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: 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. 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).

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 Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

What an adorable love story! Now, i’m not a fan of The Bachelor/ette or any sort of reality dating series, but I still enjoyed the “behind the scenes” look at a popular TV show (and getting to follow along with Charlie and Dev’s story, of course!)

Charlie is just about the sweetest character i’ve encountered so far in a romance. He’s shy and awkward and uncomfortable, but you can’t help but love him (and you learn why he’s so closed off). Dev is a cookie-eating, boisterous firecracker of a human, but he has issues of his own (on a silly note: cargo shorts? Come on, Dev!)

The Charm Offensive is packed with lovable, memorable characters (and the female friendships, of course, are the best part).

Thank you Atria for sending me an ARC of The Charm Offensive.

REVIEW – The Family Plot by Megan Collins

You think your family is weird? Meet the Lighthouses. Charlie, Tate, Andy and Dahlia are all named after famous murder victims. Their mother is obsessed with true crime and their homeschooling curriculum has some…unconventional components. After the death of their father, three of the siblings return home for his funeral. However, no one has heard from Andy in more than a decade after he ran away from home and left a disturbing note.

Collins is becoming a go-to thriller writer for me. Behind the Red Door was one of my favorite reads of 2020 (seriously, go read it!), The Family Plot was a unique and eerie thriller, and i’m excited to see what she writes next!

Thank you Atria for the ARC!

REVIEW – That Summer by Jennifer Weiner

I’ve only read two Jennifer Weiner books so far (That Summer and Mrs. Everything), so I don’t know much about her backlist. However, I do know she’s able to turn 400-page books into incredibly fast reads.

That being said, the title and cover of this book are misleading. This is NOT a light, summer read. The main theme of the book is rape, and there’s a lot of “old boys club” nonsense going on. (I’ll be clear: Weiner does not condone the “old boys club” stuff and DOES in fact present it as dangerous.)

I’m not sure if anything here was meant to be a twist or a reveal, but I wasn’t really surprised by anything that happened throughout the course of the book. However, i’m not really sure what Diana was hoping to accomplish (i’m not sure she even knew, herself).

I would definitely recommend this book, as it was interesting and very timely (a lot of #MeToo chatter in this one) but I would urge readers to proceed with caution.

Content: rape, sexual assault, suicide

Thank you Atria for sending me a copy of That Summer!

REVIEW – The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer by Liza Rodman and Jennifer Jordan

Attention true crime fans: you’re going to want to pick this one up. I hadn’t heard of Tony Costa (the Cape Cod Vampire) before, but WOW was he a piece of work.

Costa was active in the mid to late 1960s and, honestly, got away with a lot of his crimes due to the time period but also some really inadequate law enforcement procedures and protocols. There were moments in this book where I wanted to scream about the missed connections and lack of shared information between departments. Lives might have been saved, but isn’t that the case with a lot of serial killers?

The Babysitter is part true crime book and part memoir – Liza Rodman grew up in Provincetown and Tony Costa was her “babysitter” at times (our idea of a babysitter now is not really what Tony was back then. He would take Liza and her sister on errands with him to get them out of their mom’s hair while she worked or went out on the town with her friends). Liza’s sections alone could have been their own book – she was a child who didn’t really stand a chance with her own mother. Liza’s mother was neglectful and mean and hurtful and irresponsible. Definitely proceed with caution if child abuse (mostly neglect and verbal abuse) is a touchy topic for you.

The book moves at a relatively slow pace but it stands up against the heavy hitters in true crime literature like In Cold Blood, Helter Skelter, The Stranger Beside Me, etc. Tony Costa might not be as well known as Ted Bundy, but he was just as horrible (and probably would have been much worse if they hadn’t caught him in time).

Thank you Atria Books for the ARC!

REVIEW – The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

“Atrum post bellum, ex libris lux. – After the darkness of war, the light of books.”

The Paris Library is historical fiction for book lovers. Using dual timelines (WWII-era Paris and 1980s Montana), Janet Skeslien Charles weaves a beautiful, emotional story that focuses on friendship, love, family and forgiveness.

I had no choice but to give this five stars – the writing is absolutely beautiful. The characters! THE LIBRARY. Just stunning – you’ll fall in love with (almost) everyone and find yourself wanting to spend forever amongst the shelves.

Odile and Lily are truly the stars of this book, and their journey is lovely and sad and hopeful. Get ready to feel all of the feelings.

Thank you Atria Books for the ARC!

REVIEW – The Princess Spy by Larry Loftis

The Princess Spy is a great nonfiction choice for fans of historical fiction (especially of the WWII variety). The book is incredibly well-researched and outlined, and begins with a thoughtful, intriguing preface from the author.

When Pearl Harbor is bombed during her final semester of college, Aline can’t help but want to get involved with the war effort. She spends some time modeling but ends up meeting a man who offers her a job. He can’t tell her what it is but he gives her instructions of when and where to be at her interview. She dives in headfirst without knowing any details and quickly finds herself in training to become a spy for the United States.

From there, this book is pretty exciting – Aline’s life almost seems fictional because it’s so exciting and many of the elements and events feel pulled right out of a spy movie. Intrigue! Espionage! A little bit of bullfighting! (Yep. Bullfighting.) Glamourous dinners and Bond-villain-esque “characters.” Sure, The Princess Spy romanticizes the idea of being a spy during WWII just a bit, but you can’t help but be amazed by Aline’s intelligence (and, in some cases, incredible luck).

Her time as an actual field agent is short-lived, but that doesn’t make her service any less impressive. She does fall in love along the way, and the final part of the book covers her budding relationship with her eventual husband.

Thank you Atria Books for the ARC!