REVIEW – Barely Functional Adult by Meichi Ng

“It’s important for you to hold on to your good days; they keep you sane in the face of bad ones.”

Are you a human being who has even just a little bit of life experience? Then this book is for you! Somehow this little blue blob is hilarious and profound and insightful – and Meichi Ng created one of the most relatable books i’ve ever read. I mean, at some points I had to stop and think, “Wait, did I write this book…?”

So now, naturally, i’m convinced that the author and I could be friends:
Hi Meichi! I’m deathly afraid of wasps and would also love to be cheeseburger rich. I’m pretty sure we could be friends. I’m sorry I laughed at the story about your dead fish (RIP Bobo). Thank you for writing such a wonderful book.

If you’re a fan of Hyperbole and a Half, you’ll definitely love this one too.

Thank you Harper Perennial for the finished copy!

REVIEW – The Residence by Andrew Pyper

“It was the dead who did it. The house was full of them.”

Something terrifying is happening in the White House (I mean, the jokes just write themselves at this point…) But seriously. Not long after Franklin Pierce is elected president, his son dies in a horrific train accident. When Franklin and his wife, Jane, move into the White House, that’s when the real terror begins.

PHEW. This book is a doozy. It’s definitely creepy but, more importantly, it’s incredibly sad. It’s hard enough reading about grieving parents, but when you add some really terrifying, demonic elements to that, it’s gut-wrenching. The opening especially is just chilling and heartbreakingly sad.

You see, Jane accidentally summoned some sort of malevolent presence when she was a young girl, and this presence has been tormenting and influencing her ever since. Is it responsible for the tragedy in her life? Probably. This presence seems to feed off of terror and grief and sadness. The book does seem a little repetitive at times (especially the scenes in the boy’s staged bedroom) but there are some parts that will stick with readers long after they’ve left the White House.

Also I would HIGHLY recommend reading the Author’s Note at the end! It’s absolutely terrifying and makes the book that much better. I mean, is it really hard to imagine that the White House is actually haunted?

Content warning: death of a child, suicidal thoughts

Thank you Gallery Books / Skybound Books for the finished copy!

REVIEW – The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

“No one knows the worst thing they are capable of until they do it.”

I had been interested in reading this book for quite some time – I love historical fiction, but this had the added promise of a more gruesome/thrilling story. Well, it’s definitely disturbing. But it’s not quite a thriller (at least, not in the traditional sense).

This book is beautifully written, but don’t let it fool you – even in the lovely, “happy” moments, there’s an underlying cruelty and dread that follows Frannie pretty much everywhere. Since the book is told through a series of flashbacks, you somewhat already know what awaits Frannie at the end.

“That’s always been my trouble. Never knowing my place or being content in it.”

After traveling from Jamaica to England, Frannie transitions from slave to servant. However, having been enslaved for her entire life, she struggles to understand the difference. She’s still under the control and authority of someone else, and her life is still difficult regardless of the change in status.

Through Frannie’s letters/journal entries, we learn about a lot of horrific events that she either witnessed or participated in. It never gets too deep – many of the horrors are merely alluded to. That being said, there’s an overall lack of depth throughout the story – I felt that we skimmed the surface on so many topics instead of really digging in to the meat of the story.

There’s a deep sadness here too, and if you’re looking for something with a happy twist or ending, don’t expect to find it here.

I think Sara Collins shows a lot of promise, and i’d be happy to read whatever she decides to write next.

There are multiple trigger/content warnings for this one, so proceed with caution if you’re a sensitive reader.

Thank you Harper Perennial for the free book!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Murder in an Irish Cottage by Carlene O’Connor

Oh, I am really enjoying this series! Murder in an Irish Cottage picks up right where Murder in an Irish Pub left off (but you don’t necessarily need to read the series in order for things to make sense). When Siobhan’s fiance’s aunt is murdered in a tiny Irish village, the residents claim that fairies had something to do with it. Siobhan and Macdara know better…and slowly realize that the villagers each have their own secrets.

What I love about this series is that the mysteries are relatively elaborate and a lot of pieces need to come together before Siobhan (or the reader) can come close to finding a solution. O’Connor’s writing transports you right to Ireland, and I love spending time in the cozy villages and town she writes about (even if there might be a murderer on the loose…)

I’d highly recommend this series for seasoned and new cozy mystery readers alike!

Thank you Kensington Books for sending me a finished copy of this book.

REVIEW – The Safe Place by Anna Downes

{Available July 14, 2020} Emily is a total mess. She just lost her job, her agent AND she’s about to be evicted from her apartment. Scott is looking for a solution to his problem – and Emily is perfect. He hires her to live with his wife and daughter at their opulent French estate. Everything seems lovely, and then things begin to unravel…

This book was a total roller-coaster ride for me! We toggle primarily between two perspectives – Emily and Scott. Believe me when I say they are INSUFFERABLE. Emily is a HOT MESS. She can’t seem to get it together – she botches her acting auditions, she can’t make it to work on time, she can’t pay her bills and, honestly, she’s super rude to her parents. Like…SUPER rude. Scott? He’s your stereotypical arrogant businessman, who is orchestrating…SOMETHING. Something that involves Emily. You’ll find out the depths of that situation as you read the book.

Nina and Aurelia are intriguing. Nina seems nice on the surface, but something dark lurks beneath. Aurelia is a slightly creepy kid, but she’s also incredibly sweet at times. They’re hiding something. But what? There’s an underlying sense of danger the entire time, but you can’t quite put your finger on why.

I’m also ashamed to say that this book caught me off guard! There are subtle clues throughout but my dumb brain didn’t pick up on them until one incident towards the end of the book. And phew, that ending. There are some heart-racing moments and it gets INTENSE. Was the right choice made? Is it really for the better? I’m honestly not sure.

The Safe Place is sure to be a popular summer thriller (I mean, our characters spend a lot of time lounging by the pool) that a lot of readers will enjoy.

Thank you Minotaur Books for sending me an ARC of The Safe Place!

REVIEW – Neon Girls: A Stripper’s Education in Protest and Power by Jennifer Worley

The premise of this book had me interested from the jump – a nonfiction account of a grad student who becomes a stripper to help pay her way through school. There’s SO MUCH MORE to this, and it’s probably not what you’d expect.

I found myself rooting for these ladies throughout their entire journey. They unionize! They stand up for their rights! They stand up for each other! They’re empowered and empowering.

I learned so much from this book – from the politics of strip clubs to the intricacies and hurdles to forming a union.

Thank you Harper Perennial for sending me an ARC of this book!

REVIEW – Dark August by Katie Tallo

Dark August is a gritty mystery thriller with a relatively isolated vibe for the first chunk of the book. Our main character Gus receives word that her last living relative has died, and she heads back home (leaving behind a pretty pathetic life) to take care of her great-grandmother’s estate. When she uncovers clues from a cold case her late mother was working on, Gus quickly begins an investigation of her own that leads to some dark and twisty places.

There was one part of the mystery that seemed like more of an afterthought, but overall this book was good. It builds slowly and you do wonder where the heck it’s going to end up, but STICK WITH IT. This book surprised the heck out of me in the last 50 pages or so. It’s not often a book catches me off guard, but I have to give credit when a thriller is able to pull a fast one on me.

Dark August should definitely be on your summer thriller tbr!

Content warning: mentions of rape, domestic abuse, suicide, mild animal abuse.

Thank you Harper Perennial for sending me an ARC of this book!

REVIEW – This Is Major by Shayla Lawson

{Available June 30, 2020} This book was not written for me. This is a statement of fact, not a criticism. I think it’s important that we read books not meant for us – books that were written with someone else in mind. This Is Major is a series of essays by Shayla Lawson, where she details her own experiences and opinions on feminism, race and racism.

One essay examines the term “black girl magic” and how it can be used both negatively and positively. The history and horrific racism that eventually led to the creation of the “photo that broke the internet” is incredibly interesting – and incredibly heartbreaking and infuriating. You know the photo (it involved champagne).

I did so much Googling throughout the course of this book so I could see a picture that Lawson was referencing, or hear a song that she mentioned. (Yes, I looked up Freaky Friday on YouTube, and yes, I wish I could get those few minutes of my life back.)

Highly recommend This Is Major to any reader looking to diversify their reading and broaden their worldview.

Thank you Harper Perennial for sending me an ARC of this book!

REVIEW – The Better Sister by Alafair Burke

Phew, what a premise! Our main character Chloe is married to her sister’s ex-husband, Adam, and is raising her nephew/stepson, Ethan. Got that straight? When Adam is murdered, suspicions quickly turn to Ethan and we follow a twisty narrative that includes family drama, secrets and a court case.

This story did not go in the direction that I expected, and I really enjoyed it! It gave me some Jodi Picoult vibes – a court battle, moral ambiguity, family secrets, etc. It really comes down to this – how far would you go to protect the people you love?

I think this is a great summer mystery for thriller lovers and newbies alike. Burke’s writing keeps the reader interested, and the short, punchy chapters made for an incredibly fast reading experience.

Thank you Harper Perennial/Harper Books for my copy of The Better Sister!

COZY MYSTERY REVIEW – Hot Fudge Murder by Cynthia Baxter

Looking for a quick, mindless read? This fits the bill. Hot Fudge Murder is frothy fun – focusing a bit more on the ice cream shop than the actual murder mystery, these books don’t offer a lot of substance but they will leave you craving a scoop or two of your favorite flavor.

Other than the delectable descriptions of a wide variety of ice cream flavors, the real star in this series is the relationships between the characters. Kate’s relationship with her grandmother and niece is heartwarming and fun. There are definitely cozier mysteries out there and more mysterious cozies, but this is a great option for something to read while spending a lazy day at the pool or beach.

Thank you Kensington Books for sending me a copy of Hot Fudge Murder!