Category Archives: Book Books Books

The Riddle of the Sphinx

In reference to the famous riddle on the three stages of the life of man, dear Reader sees Keyvan come of age as a privileged child during the Iran revolution, his escape to America where he attends Princeton as Eric and falls in love with the man he tutors, and his contemplation on his life in law and his marriage (to a woman) and children. Montagu weaves Keyvan / Eric’s tale carefully throughout the fall of the Shah, portraying the fears of the socially select, following Keyvan and his mother as they ride horses under cover of night over treacherous mountain paths, led by shady men of greed. In a dream-like transition, Keyvan is now Eric in Princeton, continuing his privileged life now as an Iranian-American student. Circling back to the beginning, Eric expounds upon the decisions he’s made in his life that have led him to this point where a chance encounter drops him back into his past. Montagu’s writing swirls around the story like fog, as though exposing relevant scenes, an intriguing stylistic choice.

A Lily in the Light by Kristin Fields

Esme lives ballet, and completely immerses herself after her little sister goes missing, becoming a professional ballerina. When her older sister calls with an astonishing update, Esme returns to her family to reconnect and start the healing process. Fields leads the reader through the mine field that is a family after a child is taken, focusing on the breakout child, the sister with talent in dance, and the opportunities opening up to forge her success. “What ifs” haunt Esme, and she feels isolated by her family’s perspective of her. The writing flows gently through the tension and the pain, coming to a screeching halt with the revelation that changes everything. Fans of Liane Moriarty, Diane Chamberlain, and Kerry Ann King will appreciate this novel and author.

Nine Cloud Dream by Kim Man-Jung

The “greatest classic Korean novel” by Kim Man-Jung follows a young boy’s rags to riches story that encompasses wives, concubines, wise men, scholars, and the military. One man lives an incredible lifein 17th century Korea, continously attracting the most beautiful women, many whose status makes them worthy only of positions as his concubines, and experiencing fantastical elements, such as fairies and dragons. It’s challenging to view this as a great romance from the modern perspective of the Me Too movement. Then at the end, it’s all a dream. Classics are not for everyone. I was graciously given a digital copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

And Then You Were Gone by RJ Jacobs

Paolo takes Emily, who has finally managed to get her bi-polar under control, out on his boat for a romantic date. After a wine-filled evening, Emily awakens to find herself alone on the boat. A roller coaster ride through the police investigation reveals a different Paolo, and Emily must work to prove herself innocent in this missing man mystery. Jacobs does a great job of eliciting sympathy for his unreliable narrator, and the twists and turns are credible and gasp-worthy. Fans of Catherine Steadman’s Something in the Water and / or Kelly Simmon’s Where She Went will appreciate Jacobs’ style of storytelling. I received a digital copy of this fantastic thriller from the publisher through NetGalley.

The Lieutenant’s Nurse by Sara Ackerman

Eva meets Lt. Spencer on the SS Lurline on her way to Hawaii, where her fiance and a nursing position await her in Pearl Harbor. Their story incorporates the real history of a mysterious message and government coverup exposing Pearl Harbor to attack. This is a good story even if you’re not a huge fan of WWII novels. There’s espionage, danger, injustice, and romance. The only niggle is the anachronistically feminist Lt. Spencer. The characters are complex, with multiple storylines blending seamlessly toward the inevitable end. I was graciously provided a copy through a Goodreads giveaway.

Rivals Break by Carla Neggers

Guests at a dinner party on a yacht in Maine end up in the hospital with food poisoning. The chef blames her carelessness in mushroom scavenging, but then discovers one of the guests was an MI5 agent and a friend of her father, who is a toxicologist in hospital in Britain dying of mushroom poisoning, blamed on his carelessness. Local FBI agents and MI5 colleagues, suspecting foul play, parse their communication, with intermittent inexplicable forthrightness. The constant repetition of characters’ main traits of being government agents blends them together in a brothy soup of spyness. Suddenly, there’s a culprit, with no previous hints or any indication of involvement, so that backstory must be thrust in awkwardly. I received a digital copy through NetGalley, where the synopsis provided no clue that it was 9th in the series, information only to be found at the end of the book. Perhaps if Dear Reader is already invested in these spy characters, this particular story would hold more credibility.


Carla Neggers is the New York Times bestselling author of the Sharpe & Donovan series featuring Boston-based FBI agents Emma Sharpe and Colin Donovan, the Swift River Valley series set in small-town New England and many other novels of romance, mystery and suspense. With dozens of bestsellers to her credit, Carla and her husband divide their time between their hilltop home in Vermont, a pull-out sofa at their kids’ places in Boston and various spots on their travels, frequently to Ireland. Learn more at


Undercover FBI agent Colin Donovan joins his wife, Emma Sharpe, an FBI art crimes expert, for his brother’s wedding in their fishing village on the southern Maine coast. When Kevin Donovan, a marine patrol officer, receives a call to check on suspected food-poisoning at a party aboard a yacht Colin, a former marine patrol officer, tags along.

It’s quickly evident this is no ordinary case of food poisoning. They’re dealing with a deliberate attack. Most of the victims are one-time associates of an imprisoned arms trafficker—a Russian national whose arrest the previous year was made possible by Colin’s undercover work and Emma’s art crimes expertise.

A rare, boutique deadly poison is responsible for the deaths and near-deaths aboard the yacht. From his federal prison, the trafficker claims to know nothing of the attack but he believes one of his rivals is responsible or at least involved. Whoever distributed the poison had to be on the yacht at some point and therefore was either a passenger or a guest. Given the nature of the weapon used, the attacker also would have to be highly skilled in handling its volatile, deadly components. Who made the poison? What was the purpose of the attack—revenge, greed, a message, ideological?

With more questions than answers, Emma and Colin enter the shadowy world of the victims of the attack. They discover someone is out to sell extremely dangerous poisons to organized crime networks. The trail takes them to an unlikely source.

Emma, Colin, HIT and their family and friends must stop the poisoner before he facilitates his next attack.


“Well-plotted, intriguing and set mostly in the lushly described Irish countryside, the novel is smart and satisfying.” —Kirkus Reviews on Declan’s Cross

“Saint’s Gate…is a fast-paced, action-packed tale of romantic suspense that will appeal to fans of Lisa Jackson and Lisa Gardner.” —Library Journal

An “intense, edge-of-your-seat whirlwind.” —Booklist on Liar’s Key

“Insanely sensational….engaging, complex, unforgettable.”
—RT Book Reviews, a September Top Pick!, on Liar’s Key

A “suspenseful, fast-moving thriller with plot twists and excitement to the delightful conclusion.”
—Reader to Reader, on Liar’s Key

“A richly atmospheric, beautifully drawn tale with echoes of Daniel Silva and even Dan Brown.” —Providence Journal on Liar’s Key

“Carla Neggers has long excelled at forging neo-gothic, brooding tales rich in setting and atmosphere. With Thief’s Mark, though, she ups the ante in fashioning a crime thriller of rare depth and complexity.” —Providence Journal

Meet Me in Monaco by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb

Grace Kelly brought British journalist James Henderson into French parfumeur Sophie Duval’s life when she hid in Sophie’s shop to avoid another paparazzi, setting in motion the tale of the star-crossed lovers, resurrecting the Duval family business, and laying the foundation for the parallel story of Kelly’s wedding to Prince Rainier of Monaco. Gaynor and Webb paint a lush, yet pragmatic picture of Monaco, the Monegasques, and the Princess, with foremost the blossoming emotions of Sophie and James, characters clearly not products of their time, but who stand out from the crowd. Francophiles, parfum lovers, and Grace Kelly fans will love this novel, though other readers will appreciate the descriptive details of the setting and the intriguing characters. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

Lucy Goodwin’s mother-in-law Diana died. A decade earlier, she’d imagined a mother figure once again in her life to counter the absence left by her mother’s death when she was thirteen. Instead, she met a future mother-in-law who seemed austere, disapproving, and unreachable, often leaving her in tears. Diana allows Lucy rare glimpses into her closely guarded heart and ultra private history. After her death, secrets surface, family dynamics shift, and Lucy and husband Oliver forge a new pathway, professionally and personally. Hepworth’s characters are realistic and compelling, eliciting emotional responses to impossible situations with muddled journeys toward resolution, as in real life. The story elucidates complex relationships, the ethereal nature of personal connections, and the dynamics of marriage and family. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy of this wonderful, well-written story from the publisher through NetGalley.

The Murder List by Hank Phillipi Ryan

Rachel North finds herself in a precarious situation, interning for Assistant DA Martha Gardiner, the nemesis of her defense lawyer husband Jack Kirkland, who warns his wife about the woman’s sketchy tactics to win at all costs. Gardiner in turn hints to Rachel of her husband’s ulterior motives, placing Rachel in a quandary as to whom she can trust. Gardiner then thrusts her into a cold case, the death of a young woman who worked under Rachel in her previous incarnation as a Senator’s Assistant. Alternating between the present and the past, Phillipi Ryan develops an intriguing, complex tale of trust, relationships, and marriage, and how a person’s breaking point can lead to murder. Fans of Andrea Bartz’ “The Lost Night” and Megan Goldin’s “The Escape Room” will appreciate the writing style and the wild ride to the finish. I was fortunate to receive a digital copy of this compelling murder mystery from the publisher through NetGalley.

The Freelance Academic: Transform Your Creative Life and Career by Katie Rose Guest Pryal

Katie Rose Guest Pryal elicits emotional responses not expected from non-fiction, especially a business guide to freelancing in the academic world. As she takes Dear Reader through her journey from “always the outsider” academic positions to the freedom of working for herself, she lays out the pitfalls she learned the hard way, and the joys of discovering a viable pathway through this gig economy. She’s frank and honest in this guidebook, that although marketed toward a specific niche, offers practical advice for anyone becoming their own company, with useful suggestions such as setting reasonable pay for your services and being your best advocate. Pryal digs deep into herself to empower her readers. As a novelist, academic author, and essayist, she’s a literary Renaissance woman. Learn more about her and her work on her website I was fortunate to receive this wonderfully written book of Katie’s own story from the author for an honest review.