Holy cow, that was something this weekend, wasn’t it? I think all the colors ran on some of our books. It’s a good thing Sera and the otters are on a road trip, isn’t it? They would have melted. But, we survived the thousand-year heat dome event. We should celebrate by, uh, reading! Yes, that’s it. Let’s scoff at Nature and roll out the hammock. Get a pitcher of iced tea and a stack of paperbacks, and yes! This month’s Paperbackapolloza is the We Survived the Heat Dome and We Don’t Care How Trashy the Book Is, We’re Going to Enjoy It. 

First up is Quentin Tarantino’s novelization of his recent bombastic ode to the magic of Hollywood. Once Upon A Time in Hollywood is Tarantino’s first novel, by the way, and unsurprisingly, it isn't shorter than his recent film. And if you enjoyed his rose-colored fable of TinselTown, then you’ll probably dig this heartfelt love letter to a time in Hollywood when things were simpler. Sorta. It’s Tarantino, after all. 

The book design is spot-on, by the way. We could slip this in the vintage section and no one would ever think it wasn’t made then. Well done, design team. 

And let’s see what puns are trending this month. 

First up, we have Mocha, She Wrote, the latest Bakeshop Mystery by Ellie Alexander. As far as puns go, we’ll give this a 3, but that spooky steam rising off that tea certainly says “Murder Most Foul!”, so we’re going to have to rate this one a bit higher. It takes places in Ashland, Oregon, and while we appreciate all the local flavor in the marketing copy, we can’t help but insert “and then they burst into flames when they stepped outside” at the end of every sentence. Best to think of it as a whimsical fantasy setting and not get hung up like we are about the weather.

Also, the copy writer makes up for the lack of a punning title by going all out in the back copy. We were going to say “It’s grounds for . . .” but then we realized we're playing the same game. Nooooo!

Meanwhile, Janna MacGregor starts up a new regency series with A Duke in Time, which is overflowing with saucy heroines, lost dowries, and complicated family histories. Our earnest protagonist has been recently widowed, whereupon she discovers that her recently departed husband had several other wives. Whatever is this intelligent businesswoman—on the cusp of landing a sweet royal contract, to boot!—going to do? Well, she’s going to turn to her dead husband’s upstanding brother for help, because that’s not going to get complicated, right? 

Dear reader: it gets complicated. 

And speaking of complications, in Harper St. George’s The Devil and the Heiress, we’ve got sparks a-flying, scoundrels a-scoundreling, and all sorts of efforts to escape those dreaded marriages of convenience. 

Honestly, we’re starting to think that “a marriage of convenience” is actually a plot device and not a real thing. Much like the guy who shows up with a note from your long-dead father which tells you that a) you are actually the Chosen One and that he left you a fortune in gold, and b) it’s held in a forgotten temple and the Nazis are going to get to it first  if you don’t actually do something with your life. 

No? Just us? We must have gotten on the wrong mailing list somewhere . . . 

Anyway, The Devil and the Heiress is about a ravishing American heiress who runs away to London so she can attain her long-held dream of becoming an author, but she is followed by a wickedly charming and handsome earl who merely wants her for her money. Why? Because he has a terribly rundown estate he has to rebuild in Scotland. Oh, if only he could convince her to put aside these foolish notions of being adored as a writer . . . 

And speaking of fanciful notions, here’s Maisey Yates’s The Heartbreaker of Echo Park. Now, at first, we misread the copy and thought the protagonist was named “Shy Iris,” but then we thought: What a great idea. Every character should have their identifying adjective attached to their name. The titular heartbreaker is, of course, “Gruff Griffin Chance.” Now, imagine the first meeting between these two as proposed by this cover. 


GRUFF GRIFFIN: So, Shy Iris. What might bring you to this wholesome place? 

SHY IRIS: Oh, I . . . um . . . I . . . 

GRUFF GRIFFIN: It’s all right, little lady. I don’t bite . . . unless you want me to. 

SHY IRIS: Oh . . . uh . . . gee . . . 

GRUFF GRIFFIN: Are you my new tenant? 

SHY IRIS: I, um, I—-ohmygodyouaresoamazingandIjustwanttoripoff—

GRUFF GRIFFIN: . . . You don’t say . . . 

SHY IRIS: . . . Uh, rent is due on the first? 

GRUFF GRIFFIN: The first is fine. In cash, of course. 

SHY IRIS: . . . Cash? 

GRUFF GRIFFIN: I’d rather not talk about my mother, God rest her soul. 

SHY IRIS: Of course. Of course. ohmygodI’mgoingtodieofembarrasement—

Meanwhile, Bethany Bennett stirs up trouble with West End Earl, a Shakespearean twist on a Regency romance. There are disguises, debutantes, and acts of daring-do. There are forbidden romances! Secret identities! Love scenes that’ll melt the coldest heart! 

All right. Enough of all that. Let’s find something for the lads. 

Naturally, there are a couple options for William W. Johnstone (still completely dead), but we’re going to go with The Devil You Know, only because it features the character we will argue is the most ridiculously and yet perfectly named Johnstone character. That’s right. Stoneface Finnegan is back.

We’d also like to note that the Library of Congress subjects for this book are “Western Fiction,” “Serial Murderers,” and “Bars.” When you look at the central nexus of those three things, you’re going to see Stoneface Finnegan staring back at you. 

Okay, okay. We’re getting ahead of ourselves. Now, ole Stoneface used to be a Pinkerton, but he’s not doing that stuff anymore. He’s just running The Last Drop Saloon, where hard liquor and hard justice are served in equal amounts. It’s the sort of place where everyone knows their place, you know? Anyway, into The Last Drop comes Giacomo Valucci, who must be the villain with a name like that. What does Valucci want? To kill Stoneface Finnegan, of course. 

What? You need more plot than that? God, so demanding. 

Okay, how about Beauty Expos Are Murder? Libby Klein’s latest cozy follows gluten-free baker Poppy McAllister as she wrestles with unexpected secrets, a breakthrough anti-aging technology, glowing footprints, and a madman intent on murder. Poppy’s got paleo muffins and keto cookies for sale at her expo booth, and this weekend is going to be a bust if she can’t solve the murder. What’s a gluten-free baker to do? 

We know you have a very burning question you’d like to ask about Poppy McAllister, and yes, we think that what clinched that business loan at the bank was when she said that she would readily solve crimes as part of her day-to-day operations at the bakery. The loan officer smiled and noted: “Very aggressive plans for community engagement. Loan approved!” 

Meanwhile, here’s John Gilstrap’s Stealth Attack: An Exciting & Page-Turning Kidnapping Thriller. We are on the cusp of some serious subtitle marketing, dear readers. Next year, we are going to see books like “Explosions: A Thrilling Collection of Words That Lee Child Says Are ‘Astonishing” and “Kill Stabby: A Bunch of Plot Points That Jeffrey Deaver Says ‘Makes a Complete Picture of A Knife!” 

Fine, fine. We'll lay off about the ridiculous use of the subtitle field and focus on the marketing copy instead. Let's see . . .  “El Paso, Texas: Where drug cartels hawk their wares, and teens look for fun. 14-year Roman Alexander visits on a school trip, and doesn’t come back. His father, Venice Alexander, assumes it’s personal.” 

We have a couple of questions: First of all, Venice, maybe you shouldn’t have signed that permission slip for your kid’s school trip; second of all, maybe they should have gone somewhere else, like Chuck E. Cheese or something? 

Fortunately, Venice Alexander has access to Jonathan Grave and his team of covert badasses who know how to respond to school trips that go awry.


And speaking of weekends that go awry, J. Todd Scott is back with a standalone thriller. Lost River takes place in Angel, Kentucky, one of those forgotten places in America, where opportunity caught a bus a long time ago, leaving behind misery, hopelessness, and that certain listlessness that comes with smoking all that crazy rock. Scott follows three characters—all of whom are seriously flawed and desperate for some redemption—as the town is rocked with the vicious killing of an entire crime family. This is the sort of blistering noir thriller that will leave you wrung out. 

And finally, here is The Amish Quiltmaker’s Unruly In-Law, by Jennifer Beckstrand. Naturally, the presence of AQUIL is, by itself, a serious interruption in the daily routine of pleasant and mild country folk. But when you add a well-meaning matchmaking attempt into the mix, well, things get really out of hand. Will the In-law remain in the family? Will he still be unruly? Will the quiltmakers finish their quilts? Oh, if you want to know, you’re going to have to read this book and find out. 

Oh, we are the worst sort of tease, aren’t we? 

Overheard Outside Outopia »»

SERA: That doesn’t look like a tent. 

PODGE: It’s not a tent. It’s atmospheric groundling tubes. 

SERA: What? 

HODGE: It’s for navigating adverse weather events. You put these sticks in the ground, and then you make these hoops, and then—

PODGE: It’s like secret tunnels! But without all the digging. 

SERA: Tubes . . . 

HODGE: They use them for sled dogs in Alaska. 

SERA: What do these tubes connect to? 

PODGE: Other tubes!

HODGE: Tubes within tubes!

SERA: I thought you were getting a tent. 

PODGE: Hodge wanted his own tent. 

HODGE: I like my space. 

PODGE: And Ukelele suggested—

SERA: Ukulele?

HODGE: He was very helpful. 

PODGE: Our personal shopping assistant. 

SERA: I should have gone with you. 

HODGE: We’re fully grown. 

PODGE: We can shop for ourselves!

HDOGE: We got tubes!

SERA: <sigh> Okay. Load them up. 

HODGE: . . . 

PODGE: . . . 

SERA: Hmmm . . . 

PODGE: I say, Hodge. Where are we going to sit? 

HODGE: I was wondering the same thing, Podge. 


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