Three romances in one month, who is she?? Unfortunately, I didn’t really like any of them – but thanks to St. Martin’s Griffin and Goodreads for my ARC copy of A Brush With Love I won in a Goodreads giveaway! I passed it along to a friend who I think will enjoy it more than I did
The Golden Couple Author: Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen Publication Date: March 2022 Genre: thriller Method: BOTM hardcover
Why did I wait so long to read from Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen?? This was my first read by the author duo and it certainly won’t be my last, I absolutely loved this! I usually don’t like domestic thrillers (so many center around SA/DV) but this grabbed my attention from the very beginning. I love a story with tons of characters, obsession, dual perspective, complex plots, secrets, and relationship drama (that isn’t rooted in violence). I’ve got The Wife Between Us by the author duo on my shelves and definitely need to pick that up soon! Overall, super enjoyable and entertaining, 4.25 stars!
Big Little Lies Author: Liane Moriarty Publication Date: February 2017 Genre: fiction, mystery Method: audiobook via TPL
I knew virtually nothing about this story going into it, other than the wild success of the HBO show. But pleased to report, I loved this! I unashamedly admit, I am easily entertained by stories about rich white moms and their drama. As expected, I love having so many characters to keep track of and especially liked how Moriarty incorporated the secondary characters. The overarching mystery woven throughout the story regarding the ambiguity of the murder victim is so good. I distinctly remember shouting out loud, “I KNOW WHO I HOPE DIED.” Guaranteed star for correct use of the term physiotherapy, because I am unhinged. Solid, 4 star dramatic thriller. Buzzword Readathon: April selection
A Brush with Love Author: Mazey Eddings Publication Date: March 2022 Genre: romance Method: audiobook via TPL
First, thank you to publisher, St. Martin’s Griffin, and Goodreads, as I received an ARC copy in a Goodreads prompted giveaway. It is for that reason I really, really wanted to love this book. I was so hopeful, given that this is a medicine/health based romance, but this ain’t it. The more romances I read, the more I’m realizing I really need to care about and like one, if not both, of the characters in the romantic relationship. I wanted to like Harper, but she was just too type A, and Dan was meh. Also, I gaged at all the sex scenes, but that might just be a me problem. It wasn’t bad by any means, but it wasn’t for me. I got so desperate to be finished with it that I jacked my audiobook speed all the way to 2x so I could move on to something else.
A Little Hope Author: Ethan Joella Publication Date: November 2021 Genre: fiction, contemporary Method: audiobook via TPL, BOTM hardcover
There’s something about the simplicity of this story that is just so effortless, quiet, and beautiful. A handful of unique and well-crafted characters each with their own story. A story where grief and hope collide. Every vignette felt intentional and purposeful. It felt like with every new chapter I had a new favorite character and peak inside a slice of their life. Don’t be fooled by the word hope in the titled, I was left devastated and in near tears multiple times. This hurts to read, but it is so well worth it. Buzzword Readathon: April selection
Ugly Love Author: Colleen Hoover Publication Date: August 2014 Genre: romance Method: audiobook via TPL
It’s rare that I read an entire book in one day, from title page to epilogue, but in this case, I did. And you’re probably thinking, “wow, she must have really loved that book to have finished it so quickly!” No, sorry. No hate to Colleen Hoover, but it was just fine. Some of my best bookish friends have rated this 5 stars, but this ain’t it for me.
For me to like a romance, I have to care about and like both people in the relationship as individuals AND want them to end up together. I liked Miles character enough, could do without Tate. I was, however, shipping Miles and Rachel HARD. Side note, I do have it in me to like a messy relationship e.g. Luke and Ginger in A Little Hope. Their relationship made up like 20% of the storyline in A Little Hope and it had me crying, it was heart breaking.
This is my first friends with benefits trope which I didn’t really like. The spice was better, more believable and less outlandish, than the previous romance I read (A Brush with Love), so that was okay. Overall, just fine. Fingers crossed I love the next Colleen Hoover I pick up, which likely will be the super hyped and mega popular, It Ends With Us.
Malibu Rising Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid Publication Date: June 2021 Genre: fiction, historical fiction Method: audiobook borrowed from TPL
I’ll be honest, I went into this not expecting to love it but was quickly hooked. And spoiler alert, I have a new favorite TJR. Daisy Jones you have been dethroned!
The story opens with four, picture perfect siblings, Nina, Jay, Hud, and Kit, living an idyllic life in beautiful Malibu, California. As the story unfolds, we learn about the relationship between their parents, June Costas and Mick Riva, and the secrets and traumas that surrounded the family since its origin. As a familial drama, this story had some of my favorite components: the origin story of the focal parents, a blended/unique family set-up, sibling rivalries, broken marriages, familial obligations, and sibling swaps (IYKYK). When one of the Riva kids questions, “Do you even know how many children you have?” that hit way too close to home.
My only compliant, like a lot of other readers, lies in the second half of the story. Once the party is in full swing, we are introduced to dozens of new characters that don’t feel relevant to the story and detract from the storylines of the four Riva kids. I saw a reviewer refer to the second half of the novel as “disjointed” and I completely agree. Despite this critique, what can I say, it’s a 4.5 stars rounded to 5! Buzzword Readathon: March selection
Ghosts of Harvard Author: Francesca Serritella Publication Date: May 2020 Genre: mystery, fiction Method: audiobook via TPL
This is a safe space, so I can admit that I picked this up solely based on cover and title. Happy to report, better than expected! I was pleasantly surprised how easily I was transported right back to college, the struggles of navigating forced friendships with roommates, the desire to impress your professors, and the daunting task of keeping up with the workload. Man, I’m glad to be past that season of life.
There’s something about a brother-sister relationship that I really enjoy reading about, especially when the age difference and birth orders matches that of my relationship with my brother, and this just about spot on. My brother is the old of use two and we went to the same university, but there’s a bigger gap between us than Eric and Cady in this story. The dynamics between siblings and parents gave me major Everything I Never Told You vibes, which is much appreciated.
Overall, I enjoyed the mystery Cady sets off to solve in this story. Detailed and intricate with a well constructed plot and interesting twists. I liked the ghosty elements and the historical context woven throughout. Didn’t know I’d be learning about the atomic bomb but hey, I’m not mad about it. Wasn’t ground breaking, but it was good – 3.75 stars rounded up to 4! Buzzword Readathon: March selection
Black Cake Author: Charmaine Wilkerson Publication Date: February 2022 Genre: historical fiction Method: BOTM hardcover
If you love a multigenerational, expansive drama, look no further. Black Cake is the story of one woman’s devastating past and heart breaking secrets which she reveals to her estranged children only after her death. Black Cake explores themes of sacrifice, loss, grief, lies, resentment, deep unbreakable love between friends (and lovers), racism, identity, climate change, and sibling conflict.
I loved nearly all the characters (Etta + Patsy 4 eva), the details about Caribbean culture and history, the discussions on sexuality and ocean conservation. For me, one thing that is so fun about reading is when similar themes unexpectedly appear in multiple books. Earlier this month I read Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkin’s Reid, a book heavily focused on surf culture in the 1980s. I was so pleasantly surprised on the emphasis on the history of Caribbean surfing in this novel – I just loved the overlap!
“Question yourself, yes, but don’t doubt yourself. There’s a difference.” Eleanor Bennett
A fun and inspiring book! Glad to have stumbled come across it and learn about women entrepreneurs during Women’s History Month!
The Book of Cold Cases Author: Simone St. James Publication Date: March 2022 Genre: mystery, thriller Method: BOTM hardcover
In short, I loved this. Lord knows I love an old, historic, Victorian house with a mysterious past, supernatural and ghosty elements, a female villain, a dual timeline, I mean I’m in, sign me up. It was nearly perfect. Nearly. See rant below for the mandatory 1 star subtraction. Simone, you almost had me, almost.
Mandatory rant, because I HAVE TO: Simone St. James did me dirty, AGAIN. She just had to go and tease me and actually use the term “physical therapy” correctly on page 321, a redeemable moment given The Sun Down Motel fiasco last time, to then incorrectly use the term “physio” on page 329. Simone YOU’RE KILLING ME. Who is your editor? Who is letting you get away with using a Australian and/or Canadian term for a story set in Oregon, USA?! I swear to God if I read The Broken Girls and I see the words physio or physiotherapist, I’m sending a hand written letter asking for an explanation and an apology.
A quarter into the year and I’ve read over a third of my 2022 TBR!
Only three months into the year and I’ve read 11 of the books on my 2022 TBR, making my completion percentage 36.67%, not bad if I do say so myself! And even better yet, 7 of those books I rated 5 stars!
If I’m being honest, I don’t think it’s going to take the entire year for me to read all 30 of these books. My guess is by the end of June, my completion percentage will be between 60-70%. I love this TBR project and feel so inspired and excited to read every book on this list!
My predictions for what I’ll have finished by end of Q2:
Call Us What We Carry Author: Amanda Gorman Publication Date: September 2021 Genre: poetry Method: audiobook via TPL
In 2022, I’m on a mission to read more poetry in the hopes to expand my worldview and appreciation for literature. This journey didn’t start out on a high note in 2021, but we are now on the upward trajectory after having listening to Call Us What We Carry by American poet and activist, Amanda Gorman. Because I loved this collection – it’s fresh, raw, relatable, beautiful, thoughtful, thought provoking, and so much more.
I should have known this collection of poems would have social commentary and historical context given Gorman’s rise to critical acclaim after her reading of The Hill We Climb during the Inauguration of President Biden in January of 2021 (marking her as the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history). Maybe social poetry, if that’s a subgenre, I don’t know, is where I should keep exploring. Because, no hate to Mary Oliver, but reading about forests and trees is just too abstract, I can’t connect at all, and I love forests and trees. But reading lines and stanzas about racism, hatred, a global pandemic, then hope, freedom, and prosperity, I can jive with.
My favorites, in order in which they appear in the collection, include: ESSEX I, ANOTHER NAUTICAL, CORDAGE, or ATONEMENT, SURVEY, _____ [GATED], DISPLACEMENT, AND AUGURY or THE BIRDS Buzzword Readathon: February selection
Olympus, Texas Author: Stacey Swann Publication Date: May 2021 Genre: fiction Method: audiobook via TPL
Let the record be known, I love a family drama. I want a messy, multigenerational saga about a dysfunctional family. Give me all of the broken marriages, love affairs, dark secrets, and small town scandals. In this story, one by one we are introduced to each member of the Briscoe family, highlighting their origin story as we come to understand how each member of this woven family is interconnected. Every character is flawed, everyone has made mistakes, but that’s what makes it so enjoyable to read and uncover the vast history of this family. I had known about the mythological tie ins but it wasn’t until after I finished the audiobook and started readings reviews that I started to truly understand the genius storytelling of this debut novel. Nearly perfect, but it did start to drag in the last quarter. So, 4.5 stars rounded up to 5! Buzzword Readathon: March selection
Cherish Farrah Author: Bethany C. Morrow Publication Date: February 2022 Genre: horror, thriller Subgenre: social horror Method: hardcover borrowed from TPL
The amount of times I thought to myself, and outwardly verbalized, “what am I reading” is maybe cause for concern. As I sit here and reflect on this story, I’m just at a loss. What did I just read? Unsettling? Yes. Eerie? Yes. Thrilling? Not really??? Horrifying? I mean, kinda. I think I’m left with more questions than answers, which I don’t mind.
It was fine. The characters were interesting, the premise was compelling, the social horror and social commentary was intriguing. A story I’ll think back on from time to time, sure, but won’t widely recommend to friends. If social horror is your jam, sure go for it, but otherwise just pass.
The Paris Apartment Author: Lucy Foley Publication Date: February 2022 Genre: mystery, thriller Subgenre: locked room mystery Method: hardcover
The Paris Apartment was one of my most anticipated releases of 2022 and it didn’t let me down! Yes, 5 stars! Generally I’m seeing mixed reviews across Goodreads and bookstagram and some of the criticism is warranted, but for me, this is my perfect blend of a locked room mystery meets familial drama.
Here’s my abbreviated list of my favorite components of this mystery-thriller: 1) short chapters that make for a quick reading experience, 2) atmospheric, historic Parisian apartment setting, 3) multiple POVs, 4) multiple characters (10 or more) 5) cluster of plot twists, and 6) ambiguous/cliff hanger chapter endings.
And because one list isn’t enough, here’s another list of everything else I loved about this story: 1) the juicy family drama, 2) tangled/secret relationships, 3) unlikable characters, 4) a language barrier/foreign language, and 5) the slow burn, plot pace.
I will say, I didn’t find this story to be that thrilling per say, and was disappointed in Irina’s tie in, but that’s more a personal preference than a commentary on the quality of the book. In the end, I loved it and was highly entertained, and that’s what matter to me! Maybe it’s time I finally pick up Foley’s first mystery, The Hunting Party. Buzzword Readathon: March selection
Picked up the audiobook to read in March in celebration of Women’s History Month, brilliant, I know. This was definitely a passive listen for me. Glad to have learned about Elizabeth Blackwell and Emily Blackwell, but don’t ask me to give you a synopsis of this book or of their lives.
Will Author: Will Smith, Mark Manson Publication Date: November 2021 Genre: nonfiction, biography Method: audiobook via TPL
Going into this memoir, I knew next to nothing about Will Smith other than he was born and raised in west Philadelphia, but doesn’t everybody know that? Let me tell you what – I haven’t been able to shut up about Willard Carol Smith II for the entire two weeks I consumed this audiobook. If you are in my social circle, I’ve told you at minimum, two Will Smith facts that you most definitely didn’t want or need to know.
I knew this book was going to be special when I found myself crying in chapter 2 when Will recounts his experiences from their 2 month family road trip from Philly to LA. This would be one of many sections of this book that had me in tears. I didn’t know Will Smith was gonna make me cry, but damn.
Will recounts, “This trip expanded and detonated my imagination. Every person we came across seemed like a new fascinating character; every destination a dreamland; and I felt like life was just waiting for me to make up the story. The American landscape was so diverse and beautiful – there were mountains and prairies and valleys and white-water rivers and regular deserts and painted deserts and green forest and petrified forests and corn into infinity and sequoias or redwoods – whichever ones we saw – touching the sky..” then “These were the best eight weeks of my childhood – everybody was happy. We were the perfect family.”
I loved learning about Will’s childhood in Philly with his dad’s unorthodox and militant parenting style, his emergence into the world of hip hop with long time friend, Jazzy Jeff, then his transition into sitcom television. I will say, the sparkle did dull for me when Will openly starts to seek fame and his journey to becoming the biggest movie star of all time. His ego explodes, in a very unflattering and indigestible way. I was cringing the entire time listening to the chapter devoted to Jada’s 40th birthday. But in the end, I don’t feel like I can fault the author for expressing his story in his own way. It’s HIS memoir after all, I’m not here to police.
Anyone who reads the physical copy has done themselves a disservice. When Will starts to sing “Now this is the story all about how my life got flipped turned upside down,” I don’t think I’ve ever smiled more while reading a book, than in that moment. Because for me, I only really know Will Smith is as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. When considering his filmography of 30+ movies, I think I’ve only seen 2, maybe 3 at most. And I’ve definitely never listened to his hip hop albums.
This was an absolute joy of an experience. The audiobook is not simple a book read by the author – it’s an incredible performance by a world class performer.
Seven Days in June Author: Tia Williams Publication Date: June 2021 Genre: romance Method: audiobook via TPL
A beautiful and captivating story about two writers, their traumatic past, and their second chance romance 15 years later. The chemistry between Eva and Shane was electric. All of the characters had so much depth and personality, even minor characters. I really appreciated the commentary on chronic illness and invisible disabilities as my mom has struggled with chronic headaches for decades and I know first hand how debilitating that can be. Other topics explored were racism in the publishing industry, motherhood, and alcohol and drug addiction. I loved the commentary on chronic illness, racism, and motherhood. Would love to see this adapted to a feature film! And/or get a sequel!
This story follows the music careers of Opal, a fierce and outspoken spitfire from Detroit, and Nev, a British aspiring singer-song writer, during the height of their music careers together and their ultimate break up as a famous rock duo.
It’s hard not to compare this story to that of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones and The Six given the similarities in set up. Where Daisy Jones is presented in an interview format, Opal and Nev is described as an oral history which includes both interview transcript and more traditional paragraphs with historical context and background information. I feel like I got a better understanding and look at the political climate and racism through the lens of rock and roll in the 1970s as Walton weaves in real events to add to the authenticity of the piece. To me, Daisy Jones felt more dramatic and focused around the interpersonal relationships between band members, whereas Opal and Nev is an obvious exploration of racism and misogyny in the world of rock and roll in the 70s.
I really enjoyed this one, definitely would recommend the audiobook as it has a full cast of narrators!
The City We Became Author: N. K. Jemisin Publication Date: March 2020 Genre: fantasy Method: BOTM hardcover
I’m trying to like fantasy, I swear, but this ain’t it for me. This was a chore and a slog to get through. I wouldn’t say I had to force myself to pick it up every night, but I wasn’t eager to jump back in really at any point.
What it comes down to is the writing style, we just don’t jive. It was way too wordy for me. I feel like the same story could have been told in 200 less pages. Readers who have first hand experience in New York who love the city that never sleeps would probably really enjoys this story. But that’s not me, I feel very neutral about NYC having never visited. Buzzword Readathon: February selection
Razorblade Tears Author: S. A. Cosby Publication Date: July 2021 Genre: mystery, thriller Method: BOTM hardcover
This is the story of two very different men looking to seek vengeance after the brutal murders of their sons, Isiah and Derek. Ike Randolph, father of Isiah, is a black ex-convict turned lawn care business owner. Buddy Lee, father of Derek, is a white man, also with a criminal past who has no hesitations returning to a life of violence. The unlikely duo team up and set off on a quest for revenge in the hopes of tracking down their sons’ killers. Along the way, the pair face their own prejudices regarding race and sexuality, with their sons and each other.
It’s not often I feel inclined to take highlighter to paper while reading a thriller but wow my book is highlighted and dog eared something fierce. The dialectic and banter between Ike and Buddy Lee was incredible and like nothing I’d ever read before. “He shouldn’t be dipping his wick in that girl’s wax.” Like I definitely know what that means, but do I really? I haven’t really given a second though to similes since my AP literature course over 10 years ago but my God, the similes in this book were deliciously violent and graphic, “The two of them had slaughtered that kid like a pig and fed him to the wood chipper like a mama bird feeding a chick.”
At times the language used was both poignant and cringeworthy, but further highlighted the journey both men go through as they learn about their sons, both individually and as a married couple, to reflect the themes of racism, homophobia, transphobia, wealth, and poverty.
I laughed. I cried. I cringed, but in the best way. All I have to say is, Buddy Lee is in the running for my favorite character of the year
Greenwich Park Author: Katherine Faulkner Publication Date: January 2022 Genre: thriller, mystery Method: hardcover borrowed from TPL
I’m not usually the biggest fan of domestic thrillers but I devoured this debut by author Katherine Faulkner! Personally I loved the slow pace of this thriller, getting to know the main characters, their connections to one another, and the string of clues we as the reader were trying to piece together along with Helen, the main character. I’ve never read a story following the pace of a pregnancy but I found myself really liking that aspect of this book.
For me, this was the perfect blend of family drama and quiet thriller where the uneasiness of the story comes from misplaced items, lying characters, and speculation, rather than out right graphic violence (which I also enjoy time to time). And the reveals at the end, one hit after the other, left me jaw dropped and gasping.
While the plots have little to nothing in common, the pace and bread crumb trail reminded me of When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole and A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins. This is a thriller I would read again in a few years, definitely.
I so badly wanted to love this like The Secret Lives of Church Ladies. I mean, I liked it overall, but it’s not Church Ladies level of love. Each story in this selection was unique and spoke to themes of racism, domestic violence, and what it means to be a black woman in America – a perspective I’m always grateful and appreciative to learn from as a white reader.
My favorite of the 6 short stories was Richard of York Gave Battle in Vain. Unfortunately, I was a tad disappointed in the novella, The Office of Historical Corrections – I loved the concept, didn’t love the execution. Definitely something I would recommend to others, but not a collection I expect to revisit.
I usually blow through books in a week or less but I found myself really savoring this story and enjoying it’s slower pace – the subject matters is well suited for it. It’s rare for me to ever feel connected to a character but Nina Dean felt real. Like you could easily convince me this was a memoir. I thought her character was so relatable, honest, and raw. Dolly Alderton perfectly encapsulated what it means to be a a 30 something year old, single millennial in a technology driven, dating app centric world.
I appreciated how the author handled a character with progressing dementia. As a healthcare professional who has worked with hundreds of older adults with dementia, I really enjoyed reading from the perspective of the family members most affected by the disease.
If you’re in the mood for a relatable read with characters that feel true and real, like people you actually know if your real life, pick this book up. It wasn’t earth shattering but it kept me engaged.
Blacktop Wasteland Author: S. A. Cosby Publication Date: July 2020 Genre: thriller Method: hardcover
I was so hyped for this and HOLY HELL it didn’t disappoint! I had high expectations and S. A. Cosby far exceeded those expectations. Not my usual thriller, full of tons of violence and gruesome deaths, but I couldn’t put it down!
Fast paced and gritty, this heist tale is perfectly woven with shocking moments and thrilling violence. When I tell you I gasped so loudly at one point that Kyle literally said, “okay Meryn” in annoyance because he assumed I had exaggerated my response. But it was just that good and that shocking.
A Game of Cones Author: Abby Collette Publication Date: March 2021 Genre: cozy mystery Method: paperback borrowed from TPL
Cozy mysteries are not for me, of that I am absolutely certain. But that’s not gonna stop be from picking up every book Abby Collette publishes in this series because the charm of reading a story set in a Chagrin Falls, Ohio, is too good to pass up. I just love Abby, okay. It’s just that simple.
Honestly, the plot of this story is as bland as vanilla ice cream. The characters are annoying and make some of the stupidest decisions. The text is incredible repetitive and simple. All I wanted from this book was some romance between Win and O and he made it into a total of like 6 pages. Maybe next time?
Again, I’m not the audience for this story nor genre. Take this brief review with a grain of salt. But I’ll definitely be picking up book 3. The cover is too cute not to. In the end, 2.75 stars rounded up to 3.