What I Read: March 7-13

The Rebel and the Rake (League of Scoundrels #2) by Emily Sullivan: Rafe and Sylvia both have their secrets (Sylvia is hiding a scandalous past and Rafe is basically a SECRET AGENT). I enjoyed reading this but it’s a slower burn with a LOT of setup, which could be frustrating for some readers. Thank you Forever for the finished copy!

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee: Phew, okay. I really enjoyed this at first and then…it lost me. I found myself skimming sections towards the end because I just didn’t care anymore. The writing is very matter-of-fact, and although I recognized the tragedy of the events in this book, nothing really hit me, emotionally. Not sure if this one is for you? I’ll sum it up like this: no one in this book is happy. Nothing good happens. Life sucks, and then you die (or you watch all of your loved ones die). However, this has a crazy high rating on Goodreads, so maybe i’m the problem.

Mermaid Inn by Jenny Holiday: This was the perfect little romcom to pick up after the absolute downer that Pachinko was (see above). Mermaid Inn is a second-chance romance: Eve and Sawyer are easy to root for, and their reconciliation doesn’t come fast (or easy) but the payoff is worth it. There are a lot of lovable supporting characters in this book (including Sawyer’s buddies who are the focus of books two and three). I enjoyed this more than I thought I would, and i’m honestly a little peeved that the Mermaid Inn isn’t a real place. Great book for fans of Gilmore Girls (MAJOR Stars Hollow vibes here). Thank you Forever for the finished copy!

End of Watch (Bill Hodges #3) by Stephen King: Oh, Steve. This trilogy started off really strong and then sort of fizzled out. End of Watch as a whole is a great story, with a heck of an ending. Unfortunately, I was so through with the unbelievable supernatural elements that I couldn’t fully appreciate the good parts. I don’t mind supernatural elements (especially in King’s work, of course) but because this series started off grounded in reality, the wild elements of the last book seemed a little out of left field. As usual, this is still worth reading (especially for diehard King fans).

CURRENTLY READING: In an effort to finish the Bridgerton series before season two airs later this month, I am reading On the Way to the Wedding (Bridgerton #8), which is Gregory’s story. Gregory isn’t mentioned much throughout the series, so this one feels a little detached from the rest. However, it’s still relatively enjoyable and I am really looking forward to wrapping this up and moving on to some different historical romance series.

What I Read: Feb. 28-March 6

It’s in His Kiss (Bridgerton #7) by Julia Quinn: Hyacinth’s book has a little bit of everything: a secret diary (that needs to be translated from Italian), family secrets, hidden treasure, espionage, the infamous Smythe-Smith musicale and a lot of Lady Danbury sass. Gareth might be the second or third best male lead in this series (no one dethrones Michael Stirling, though – NO. ONE.)

Heart of Ice (Louis Kincaid #11) by PJ Parrish: I picked this up on vacation last summer, solely because i’ll always be interested in books set on Mackinac Island. Although this was published in 2013 it takes place in 1990, which I thought was an interesting (and maybe unnecessary?) choice. It’s a solid mystery overall – the plot is good but the execution is a little messy.

I Miss You When I Blink by Mary Laura Philpott: This was SUCH a pleasant surprise. Mary Laura Philpott and I might be long-lost best friends or kindred spirits – I saw so much of myself in this book. I also learned that she has another book coming out next month with a TURTLE on the cover and I NEED IT.

The Recovery Agent (Gabriella Rose #1) by Janet Evanovich (available 03/22/2022): I’ve recently turned to Janet Evanovich when I need quick, funny reads that are reliably ridiculous. Readers were introduced to Gabriella in Fortune and Glory (Stephanie Plum #27) and i’m pleased that she has her own series. The Recovery Agent was fun (and hilarious) but seemed a little disjointed at times with inconsistent pacing. However, I did enjoy the characters and will definitely give book two a read. (Thank you Atria for sending me an ARC!)

CURRENTLY READING: I’m about a third of the way through The Rebel and the Rake (League of Scoundrels #2) by Emily Sullivan and i’m enjoying it so far. Rafe and Sylvia are both wonderful leads and i’m excited to see how their story plays out. (Thank you Forever for the finished copy!)

What I Read: Feb. 21-27

Don’t Cry for Me by Daniel Black: This is a heartbreaking story of a dying father communicating with his son through a series of letters. It’s a quick, emotional read, but I found myself getting frustrated with the father’s excuses for his abusive behavior and was really hoping we would get some sort of perspective from the son at the end.

Hook, Line and Sinker (Bellinger Sisters #2) by Tessa Bailey (available 03/01/2022): I was so excited when this showed up in the mail (Thank you Avon!) I loved It Happened One Summer when I read it a few weeks ago, and I was really looking forward to reading more about Hannah and Fox. Although each book has its strengths (and weaknesses), both are really fun contemporary romance reads.

The Book of Accidents by Chuck Wendig: I should have learned my lesson when I read Wanderers in 2019, but I had high hopes for this book. There are some really great bits here, but ultimately the story is disjointed and there are a lot of (seemingly important) things that don’t get much detail and a few things that get way too much detail. The very end is really fantastic, but I couldn’t wait for this one to be over.

The Whispering Dead (Gravekeeper #1) by Darcy Coates: I read my first book by Darcy Coates (The Haunting of Leigh Harker) and absolutely LOVED it, so I was excited to start this series. I think I need to manage expectations for this book: this is NOT horror. It’s more of a cozy mystery-ish story with some spooky elements (yay ghosts!) The pacing is a little off, but overall it’s a fun, quick read with a really lovable cast of characters. I also have an early copy of book two, The Ravenous Dead (available 03/15/2022), sitting on my shelf (Thank you Poisoned Pen Press!)

CURRENTLY READING: In an effort to finally finish the Bridgerton series, I’ve picked up It’s in His Kiss (Bridgerton #7) by Julia Quinn and i’m loving it so far. Hyacinth and Gareth are both delightful characters, and i’m always ready for more Lady Danbury content.

What I Read: Feb. 14-20

All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle: Equal parts uplifting and heartbreaking, this book is an absolute delight. I dare you not to fall in love with Hubert Bird, Puss and the entire cast of characters (I won’t say too much, to avoid spoilers).

A Big Surprise for Valentine’s Day (Holidays with the Wongs #4) by Jackie Lau: This little novella was…fine. I really enjoyed some parts and really didn’t love others. Overall, it’s short enough that i’d recommend it to anyone looking for a steamy little story without a ton of depth (each novella in this series focuses on a different holiday so they could be fun, short reads perfect for specific months of the year).

When He Was Wicked (Bridgerton #6) by Julia Quinn: Thank GOODNESS for Michael Stirling, who has singlehandedly saved the Bridgerton series for me. After Eloise’s story (To Sir Phillip, With Love) was a major downer (Sir Phillip, kindly piss off), When He Was Wicked was a pleasant reminder of what I love about this series. It immediately has taken the top spot in my Bridgerton ranking (with The Viscount Who Loved Me at a close second). I’m planning to finish the series before season two premieres on Netflix in late March, and I have tentative high hopes for books seven and eight.

Snatched (Will Trent #5.5) and Criminal (Will Trent #6) by Karin Slaughter: I love Karin Slaughter, I love Will Trent, I love Sara Linton, I love Amanda and Faith and all of the wonderful side characters in this series. My Karin Slaughter tbr is rapidly shrinking (I have three unread Slaughter books, not counting her yet-to-be-released 2022 novel) and I’m not sure how i’m going to cope when I have to WAIT for her to write more books.

Thick and Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom: A collection of six intelligent, thoughtful essays examining what it means to be a Black woman in the United States, through the author’s own life experiences. There’s a good dose of smart humor here, and she packs a LOT into a relatively short book.

The Match (Wilde #2) by Harlan Coben (available 03/15/2022): I say this without exaggeration: every single time I read a Harlan Coben book, I finish it in less than 24 hours. Every. Single. Time. (Usually less than 12, if i’m being completely honest). This book was no exception. You might want to read The Boy From the Woods and The Stranger before picking this one up. (Thank you Atria for the ARC of The Match!)

CURRENTLY READING: I have just started to read To Marry and to Meddle (available 04/05/2022) by Martha Waters on my Kindle — I didn’t love the first book in the series and have not read the second, but so far it’s not too bad (however, that’s easy to say 8% in).

What I Read: Feb. 7-13

Finder Keepers (Bill Hodges Trilogy #2) by Stephen King: Given the story and pace of the first book in the trilogy, Finders Keepers was a bit different than anticipated. However, it was a quick read that kept me interested, and I absolutely loved the way the ending provided a hell of a setup for book three.

Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford: This memoir was an absolute gut punch. I was interested in reading about Ford’s relationship with her dad, who was incarcerated for a few decades beginning when Ford was very young. However, I did not anticipate that I would find so many relatable passages and stories within the pages of this book. Tread lightly if you’re a sensitive reader, there are a lot of content warnings for this one.

The Secrets We Share by Edwin Hill (available 03/29/2022): After loving Watch Her by Edwin Hill, I jumped on the chance to read his newest mystery/thriller. The story is fast-paced and twisty, and Hill was able to shock me a few times (as a longtime thriller reader, it’s delightful when a plot twist catches me off guard!) Special thanks to the author for sending me a NetGalley ARC of this book.

Take a Hint, Dani Brown (The Brown Sisters #2) by Talia Hibbert: Who doesn’t love the Brown sisters? It took me a little bit too long to finish this trilogy (I read Get a Life, Chloe Brown in early 2020) but I thoroughly enjoyed each book. Although Chloe is still my favorite Brown sister, Zaf is my favorite love interest – he’s a DELIGHT (I mean, a rugby-playing, romance-reading hero who is working to dismantle toxic masculinity? Yes.)

The Stranger by Harlan Coben: After falling down one hell of a Harlan Coben rabbit hole while reading The Boy From the Woods, I quickly ordered a copy of The Stranger to prepare myself for reading his upcoming release, The Match (available 03/15/2022). It comes down to this: characters from other Coben books are mentioned, “the stranger” apparently plays a part in The Match and, to be honest, I don’t really need any excuses to read more of his books to begin with. In this particular book, “the stranger” approaches you and tells you something that immediately begins to unravel the life you have built for yourself. It was a slower burn (at least, for me) but the ending is brutal (and i’m so glad he went there).

CURRENTLY READING: I’m just over halfway through All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle, a lovable curmudgeon story much like A Man Called Ove.

REVIEW – The Summoning by J.P. Smith

“There were no such things as ghosts. There was just memory and suggestion.”

Kit, a widow whose husband died on 9/11, is trying to make ends meet – she’s an actress but jobs are few and far between. Her only daughter, Zoey, is in the hospital and the bills are piling up. Kit spends her time masquerading as a medium, providing closure to those who have lost loved ones and making enough money just to scrape by each month. But then she meets an interesting stranger in a bar. And her seances start to feel much more real…

Phew, this was sad. You can’t help but feel awful for Kit. I was concerned at first when I saw that this book included a 9/11 mention, but it was handled really well. Kit’s husband’s death was just a real part of her life. The manner in which it happened didn’t dominate the book or contribute too heavily to the plot.

I hesitate to give too much away because I enjoyed uncovering bits and pieces of Kit’s story as I read. It was difficult to know what was really going on throughout the course of the book, which I feel was intentional. Ultimately, although the story all comes together by the final chapter, things went in a direction I wasn’t expecting. I found that a few ends were left…unfinished. I think a few elements could have been explored a bit more.

Overall The Summoning was a solid, creepy read. Thank you Poisoned Pen Press for the ARC!

REVIEW – The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell is a pretty reliable thriller author – i’ve read and enjoyed a handful of her books. That being said, The Night She Disappeared is good, but not great. It’s a little longer than necessary (it feels repetitive at times). But the story is interesting and complex. If you’ve enjoyed Lisa Jewell before, it’s worth a read. If you’re new to her books, i’d recommend choosing another one as your first read.

Thank you Atria Books for the ARC!

REVIEW – The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock

“What i’m saying is that when it comes right down to it, everybody suffers in the end.”

First things first, The Devil All the Time is NOT for every reader. If you consider yourself highly (or even remotely) sensitive, maybe skip this one.

Give this a read if you like:

  • Dark, gritty stories.
  • Wholly unlikeable characters.
  • Lovable characters that are morally gray (looking at you, Arvin).
  • Vivid, whipsmart writing.

In short: glad I picked it up. Would recommend to anyone who likes the dark side of literature. On the fence about watching the movie (but the cast is swaying me to give it a try!)

FEATURE – Catch Us When We Fall by Juliette Fay

Equal parts dramatic, romantic and uplifting, Catch Us When We Fall (available Sept. 21, 2021) is ultimately a story about forgiveness and hope. Cass and Scott have a difficult history – Cass is the longtime girlfriend of Scott’s late brother, Ben. Cass and Ben spent the better part of a decade under the influence, while Scott worked to build a career as a professional baseball player. Is the plot a little predictable? Sure. But maybe reliable is the better word here. While this wasn’t personally a favorite for me, a lot of readers of contemporary fiction really love it, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a heartwarming story about complicated (but lovable!) characters. A big thank you to Get Red PR for the free book!

SYNOPSIS: On her own since the age of eighteen, Cass Macklin dated brilliant, troubled Ben McGreavy, convinced he was the smartest person she’d ever known. They partied their way through their twenties, slowly descending into a bleak world of binge-drinking and broken promises, inebriated for most of a decade. Now Ben is dead, and Cass is broke, homeless, scared…and pregnant.

Determined to have a healthy pregnancy and raise Ben’s baby, Cass has to find a way to stop drinking and build a stable life for herself and her child. But with no money, skills, or sober friends or family, the task seems insurmountable. At wit’s end, Cass turns to the only person with the means to help her: Ben’s brother Scott, third basemen for the Boston Red Sox, a man with a temper and problems of his own.

The two make a deal that neither one of them is sure they can live up to. As Cass struggles to take control of her life and to ask for help when she needs it, Scott begins to realize there’s a life for him beyond the baseball diamond.

REVIEW – Petrified Women by Jeremy Ray

Talk about heart-pounding! Jeremy Ray packs so much tension into a short little novella. I had to read this in one sitting, he gave me no choice! I felt like I was right alongside Harley throughout the course of the book.

As the events unfolded, I had a pretty good idea of where it was going, but that didn’t make the payoff any less satisfying. (I mean, I was grinning like a fool at some parts towards the end – what does that say about me?)

In all honesty though, Petrified Women is dark. Even though there are some really fun, satisfying moments for horror fans, the true horror is the reality of Harley’s trauma, both past and present. Maybe we’ve all failed to notice (or conveniently ignored) red flags in a relationship, but Aiden’s are just flapping in the wind, for anyone and everyone to see.

Another great thing about Petrified Women? The author is very forthcoming about the content warnings. He mentioned them when he reached out to me, asking to give the novella a read. And they’re mentioned again at the very beginning of the book. Horror can be fun (and terrifying, of course) but it’s always a good idea to let a reader know what to expect so they can enjoy the story without being blindsided by a plot point they can’t or don’t want to read about.

A big thank you to the author for sending me a digital ARC of this novella!