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2021 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama
- Alaska
- Arizona (1)
- Arkansas
- California (4)
- Colorado (1)
- Connecticut (1)
- Delaware
- Florida
- Georgia
- Hawaii (1)
- Idaho
- Illinois (4)
- Indiana
- Iowa
- Kansas
- Kentucky (1)
- Louisiana (1)
- Maine
- Maryland (1)
- Massachusetts (1)
- Michigan (1)
- Minnesota (1)
- Mississippi
- Missouri
- Montana
- Nebraska (1)
- Nevada (1)
- New Hampshire (1)
- New Jersey (1)
- New Mexico
- New York (4)
- North Carolina (1)
- North Dakota
- Ohio (6)
- Oklahoma
- Oregon
- Pennsylvania (1)
- Rhode Island (1)
- South Carolina (1)
- South Dakota
- Tennessee
- Texas (1)
- Utah (1)
- Vermont (2)
- Virginia (3)
- Washington (3)
- West Virginia
- Wisconsin
- Wyoming (1)
- *Washington, D.C.

International:
Australia (2)
Canada (3)
England (6)
France (1)
Ireland (1)
Switzerland (1)
The Philippines (1)
Wales (1)

My Progress:


28 / 51 states. 55% done!

2021 Fall Into Reading Challenge

My Progress:


0 / 24 books. 0% done!

2021 Children's Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

2021 Children's Historical Fiction Reading Challenge
(Hosted by Yours Truly!)

My Progress:


6 / 25 books. 24% done!

2021 Popsugar Reading Challenge

My Progress:


33 / 50 books. 66% done!

Booklist Queen's 2021 Reading Challenge

My Progress:


35 / 52 books. 67% done!

2021 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

2021 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

The 52 Club's 2021 Reading Challenge

My Progress:


39 / 52 books. 75% done!
Friday, May 28, 2021

Much-Hyped The Sanitorium Less Satisfying Than Hoped For

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

High in the Swiss Alps sits Le Sommet, a just-opened luxury hotel with a minimalist approach that showcases the jaw-dropping views to perfection.  The place should exude a peaceful vibe, but despite extensive remodeling, the building still holds an unsettling feeling left over from its days as a tuberculosis hospital.  Whispers of unease whistle through Le Sommet's newly-painted halls, hinting at its dark past...

The last place Detective Elin Warner wants to be is on a remote mountaintop with her estranged brother, but without a good excuse to skip his engagement party, she really doesn't have a choice.  As the assistant manager of Le Sommet, Elin's sister-in-law is eager to show off the new hotel.  Despite Laure's enthusiasm, Elin feels completely unsettled by Le Sommet, with its strange history and cut-off location.  The onset of a winter storm doesn't help her feelings of claustrophobia and disquiet.  On leave following a traumatizing case, Elin is supposed to be resting.  Le Sommet should offer the perfect refuge for her.  So, why does she feel so discombobulated?

When Laure disappears suddenly, Elin is immediately on alert.  The assistant manager is not answering her phone and the weather has made travel nearly impossible.  Where could Laure possibly be?  When Elin finds the gruesome answer, a startling truth becomes terrifyingly clear: someone in the hotel (or very nearby) is a cold-blooded killer.  While Elin collects clues, another woman disappears.  With no way off the mountain, all the hotel guests are in danger unless Elin can find a murderer—a murderer who just may be her own brother.  Racing against time, she must put all her rusty detecting skills to use before it's too late for her and everyone else. 

Locked-room mysteries set in isolated places are my jam.  Throw in inclement weather and a creepy old building and you've got my attention, 100 percent.  The Sanatorium, a debut novel by Sarah Pearse, combines all of these elements to create a compelling novel, the kind I usually devour and love.  Did it fulfill all my thriller-loving dreams?  Well...     

The novel is very atmospheric, with an eerie vibe that helps to keep the reader feeling wrong-footed throughout the story. I appreciate that in a mystery/thriller since it keeps me on my toes, always wondering whom to trust, whom to suspect, and what's going to happen next. Plot-wise, there's plenty of action to keep the tale moving. Although I saw the killer coming, I wasn't absolutely sure until the last third or so of the book. While their identity wasn't a huge shock to me, there were some other twists that caught me by surprise. So, although The Sanatorium is almost 400 pages long, it never got boring for me (I have heard other readers describe it as slow, however).

That being said, the novel's cast is almost wholly unlikable. Elin is sympathetic, but even she isn't terribly appealing. Nor is she very convincing as a detective. Although I get that she's supposed to be suffering from PTSD and her skills are rusty after a year's hiatus, she still seems awfully slow on the uptake. I also had a hard time reconciling the killer with their crimes. Neither the murderer's personality nor their motive really seemed to explain the very gruesome nature of the killings. I also felt like there were a lot of inconsistencies in the background of this novel—the hotel guests all seem way too calm, for instance.  Even Elin just kind of takes the events in stride, which feels a tad bit unrealistic.  All these things kept me from loving The Sanatorium, which ended up being only an okay read for me.  The epilogue seems to hint that this will be the first book in a series.  Would I read a sequel?  I think I would, although I can't say I'm chomping at the bit. 

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of Shiver by Allie Reynolds and One By One by Ruth Ware)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (1 F-bomb, plus milder invectives), violence, blood/gore, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of The Sanatorium with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: (More) Favorite Quotes About Books and Reading


I don't know about you, but I love me a good quote.  Funny?  Inspiring?  Beautifully crafted?  Astute?  I'll take them all.  When I come across passages I love in a book I'm reading, I usually just sigh over their awesomeness rather than actually writing them down because I'm just lazy like that.  So, when it comes to TTT topics like today's—Top Ten Book Quotes That Fit X Theme—I have to rely a lot on Google.  The ones I do tend to write down have to do with books and reading, because, books.  What more do I need to say?  Naturally, then, I decided to feature those today.  Oh, and apparently, I really like book quotes because I posted a very similar TTT list to this one back in September.  

If you want to join in the TTT fun, click on over to That Artsy Reader Girl for all the details.

Top Ten Book Quotes About Books and Reading 


"After my bedroom, this [the library] was my favorite place in the world.  It was carpeted, and had heavy bookcases and ticking clocks and velvet chairs, just like someone's living room.  It smelled of unturned pages and unseen adventures, and on every shelf were people I had yet to meet, and places I had yet to visit.  Each time, I lost myself in the corridors of books and the polished, wooden rooms, deciding which journey to go on next."



"One of my strongest held beliefs is that no one should ever finish a book that they're not enjoying, no matter how popular or well reviewed the book is.  Believe me, nobody is going to get any points in heaven by slogging their way through a book they aren't enjoying but think they ought to read."



"Storytelling was the most honored of all talents, for it benefitted everyone."



"When in doubt, go to the library."



"They had only ever discussed books but what, in this life, is more personal than books?"



"...bookshops are magic, and books are the road maps by which misfits find each other."

---from The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap by Wendy Welch



"Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read.  One does not love breathing."

---from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee


"Take some books and read; that's an immense help; and books are always good company if you have the right sort."

---from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott


"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid."

---from Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen


"Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten."


There you go, ten quotes about books and reading that I happen to love.  Which is your favorite?  What other quotes do you adore that fit this topic?  I'd love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I will return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT!

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: A Complete-ly Interesting Titular Trend


When I first saw today's TTT topic—Top Ten Book Titles That Are Complete Sentences—I almost skipped it.  It seemed tough and, frankly, a little boring.  Then, I started noticing how popular this titling trend actually is.  Turns out, this subject is way more interesting than I thought at first glance.  Using my Goodreads lists, it was a cinch to come up with ten books on my TBR list with titles that are a full sentence.  

If you want to perk up your Tuesday a bit, why don't you join in the TTT fun?  All you have to do is click on over to That Artsy Reader Girl to get started.

Top Ten Books On My TBR List With Titles That Are Complete Sentences


1.  She Lies in Wait by Gytha Lodge—I have this mystery/thriller out from the library right now.  A group of teenagers is on a camping trip when one of their members disappears.  When a body is found ten years later, the campers reluctantly reunite to confront each other and find out what really happened on the fateful trip.


2.  Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland—This historical novel is about the daily dramas of a family living in tight quarters in New Jersey.  When a young woman escaped from Nazi Germany comes to stay in their cramped apartment, even more drama ensues. 


3.  You Belong Here Now by Dianna Rostad—In Depression-era America, orphans from crowded cities are being shipped westward to be adopted by farm families who want children and/or need free labor.  Charles, who's tired of being showcased like livestock, decides enough is enough and jumps the orphan train along with two of his friends.  They happen upon a farm owned by a taciturn woman that just might be the home they've all been longing for.


4.  We Are Not Free by Traci Chee—Another historical, this YA offering is about 14 Japanese-American teenagers who are imprisoned in an internment camp during World War II.


5.  In My Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead—Like #1, this thriller features a group of friends whose lives are changed irrevocably when a member of their group is killed.  Ten years later, they're reunited.  Someone is determined to flush out the killer, to make sure no one gets away with murder.


6.  Lucy Clark Will Not Apologize by Margo Rabb—I heard about this YA contemporary over on Sam's blog, We Live and Breathe Books.  It features the titular teen, who is kicked out of her boarding school after taking action against the kids who have been bullying her.  As punishment, she's sent to New York City to be the full-time companion of an eccentric old woman.  When the lady insists someone is trying to murder her, Lucy finds herself tasked with solving a puzzling mystery.


7.  You Can't Catch Me by Catherine McKenzie—A psychological thriller about cults and catching an identity thief?  Yes, please!  


8.  Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri—This middle-grade book recounts what happened to the author when he was transplanted from Iran to rural Oklahoma as a young boy.


9.  Meet the Sky by McCall Hoyle—I came across this YA novel last week while looking for books for my survival story-themed TTT list.  It's about two frenemies caught in a hurricane on North Carolina's Outer Banks.  As they fight for survival, both of them learn important lessons about life and each other.


10.  I Will Judge You By Your Bookshelf by Grant Snider—Savage, but true!  This volume is full of comics about reading, writing, and the bookworm life we all know and love.  Sounds like tons of fun.

There you have it, ten books on my TBR list that have whole-sentence titles.  Have you read any of them?  Which other books that fit this topic do you recommend?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT!

Monday, May 17, 2021

Middle Grade Zoo Adventure a Fun Mash-Up of Genres

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Tornadoes are known for causing havoc and destruction, but for 12-year-old Lexington Willow, a tornado was the thing that brought her home.  Seven years ago, the biggest storm in Nebraska's history blew her into the zoo.  She was found near an elephant enclosure, watched over by Nyah, a 20-year-old African elephant.  No one has ever come forward to claim Lex, so she has remained at the zoo in the care of Roger, her foster father.  She feels so safe and sheltered by the place's familiar boundaries that she rarely leaves.  Her days are spent doing homeschool lessons; hanging out with her best friend, Fisher Leigh, who also lives on the grounds; and voicing train tours of the zoo.  Now that she and Fisher are finally old enough to help with the care of her beloved elephants, Lex couldn't be happier.

Lex has always felt a special connection with Nyah, but when the pachyderm sends her a telepathic message, Lex is puzzled.  The elephant seems to be telling her to go outside the zoo, into the woods beyond, to find the answers to the many questions Lex has about her past.  Is she crazy to listen to the advice of an animal?  As nervous as she is to leave the safety of her precious zoo, Lex feels compelled to follow Nyah's instructions.  When Lex makes an otherworldly discovery out there, she embarks on a magical adventure involving a ghost, a treasure hunt, and a mystery, all of which promise to lead her back to her own inexplicable beginning. 

Magical realism is common in middle-grade books, but to find it combined with a mystery, a ghost story, and a tale of lost treasure?  That's something special.  The Elephant's Girl, a debut novel by Celesta Rimington, offers this enticing genre mash-up along with a unique setting, two likable heroines (one human, one pachyderm), and an exciting plot.  Not only does the book educate readers about elephants, but it also teaches important lessons about humans' responsibility toward animals, kindness, the true meaning of family, standing up for one's self, and finding courage to do hard things.  The story is predictable and I didn't always find the magical realism bits convincing, but overall, I found The Elephant's Girl to be a delightful, entertaining book.  Young animal lovers looking for a fun, magical reading adventure won't be disappointed.


Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Elephant's Girl from the generous folks at Penguin Random House as part of an awards program I'm helping to judge.  Thank you!

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Promising Premise Doesn't Pan Out in Historical Mystery

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

I usually write my own plot summaries, but this one captures the essence of After Alice Fell by Kim Taylor Blakemore so well, I decided to use it instead...

Until she discovers the truth of her sister’s death, no one will rest in peace.

New Hampshire, 1865. Marion Abbott is summoned to Brawders House asylum to collect the body of her sister, Alice. She’d been found dead after falling four stories from a steep-pitched roof. Officially: an accident. Confidentially: suicide. But Marion believes a third option: murder.

Returning to her family home to stay with her brother and his second wife, the recently widowed Marion is expected to quiet her feelings of guilt and grief—to let go of the dead and embrace the living. But that’s not easy in this house full of haunting memories.

Just when the search for the truth seems hopeless, a stranger approaches Marion with chilling words: I saw her fall.

Now Marion is more determined than ever to find out what happened that night at Brawders, and why. With no one she can trust, Marion may risk her own life to uncover the secrets buried with Alice in the family plot.

The premise of After Alice Fell is simple, but oh so intriguing!  I love a mystery, especially one with a Gothic feel that centers on a creepy old asylum.  Considering all this, I expected to like the book more.  Problem is, the story moves along at a glacial pace, so slowly that I almost put it down several times.  The pace picks up in the second half of the novel, but it's still a bit of a slog.  In addition, the characters are off-putting and unlikable.  Add in a predictable plot that isn't nearly as twisty as I wanted it to be and you've got a tale that I wanted to love and just...didn't.  Although I had high expectations for this one, in the end it turned out to be an average read for me.  Bummer.

(Readalikes:  A little like Woman 99 by Greer McAllister)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, blood/gore, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of After Alice Fell from the generous folks at Lake Union Publishing via those at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!
Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: I Will Survive!


I love a beautiful nature scene, even if I'm more of an indoorsy person than an outdoorsy one.  Book covers often feature lovely landscapes, showcasing sparkling seas, vibrant flowers, lush forests, and so on, but I still couldn't come up with enough to make a decent list for today's TTT prompt, Top Ten Books With Nature on the Cover.  Even though I'm pretty wimpy, especially when it comes to nature-y things like hiking and camping, I do love me a tense, gripping survival story.  (Hu)man vs. nature tales, especially true ones, always captivate and inspire me.  So, for today's list I'm going to feature Top Ten (Hu)man vs. Nature Survival Books.  I'm going to start with five favorites (in no particular order), then five I am looking forward to reading.

If you want to join in the Top Ten Tuesday fun (and you do!), just hop on over to That Artsy Reader Girl for all the details.

Top Ten (Hu)man vs. Nature Survival Books 


1.  Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer—This popular account chronicles the author's climbing of Mt. Everest in 1996 during a terrible storm that led to the deaths of five climbers.  He uses his own harrowing experience as a framework to discuss the history of mountain climbing, famous climbers, what it takes to scale Everest, survival techniques, and so on.  It's an epic, unparalleled book that is can't-look-away compelling.


2.  My Last Continent by Midge Raymond—In this slow burn of a novel, a marine biologist is in Antarctica studying penguins.  Her boyfriend, whom she only sees on these annual expeditions, has not arrived as expected.  When she learns he is on a nearby ship that is sending out a frantic distress signal, she panics.  How can she save the man she loves in such a harsh, unforgiving landscape?


3.  The Watch That Ends the Night by Allan Wolf—I've read tons of books about the Titanic tragedy, but this one is the most unique and memorable.  Told in verse, the novel is lyrical and haunting.


4.  I Am Still Alive by Kate Alice Marshall—This YA novel concerns a teenage girl who's living with her estranged survivalist father in Canada after her mother's death.  When he's shot by intruders, she runs into the wilderness, where she's forced to both hide and survive.


5.  The Canyon's Edge by Dusti Bowling—Another novel in verse, this middle-grade offering revolves around a grieving father and daughter who go for a rock climbing adventure in the Arizona desert.  Things go awry, the two get separated, and a young girl is left alone to save both herself and her dad.  It's a riveting, fast-paced read.


6.  To the Bright Edge of the World by Eowyn Ivey—This historical novel stars Colonel Allan Forrester, who's charged with leading an expedition into the uncharted wilderness of Alaska Territory in the winter of 1885.  He keeps a journal of his adventure that he hopes will reach his pregnant wife in the likely event that he does not return.  


7.  A Map for Wrecked Girls by Jessica Taylor—Also a YA novel, this one is about a trio of troubled teenagers who get stuck on a deserted island.  It's been on my radar for awhile, I just haven't gotten around to reading it.  Yet.


8.  Lifeboat 12 by Susan Hood—Based on a true, Titanic-like event, this middle-grade novel tells the story of the doomed SS City of Benares, a ship full of children being evacuated from England to Canada during World War II.


9.  Avalanche by Melinda Braun—This YA offering features two sets of teenagers.  One group is trapped in a remote cabin during a snowstorm.  The other is their only hope of rescue.


10.  Instructions for the End of the World by Jamie Kain—Yet another teen book, this one is about Nicole, a girl whose prepper father moves his family to a remote area in the Sierra Foothills.  When living like a pioneer becomes too much for Nicole's mother, she leaves, prompting Nicole's father to chase after her.  When neither one returns, Nicole is left to figure out how she and her younger sister will survive in the wilderness.

There you go, ten books about surviving in the wild in the wake of disaster.  Have you read any of these?  Which books in the genre would you recommend?  Which nature covers did you choose for your list today?  I'd truly love to know.  Leave me a comment on this post and I will gladly return the favor on your blog.

Happy TTT!    

Monday, May 10, 2021

Shout-It-From-the-Rooftops Amazing? No. Engrossing and Enjoyable? Yes!

(Image from Barnes & Noble)


Note:  Although this review will not contain spoilers for A Trail of Lies, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from earlier Jazz Ramsey mysteries.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.

Jazz Ramsey is crazy about Nick Kolesov, her cop boyfriend.  His mom?  Not so much.  Kim's not only a lousy mother, but she's also an alcoholic with a flair for the dramatic.  So, when Jazz answers a phone call in the middle of the night to hear Kim raving about how she's just killed a man who was trying to break into her home, Jazz isn't sure what to think.  There's no evidence of trespassing at Kim's house, nor a body in the drunk woman's yard.  Most likely, her wild bender caused her to hallucinate the whole sordid affair.  The fact that Wally—the human remains detection dog that Jazz is training—finds no evidence of human decomposition on the property confirms it.

Then, a body is discovered in a local park.  Murder isn't uncommon in Cleveland, but what is weird is the photograph the dead man had in his pocket.  The snapshot clearly shows Kim holding an infant Nick.  Although Kim swears she doesn't know Dan Mansfield and had nothing to do with his death, Jazz can tell she's lying.  Who was Dan?  Why was he killed?  Although Nick insists Jazz stay out of it, she's not about to back down now.  She can't rest until she finds out what happened, why, and what exactly Nick and his mother aren't telling her.  

I've enjoyed all the books in the Jazz Ramsey mystery series by Kylie Logan and A Trail of Lies (available May 12, 2021), the third installment, is no exception.  While the main characters are kind of ho-hum, they're definitely likable.  Jazz's warm, strong bond with her family is palpable and is one of the highlights of the series.  The working dog aspect is my other favorite element, although I never feel like the canines get enough stage time.  As far as the mystery in this one goes, it's actually a lot twistier than I expected it to be.  I did not see the killer coming at all.  So, while there's nothing super original or shout-it-from-the-rooftops amazing about the book, A Trail of Lies is still an engaging, engrossing read that I enjoyed.  I'm excited to see where the series goes next.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other books in the Jazz Ramsey series, including The Scent of Murder and The Secrets of Bones as well as A Borrowing of Bones by Paula Munier)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), violence, and sexual innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of A Trail of Lies from the generous folks at Minotaur Books (an imprint of St. Martin's Press) in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

Saturday, May 08, 2021

Second Series Installment Almost As Gripping As the First

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Note:  Although this review will not contain spoilers for The Dead Season, it may inadvertently reveal plot surprises from its predecessor, Death in the Family.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order.

After certain decisions made on her last case, Shana Merchant—a senior investigator with the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI)—is on administrative leave pending a psychological evaluation.  Unsure quite what to do with herself, she's itching to get back to what she does best: work.  When the remains of her uncle, who disappeared twenty years ago, are discovered in Swanton, Vermont, Shana returns to her hometown.  While pondering her uncle's case, she learns that a young boy has been kidnapped near her current home in the Thousand Islands area of New York.  It's clear to Shana that the incidents are connected and that a challenge is being issued to her by serial killer Blake Bram.  He wants her to solve her uncle's murder in order to save the missing child.  With little choice in the matter, Shana begins two intense investigations that will lead her into the one place she never wants to visit—her past.

I enjoyed Death in the Family, the first book in Tessa Wegert's Shana Merchant series, so I was all in for the second installment.  Although the latter didn't suck me in quite as much as the former, I still found The Dead Season to be a tense, gripping read.  Shana's an intriguing character, so it was interesting to learn more about her childhood and her relationship with Bram.  Both of the cases she works in this one are compelling, with twists that keep the story from getting dull or stale.  The identity of Shana's uncle's killer caught me by surprise, even though it shouldn't have—when I thought back over the story, I could clearly see all the clues Wegert dropped along the way that I totally missed.  All of these elements make The Dead Season a compelling page turner.  It held my interest and made me even more eager to see where this engrossing series goes next.  


Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language, violence, depictions of illegal drug use, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Much Anticipated Rom-Com A Little Too Madcap

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

At 26, Meddelin Chan is playing the part of the dutiful Asian daughter by living with her mother and working as a photographer for the family wedding planning business.  It's not exactly what she had in mind for her future, but she can't allow herself to follow her cousins' shameful examples by flitting off to a more exotic clime in search of her own life, leaving her mother behind to cluck over her disloyalty.  Even as she yearns for freedom, Meddy has to admit she finds reluctant comfort in the way her mom and her mom's three loud, overbearing sisters fuss over her every move.  When a bad blind date takes a turn for the much, much worse, she knows exactly who to call.  Turns out, when it comes to hiding a body, her always-feuding, middle-aged aunties are better than the mob.  

Meddy's timing couldn't be worse, however.  With the biggest wedding of their career about to unfold, the women have to bring their A-game to the sparkling event.  Having a corpse along for the ride is not exactly helping.  Things become even more complicated when Meddy realizes her college boyfriend—the one she has pined for ever since their devastating break-up four years ago—is part of the wedding.  Then, the groomsmen get too plastered to walk down the aisle, millions of dollars in gifts go missing, a storm descends on the resort venue, and everything else that could possibly go wrong does.  A suspicious sheriff on the premises could mean the end of the charade and the incarceration of Meddy and her unlikely accomplices.  Can the ladies pull off both a flawless wedding and the perfect crime?  Or will they be planning their next event behind bars, wearing those oh-so-unflattering orange jumpsuits? 

Ever since I heard about Dial A for Aunties, a debut novel by Jesse Q. Sutanto, I knew I wanted to read it.  It just sounded like the perfect light-hearted blend of rom-com and cozy mystery.  Sure, it would be far-fetched and silly, but it also promised to be a fun, upbeat romp.  I've read a lot of dark, depressing books lately, so I was down for something different.  My verdict?  Dial A for Aunties is a fun read in lots of ways.  The "aunties" are definitely the highlight of the story with their constant bickering, hilarious malapropisms, and misplaced pride.  While little about the plot makes any logical sense, it is entertaining in its madcap absurdity.  I also appreciated the #OwnVoices aspect of this novel, in which Sutanto highlights her own Indonesian-Chinese heritage.  All of these elements combine to make the story humorous and entertaining.

I read mostly serious books, which sometimes makes it tough for me to really appreciate a kooky comedy.  So, while I found Dial A for Aunties entertaining, its quick transitions from silly to ridiculous to utterly absurd did drive me a little crazy after a while.  By the end of the story, I was very much done with the over-the-top-ness of it all.  Even in a screwball story like this, there has to be some logic governing the characters' actions, right?  Another thing that tempers the fun in this one is that it's actually very R-rated.  I was surprised to find F-bombs being dropped all over the place, as well as a plethora of innuendo and less subtle sexual references.  This just didn't fit the fun, cozy-ish vibe Dial A for Aunties seemed to be going for.  I admit to going into this book with unrealistically high expectations, which maybe contributed to me feeling (disproportionally?) disappointed in it.  Nevertheless, I found myself wishing for a less daffy, more PG version of this novel.  This opinion will probably make me an outlier in the book blogging world (which is totally okay), but for me, Dial A for Aunties was just an average read.  An entertaining one, just one that didn't turn out to be as satisfying as I wanted it to be.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of the Noodle Shop Mystery series by Vivien Chien)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language, violence, sexual innuendo and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC for Dial A for Aunties from the generous folks at Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

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