Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

I used to be adamant about my distaste for Romance novels. I knew them as the Harlequin Romance novels my mom used to devour alongside Junior Mints on a quiet Sunday afternoon or the bodice rippers one of my friends used to have her nose buried in during high school lunches. I thought they were an inferior literary genre– simple, formulaic, and full of smut, which I did not want to read; in hindsight, I think that perspective was deeply rooted in internalized misogyny. Then a few years back, I read the Flat Share by Beth O’Leary, and my appreciation for Romance literature started to blossom. I’m still learning my preferences when it comes to the genre, so my experience is hit and miss, and unfortunately, my most recent venture into the genre with Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade was a big miss.

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Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick

Like many folks, or at least like the folks in my liberal echo chamber of the internet, I spent a fair amount of 2020 in lockdown unlearning everything I was taught in U.S. History class. Then I was, at some point, struck with the desire to take a somewhat-chronological deep dive into U.S. History and read nonfiction books from an array of perspectives. So, I started my journey with Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick. It’s a nonfiction novel that explores the national myth of the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock and the first Thanksgiving, the relationship between Native Americans and English colonists that degraded over time, and inevitably the deadly wars such as the Pequot War and King Philip’s War.

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The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Ever since I read My Best Friend’s Exorcism a few years back, Grady Hendrix has topped a very short list of Authors Whose Books I Instantly Buy Hardcover Copies of Upon Their Release, While Simultaneously Reading Their Backlist Books. The list of authors is shorter than the title… So, when the Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires was released, I told multiple people I wanted it for Christmas. It was the only thing I asked for, last year. Thankfully at least one person listened to me, and the book didn’t disappoint!

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Five Picture Books We Have Read for the 500th Time This Week

Oliver is sick. Again. Which means I am too. This also means Oliver only wants mom-and-dad-snuggles and comfort reads despite a teetering stack of library books we borrowed over the weekend. Here are five favorites that we are re-reading this week for the…well, I’ve lost count, really…

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Five Books that Teach Colors We Are Reading

Before Oliver, my experience with little kids was essentially ZILCH, and that’s being generous and rounding up. So, I’m always researching child development and monthly milestones, which to be honest, causes a lot of anxiety because from what I can tell, I’m doing everything absolutely wrong. However, I read recently that even if they cannot communicate it well, children start understanding different colors around 18-months old, which is right around the corner for Oliver. Of course, I couldn’t resist finding books that focus on color, so here are five books that teach color we are reading:

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Five Picture Books About Trouble-Making Farm Animals We Are Reading

Right now, Oliver is in love with farm animals and his new John Deere farm tractor toy that plays Old McDonald Had a Farm. It’s been fun to watch him play with it ever since he learned how to “drive” toy vehicles by pushing them around on the ground. I swear he didn’t know how to do that two weeks ago. To embrace his newfound interest in farms, we checked out a bunch of books about farm animals from the library. Here are five picture books about farm animals causing a ruckus (plus a bonus book to whip those silly farm animals into shape!) that we are reading this week:

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Five Picture Books About Winter We Are Reading This Week

Winter is officially here! Although, the weekly forecast might have you wondering if Jack Frost is taking a vacation this year. I can’t believe it was in the 50s on Christmas day here in Michigan! Normally, I love freezing temperatures and plush snowbanks, especially now that I don’t have to drive in inclement weather. It used to give me a purpose for embracing my inner hermit, but now that Oliver is a rambunctious toddler, I find we are going stir crazy from staying cooped up in the house. So, when thermometers rose into the 50s, Oliver and I made our great escape and walked to the library to read about winter instead. Here are five picture books about winter we are reading this week:

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Five Picture Books About Christmas We Are Reading This Week

Fact: Motherhood has ruined me, and I started listening to Christmas songs on November 1st. I think our Christmas tree went up the following week. In lieu of homemade Christmas cookies, because Oliver has an egg allergy, I stirred up a batch of rice crispy treats in which I dyed the marshmallow fluff green and red. And, I think I have watched a Christmas movie every other day since the beginning of December. So, of course, I couldn’t resist borrowing picture books from the library to keep Oliver and me in the Christmas Spirit. Here are five picture books about Christmas we are reading this week:

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The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

Years ago, I read Just Listen by Sarah Dessen, and what I remember most about it is how mediocre I thought the story was, and after reading through summaries of her other novels, largely formulaic:

  • Girl experiences some kind of hardship and withdraws from the world
  • Girl falls in with a new crowd
  • Girl meets a handsome teenage boy and starts to feel human again
  • Girl and boy have a misunderstanding and experience a falling out
  • Girl and boy makeup at the end and live happily ever after

So, considering my previous experience with this author, it’s strange that by the end of my first library visit in months, one of the books I borrowed was The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen. And even more surprising? I devoured the book in just a few sittings.

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Murder in the Mystery Suite Book Review

There is something so delightfully tacky about the book covers for cozy mystery novels. I especially love the book covers that have a beautifully illustrated background but then have other elements from the novel (say, books, a cat, a bicycle) photoshopped in from what I assume are stock photographs. They remind me of the hidden object games I became obsessed with my final year at college when I was avoiding attending my business law lectures. The textures seem a little off, but I find the book covers endearing and comforting, and this is probably why I couldn’t resist purchasing a copy of Murder in the Mystery Suite by Ellery Adams. Either that or it was the cat on the cover. I’m 100% more likely to pick up your cozy mystery novel if there is a cat on the cover as demonstrated here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Murder in the Mystery Suite (A Book Retreat Mystery, #1) by Ellery Adams

Released: August 2014
Publisher: Berkley

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Tucked away in the rolling hills of rural western Virginia is the storybook resort of Storyton Hall, catering to book lovers who want to get away from it all. To increase her number of bookings, resort manager Jane Steward has decided to host a Murder and Mayhem week so that fans of the mystery genre can gather together for some role-playing and fantasy crime solving.

But when the winner of the scavenger hunt, Felix Hampden, is found dead in the Mystery Suite, and the valuable book he won as his prize is missing, Jane realizes one of her guests is an actual murderer. Amid a resort full of fake detectives, Jane is bound and determined to find a real-life killer. There’s no room for error as Jane tries to unlock this mystery before another vacancy opens up…

It’s easy for cozy mysteries to become formulaic. Typically, the main character is a female, who is thrown out in to the world on her own after a recent divorce/break up with her boyfriend/death of her husband. She’s still getting used to life on her own, but luckily she has been able to turn her hobby into a career, so she has a distraction as she navigates her grief. Then, someone dies in or around her business, and she’s thrust into a situation where she has to figure out whodunnit.


  • the female lead has a cat (or maybe a dog to appeal to those other readers)
  • a potential love interest is introduced
  • if the female lead is new in town, she may be a suspect in the murder mystery
  • the setting is usually a very small town, where all of the townsfolk have been able to turn their hobbies into careers too
  • the female lead probably lives in an old Victorian-style home

Murder in the Mystery Suite had several of those elements, but then Jane, our heroine, discovers a family secret hidden within the walls of Storyton Hall that sets this novel apart from the rest of the cozies. What I thought was going to be my typical cozy mystery ended up having more action and adventure than usual complete with secret agents, a little bit of espionage, hidden rooms, and blow dart guns. Murder in the Mystery Suite was probably one of the most thrilling cozies I’ve ever read!

There were some inconsistencies, like the fact that this story takes place in rural Virginia, but all of the characters seemed prim and proper; I kept thinking the story took place in England. Also, Storyton Hall is initially described as falling on hard times, and yet the resort was able to invest enough money for a week-long Murder & Mayhem themed program complete with costume parties, multi-course gourmet meals, and Rolls Royce town cars to pick up attendees. If readers can look past that, Murder in the Mystery Suite promises readers a fun and engaging whodunnit. Mystery novel nerds will especially love all of the literary references made throughout the story!

Overall, I enjoyed this novel, and I look forward to picking up the second book in this series, Murder in the Paperback Parlor, in which Jane plans a romance novel themed week for Valentine’s Day.