Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Book Review: "The Block Party" by Jamie Day

So. Much. Drama.

Those who live on an exclusive cul-de-sac on Alton Road definitely think they’re better than everyone else. The neighbors come together often, most notably for the annual block party over Memorial Day weekend.

While there’s always a scandal to be had at the block party, this year tops it all. Gunshots are fired. Someone is dead. But who died? And who is the murderer?

From those tense moments, the book takes us back one year. We watch secrets be hidden, suspicions grow, tensions heighten. There’s no shortage of possibilities as far as who might be hurt or angry enough to kill, and whom the victim is. You’re definitely kept guessing.

I do love the melodrama of neighbors behaving badly. At times it seemed like there were so many scandals and so many people in crisis that it was hard to keep track of it all. The book is narrated by Alex, organizer of the block party, and her daughter, Lettie. Neither are completely sympathetic characters.

I found the pacing strangely slow given the fact that so much was going on. (Two separate epilogues didn’t help.) But still, I couldn’t look away from these people and I needed to know how the story would be resolved.

Thanks so much to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the complimentary copy!

Book Review: "Piglet" by Lottie Hazell

I don’t think I’ve ever been hungrier than I was while reading this book. And I don’t mean it metaphorically—this book has some of the most gorgeously sumptuous descriptions of food and cooking that I’ve ever seen. This is definitely a book that needed recipes included!!

Unable to escape her childhood nickname, Piglet is excited about her life. She and her fiancé, Kit, have just bought a house and they’ll be married in 9 weeks. She loves her job as a cookbook editor, but what she loves more than anything is cooking elaborate meals, whether when she and Kit are entertaining or just for the two of them.

Two weeks before their wedding, Kit confesses that he has betrayed Piglet. She has no idea what to do. Should she forgive him and go on with the wedding? Should she cancel everything before things go much further? And as devastated and angry as she feels, why is she always so ravenous?

As the wedding approaches, Piglet seems ready to forgive and move on. After all, that seems to be what nearly everyone expects of her. But like a painstakingly created recipe, everything needs to be just right, and that’s the last thing Piglet feels to be true.

I loved the way this was written, especially the vivid ways Lottie Hazell describes things. But the story itself never really pulled me in—it kept me at arm’s length and never really gave details about certain things.

Book Review: "From the Start" by Katie Duggan

This was such a sexy, emotional romance, with so much more depth than I often find with this genre. And the coolest thing is that the author, Katie Duggan, works at my local bookstore, and when we recognized our shared love of certain romances, they told me they wrote a book. (My copy is even personalized!)

One of the things I loved about this book is that it’s a grumpy-sunshine romance but the genders are flipped. Nic (short for Nicoletta) is a psychologist with a chip on her shoulder. The last thing she’s expecting is to run into Josh, her childhood nemesis, on a train. She’s not seen him in 10 years (and she’s happy about that), so she cannot believe they live in the same Brooklyn neighborhood.

While Nic remembers that Josh made her childhood miserable, Josh remembers that she was his first crush. Yet after the furthest thing from a meet-cute, neither can get the other out of their system. And when Nic learns at a party that Josh is particularly skilled sexually (and she doesn't hear it from Josh), she realizes that she may need to make a deal with her own personal devil to get the satisfaction she craves.

Of course, when they agree for some no-strings-attached fun, they’re both convinced they can have sex without catching feelings. Hmm…how do you think that’ll work out for them?

I love banter in my romances, and this book has it, as well as some serious steam. But beyond that, the book deals with neurodiversity and body positivity, and the supporting characters were terrific, too. I’m so glad that feeding my book-buying craving put me in Katie’s path!

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Book Review: "The Women" by Kristin Hannah

So, maybe you’ve seen this book around once or twice? I’m definitely a fan of Kristin Hannah’s, but I need to be in a specific frame of mind for the emotional journeys she takes you on. I’m pleased to say, however, that this so utterly lived up to all the hype—it was simply fantastic.

“How did you know if you had the strength and courage for a thing like that? Especially as a woman, raised to be a lady, whose courage had been untested.”

Frances “Frankie” McGrath was raised a daughter of privilege, living on Coronado Island. She was working as a nurse, at least until she got married. But in 1966, at age 20, inspired by her older brother going to Vietnam, Frankie does the unheard of and enlists, becoming an Army nurse.

The book follows Frankie in country, through the harrowing injuries and deaths she saw, the wounded Vietnamese children, and the strong bonds she formed with both her fellow nurses and other soldiers. It also deals with the trauma Frankie dealt with upon her return, both from those against the war and her own family, all of whom would rather believe that there were no women in Vietnam.

This book is graphic and very emotional, but it so beautifully pays tribute to the oft-forgotten women who served in Vietnam, and those who gave their lives. It also examines the visible and hidden scars that soldiers face, whether in combat or not. I’m always grateful to those who have served and continue to serve our country, but reading The Women makes me want to say thank you over and over again.

Book Review: "One of Our Kind" by Nicola Yoon

If you’re looking for a book sure to get your book club or buddy reads group all riled up, here’s one for you. And if you’re looking for a book you can’t stop thinking about and wondering what the author trying to say, here’s one for you as well.

Jasmyn and her husband King have finally made it. They have enough money to move out of Los Angeles to Liberty, an all-Black utopia, where they don’t have to worry about the police, where they can raise their young son Kamau without fear he’ll meet a tragic end. Every single professional, every teacher, every business owner is Black.

A public defender, Jasmyn feels a little bit guilty about moving out of the city and into the grandeur of Liberty. But she’s still putting in the work every day to try and right as many wrongs as she can. And the murders of innocent Black men by police keep happening in the world outside Liberty, so her work is important and never done.

But why is it that in an all-Black neighborhood, very few people care about the fate of those less fortunate? Why do they close their eyes to what is going on outside the gates of their community? Jasmyn can’t understand what it is that is making the residents of Liberty so complacent, and why are those she felt a kinship with dropping their passion for social justice? Who's making this happen and why?

Part Get Out, part The Stepford Wives, this is a creepy yet powerful book. But the ending? Read it and let’s discuss.

My thanks to NetGalley and AA Knopf for the complimentary copy. The book publishes 6/11/2024.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Book Review: "Lucky Bounce" by Cait Nary

You didn’t think I’d go another month without a hockey romance, did you? I stumbled upon this book and fell head over heels into a puddle of emotions and steam.

As a P.E. teacher at a private school in Philadelphia, Zeke is used to dealing with children of wealthy, even famous parents or grandparents. But his composure is tested the day his favorite hockey player, Spencer McLeod—the guy whose name and number are on four jerseys Zeke owns—walks into school with his five-year-old daughter, Addie.

Spencer McLeod has a daughter? Who knew? Certainly not Zeke, who is only interested in Spencer’s hockey prowess, right? (Spoiler alert: that’s not all Zeke admires about Spencer.)

Something about Spencer’s shyness, his lack of confidence in the whole fathering-a-young-daughter thing, totally disarms Zeke. It’s not long before their dude/bro friendship is giving Zeke glimpses into the possibility of something he can’t believe possible, something romantic with Spencer. But both have their own challenges to deal with, too.

Zeke and Spencer have fantastic chemistry and an absolutely adorable connection. Sure, the book might have benefited from being narrated from Spencer’s POV, too, but I still found myself smiling, blushing from the steam, and maybe shedding a tear. And that’s about all I need from a romance!

Book Review: "Social Engagement" by Avery Carpenter Forrey

I’m definitely a fan of books that provide social commentary and examine the foibles of their characters. Social Engagement is fascinating but vague at times, like someone is recounting a story but leaving tiny pieces out.

“We all carry this weight: the constantly refreshing feed and the photo memories feature remind us of our rearview even when we want to look forward.”

When the book begins, Callie is sitting in the honeymoon suite of a fancy hotel, still in her wedding dress, eating a pizza. She got married just a few hours earlier and her marriage has already imploded. But what happened?

The book looks back at the year leading up to Callie’s wedding, her obsession with social media, measuring herself against the feeds of others, and chronicling the celebrations of friends. Callie moves in with her childhood best friend Virginia, sharing Virginia’s wealthy parents’ NYC apartment. Callie starts dating Whit, a handsome finance bro, but the reappearance of Virginia’s cousin Ollie, whom Callie secretly dated in college, creates a great deal of upheaval.

This is a character-driven book but there’s certainly plenty of drama, with secrets and hidden resentments about to boil over. Callie isn’t a particularly likable character, but I couldn’t look away from her story. I do wish the ending was a little more definitive, but I definitely found this a fascinating read.