Joyce tells Bernard a story from her nursing days about a junior doctor who got his “bits trapped in a Hoover nozzle.”

One brief mention of a police interviewee with an “I kill coppers” tattoo

Prejudice: While scoring murder suspects including members of the Thursday Murder Club, a drunk Ron gives Ibrahim a seven, one reason being he’s an immigrant who the public views as someone who comes in & steals jobs. This is said in jest between friends but still a hurtful thing to say.

Religion: The retirement village Coopers Chase is built on the land of an old convent so there are frequent mentions of Catholicism, nuns, priests, & a statue of Jesus Christ.

There’s a major conflict over digging up the old convent’s cemetery Garden of Eternal Rest which holds the bodies of nuns who passed away while serving; some digging does occur.

While discussing a murder, Ron implies that the Catholic church is involved, saying they always have their hand in one thing after another.

Ron drinks a can of Stella beer while sitting at the feet of a Jesus Christ statue.

Sensual/Sexual: One brief mention of porn

Ron asks Ibrahim if he thinks Bernard is banging Joyce.

VAGUE SPOILER -> -> -> -> -> An intimate relationship from the past is discussed, a romance between two people serving the Catholic church who were supposed to be celibate.

There’s a discussion about the dating apps Grindr & Tinder; it’s mentioned that most use the app for one night stands, some single & some married.

Sexual Violence: After a Tinder date tried to grope her, Donna “punched him in the balls.”

A character tells a story about inviting a man back to her place where it’s implied they were about to sleep together before he, already naked, attacked her & ended up dead from self defense.

Suicide: Suicide by pills in chapter 88

Description of a discovered body in chapter 100, suicide by hanging

There are a few other brief mentions of suicide throughout the book.

Weight: A character internally worries that her daughter is too thin due to her new boyfriend.

There are a few mentions of DCI Hudson struggling to maintain a healthy diet & exercise routine, correlated to him not buying new clothes or going on dates. There’s a moment when he describes himself as overweight, & former nurse Joyce internally agrees, telling him out loud that eating after 6pm is the key to preventing diabetes. Later on he remarks that he’ll never be able to wear a tight t-shirt.

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🌟 Find author Richard Osman here:

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– Lauren Michele ❤️

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“The Woman in the Library” by Sulari Gentill | Book Review

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“It was a normal weekday morning, nothing out of the ordinary, until a woman’s scream echoed throughout the Boston Public Library. During the subsequent lockdown, strangers Cain, Marigold, Whit, & Winifred connect while sitting at the same table. They form a fast friendship & start spending more time together than apart. The library incident is initially ruled a false alarm, but soon after a body is discovered. Now the newly-formed group of friends is caught up in a police investigation, & it seems like not all of them are innocent witnesses. One of them might be guilty of murder.”

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*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Poisoned Pen Press through NetGalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

If you’re currently in search of a mystery that’s a thrill ride from the very first chapter, look no further than “The Woman in the Library. I hadn’t done much research before reading so the first nine pages were enough to hook me. The story lagged a bit in the middle but didn’t take long to pick back up. I finished this book in less than three days because I had to know what happens; it was all I could think about!

The first twist is common knowledge so I’m going to discuss it. The prologue is a letter from American writer Leo Johnson to Australian author Hannah Tigone; they’ve been pen pals for quite awhile but haven’t yet met in person. As a fan of her work, Leo politely but insistently asks for a new book, offering to be her beta reader. We now move into chapter one, setting up a story about four strangers connecting in the Boston Public Library during a police lockdown. After the final sentence, which is quite the enticing cliffhanger, we see another note from Leo to Hannah revealing that he’s test reading her new book. The main plot is her manuscript, & the side plot is her correspondence with Leo, though we only ever see his notes to her. I’d never read anything like that before & thought it was such a brilliant idea. I’ve seen a few reviews saying the line between fiction & reality is confusing at times, but I strongly disagree. It’s always very clear when you’re reading Hannah’s book & when you’re reading Leo’s letters. There is a clear question of how much inspiration she takes from reality, but I would call that intrigue rather than a source of confusion.

I want to give this book all the stars for it’s unique format, but the story did not completely deliver. The whodunnit reveal made sense but disappointed me; I thought there would be more to it, more connection to real life. Speaking of the side plot, there was less development as it went on, & the abrupt resolution was not satisfying. I do feel let down overall, but I must admit the final chapter left me with intriguing questions & theories floating around in my head. My biggest question is why Hannah ended her book the way she did; at the risk of sounding dramatic, that creative choice blew my mind. My final rating is three stars, & I still recommend this thrilling mystery despite an ending that fizzles. The format is a bibliophile version of Inception & fascinating to experience; you won’t be able to put this book down until it ends!

Preorder your copy now because the release date is not too far away: June 7th, 2022.

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Content Breakdown:

*Disclaimer: I read an uncorrected ARC so certain things might change before the final copy is printed.

Abuse: An abusive stepfather is mentioned throughtout the book; Chapter nineteen depicts verbal & physical abuse as well as attempted sexual abuse.

Alcohol, Cigarettes, & Drugs: Mentions of alcohol, alcoholics, bars, intoxication, cigarettes, & junkies; morphine & painkillers are also mentioned in relation to a hospital patient.

Blood & Violence: Multiple mentions of blood & blood splatter | A hypothetical murderer is discussed, the killer pounding his or her victim’s head into a hard surface. | Dead bodies described with bloody hair, cut throats, and/or injuries to the breast & pubic areas | Description of a young girl leaning over a lookout to take a picture & falling to her death because of a loose guardrail | One mention & two depictions of attacks that lead to head trauma | Two mentions & one depiction of a stabbing 

Insensitive Language:

A character makes racially insensitive comments about black people, such as being identifiable by living in a certain neighborhood or wearing hoodies.

A character from “It” by Stephen King is referred to as the “fat kid” who might get the “pretty girl.”

In reference to hospital janitors, a character says “Immigrants, they get the job done.” He’s referencing the musical Hamilton but is met with the response “That’s not less offensive because it’s Hamilton.”

Two men involved in a bar fight are described as “thugs”; their physical appearances are not described, but that particular word could be perceived as racially-motivated & offensive.

Language:

*$$hole

Chr*st / Chr*ss*kes

D*mn

F*ck / F*cking

Good L*rd

H*ll / H*lluva

J*sus

My G*d / Oh My G*d

Sh*t

Son of a b*tch

A bakery’s products are described as something that would “make you believe in G*d & willing to forsake Him at the same time.”

Sensual/Sexual:

A character removes her shirt to show off her tattoos; her nakedness is mentioned as well as the sight of her “small breasts.”

Some of the characters go to a restaurant called Oh My Cod which is known for sexually suggestive decor & menu items, a few of which are described. Someone from the group refers to the restaurant as a “sex shop.”

Someone is called a “courteous porn star” in jest.

There’s a detailed discussion about methods of murder that give the killer sexual gratification (i.e. A certain movement while sitting atop a victim or the motion & penetration of a blade).

Two characters sleep together; the scene doesn’t fade to black, but their intimacy is described with minimal detail. In another chapter, they’re in bed together, but nothing happens beyond the two of them waking up side by side.

Two other characters sleep together off-page; it’s mentioned in a conversation with very little detail.

Stalking: There is evidence of one or more characters being stalked: robbery, phone calls, text messages with photos of front doors, & a physical attack.

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🌟 Find author Sulari Gentill here:

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– Lauren Michele ❤

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“The Agathas” by Kathleen Glasgow & Liz Lawson | Book Review

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“Last summer Alice Ogilvie disappeared after her boyfriend Steve Anderson ended their relationship. Now she’s home, & it’s time to go back to high school. She tries to return to normal despite the curiosity surrounding her disappearance, but the mystery on everyone’s mind grows even bigger when Alice’s former best friend & Steve’s current girlfriend Brooke Donovan disappears.

Iris Adams has one goal & one goal only: get out of Castle Cove! She agrees to tutor Alice because it’s a paid job, but her pupil is too distracted by the latest news to get any work done. When a reward is offered by Brooke’s grandmother, Iris sees an opportunity to fund her trip & gives in to Alice’s desire to play detective.

When Brooke’s body is found, Steve is arrested based on convenient but flimsy evidence. Alice & Iris aren’t convinced of his guilt so they turn to the works of Agatha Christie to guide their investigation. Along the way they face personal demons, hard truths coming to light & threatening the integrity of their partnership. Are they truly prepared for the task at hand, or will the secrets of Castle Cove prove to be too dangerous for two amateur teen detectives?”

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*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Delacorte Press through NetGalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.

“The Agathas” was inspired by the Queen of Crime Agatha Christie, & it’s not just lip service in the title. Her iconic characters Marple & Poirot are mentioned throughout, & several chapters begin with a quote from one of her many novels. If that’s not enough, there’s a special blurb about Agatha’s success, & I’m pretty sure Alice Ogilvie’s disappearance is a nod to her own 11-day disappearance. I was excited to get my hands on this book because Agatha is my favorite author; for that same reason I was terrified to start reading because the standard was set so high. The pace started slow, & the teenage tone of the dialogue took some getting used to. But just when I was starting to feel like this might not be my cup of tea, the mystery consumed me, & I flew through the last three quarters of the book. 

There are two points-of-view: Alice Ogilvie & Iris Adams. I’m not sure how the chapters were divided between authors Kathleen & Liz, but the writing is seamless; the story is cohesive from start to finish while both characters remain unique & easily distinguishable from the other. I was pleasantly surprised by the addition of mixed media: Alice & Iris’ “Murder Board,” news articles, social media comments, text conversations, & transcripts from local news, police interviews, & press conferences. Those pages made me feel even more immersed in the mystery, like I was an Agatha too. I correctly identified the murderer & motive around the halfway mark, but I’m the kind of bibliophile who theorizes as I read so I wasn’t bothered by a spoiled ending. What did bother me is how the reveal happened; the location made sense thanks to excellent foreshadowing, but the interaction was a little awkward in places.

Despite a few cons, this book was a top-down, sea air thrill ride so I’m rating it four stars. I do recommend it to Agatha Christie fans, but only those who also enjoy teen novels; otherwise you might find yourself more annoyed than amused by the language & mannerisms of the youths. The coastal California setting reminds me of the Big Little Lies TV show so picture that with a teenage cast. If the result intrigues you, preorder a copy of this murder mystery right now. The release date is May 3rd, 2022.

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Content Breakdown:

*Disclaimer: I read an uncorrected ARC so certain things might change before the final copy is printed.

Abuse: Iris’ dad is abusive, & it’s frequently discussed in her chapters. There are several mentions of the time he broke her wrist. He shows up a couple times, disobeying the restraining order; near the end of the book he barges into the Adams’ apartment & physically harms Iris & her mom. He is attacked in self-defense, first hit on the head & then pushed down a flight of stairs.

Alcohol, Cigarettes, & Drugs: There are several mentions of alcohol & being drunk, & the bar where Iris’ mom works is mentioned & visited a few times. There is one mention of Lucky Strikes cigarettes. There are mentions of pills & weed as well as being high. Two separate times, someone’s drink is drugged.

Blood: Some of the characters wear cheerleader costumes on Halloween that are covered in fake blood. There are a few instances when a character bleeds from a head wound.

Language:

Apesh*t

A*$ / A*$hole

B*d*ss

B*tch / B*ches / B*tchy

D*mn / D*mmit

Dumb*$$

F*ck / F*ckboy / F*cking / Middle finger

G*d

G*dd*mn

Good L*rd

H*ll / Holy H*ll

Holy sh*t / Sh*t / Sh*tless

J*sus / J*sus Chr*st

Merde (French word for sh*t)

These can also be considered crude: Crap, Frickin’, Mother-Sucker, & What the F ( I don’t know if those last two will be changed in the final book, but they obviously replace What the f*ck & Motherf*ck*r )

Sensual/Sexual: There are a few mentions of condoms. Alice is shown a video of another character getting intimate with a boy from their school. One character exchanged nude photos & sexual texts with multiple people, some of which are recovered & described.

Violence: After the discovery of a dead body, an autopsy is performed off-page & discussed on-page. Crime scene photos are looked at, & the body is described in gruesome detail more than once. There is one past & two present car crashes which lead to head trauma. There are a few attacks during which a character is hit on the head. When the murderer is revealed, the murder is described in detail.

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🌟 Find author Kathleen Glasgow:

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🌟 Find author Liz Lawson here:

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Subscribe to my blog to receive email notifications, and check out my other links listed below.

– Lauren Michele ❤

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Be a Goldfish

VandeNoord, Krissie. Be a Goldfish. 2020. https://northstudio.design/products/be-a-goldfish-print.

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I said I would be back with news so here I am. I applied for another promising work-from-home job, only to find out the listing had been on the internet since mid-December; I saw a listing posted at the very end of December which is why I applied. There were 600+ applicants, & the company was already at the end of the interview process so there was a 0% chance my application would be looked at. MAJOR BUMMER! That was my second official rejection which doesn’t sound like much, but it is when you consider the time & energy required for the application alone. I also made two inquiries on social media which both ended with “No.” At the risk of sounding dramatic, my confidence is shaken, & I’m feeling defeated. I’ve cried myself to sleep more than once, & my stress levels are off the charts. The other day I tripped going up a flight of stairs, bruised my knee, & spilled coffee all over me & the carpet. I. BROKE. DOWN.

I know I’m coming off as a huge baby, but two months ago I left a retail job that was a constant source of toxicity in my life. I was mentally & physically ill day after day, week after week, month after month. I couldn’t take it anymore so I took a risk & left. I had enough savings to support me for a little bit so I switched on Vacation Mode for the last two months of 2021. Well, I was supposed to. Being the sick, twisted person that I am, I turned into my very best workaholic self & barely enjoyed the holidays, this being my first chance to do so since starting retail in 2015. I know, I have a problem. Boundaries between personal & professional life are not my strong suit. I would say I’m working on it, but lying is a sin.

Now that you know more about my situation, perhaps my reaction makes a little more sense. I’ve been very picky about where I apply because I REFUSE to get stuck at a job for five and a half years again. I’m two years away from turning thirty. I need a big girl job, a career that’s going to support me long-term. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a “dream job” because to me, that’s my blogs & YouTube videos. However, I want it to be something that fits me as a person, maybe even something that taps into one or more of my interests. I see girls my age with jobs they love. Artists starting successful small businesses. Disney fans working for Disney-centered companies. Readers working for bookish companies. In my head & heart, I know what I’m looking for is possible & not just a pipe dream.

Recently I had to set aside the job search because my part-time side job picked up. I have administrative & blogging tasks to catch up on; I’m also doing some social media work, which I’ve never done before. New experiences are always great for growth! That is consuming most of my time, & any spare minute is going into online content because I’m determined to make something out of my corner of the internet. That is where I currently stand. I don’t know what the next few weeks hold, but I’m doing my best to take it one step at a time with my head held high. After a disappointing finish at the Northern Trust Open last year, golfer Jon Rahm pressed on to his next tournament, the BMW Championship, & told reporters: “I must say, for all those Ted Lasso fans out there, be a goldfish. If you haven’t seen the show, you’ve just got to check it out. I feel like almost everybody knows. Have you seen the show? It’s basically [the] happiest animal in the world is a goldfish. You know why? He’s got a 10-second memory. I played great golf last week, just a couple bad swings down the stretch, and that’s the most important thing to remember.” That’s my motto for 2022. Be a goldfish! 🐠

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KXqWCLHgHg

“You know what the happiest animal in the world is? It’s a goldfish. You know why? Got a 10-second memory. Be a goldfish Sam!” – Ted Lasso

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– Lauren Michele ❤

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“The Matzah Ball” by Jean Meltzer | Book Review

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“On top of trying to please her parents, Rabbi Goldblatt and Dr. Rubenstein, and manage a chronic illness, Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt is secretly a best-selling author. Why is it a secret? Because she writes Christmas romance novels! When her boss requests a Hanukkah romance, Rachel isn’t sure she can find enough inspiration in the Festival of Lights to create the same magic as her Christmas books. Just when life couldn’t get any crazier, Jacob Greenberg comes back into her life, arriving in New York City to throw the ultimate Hanukkah party with his successful entertainment company. The two of them have very different memories of what transpired eighteen years ago, but one thing is clear: both of them walked away from that summer at Camp Ahava with a broken heart. Can Rachel work alongside Jacob long enough to find book inspiration at the Matzah Ball, or will the reappearance of her camp archenemy ruin the double life she’s worked so hard to maintain?”

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Jews come from so many different backgrounds, making our worldwide family equal parts incredible and meshuggeneh. Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt’s upbringing doesn’t mirror my own, but this messianic Jewish girl still found common ground and comfort in her story. Rachel’s dad is a rabbi so she grew up under intense scrutiny, trying to meet the high expectations of her family and community. I was nodding my head at every single sentence because my dad’s a pastor, and life as a pastor’s kid is the same as that of a rabbi’s kid; eyes are on you at all times, people scrutinizing everything you do and gossiping the minute something doesn’t meet their approval. I do not say this lightly: I get it. I totally get it! That’s the biggest reason why I connected to this book beyond surface-level enjoyment.

If you’re a fan of the enemies-to-lovers trope, Jacob and Rachel’s romance is for you. Thanks to miscommunication spanning eighteen years, they hold a grudge against one another for post-summer camp broken hearts. I am ridiculously persnickety when it comes to character flaws and couldn’t help feeling annoyed at the lies and secrets for no good reason. However, I fully understand that’s a major detail supporting the plot and don’t officially consider it a negative. Afterall, the conflict is what makes the ending that much sweeter. Sweeter than Sufganiyot!

For the most part, this book is a home run. Minor details were repeated when unnecessary, such as adult Jacob’s memory of young Rachel’s high ponytail and hot pink shorts (pages 56 & 78). Some Jewish phrases were explained while others were not. There are enough context clues to keep you out of the dark, but I can understand why it might frustrate non-Jewish readers, though I would encourage a quick Google search for the sake of education. In the final pages the onstage moment between Rabbi Goldblatt and his wife Dr. Rubenstein led to a sweet parent-daughter moment, but the set-up was too cheesy for my taste, the overheard dialogue unnatural.

There were very few negatives within 385 pages, but I’m leaving room for improvement because this is Jean Meltzer’s author debut, a mighty impressive one I might add. Four out of five stars. There is familiarity for members of the tribe and common ground for gentile readers. No matter who you are, it will take mere pages to feel like you’re wrapped in the cozy warmth of a Hanukkah blanket. Read this book with my blessing. Chag Hanukkah Sameach!

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💬 Favorite Quote 💬

“My journey of Hanukkah,” Toby said simply, “has spanned ninety-one years. I have celebrated this holiday in Germany, France, New York and Paris, all over the world with my grandson, during good times and bad times alike.” She quieted, a small sadness sitting there at the tip of her throat. “But what I always explained to Jacob is that these candles are a metaphor. They remind us that we always have a choice. We can be someone who snuffs out another person’s candle and, in the process, makes the world a darker place. Or we can be the type of person who spreads light. Better to be the shamash–one candle that lights all the others and brightens an otherwise dark world.” – Bubbe Toby Greenberg, Page 182

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⚠️ Content Warnings:

Grammar & Spelling
Page 107 – “Symbols” instead of “Cymbals”
Page 166 – “Kendell Jenner” instead of “Kendall Jenner”
Page 242 – “It that strange?” instead of “Is that strange?” or “Is it that strange?”
Page 307 – “Leaning into whisper” instead of “leaning in to whisper”
Page 354 – “Once Esther Shapiro is finished her set” instead of “Once Esther Shapiro has finished her set”

Language A$$ or Hard-a$$ – Pages 24 & 243 Bastard – Page 251 D*mn – Pages 18, 26, 27, 32, 106, 147, 191, 250, 260, 281, & 371 Gawd – Pages include 61, 206, 239, 294, 300, & 377 G*d (as a swear) – Pages 230 & 377 G*dd*mn – Pages 102, 147, 233, & 259 H*ll – Pages 78, 325, & 368 J*sus or J*sus Chr*st (as a swear) – Pages 22, 141, 162, & 205 Screw ‘Em – Pages 250, 260, 281, & 378

Sensual/Sexual Moments
Page 89 – Sensual inner monologue about a man’s body
Page 239 – Sensual inner monologue about a man’s body
Page 307 – One kiss
Pages 307 through 313 – Jacob visits Rachel’s apartment at night. It’s implied that they might sleep together, but nothing happens.
Page 371 – One kiss
Page 378 – One kiss, Jacob carries Rachel into her bedroom

Other Mentions of alcohol & drinking throughout the book plus an instance or two of drunkeness

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🌟 Find author Jean Meltzer here:

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– Lauren Michele ❤

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“The Latke in the Library & Other Mystery Stories for Chanukah” by Libi Astaire | Book Review

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“Thanks to a handful of nasty falls, mystery writer Agatha Krinsky is moved into an assisted living facility with the help of her nephew Sheldon. On her first day she gets lost and finds herself inside the library with a dead body. To her dismay, no one believes her story or offers to call the police. She is taken to the dining room where she meets Ukrainian PI Herschel Perlow, knitting enthusiast Miss Eppel, and husband and wife team Ronny and Rubles Bernfeld. As they take turns reminiscing a la “The Tuesday Night Club,” Agatha impatiently waits for another opportunity to bring up the body in hopes that someone will do something. Will her new friends help, or are they too distracted by their mystery-solving memories?”

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In my search for Hanukkah books, this short story collection caught my eye because Agatha Christie is my favorite author. I was excited to start reading but also nervous because those are big shoes to fill. I couldn’t help but smile at all the details added to make her characters and stories Jewish. The names and Yiddish vocabulary and mentions of Hanukkah were great, but the transition was not flawless. The mystery-aspect got lost in the shuffle, leaving behind more novelty than quality. I know this is a short read for the holiday season, but don’t promise me Agatha and not deliver on the intrigue.

It’s hard to rate something that tugs on my Jewish heartstrings, but I have to be honest. 3 stars for novelty and 2 stars for quality which averages out to 2.5 Stars. If you’re a Jewish Agatha Christie fan, this book is good for a one-sitting read and some fun. Don’t expect too much from the mysteries and enjoy it for what it is.

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If you’re not knowledgeable about the works of Agatha Christie, here’s a cheat sheet:

Characters

Agatha Krinsky – Agatha Christie

Agatha’s nephew Sheldon – Miss Marple’s nephew Raymond West

Ukrainian PI Herschel Perlow – Belgian PI Hercule Poirot

Miss Eppel – Miss Marple

Ronny & Rubles Bernfeld – Tommy & Tuppence Beresford

Inspector Haddock & his grandfather Sir Harold Withering – Sir Henry Clithering & his godson Detective Inspector Dermot Eric Craddock

Stories

“The Latke in the Library” – “The Body in the Library”

“Evil Under the Wick” – “Evil Under the Sun”

“And Then There Were Gornisht” – “And Then There Were None”

“The Olive Cracked” – “The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side”

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🌟 Find author Libi Astaire here:

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– Lauren Michele ♥️

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