One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle is absolute perfection. If you loved In Five Years (and if you read it, you loved it), this one will without a doubt work for you, too. It's something totally different, but sticks with her theme of using a little bit of magical time in an otherwise realistic book to really push the main character into growth. Fair warning: this book deals with grief heavily. I just lost my dad in September, and the visceral description of what the loss of a parent is like was hard. But because the author does such a beautiful job of encompassing not only the loss, but also the value of the person we've lost, it actually felt very cleansing. While there are some hard parts, overall this is a joyful read. There's a lot of fun and lightness and finding oneself. Rebecca Serle is a master of mixing a lot of hard truth with just the right amount of antics to let you reflect without feeling weighted down. I absolutely recommend it.
The Sweetheart Deal by Miranda Liasson is a fabulous fake marriage romance. The chemistry and snark between the two main characters is off the charts. It's the first in a small town romance series, so there's a lot of gossip, nosiness, and interesting neighbors. Most of all, I loved all the family. You really get to know everybody, and it's great to see in-depth all the interplay of various relatives
There's no sex on-page, in case that's something you have strong feelings about.
Far Side of the Moon is not my usual read, but it is so great. It's the story of Frank Borman, one of the Apollo 8 astronauts, but even more so the story of his wife, Susan, and their marriage. It covers so much of what NASA spouses went through, and Susan's personal journey with depression and alcoholism, with the space program sprinkled in. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Anticipation is an unexpected, moving mix of history and neuroscience with just a bit of magic. I've never been to Greece, but it felt like I was there. The sense of place in this novel is awe-inspiring. It is obviously a love letter to a place and the spirit of a people. I expect this one will stay with me as long as her debut did.
This is an absolute romp, y'all. I love a book that can deal with serious issues and also make you laugh out loud. I started this book on my lunch break and ended it staying up WAY too late finishing it the same night. There's feminism, there's a main character coming to terms with her actions as opposed to who she thinks she is, and there's so much funny. I cannot wait for everyone to read this book.
This is a thrill ride of a historical fiction and I cannot recommend it enough. This is an Anastasia story, but done like I've never seen.
Anastasia Romanov escapes the execution of her family and has to rely on the help of a Bolshevik girl, Evgenia, to try and get to safety, all the while lying about who she is. There's intrigue, history, politics, and a little hint of romance. What I loved most was watching these two girls with very different belief systems start to see what the other side has right because they're having it humanized right in front of their eyes. It is unbelievably well done, and I could not put it down.
The Grimrose Girls by Laura Pohl is the perfect spooky season read for this girl.
It's chilling without being terrifying, which is the perfect fit for me.
The book starts with a funeral, and is told through the alternating perspectives of three of the dead girl's friends and the girl who took her spot at their elite boarding school. There's more grisly deaths, several fairy tale retellings, a lot of girls coming into their own power, and some great diverse romances. Everything you could possibly want in a book! I loved the mystery element the best.
One of the things I am loving about this series is these totally unexpected matches working out in incredible but strangely realistic ways. I adore two kind of broken people coming together because their monsters play well together, so I am absolutely the target market for these.
This is the story of Eros and Psyche, loosely rooted in Greek mythology, set in a modern city with just a touch of magic. Eros is inarguably the more messed up of the two, but I love him. I'm also absolutely here for a plus-size heroine who is working to live her body in a society that doesn't and succeeding.
If you've already read Neon Gods, this one didn't push my comfort boundaries quite as much, but that probably depends on what yours are. It's still incredibly spicy, and I loved every minute of it.
Bombshell by Sarah MacLean is absolute perfection. It's a historical romance, but it's also a feminist adventure story with really awesome clothes.
The heroine is killer (possibly literally). She's feisty and independent and doesn't want a man to determine the course of her life, even if he's super sexy.
The hero is a bit of a dolt, in that he thinks he needs to save her, but other than that, he's everything you want in a romantic lead.
Overall, this story is just the kind of wacky, fun, steamy escapist read we probably all read right now.
You & Me at the End of the World by Brianna Bourne is a delightful and unexpected YA, perfect for fans of If I Stay.
Hannah and Leo are the only two people left in Houston. They don't know what happened to everyone else, and they have very different approaches to this turn of events. But once they run into each other, a super sweet relationship begins.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Both the main characters are flawed and realistic and people If want to know in real life. At a certain point, you sort of figure out where the story is going, but it's totally enjoyable anyway, because you're so invested in the characters' development.
I absolutely adored Ruff and Tumble by Lucy Gilmore. It is everything I want from a contemporary romance. I laughed out loud, I cried a little bit, the hero is a professional football player, the heroine is socially awkward, and THERE'S LOTS OF PUPPIES.
I can't stress enough how complete the emotional experience of this book is. I felt all the things. While there are a lot of pieces that make up great contemporary romance, that depth of feeling has always been the most important to me. I deeply understood both the main characters, and it both broke my heart, then mended it.
Plus, there were really like a ton of puppies. I loved the puppies.
(This book cannot be returned.)
Neon Gods by Katee Robert is one of those books that you miss when it's over. It was delicious and decadent and also really sweet. I feel a bit like I'm describing a cake here, but it really is warm and comforting and everything you want. It's also sexy as all get out.This is a Hades and Persephone retelling with all kinds of spice, and it does a fabulous job of getting the feel of the myth while also feeling totally original.
Persephone is strong and knows what she wants. Hades plays a villain and enjoys some parts of it (you will, too), but isn't really the bad guy. I could not stop reading. I got through this one in one day because I had to, only to immediately regret that it was done.
American Fairytale by Adriana Herrera is not my usual read, which is part of why I wanted to read it. It has two Latinx heroes with very different backgrounds, and a big part of the conflict stems from that.
I really loved Milo. He's expressive and over-the-top and just a lot of fun. Tom was a harder sell for me, even though objectively he's fairytale prince material. I think some of his baggage is just the kind of baggage I don't want to deal with in real life, so it set me on edge. Personal issues aside, he really is charming and his stuff all feels very real.
And there's so much chemistry, you guys. This is a very steamy book.
It has taken me a couple of days to feel prepared to write a review for Firebreak by Nicole Kornher-Stace. It is one of those books that burrows into your brain. It's also kind of hard to decide what might be a spoiler or not.
This book is a thrill ride at in a near-future, totally believable and therefore terrifying dystopia. Definitely for those who loved Warcross or Ready Player One, a large chunk of the story takes place inside a VR game where players can make a living by streaming their feeds and getting tips. Our narrator, Nycorix, is a mediocre player who accidentally happens across something that gets her a little attention, but some of that is from a sponsor with a hell of a theory about what the corporation who owns the world is actually up to.
There are some sci-fi elements, obviously, but most of them are so close to available technology that is hard to call it sci-fi. It also doesn't get bogged down in the science of it. This story mostly reads like a thriller, and it is fabulous. There are so many turns you didn't see coming. While the original question does get resolved, by the end of the book, you kind of forget you were even supposed to wonder about that. I also really love that the main character clearly has some social anxiety, but her friends help cover for that without judging her or complaining. I had trouble putting this one down every time I had to go back to work or go to sleep.
(Children's / Ages: 9 - 12)
Fifty-Four Things Wrong with Gwendolyn Rogers by Caela Carter is such a spectacular and important book. The main character, Gwendolyn, is neuroatypical, but in a way that's not easily diagnosed. She is convinced by her IEP that rather then having a problem, she is a problem. It is so powerful that this book is written in first person, so we get to see Gwendolyn's life through her own eyes. It's a little heartbreaking at times, but mostly it's enlightening and inspiring. I feel like this is going to be such an important read for kids who can see themselves or their peers in Gwendolyn, but also for educators and parents.
Appleseed is Matt Bell doing what he does best: putting together some really weird stuff that seems unrelated and making it make sense and be beautiful. This is the kind of book you're going to want to take your time reading to let it roll around your mind a bit. This book is a totally original blend of speculative fiction, dystopian thriller, and reimagined folklore. It's three timelines you think are related by one thing that turn out to be tied together in a totally different way. It's gorgeous and difficult and thought-provoking.
The heroine is not a pixie dream girl, and she's also not a morally perfect icon. Harley is a girl from a really messed up home who thinks she's inherently damaged, but she's going to have to save the world anyway.
The hero is swoony, there's so much steam, and there's also a great sibling relationship storyline. I cannot stress enough how much I loved this book.
Trigger warning: there is a lot of child abuse in this book. It's not gratuitously graphic, but it's descriptive enough that if this is an issue for you, I'd pass on this one.
I always love a Sophie Jordan book, and Sixteen Scandals is no exception. This YA historical is so much fun, and I read it in a single sitting.
Primrose Ainsworth wakes on her sixteenth birthday expecting to be introduced to society, but instead finds her mother had decided it's too much trouble to have two daughters seeking matches at once. So, she decides to sneak off to enjoy one night of freedom before she has to wait for her mother to orchestrate her marriage at some indeterminate time. Shenanigans ensue.
The heroine in this book is fabulous. She does not want to fit into society's box, but she's not so forward-thinking that it's unbelievable. She's smart and self-deprecating and funny, and she attracts the attention of a very handsome stranger. Said handsome stranger is a fantastic love interest. He challenges her but is also willing to be challenged. He lets her set her own rules, but tries to protect her anyway. There's all kinds of adventure along the way, and it's such a fun read. It's got less steam than most of Sophie's books, so it's definitely appropriate for all young adult readers.
Don't Breathe a Word by Jordyn Taylor is a gripping thrill ride. I am not usually a thriller reader, but I got sucked in from the first chapter. You know the crime fairly early on, but you still want to know how it all turns out, so you just keep reading until 2:30 in the morning.
I loved that the two main female characters had insecurities and flaws but were still strong. The transition between narrators and timelines was smooth and made sense for driving the story forward. I really enjoyed the romance storyline, even though it was not the driving force. The love interest is the kind of guy I wish I'd gone for as a teen, and I love to see that glorified in books today.
This book has something in it for the thriller reader, romance lover, and anyone who's interested in the Cold War Era nuclear fear. I absolutely recommend it.
I often find book three is kind of a transition book, where it feels like not a lot happens but moving people around for the final conflict. Not so with Covet by Tracy Wolff. This is a firecracker of a book, all sizzle and excitement from beginning to end. My literal only complaint is the last line. It's not exactly a cliffhanger, because it's something you already knew we didn't know, but it reminds you at the very end that is unresolved and NOW I WANT TO KNOW. Book for is due to publish in September, though, so at least we don't have to wait a full year.
Trigger warning, for those that need it: there's a lot of reference to abusive parents and some psychological torture.
The second book in the middle grade Stuffed series. It is super cute in a creepy sort of way. Set in a world where monsters are after children and "Stuffies" defend them, we follow Foon and his boy, Clark. In this book, they go to summer camp, and the monsters have a grand plan to punish Foon. It's just the right amount of scary for the age level, and it's perfect for fans of Series of Unfortunate Events or Elizabeth Webster. There's also instructions for making Stuffies and badges, so come prepared to craft!
The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna is as incredible as its cover. I did not want to stop reading. Basically, girls have to take part in a purity ritual when they come of age, where their blood is checked. If it's impure, they're told they're demons and murdered. Except now the emperor is building an army of these girls to fight the monsters that invade their lands. It's powerful feminist fantasy that is delightfully surprising. I loved every minute, and it absolutely deserves its time in the bestseller lists.
Magic Lessons absolutely envelops you in the heart-breaking but hopeful world of Maria Owens. I adored finally getting the full story of the Owens family curse, but I also loved the general thread of women in power being seen as a threat. It's a gently feminist novel, and I can't wait to share it with readers.
This is a deeply moving look at intersectionality set in a near-future dystopia that's all too believable.
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I could not put The Look-Alike down. I loved the interplay between Sienna wondering if she was meant to be the victim and fearing she’s suffering her mother’s mental illness. I love the layers of the story; it’s so much more than the story of a murder. And as a romance reader, I loved the romance subplot, much as I wished there was space for more development.
I had some ideas about who the murderer might be, but I couldn’t narrow it down to just one. All the characters are complex and developed enough you could see how it might be them.
If you’re into thrillers, murder mysteries, or psychological suspense, this one’s for you. It reads fast, too, so it’s a great mom read.
This book is fantastic. The promotional quotes didn’t really work for me, with all the emphasis on race and privilege. It sounded like it might be a dry, preachy book. It isn’t. The plot of Saint X is primarily a mystery, and it reads like one with pacing gathering speed until the conclusion. But mystery readers may be disappointed, because it’s lacking a lot of the quirks of the genre. Upon finishing, it feels most like a coming of age novel. There is a focus on race and privilege, but it’s done in such a way that you don’t even notice you’re thinking about it until it’s over. Everything about this book is subtle and entrancing. It will make a great book club read. If you’re a fan of books that make you think without being “think-y”, slice of life novels, or even true crime, you’ll love this gorgeously written book.
I have a hard time saying I enjoyed this book, because it's about racism, which isn't fun. But I do feel better for having read it.
This is a history I didn't know, and, I'm going to be honest, I think the adult original book would have been a bit cerebral for me. There were a lot of historical figures mentioned that I thought I knew, but with a lot more information surrounding them. The context cast them in totally different lights.
This is a must-read for any American, whether they fit in the target age range or not.
I’m going to admit that I don’t know much about Jim Gaffigan besides someone I follow posting quotes from him occasionally. I know at least some of his comedy is about parenting, so if I were a big comedy special watcher, I’d probably be into him. I knew absolutely nothing about his family life. I certainly didn’t realize his wife was one of his writers, and therefore a very funny person. I listened to this book as an audiobook, so a note on the narrator: The author narrates a lot of this book. How she doesn’t break down in some of the reading is beyond me. The beginning, however, is narrated by her sister because she had just undergone surgery on her vocal cords. The explanation for this sort of sets the tone for the book.
As a working mother, there were some major takeaways from this book. First, Jeannie had written off all the symptoms of a pretty significant brain tumor as just the result of being a busy mom. Again, ladies: Motherhood affects us like a brain tumor might. Tiredness, headaches, some dizzy spells; just par for the course, right? Second, and this lines up well with where I’m at in my personal journey, she feels like she is the only one who can do the household things “right”, so she does them all. In the period where she was recovering from brain surgery, she had to allow someone else to handle it, and the world did not implode. She also realized that not allowing her family to take care of things themselves was doing them a disservice. Third, and most importantly, while I treasure my children and have certainly done a better job as a more experienced mother with my two littles of pausing to enjoy their random weird quirkiness when it hits, Jeannie talks a lot about how after she thought she might die, she realized we really don’t have forever with our kids and she values her time with them in a whole new way.
This book may make you cry a little, but it will definitely make you laugh a lot. It will also do you the service of helping you evaluate how you’re prioritizing your time at home.
Zera, a Heartless, tries to take the prince’s heart to stop a war in the first book. Having failed at that, the second book involves an entirely new plot to stop the same war. There are a lot of big surprises, and I don’t want to spoil them for anyone, so I’m going to be really vague about the storyline.What the author does splendidly is look at the situation from all angles. You see the good and bad of every decision, every character, every fight. No one is the “good guy”. They’re all human, even the ones that technically aren’t. It’s rapidly paced fantasy with heart, and I adore it. Anyone who likes anything should read these books, because they’ve got a little bit of something for everyone: romance, adventure, gore, wyrms, magic, suspense, fantastic character-building, and moral questions.
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I listened to The Christmas Dare as an audiobook. The narrator is good. There’s a slight Texas twang for the dialogue, but it’s not that overexaggerated drawl you’re always afraid of if you’re from Texas. Overall, I liked this book, so I’m going to start with the positives so as not to give the wrong impression. The romance is great. It’s a reconnected lovers story, which I’m a fan of, if done right. This one is. The hero and heroine both have flaws they have to overcome, but are essentially good people.
The heroine’s mother, however, has some serious issues, and causes her own problems. The author actually takes the opportunity to delve into a mental health issue, and I appreciate that, though I would have liked the explanation a little earlier. I spent most of the book wondering what the heck was wrong with that woman and hating her. There’s also a background romance with the heroine’s best friend, and I hope there’s at least a novella that goes into it, because I’m interested about what was happening off page.
What I didn’t like: There were two overriding themes that just got beat to death, and they’re both in the title. Obviously, there was going to be Christmas and at least one dare. But by the end, every time I heard “Christmas” or “dare”, I wanted to puncture my eardrums. This may just be a thing in cutesy Christmas romances, but it’s a thing I don’t love. If repetition of phrases won’t make you bonkers, though, I do recommend this book for your holiday reading.
So, I thought this was going to be a humor book. I wasn’t entirely wrong. It is pretty funny. But it actually is an in-depth look at what suffering is, why it happens, and what we can do about it. I am a spiritual seeker. Part of that for me has always been about looking at myself and getting into alignment with the universe. So, obviously, this book is perfect for me. I love that the beginning is written from the perspective of how best to stay in suffering, because I find I’m often doing those things even when I think I don’t want to suffer anymore. It is incredibly effective. I definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in finding more serenity in their life, but that needs to be eased into it with a little humor.
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Eve Rodsky specializes in organizational management, and she’s applied those principles to making a system to create equity in household labor. That sentence sounds really dry, but the book isn’t. She uses her own marriage as an example as she illustrates how the Fair Play system works. She walks us through the ways we may be contributing to the problem without realizing it (I personally am incredibly guilty of the frustrated “I’ve got it” approach), the types of husbands we might be dealing with and how best to approach each, and then (get this, ladies) a solution. The solution is a process, but it’s a process meant to be easily individualized for each family. I am really excited to try it. I spend a lot of time venting with my girlfriends about the amount of household work we still take on as full-time working mothers, and I would love just that time back, not to mention the time I’m actually doing the household work.
King Arthur is by nature not a happy story for anyone. This is a pre-King Arthur narrative that’s more twisted than any other I’ve read in that world. I loved every minute of it. We follow Nimue, future Lady of the Lake, as she inherits the sword of power and tries to figure out what to do with it. We meet all the characters we expect to meet, although not always in the form we expect. There is so much violence, but also tenderness and familial ties and love. Nimue is truly confused and conflicted, and I love that the story centered around her. I know this is an upcoming Netflix show, but I hope there’s a full series of books coming, too. I want more.
The narrator is awesome! This book is kind of a mix of Goosebumps and Theodore Boone. It’s a middle grade mystery with ghosts and demons. It’s not incredibly scary, but maybe not a good read for nervous children. I really enjoyed it. I did not want to stop listening. There’s an interesting cast of characters, a good mystery, and some real legal information. The main character is also kind of a math nerd, which I would have loved in my own middle grade years. Also, it’s a great read for children in blended families, as it deals with some of that without being preachy.
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A note on the narrator: This book is narrated by the author. She’s good, and when she talks about things like her father passing, you can hear her choke up a bit. It adds some weight to the reading.
I think all the parents I know struggle with the use of devices in families, but I like the idea of a day of tech rest. 24/6 makes some compelling arguments, though I’m not sure I needed any. It also has some actionable ideas for how to make it work, which is incredibly valuable.
It may be enough to say that if you’re a fan of Buffy, you will love this book, but I’m going to go ahead and say a little more than that.
First of all, it was true of Slayer and it’s true again here, Kiersten White does a phenomenal job of incorporating Buffy-speak into the book. It feels like a continuation of the TV series. Who doesn’t want that? Also, we again get to see some characters from the show, and they feel true to themselves and it’s a delight. The storyline of this book continues on from the end of Slayer. I personally had not read Slayer since before its publication, so it took me a minute to refresh, but this book did a good job of catching you back up if it’s been a while, without an unnecessary info dump in case you’re reading them back to back.
There are all the things you’d expect from a story in the Buffy-verse: demons, intrigue, romances that seem doomed, witty banter, an apocalypse. I adored every page, and I never wanted to put it down. If you love Buffy (and if you don’t, you’re the monster), you will love this book.