What I Read: May 16-22

Full Throttle by Joe Hill: This is the third short story collection I’ve read this month, which is really out of the norm for me. Joe Hill is a great author but, like with most short story collections, this has a few hits and a few misses.

Under One Roof (The STEMinist Novellas #1) by Ali Hazelwood: I absolutely LOVED this little novella. Liam is a fantastic character, and the shorter length of this book worked perfectly for the story (a full-blown novel would either get repetitive or weighed down by unnecessary drama). Novella two comes out in a few weeks, and novella three is due in July – I’ll be downloading them to my Kindle as soon as they’re available.

Undercover Bromance (Bromance Book Club #2) by Lyssa Kay Adams: I really loved the first book in the series, so it’s a mystery why I waited a year and a half to read the second. This was delightful and hilarious – sure, the romance aspect is great, but the book club guys and their antics and interactions are what made me love this. I won’t wait as long to pick up book three.

Slightly Scandalous (Bedwyn Saga #3) by Mary Balogh: My journey through the Bedwyn saga continues (and this one had some great scenes with Wulfric and the rest of the family!) Freyja and Joshua are both incredibly unlikeable but I still enjoyed their story. This was vastly more interesting than book two, but not as lovable as book one. Not surprisingly, I have already requested book four on Libby.

Cop Town by Karin Slaughter: And thus ends my Karin Slaughter journey…at least until her next book comes out later this year. Cop Town was a great read, with some really powerful scenes that I’ll be thinking of for a long time (and one with a switchblade that I wish I could forget!) Karin also announced that a new Will Trent book is scheduled to release in 2023, so you have time to catch up (but seriously, start with the Grant County series!)

CURRENTLY READING: I’m about 15% into a historical romance I got via Libby, but I’m not sure I’m going to stick with it, so this section will just have to be a mystery this week.

What I Read: May 9-15

Unmasked: My Life Solving America’s Cold Cases by Paul Holes: This was absolutely fantastic. I already knew Paul Holes was a whip-smart and experienced detective, but his compassion and care really shone through in this book. A must-read for anyone interested in true crime as a genre. Thank you Celadon Books for the ARC!

Slightly Wicked (Bedwyn Saga #2) by Mary Balogh: This was such a drag compared to book one. I did not like Rannulf/Ralf as a love interest and, beyond the opening section, this was just so painfully boring. I do have book three (which focuses on Freyja) on hold and I should be able to read it soon. I am seriously determined to get to Wulfric’s book (which is the sixth and last in the series) but I was told that it’s more rewarding if you read the rest first.

A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire #4) by George RR Martin: This is BAD. It’s so boring compared to A Storm of Swords and to be quite honest, I gave up about 55% of the way through. However, I am counting this as “read” because I made it through more than 500 pages…I just couldn’t handle 400 more of a bunch of nothing. If you’ve watched the show, you could probably skip this one. I will read A Dance with Dragons (eventually) though.

Address Unknown by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor: This is a 60-ish page story written in 1938, and follows two friends as they write letters back and forth at the very beginning of Hitler’s rise to power and the formation of Nazi Germany. It’s powerful and pretty horrifying (conceptually, at least).

Make It Sweet by Kristen Callihan: Lucian Osmond is a former professional hockey player who loves to bake. If that doesn’t grab your attention, maybe this isn’t the book for you. I read this in the span of one afternoon, and really enjoyed the majority of my time with Lucian and Emma. A few parts dragged a bit for me, but overall this was really cute.

CURRENTLY READING: I haven’t started it yet, but I think my next read is going to be The Life We Almost Had by Amelia Henley. Thank you Books Forward PR for the ARC!

What I Read: May 2-8

When Things Get Dark edited by Ellen Datlow: After a few DNFs (right in a row, yikes) I found myself reaching for this anthology inspired by Shirley Jackson. As with most short story collections, I really enjoyed some stories, disliked a few, and found the rest to be pretty middle-of-the-road. If you are a Shirley Jackson fan, you’ll probably enjoy this. Each story adds an unsettling feeling to everyday life, and most feature the ambiguous, open-ended “conclusions” that are a hallmark of Jackson’s work.

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw: Another short story collection? Who am I? This one actually came after another string of DNFs (again…yikes). This is a quick read filled with heartbreak, humor and some incredibly thoughtful observations and musings on life.

Slightly Married (Bedwyn Saga #1) by Mary Balogh: I picked this up after the entire series came (sort of…?) recommended by someone online. This deviates a bit from what usually draws me to historical romance but I was INVESTED. This series follows the six Bedwyn siblings, and starts by focusing on Aidan (the second oldest) as he ends up in a marriage of convenience with Eve, as a way to honor her brother’s dying request. Aidan is gruff but honorable, and is a very Jane Austen-esque love interest. I already have book two checked out from Libby and I’ll probably be reading it this week or next. (Also, I don’t mind reading the entire series just to get to Wulfric’s book…)

The Rakess (Society of Sirens #1) by Scarlett Peckham: This has been sitting on my tbr shelf for quite awhile, and I’m glad I finally gave it a shot. Seraphina is a “Rakess” (if you read historical romance, that means exactly what you assume it does). She doesn’t apologize for the lifestyle she’s chosen, and is actively working to change society’s attitudes about what women should and should not be held accountable for (and ostracized for) compared to their male counterparts. There are a lot of great things about this book but it got a bit too melodramatic for me in the final chapters. I would consider picking up book two, however (whenever that happens to be released).

CURRENTLY READING: Unmasked by Paul Holes, which is easily one of the best true crime books I’ve read so far. I purchased a signed copy of this book, but also received an ARC from Celadon Books (thank you!)

What I Read: April 25-May 1

Giannis: The Improbable Rise of an NBA Champion by Mirin Fader: You do not need to be a basketball fan to enjoy this book! Giannis Antetokounmpo might be the most lovable pro athlete to ever exist. This is a pretty thorough biography, starting with Giannis’ childhood in Greece and taking us through his NBA Championship just last year. It’s heartwarming and funny, while also being deeply sad at times. Perfect for readers who love some good narrative nonfiction. Thank you Hachette for the finished paperback copy!

Big Rock (Big Rock #1) by Lauren Blakely: This was the right read at the right time – I needed something that would be quick and easy to read, while also being fairly lighthearted and fun. Big Rock is one of those books that probably isn’t what you think – it’s surprisingly sweet and Spencer, our male main character, isn’t as much of an asshole as he claims to be. This clocks in at less than 250 pages, so it’s in the read-in-one-afternoon category.

Gwendy’s Button Box (Button Box #1) by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar: This is the first book in a trilogy of novellas that follows Gwendy – in book one we meet her at the age of 12 and follow her through to her college graduation. One summer day, she meets a man in black (Constant Readers, you know him as RF, which varies depending on which book you’re reading…) who gives her a mysterious box that changes the course of her life. This was creepy without being too heavy-handed, and it was perfect as a novella – this would be a bit much as a full novel.

The Man Who Died Twice (Thursday Murder Club #2) by Richard Osman: I had a lovely time with my favorite octogenarian quartet, solving yet another murder. Much like the first book, this is packed with quiet, smart humor, interesting twists and turns, and thoughtful musings on friendship, old age and death. You don’t necessarily need to read the series in order, but i’d recommend it – the first book gets you acquainted with Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim in such a way that they feel like old friends. (And we’re getting a third book later this year!)

CURRENTLY READING: I’m in a mystery/thriller/horror mood at the moment, so I finally picked up When Things Get Dark edited by Ellen Datlow, a collection of short stories inspired by Shirley Jackson. Short stories aren’t usually my thing, so when i’m in the mood to read them I have to take advantage! Looking ahead, I might be picking up one (or two!) more short story collections this month.

What I Read: April 18-24

The Cherry Robbers by Sarai Walker (available 5/17/2022): This was a really interesting read, about a family of (seemingly) cursed sisters who are heiresses to a firearms fortune. I thought this would be a fictionalized version of the Winchester House story (seriously, look it up, it’s wild) but it was more of a gothic, 1950s version of The Virgin Suicides. It’s a slower burn at times (with some shocking moments sprinkled throughout) and it ends on a somewhat vague note and leaves a lot of unanswered questions. However, the atmospheric reading experience, cast of sisters and unsettling “wedding cake” house kept me interested from start to finish. Thank you Harper Collins for the ARC!

Chef’s Kiss by TJ Alexander (available 5/3/2022): Sometimes readers will complain that a book is all romance and no plot – well, Chef’s Kiss was somewhat of the opposite for me (but not necessarily in a bad way). Think of this more as contemporary fiction with a slow-burning romantic subplot. Simone and Ray are SO lovable (Ray is the epitome of SUNSHINE). I loved the cookbook/magazine publisher workplace setting (America’s Test Kitchen fans, this book will interest you!) and the overall plot was rich and well-developed. I think this was my first romance read with a nonbinary lead, and the representation is what matters most here. Thank you Atria for the ARC!

The Silent Wife (Will Trent #10) by Karin Slaughter: There was a point in this book where I had an idea of where Karin was taking the plot and I was so distressed and heartbroken about the mere idea of where it was going, and then SHE WENT THERE and for some reason, i’m not mad about it? After 16 books in two series that include a few overlapping characters, I think i’ve made it to the point where I would follow Karin over a cliff (metaphorically, of course). This book can be read as a standalone, but you’d be missing out on so much if you didn’t go back to the very beginning and start with the Grant County series. Did I just give you a 16-book tbr? Yes. Am I sorry? Not at all. Unfortunately, I am completely caught up with the Will Trent series now, and I only have one more Karin Slaughter book to read before I have to find another author to obsess over for a bit (Harlan Coben, you’re up next!) Thank you William Morrow and Bibliolifestyle for the finished paperback copy!

CURRENTLY READING: I’ve decided to do the simultaneous fiction/nonfiction reading thing again, so i’ve picked up The Captain of All Pleasures (Sutherland Brothers #1) by Kresley Cole alongside The Nineties by Chuck Klosterman.

What I Read: April 11-17

The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin: This is an absolutely lovely book about friendship and life and death. Have some tissues ready, but also be prepared for a heartwarming, sweet read.

Come With Me by Ronald Malfi: This book is interesting and well written, but completely misrepresented. Come With Me is classified as horror, but (in my opinion) it read more like a mystery/thriller with a handful of spooky elements. There’s a little bit of a twist at the end that’s clever, but ultimately this didn’t really serve up what I was looking for.

A Thorn in the Saddle (Cowboys of California #3) by Rebekah Weatherspoon: This came highly recommend and for good reason – it’s an absolute delight! This is my second Rebekah Weatherspoon book (I read Rafe a few months ago) and I appreciate the minimal angst and drama between the main characters (minor spoiler: no third-act breakup here, and it’s refreshing!) Thank you Kensington for the ARC!

CURRENTLY READING: I picked up The Cherry Robbers by Sarai Walker (available 5/17/2022) last night. I’m only a handful of pages in but i’m always down for a good gothic novel. Thank you Harper Collins for the ARC!

What I Read: April 4-10

Caste by Isabel Wilkerson: I’m a little late to the party with this one (it seems like everyone I know has already read this), but i’m so glad I finally picked it up. Caste reads smoothly, but the subject matter is difficult. I ended up reading this in smaller chunks, taking the time to digest Wilkerson’s writing (and also allowing myself to read a few lighter, less serious things in between). If you’re interested in an in-depth look how slavery’s ripple effect impacts our country today, this is a great choice. Caste feels very academic but without a heavy-handed, overly collegiate tone – Wilkerson breaks her findings down into digestible chapters and never makes the reader feel silly or uneducated for not knowing parts of our country’s history.

Who Is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews: Phew this was a RIDE! The tone of this book is unlike most thrillers i’ve read in the past, which made it feel fresh and original. I had some theories about where this would end up (I was partially right, partially wrong) but after it hit a certain point, I couldn’t wait to find out how it ended. Thank you Novel Suspects for the finished copy!

Galatea by Madeline Miller: I’ll buy and read anything Madeline Miller writes, so I had to order this short story (which is bound in the prettiest, tiniest little book). This is only 50-ish pages long, so it won’t do me any good to give you a recap. If you’ve enjoyed Miller’s writing in the past, give this a read.

Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson: Grown has been on my radar for ages. The ripped-from-the-headlines story follows Enchanted, a Black teenager with dreams of becoming a singer. Enchanted is BUSY – she’s an athlete, a high school student, and a big sister who steps in (more often than she’d like sometimes) to care for her younger siblings. A chance encounter puts her in the sights of 28-year-old R&B star Korey Fields, who immediately takes a liking to her (ick. I’m sure you can guess where this is going.) Although this was just a touch too YA for me (that’s a me problem, not a book problem – this is very clearly a YA book!) and there were a few aspects of the plot that I didn’t love, I think it’s an especially valuable book that shows young readers how easy it is for dangerous adults to manipulate and deceive teens (even when they think they’re “grown”).

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell: I have complained many times about struggling to find horror books that actually scare me. Well, thanks to The Silent Companions, I now realize that I have a splinter phobia.

Paradise Cove (Matchmaker Bay #2) by Jenny Holiday: I really enjoyed the first book in this series and found myself more interested in the side characters than the main couple, which made Paradise Cove a must-read. Jake is featured somewhat in book one, and we know he has an incredibly tragic past. Nora is new to town, and they quickly become friends. I liked this and would recommend it, but it includes a trope that I’m not particularly fond of. However, I definitely plan to pick up book three.

CURRENTLY READING: A Night to Surrender (Spindle Cove #1) by Tessa Dare

What I Read: March 28-April 3

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Steven Brusatte: As a dinosaur-obsessed kid from the 90s (Jurassic Park hit theaters the day before I turned six so it was pretty much fate), this book caught my eye a few years ago. And then…sat on my shelf for way too long. Fellow dino-loving kids, you need to give this a read (Brusatte’s casual but relentless roasting of T-Rex’s “teeny, tiny, laughably small, useless, weak arms” is just a bonus).

A Princess in Theory (Reluctant Royals #1) by Alyssa Cole: This story is one part The Princess Diaries and one part Black Panther with a dash of Cinderella, and it’s a delight. Thabiso is well-meaning, although a bit naive (being a sheltered, coddled prince will have that effect), and Naledi is a whip-smart, independent woman…who could stand to be vulnerable sometimes. A LOT happens in this book which was both a strength and a weakness – it’s a complete, well-rounded story with a very solid plot (and some great side plots!) but it did feel just a tad too long at some points.

CURRENTLY READING: Caste by Isabel Wilkerson and Who is Maud Dixon? by Alexandra Andrews (Thank you Novel Suspects for the finished copy!)

What I Read: March 21-27

Anne’s House of Dreams (Anne of Green Gables #5) by LM Montgomery: Okay, WOOF. I have absolutely loved this series so far (the first book is pure magic) and i’m not sure i’ll actually finish it… I was so excited for Anne and Gilbert to get married, and thought this book would feature a more grown-up version of Anne. Well…it does. But it’s so horribly boring. Gilbert is barely featured in this book and the “secondary” characters are in the spotlight. I’ve heard the next two books in the series are focused primarily on Anne’s children (and some children in another family) and I could not be less interested in those storylines. Unfortunately, I think my time with the Green Gables crew has come to an end.

Bombshell (Hell’s Belles #1) by Sarah MacLean: I’ve heard from many historical romance fans that Sarah MacLean books are top tier. Bombshell was really good – Sesily and her girl gang were fun characters (Adelaide and Imogen in particular!) and Caleb was a solid male lead. This dragged a little bit for me towards the end (some plot points felt a bit repetitive at times) but i’ll still give book two a shot when it comes out later this year. Thank you Avon for the finished copy!

CURRENTLY READING: The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Steven Brusatte

What I Read: March 14-20

On the Way to the Wedding (Bridgerton #8) by Julia Quinn: The Bridgerton series ended on a little bit of an odd note. Gregory is kind of the forgotten Bridgerton sibling – only popping up a handful of times (and really, for a sentence or two) in some of the previous books. This story is cute enough on its own, but it was a bit too drawn out and a little too lackluster for me to really have enjoyed it. However, I completed my goal of finishing the series before season two starts on Netflix, so i’m calling this a win.

The Ravenous Dead (Gravekeeper #2) by Darcy Coates: This was a decent continuation of the series, but I felt like it was a little repetitive in places (I enjoyed book #1 just a smidge more). The secondary characters still shine in this one, with one, in particular, stealing a scene or two towards the end. This is categorized as horror, but it’s really more of a cozy mystery with some spooky elements. Thank you Poisoned Pen Press for the ARC!

Busted (Will Trent #6.5) and Unseen (Will Trent #7) by Karin Slaughter: I have one more book left in the Will Trent series (book #10, since I read book #8 and book #9 completely out of order a few years ago) and I am DISTRAUGHT. Unseen was particularly upsetting because a huge part of the plot revolves around a much-loathed character from the Grant County series (but the book is incredible, as always. It’s a character you love to hate). PRO TIP: If you have not read any Karin Slaughter books, either pick up a standalone (I’d recommend Pretty Girls) or start the Grant County series from the beginning.

Space Junk (Space #1) by Sara L. Hudson: This was my most pleasant surprise of the week. I downloaded this book on my Kindle after it came highly recommended from a beloved friend (and it was only $.99, I think). This is a romcom, heavy on the comedy part – some moments had me laughing out loud! I’m also adding Flynn to my unofficial list of book boyfriends. The best part? There’s an entire series, featuring the supporting cast we met in Space Junk, and it’s available on Kindle Unlimited. My only dilemma is between purchasing the series on its own or finally signing up for KU again.

Danger on the Atlantic (Jane Wunderly #3) by Erica Ruth Neubauer: I’ll be honest – this is a cute historical cozy mystery series, but Redvers is really who keeps me coming back for more (he’s so dreamy. Think part James Bond, part Sherlock Holmes). Danger on the Atlantic takes place on a cruise ship, so there’s somewhat of a locked room mystery element at play. Thank you Kensington for the ARC!

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward: This was an odd book. I could tell it was written with the intent to perplex and confuse the reader, but I was pretty aware of the main “twist” right from the start. There are some really sad and awful reveals in the last bit of the book, but they feel a bit rushed and left without much explanation. Overall, it’s just incredibly sad – but worth a read.

CURRENTLY READING: I started The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab last night – I pretty much ignored this when it was getting a lot of hype, but I ended up with a copy of the book so I figured it’s worth a try. I like it so far, but i’m not even 50 pages in yet.