The Lighthouse Witches, By C.J. Cooke ~ 5.0 Stars


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Thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Books for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: October 5th, 2021

368 Pages

Synopsis: Two sisters go missing on a remote Scottish island. Twenty years later, one is found–but she’s still the same age as when she disappeared. The secrets of witches have reached across the centuries in this chilling Gothic thriller from the author of the acclaimed The Nesting.

When single mother Liv is commissioned to paint a mural in a 100-year-old lighthouse on a remote Scottish island, it’s an opportunity to start over with her three daughters–Luna, Sapphire, and Clover. When two of her daughters go missing, she’s frantic. She learns that the cave beneath the lighthouse was once a prison for women accused of witchcraft. The locals warn her about wildlings, supernatural beings who mimic human children, created by witches for revenge. Liv is told wildlings are dangerous and must be killed.

Twenty-two years later, Luna has been searching for her missing sisters and mother. When she receives a call about her youngest sister, Clover, she’s initially ecstatic. Clover is the sister she remembers–except she’s still seven years old, the age she was when she vanished. Luna is worried Clover is a wildling. Luna has few memories of her time on the island, but she’ll have to return to find the truth of what happened to her family. But she doesn’t realize just how much the truth will change her. (Goodreads)

The Lighthouse Witches is the first book I’ve read by C.J. Cooke, but it certainly won’t be the last! Gaelic and Nordic mythology and other elements that I’m not going to name for fear of spoilers, are splendidly woven with Scottish history and witch hunts, and it had me utterly enthralled from the very beginning and wouldn’t let go.

There are three timelines involved: 1662 from a grimoire which provides key historical details that directly tie into the other timelines; 1998 which is from Liv’s POV and shows the events that unfold after she and her three daughters arrive on Lòn Haven; and 2021 which is Luna’s, the middle daughter’s POV, as she struggles with the trauma of what happened twenty-two years ago, as well as the new, frightening occurrences that are bringing the past to life. The characters are so realistically portrayed that I half expected them to walk off the page. They’re flawed, yet still sympathetic, and even when one of them commits a certain horrific act, (yes I’m being deliberately vague), I could understand the desperation behind what was done. 

Cooke’s writing is evocative, haunting, and beautifully detailed which helps bring the eerie Scottish isle of Lòn Haven alive. As for the plot, well, let me say to say that the word twisty doesn’t even begin to describe the different directions it takes. The final twist caught me completely by surprise but explained everything so perfectly I thought it was brilliant! The ending is bittersweet and poignant, yet brings everything and everyone full circle.

Honestly, I really can’t sing the praises of The Lighthouse Witches loudly enough. It’s one of the best books I’ve read this year, and as it’s been a banner year for fantastic reads, that’s really saying something. I recommend this for anyone who’s looking for some truly wonderful storytelling that will temporarily sweep them away.

Simone Biles, Sexual Abuse, and Mental Health

I have to share this thoughtful post from Brendan. While I didn’t watch much of the Olympics this year, Simone Biles of course was all over the news. The attacks on her for making a difficult decision not only in her best interest, but that of her teammates as well, was utterly vile!

Blind Injustice

Simone Biles. Agência Brasil Fotografias, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Content warnings: Sexual abuse, suicide

One of the major stories of the recently concluded Summer Olympics was how decorated American gymnast Simone Biles was ultimately not involved in several of the events that she qualified for as a result of her struggles with mental health. Reaction to this seemed a bit split: many praised her for prioritizing her mental health, while some critics thought of her as a quitter.

Just to clarify, I fall into the former category, not the latter. I think Simone Biles did the right thing in prioritizing her mental health, even if it meant missing some major events this Olympics. To do otherwise would’ve been a danger to her mental and her physical health, which is more important than any Olympic medal.

Yet, at the same time, it seems like there’s often been…

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Forgotten In Death (In Death #53), By J.D. Robb ~ 4.5 Stars


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Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: September 7th, 2021

384 Pages

Synopsis: In the latest novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling series, homicide detective Eve Dallas sifts through the wreckage of the past to find a killer.

The body was left in a dumpster like so much trash, the victim a woman of no fixed address, known for offering paper flowers in return for spare change—and for keeping the cops informed of any infractions she witnessed on the street. But the notebook where she scribbled her intel on litterers and other such offenders is nowhere to be found.

Then Eve is summoned away to a nearby building site to view more remains—in this case decades old, adorned with gold jewelry and fine clothing—unearthed by recent construction work. She isn’t happy when she realizes that the scene of the crime belongs to her husband, Roarke—not that it should surprise her, since the Irish billionaire owns a good chunk of New York. Now Eve must enter a complex world of real estate development, family history, shady deals, and shocking secrets to find justice for two women whose lives were thrown away… (Goodreads)

It’s hard to believe that J.D. Robb’s long-running In Death series is now up to #53, but with Forgetful in Death, here we are. In this outing there are two main mysteries to be solved: one involving a homeless woman known by many for her sweet nature and penchant for giving out origami figures, and the other which focuses on the uncovered skeletons of a pregnant woman and her infant.

As is often the case with this series, the identities of the villains are fairly easy to guess, but that’s not really important. What is, is the journey getting there and what it reveals about not only the victims and their killers, but Lieutenant Eve Dallas herself. Throughout this series Dallas has stood for the homicide victims whose cases cross her desk, no matter who they were or what their background. She leaves no stone unturned in her quest to bring the people responsible for their deaths to justice, and in doing so, allows them to rest in peace and brings closure to their loved ones. That continues to be the case here, and the way this story unfolds makes the title especially apt. 

As usual, Dallas is backed by members of her Scooby gang, although this time around it’s really just the ever-dishy Roarke and her stalwart partner Delia Peabody, who play integral parts in the investigations. I never tire of the interplay and dialogue between Dallas and the people she cares about, and as I expected there are some lighter moments to break up the darkness. The ending comes with justice being delivered to some truly abhorrent individuals who never should see the light of day again, and I took great pleasure in seeing them get their just desserts.

I’m happy to say that Forgotten in Death is another winning entry in this series, and I have no doubt it will please Robb’s legions of fans. I’ve said this before about the In Death series, but it bears repeating. Every time I pick up a book it’s like greeting old friends and family. Dallas, Roarke, Peabody, and the rest, are all characters I wish I knew in real life, but alas, I’ll have to console myself with reading of their adventures twice a year.

The Dangers of an Ordinary Night, By Lynn Reeves ~ 3.5 Stars


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Thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: November 9th, 2021

288 Pages

Synopsis: Perfect for fans of Celeste Ng and Megan Abbott, Lynne Reeves’ The Dangers of an Ordinary Night is an exploration of the explosive family secrets that are often hidden in plain sight.

On a chilly fall evening at the prestigious Performing Arts High School of Boston, best friends Tali Carrington and June Danforth go missing after auditioning for a play. They’re last seen in grainy, out-of-focus surveillance footage that shows them walking side-by-side. Two days later in a town south of Boston, Tali is found disoriented and traumatized by the ocean’s edge, while June is pronounced dead at the scene.

Tali’s mother, Nell, is so bent on protecting her daughter from further emotional harm that she enlists the help of Cynthia Rawlins, a renowned therapist for families. Meanwhile, Detective Fitz Jameson is assigned to the investigation and dives into the lives of high-performing students who may be harboring dark secrets.

As Nell, Cynthia, and Fitz confront their own contributions to the tragedies and scandals that beleaguer them, their lives turn out to be more deeply intertwined than they’d ever imagined. And they must decide what lengths they’re willing to go to protect the people they love while also saving themselves. (Goodreads)

Although The Dangers of an Ordinary Night wasn’t a perfect read for me, it was quick and entertaining and I wound up enjoying it for the most part. My main complaint concerns the characters (of which there are many) who are all unlikable and while they aren’t exactly one-dimensional, they’re not terribly complex either. As a result, I found myself unable to relate or emphasize with them as I would have liked. The plot itself fares much better and adding to the intriguing mystery is Reeves’ atmospheric style of writing. There is more than one crazy twist, and this, in addition to the fast pace, kept me turning the pages despite my issues with the characters. The ending is also a tad far-fetched, but not enough to spoil the story. The Dangers of an Ordinary Night has some flaws, but it still managed to keep me engrossed on a relaxing Sunday afternoon. I will definitely try the next book that Lynn Reeves comes out with.