Recommended Summer Reads

Most of the books I have read over the past month can be classified as escapist fiction. Delightful, sometimes gripping, and at times preposterous, the following three novels will keep you reading for hours on end.

Here are my reviews:

Easily read in one sitting, this delightful novella is the perfect summer read. A seasoned storyteller, Ms. Jaeger excels in descriptive detail. I could easily imagine myself in the picturesque town on the New Hampshire Seacoast, partaking of the delicious food, in particular the ice cream.

The well-developed characters, crisp dialogue, and slow-burning romance between Tandy and Deacon kept me quickly turning the pages until the end.

A feel-good book!




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Ms. McCreight skillfully drew me into the lives of the characters that populate this domestic drama/murder mystery. Using multiple points of view, along with grand jury testimony, memos, and emails, she kept me on the edge of my seat from the first page to the last.

Contrary to what the title suggests, all the marriages in this book are dreadful. The residents of Park Slope (an upscale Brooklyn suburb) appear to have charmed lives, but they’re all struggling with their own demons: adultery, stalking, malicious hacking, substance abuse, and financial ruin. The unraveling of those well-orchestrated lives leads to murder and a final reckoning.

An unputdownable book!

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Intrigued by the idea of a hard-drinking “retired” hitwoman agreeing to help a classy female detective catch a killer, I couldn’t read fast enough to find out what awaited them in this gripping page-turner. I was particularly impressed by the first-person POV, quirky characters, dark humor, plot twists, and an unexpected ending.

It’s official—I’m now a fan of The Candace Starr Series and hope that Ms. O’Cinneide will deliver the next installment ASAP.







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Reading in the Time of COVID-19

I like to aim for a fiction/non-fiction balance in my choice of reading material. But during these challenging times, I find myself gravitating toward escapist fiction with intriguing storylines. This past month’s selections include time travel, domestic noir, and women’s fiction with historical elements.

Here are my reviews:

Intrigued by the premise of this delightful short story, I set aside an evening to read it. An excellent storyteller, Ms. Baron excels at descriptive detail. I could easily imagine visiting Florence and immersing myself in its culture.

As for the ‘What If’ scenario…I had no problem imagining a younger Kathryn Buckthorn emerge, toss aside her cane, and connect with a dashingly handsome Italian heartthrob.

A perfect distraction!






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Told from the perspective of Meredith, an abused wife and mother of two, this novel crackles with tension. Her husband Brian has uprooted the family from sunny California to a ramshackle house in the backwoods of Idaho. Lacking roots and a support system, Meredith fantasizes about Brian’s death.

When he is found shot in the head and left by the side of the road, Meredith is pegged as the prime suspect. A series of eccentric characters emerge, and unexpected twists follow as Meredith and Curtis, the handsome Sheriff, solve the murder.

I recommend setting aside large, uninterrupted blocks of reading time. You won’t be able to put this book down.

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Ms. Probst has crafted a powerful novel about a woman’s desperation and reawakening in the most unlikely of circumstances. A self-proclaimed nerd/owl, Elizabeth struggles with the many expectations of her roles as wife, mother, sister, and Ph.D. student.

Adding in the secondary story of Georgia O’Keeffe and her obscure Hawaii paintings was an inspired move on Ms. Probst’s part. A longtime admirer of the artist, I was fascinated by all the details provided in this well-researched, multi-layered novel.

I was also able to get into Elizabeth’s head as she made the decision to re-enact those famous nude photos.

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Book Review: The Book of Longings by Sue Monk Kidd

In 1999, Sue Monk Kidd considered writing a novel about the fictional wife of Jesus Christ but ended up talking herself out of this daunting task.

Fifteen years later, she mustered enough audacity to put pen to paper. After four and a half years of researching and writing, she produced a mesmerizing novel written in the first person.

From the start, Ana’s voice rings loud and clear: “I am Ana. I was the wife of Jesus ben Joseph of Nazareth. I called him Beloved, and he, laughing, called me Little Thunder.”

This was no ordinary woman.

Her father, Matthias, head scribe and counselor to Herod Antipas, suggests that her “talents were better suited for prophets and messiahs, for men who parted seas, built temples, and conferred with God on mountaintops.”

Her mother, Hadar, believes that a demon named Lilith had visited at birth and defiled Ana with unnatural tendencies.

Fortunately, Ana receives comfort and encouragement from her paternal Aunt Yaltha, a fascinating woman who experienced pain and tragedy but somehow found the courage to reassemble her broken life.

Inspired by Aunt Yaltha, Ana uses her formidable talents to chronicle the lives of neglected and silenced women. Her passion is evident throughout the novel: “To be ignored to be forgotten, this was the worst sadness of all. I swore an oath to set down their accomplishments and praise their flourishings, no matter how small.”

At age fifteen, Ana is forced to hide her parchments and scrolls and prepare for a betrothal to Nathaniel ben Hananiah, an elderly widower. At their first meeting in the marketplace, Ana faints and is rescued by a young, bearded man with remarkable eyes that exude generosity and kindness. Ana experiences an intense attraction: “My heart bounded up, along with an odd smelting in my thighs, as if my legs might give way once again.”

A series of unexpected circumstances (possibly manifested by Ana and Aunt Yaltha) follow, and the unwanted suitor dies from an illness. Considered a widow and defiled, Ana faces an uncertain future on the fringes of society. Another chance meeting with Jesus leads to a proposal. Anxious to be rid of Ana, her father gives his consent.

What follows is the author’s masterful attempt to fill that ten-year gap (ages 20 to 30) of Jesus Christ’s life. Ms. Kidd succeeds in demonstrating his humanity while downplaying his divinity. Jesus loves and worships God, but he is also determined to support his wife, mother, and family. Living in a crowded, multi-generational home has its challenges—limited funds, argumentative brothers, a resentful sister-in-law, a capricious goat—but Jesus rises above the fray.

The familiar events of Jesus’s life are retold through Ana’s eyes, as his wife and the sister of Judas Iscariot. Adding this twist to the narrative, created several subplots involving the conflicted man who would betray Jesus.

I highly recommend this compelling, multi-dimensional story about an extraordinary woman who refuses to be held back by a culture determined to keep her quiet and hidden.

Audio-Book Excerpt

Buy Links

Amazon (US) | Amazon (Canada) | Indigo | Barnes & Noble

Note: Sue Monk Kidd is hosting a virtual book club for The Book of Longings during the month of May. Find out more here.


Reading in the Time of COVID-19

During this challenging period, I find myself craving a daily escape into another world, one totally removed from the present reality. With the help of three amazing authors, I was able to escape into well-crafted novels that kept me reading well into the night.

Here are my reviews:

I struggled to put down this fascinating tale about two women from two different eras. While I tended to sympathize more with 1950s housewife Nellie Murdoch, I will admit that Alice Hale faces her own demons as she navigates a turbulent contemporary marriage.

Determined to launch a writing career, Alice finds inspiration in the most unlikely of places: Nellie’s cookbook and unsent letters. Intrigued by Nellie—who happens to be the deceased former owner of her new house in the suburbs—Alice cooks her way through the recipes and reflects upon the subtext within the letters. Not all is as it first appears in this character-driven novel filled with suspense and something possibly more sinister.

A thought-provoking book that will linger in consciousness!

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All the elements are there—intrigue, romance, and murder—set against the backdrop of Mystic Keep, a small town on the Pacific coast. Add in a hot human detective, a rogue warlock, an annoying vampire, sarcastic familiars, a mischievous young witch, and an unknown force of darkness…Protagonist Cassie Black (who also happens to be a witch) has more than her hands full in this second installment of the Perfect Brew Trilogy. Ms. Carson has expertly woven all these elements into a delightful tale that borders on fantasy and cozy mystery.

Well done!



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Captivated by the first chapter, I stayed up two nights to finish reading this character-driven novel brimming with suspense. It definitely helps to have an unexpected inheritance, hidden secrets and tunnels, an eclectic cast of characters, and a murder conviction that needs to be overturned. Set against the backdrop of small-town America, the book succeeds in completely transporting me to Sweet Iron. At times, it felt like Ms. Van Kirk had endowed the town with human characteristics.

An excellent start to an intriguing new cozy mystery series!



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The M.D. Writer-Mom

I’m happy to welcome doctor and award-winning mystery author Melissa Yuan-Innes aka Melissa Yi to the Second Act series. Today, Melissa shares her multi-act life and the Hope Sze Medical Mystery Series.

Here’s Melissa!


So far, I’m spinning three different careers simultaneously. I’m an emergency physician, which is my most stressful, high-stakes job. I’m a writer who professionally published her first short story and poem in medical school. And I, personally, wouldn’t feel complete without my children.

Medicine takes up the most real estate in my life. I was a perpetual student for a quarter century, memorizing facts, waking up at all hours of the night, and eventually making life and death decisions.

When I finally finished training in emergency medicine, I felt uneasy. I’d been shackled to a schedule, rotating from specialty to specialty and hospital to hospital, and now I could literally practice anywhere in the world, as long as I got the proper licensing and my husband agreed to it.

I told my friends, “It’s like the Simpsons episode where Homer goes up in space and smashes the terrarium, and as the ants go flying off in zero gravity, they’re chittering, ‘Freedom! Horrible, horrible freedom!’” Watch here.

In my heart, though, I knew what I wanted to do. The same thing I’d wanted to do since I was five years old. I wanted to write.

For that, I needed time and energy. Since 24 hour shifts are not conducive to creativity, I had to limit my emergency shifts.

I said to my husband, “Now that I’ve graduated, I can finally make money. That’s what everyone else is doing. Is it crazy that I want to write?”

Matt is an engineer who takes emotions out of the equation. He basically said, “You went to school for so many years so that you can afford to write.” He has offered to support me if I want to write, but I never really considered it. I wanted to be my own patron of the arts, able to support myself, my family, and my writing.

It means that I’m a relatively impoverished doctor. One of my friends made fun of me because she made more in six months than I did in a year. I wish I were a more productive writer. And my kids constantly complain that I don’t spend enough time with them, and were quite piteous as they waved goodbye to me yesterday, as I drove through the ice to my evening shift.

On the other hand, I am happy. I can and did run last Saturday’s night shift—and CBC Books selected Human Remains (https://windtreepress.com/portfolio/human-remains/), my latest medical thriller, as their top mystery pick for their holiday gift guide (http://www.cbc.ca/books/10-books-for-those-mad-for-mysteries-on-your-list-1.4442631).

Where to find Melissa…

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon

Sign up for Melissa’s newsletter here and get a free novella starring Dr. Hope Sze.

Joanne here!

Melissa, thank you for sharing your intriguing journey. I’m impressed by your work ethic and the number of books you have written. Best of luck in the future!

Intrigued by the author’s back story, I decided to read Code Blues, the first book in the Hope Sze Medical Mystery series. Captivated from the start, I found myself enmeshed in a medical drama that kept me up two nights in a row. From Ms. Yi’s vivid descriptions, I could easily imagine the dilapidated Montreal hospital and the conflicted characters, who struggle with boundaries and relationships. The murder of a beloved doctor sets in motion a riveting narrative that takes many unexpected twists and turns. I continually second-guessed myself as I attempted to identify the murderer in this well-plotted, character-driven novel.