SILENCE OF THE JAMS by Gayle Leeson


Series: A Down South Café Mystery, #2
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: April 4, 2017
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★


In the latest Southern cozy from the author of The Calamity Café, small-town chef Amy Flowers can’t take her freedom for granted when she’s served up as a murder suspect…

It’s Independence Day in Winter Garden, Virginia, and the residents are gearing up for their annual celebration. The Down South Café is open and flourishing, and Amy Flowers is busy making pies and cakes for the holiday. The only thorn in her side is Chamber of Commerce director George Lincoln, who is trying to buy the café so he can tear it down and build a B&B on the site.

When George collapses while eating at the Down South, everybody assumes it’s a heart attack—until the autopsy declares it to be poisoning. Now, it’s up to Amy to prove her innocence before her liberty is lost.


One thing about reading this book: it had my stomach growling from cover to cover. All of the Southern comfort food Amy Flowers was cooking up made me so hungry.

Winter Garden, Virginia, is a charming small town, and Amy owns the popular Down South Café there. Once again, Amy is thrown into a murder mystery when another suspicious death occurs in the restaurant, and this time the victim is her adversary George Lincoln, director of the Chamber of Commerce.

This delightful cozy is part mystery, part family drama, and even a little romance, though luckily the investigation never gets lost in the drama — instead, they compliment each other. The mystery was well plotted and introduced several possible anti-George suspects.

SILENCE OF THE JAMS is a fun summer-themed cozy mystery full of yummy food and great characters. Enjoyed!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN by Charlie Donlea


Publisher: Kensington
Release Date: April 25, 2017
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★★


Nicole Cutty and Megan McDonald are both high school seniors in the small town of Emerson Bay, North Carolina. When they disappear from a beach party one warm summer night, police launch a massive search. No clues are found, and hope is almost lost until Megan miraculously surfaces after escaping from a bunker deep in the woods.

A year later, the bestselling account of her ordeal has turned Megan from local hero to national celebrity. It’s a triumphant, inspiring story, except for one inconvenient detail: Nicole is still missing. Nicole’s older sister Livia, a fellow in forensic pathology, expects that one day soon Nicole’s body will be found, and it will be up to someone like Livia to analyze the evidence and finally determine her sister’s fate. Instead, the first clue to Nicole’s disappearance comes from another body that shows up in Livia’s morgue—that of a young man connected to Nicole’s past. Livia reaches out to Megan for help, hoping to learn more about the night the two were taken. Other girls have gone missing too, and Livia is increasingly certain the cases are connected.

But Megan knows more than she revealed in her blockbuster book. Flashes of memory are coming together, pointing to something darker and more monstrous than her chilling memoir describes. And the deeper she and Livia dig, the more they realize that sometimes true terror lies in finding exactly what you’ve been looking for.


I enjoyed reading Charlie Donlea’s debut novel, SUMMIT LAKE, last year, and I’m thrilled to say that his second book, THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN, exceeded my expectations. It’s suspenseful, twisty, and chilling, which all together make for a riveting read.

Two young women were abducted the summer after their high school graduation. Megan escapes after two weeks, but Nicole is still missing a year later. What became of Nicole? Her older sister Livia is haunted by that question daily. While completing her fellowship to become a forensic pathologist, Livia wonders if a clue to her sister’s disappearance will end up on her exam table – and then suddenly, one appears.

I was fascinated by Livia’s job as a medical examiner, though I had to cringe several times! Yep, the autopsy descriptions could be gruesome, but clearly forensic pathology was well researched for this book.

The story jumps around in time, and is told from different POVs. What does Megan know about her time in captivity that her mind has repressed? There’s something dark and terrible in there that’s trying to get out. This was a puzzling and well constructed mystery that tripped me up more than once. The pace got faster as the story progressed, and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough as the pieces were coming together toward the end. Speaking of the ending, I thought it was perfect and haunting and fitting for this harrowing tale.

Second novels can be tricky, but Charlie Donlea knocked this one out of the park. Five big stars!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

AMONG THE LESSER GODS by Margo Catts


Publisher: Arcade Publishing
Release Date: May 9, 2017
Source: Review copy from Edelweiss
Rating: ★★★★★


For fans of authors like Barbara Kingsolver and Leif Enger, a stunning new voice in contemporary literary fiction.

“Tragedy and blessing. Leave them alone long enough, and it gets real hard to tell them apart.”

Elena Alvarez is living a cursed life. From the deadly fire she accidentally set as a child, to her mother’s abandonment, and now to an unwanted pregnancy, she knows better than most that small actions can have terrible consequences. Driven to the high mountains surrounding Leadville, Colorado by her latest bad decision, she’s intent on putting off the future. Perhaps there she can just hide in her grandmother’s isolated cabin and wait for something—anything—to make her next choice for her.

Instead, she is confronted by reflections of her own troubles wherever she turns—the recent widower and his two children adrift in a changed world, Elena’s own mysterious family history, and the interwoven lives within the town itself. Bit by bit, Elena begins to question her understanding of cause and effect, reexamining the tragedies she’s held on to and the wounds she’s refused to let heal.

But when the children go missing, Elena’s fragile new peace is shattered. It’s only at the prospect of fresh loss and blame that she will discover the truth of the terrible burdens we take upon ourselves, the way tragedy and redemption are inevitably intertwined—and how curses can sometimes lead to blessings, however disguised.


AMONG THE LESSER GODS is a beautifully written novel and an impressive debut from Margo Catts. I found this book browsing Edelweiss a few weeks ago, and there was something about the synopsis that called out to me. I’m so glad I gave it a chance!

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the story is set in 1978. The protagonist Elena Alvarez is a young woman stuck in limbo for a few reasons. She’s a new college graduate with no job lined up; she’s faced with an unwanted pregnancy and what she should do about it; and most of all, she’s still burdened with guilt over a deadly fire she caused as a child. The perfect escape comes in the form of a summer job caring for two children in her grandmother’s hometown of Leadville, Colorado.

AMONG THE LESSER GODS is a compelling, multi-layered story of family secrets, self-forgiveness, and new beginnings. Elena’s experiences in the small mountain town will show her she’s not alone in her quest for redemption. The writing was lovely, and I especially enjoyed the vivid descriptions of Leadville and the surrounding mountains. I could easily picture myself there. The novel wraps up with an emotional resolution as secrets from the past come to the surface. Wonderful book!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.