Friday, May 31, 2024

Book Review: "When the World Tips Over" by Jandy Nelson

Ten years ago, I read Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun. It was easily one of the most incredible books I’ve ever read. Four years later, I went back to read her debut, The Sky is Everywhere, and I loved that, too. But for a number of years, there’s been no concrete sign that a third Nelson book would be published.

Color me shocked when last week, I received an email from NetGalley with a “Read Now” opportunity—for Nelson’s new book! I couldn’t get to it fast enough.

Jandy Nelson doesn’t just write books. She creates dazzlingly beautiful, poetic masterpieces of words and images, with sparks of magical realism, which leave you breathless and shaken to your core, your mind spinning. That artistry is once again on display in When the World Tips Over.

This is the story of the Fall family, who live in Northern California wine country. The kids’ father was a winemaker who disappeared one day, leaving his family in disarray. Bernadette, his wife, is a celebrated chef. Their oldest son, Wynton, is a violin virtuoso with a talent for self-destruction. The middle child, Miles, is handsome, kind, smart, athletic, and lonely—and wants to find the perfect guy. And their youngest, Dizzy, thinks she’s ugly but dreams of being a heroine in a romance novel.

The appearance of a beautiful, tattooed young woman with rainbow-colored hair turns the Falls upside down. She changes the lives of all three children, but carries her own pain and sorrows. Is she an angel? A saint? A mirage? Simply ordinary?

This is one of those books where there are a lot of disparate threads that ultimately weave together. It’s a beautiful, emotional read about families, friends, love, hope, and a little bit of magic.

Thanks to NetGalley and Dial Books for the advance copy; the book will publish 9/24.

Book Review: "A Lovely Lie" by Jaime Lynn Hendricks

I used to read more thrillers and crime novels than any other genre. But I grew disillusioned because so many thrillers seemed fairly similar, with common themes and tropes. However, since so many of my Bookstagram buddies love thrillers, I’ve waded back in this year. While they all haven’t been great, I’ve found some fantastic thrillers so far in 2024, and Jaime Lynn Hendricks’ new book is on that list! (This is also the fourth thriller I've loved that has "Lie" in the title.)

Pepper and Scarlett were best friends in high school. Pepper was the star, the leader, and Scarlett was her follower. In 1999, the two were involved in a car accident that killed two of their classmates. They coordinated their alibis and lied to the police, and the next morning, Pepper disappeared, never to be heard from again.

More than 20 years later, Scarlett lives in St. Petersburg, Florida, with her husband Vince and their teenage son. She is shocked when Zoey, Pepper’s daughter, shows up, telling Scarlett that Pepper is dead. Zoey knows that Scarlett kept Pepper’s secrets; she demands to know who her father is and what happened the night of the senior picnic, as she found a letter Pepper wrote to Scarlett mentioning an accident.

Zoey’s arrival turns Scarlett’s life upside down. She is determined to keep digging into what happened that night 22 years ago, to find out who her father is and what secrets and lies have been kept hidden. But even Scarlett doesn’t know what she thinks she does…

This was an excellent thriller that definitely surprised me. Hendricks threw in lots of twists and turns, and I didn’t know which characters to trust and which to despise. The book shifts back and forth between 1999 and the present, and is narrated by several of the characters.

This was my first book by Hendricks; it will absolutely not be my last!!

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Book Review: "A Storm of Infinite Beauty" by Julianne MacLean

Scarlett Fontaine was a Hollywood star. She won several Oscars—for acting and songwriting—and was known for her beauty and fashion sense. Amazingly, she died when she was only in her mid-30s, but her talent lives on.

Gwen is a distant cousin of Scarlett’s and is the curator of a museum in Nova Scotia (where Scarlett grew up) that is dedicated to Scarlett’s life. She’s also going to inherit Scarlett’s estate, as she’ll be the last living heir.

One day, Peter, a photojournalist, comes to the museum to discuss a biography he’s writing about Scarlett. He shares some things about Scarlett that Gwen had never heard before, a story about time in Alaska and a secret child. Gwen, who is tremendously protective of Scarlett’s legacy, is shocked by Peter’s claims at first, and wonders if he has fabricated a scandal to sell his book.

But the more facts Peter lays out, the more the pieces start falling in place for Gwen. She’s been dealing with the end of her marriage as well as feelings of grief and anger, so working with Peter to verify this information becomes a good distraction for her.

Peter and Gwen travel to Alaska to see what they can find, and at the same time discover more about themselves as well. The book shifts between the 1960s in Alaska and the present, as the events in Scarlett’s early life unfold.

I didn’t realize that the bulk of the story was going to be Scarlett’s time in Alaska. It really didn’t grab me at all, but this book is highly rated on Goodreads so I might have missed something.

Book Review: "Let's Pretend This Will Work" by Maddie Dawson

“Well, I just think that when that first love comes along, it brings with it a huge thunderclap of feeling—something so amazing that we get overwhelmed with it. And that it’s tempting to think that it’s the only love there ever could be in the world. But then it ends. Most of the time it ends.”

Mimi is a drama teacher who has never really been in love before. So when she and Ren, her fellow drama teacher, start dating and falling in love, she feels this is her destiny. And her psychic agrees.

But the night Ren proposes to Mimi, he finds out his ex-wife Judith has been in a car accident and had a stroke. He rushes back to New Haven to be with his adult daughters in order to figure out what kind of care his ex-wife needs. He moves home with his daughters to care for Judith in their house, but he convinces Mimi to move to New Haven so he can have her nearby.

Ren rarely has time for Mimi; if he stops by at all, it’s mostly for sex. She is angry with herself and Ren, and realizes more and more that he’s never going to want to leave his family for her. (She even cooks for Ren and his daughters, and spends time with Judith to give them all a break.) To fill her loneliness, she becomes friends with the parents who run a daycare co-op in the ground floor of her building, and little by little, she finds a job and a community, and realizes what her heart wants most.

This is a funny and emotional story about realizing you are worthy of love exactly as you are, not as someone wants you to be. It’s also a story of found family, of recovering from grief, and how strange the path to happiness may seem while you’re following it.

I’ve enjoyed several of Maddie Dawson’s previous books, but this is my favorite. It’s so full of humor and heart. The book will publish 6/1.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Book Review: "If Something Happens to Me" by Alex Finlay

One night, high school seniors Ryan and Ali drive to Lovers’ Lane. They’re both ready to take the big step in their relationship before they head to separate colleges. But before things get too far, the car door is ripped open, Ali screams, and Ryan gets hit in the head. When he wakes up, Ali and her car are gone.

The events of that night changed Ryan’s life completely. His whole town suspected he was responsible for Ali’s disappearance, perhaps even her murder. But even though he was never charged with any crime, suspicion still surrounds him. Five years later, he’s changed his last name, graduated from a different college, and he’s studying to be a lawyer. But he never feels comfortable opening up to anyone about the night that haunts him.

While Ryan is on a law school trip in Italy, Ali’s car is found submerged in a lake in their hometown. He gets an anonymous note that says “I know who you are,” and it requests to meet with him. Before he can decide what to do, he catches a glimpse of something from his nightmares since the night Ali disappeared: the man he remembers dragging Ali away.

Desperate to find answers to the questions that have plagued him for years, Ryan follows the man through Europe. At the same time, a young deputy sheriff back in Ryan and Ali’s hometown starts looking into the case now that the car has been found. She discovers a web of secrets and lies that goes far deeper than she could imagine.

There are a lot of disparate storylines in the book that at first make you wonder how they will all fit together, but then everything clicks. You definitely need to suspend a little disbelief here, but Alex Finlay teases out the twists and keeps you guessing the whole way through the book. (I was right about certain things but in the wrong ways.)

I’ve been waiting to read this for a while, since I’m a fan of Finlay’s books. This was worth the wait for sure!!

Book Review: "In Tongues" by Thomas Grattan

I saw a friend post about this book on Bookstagram and the description intrigued me. After reading it, I was blown away by how it pulled me in. This is a character-driven, coming-of-age story that made me recall similar feelings (although in very different situations).

Early in 2001, following the end of his relationship with his boyfriend, Gordon decides to take a bus from his home in Minnesota to New York City, because it’s the only place he can think of. He knows no one and is lonely, hungry for companionship and for someone to give him direction.

He gets a job walking dogs for rich people in the city, and he builds a friendship with a bartender and her girlfriend. And then one day he meets two of his clients, Phillip and Nicola, a wealthy, gay couple who own a prestigious art gallery. Gordon isn’t sure how to act around them, but the men treat him well—and occasionally like a servant. It’s not long before Gordon becomes their personal assistant, part chauffeur, part errand boy, part object of admiration and flirtation.

At only 24, Gordon has no real ambition, except to feel like he belongs, like he is cared for, like he has purpose. But he remains unsure of what his role in the men’s lives really is, and what they expect of him. And when troubles arise in Phillip and Nicola’s relationship, Gordon becomes further enmeshed, especially in Phillip’s life.

With no real adult role models (his relationships with both of his parents are strained and odd), Gordon looks to Phillip for some direction. But Phillip is unsure of his own life and what he wants from Gordon and Nicola, so it’s not long before Gordon becomes collateral damage, and finds himself drifting from place to place, looking for love (or at least desire) and a path to follow.

In Tongues was so compelling and so beautifully written. There are dramatic moments but for the most part it’s a quiet book, but a powerful, emotional, and thought-provoking one.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Book Review: "Beneath the Surface" by Kaira Rouda

Rich people behaving badly and family dysfunction are always signs of an entertaining read. When I saw that a second book in this series was recently published, I figured I’d pick up the first.

Richard is the billionaire CEO of his family company. As he has been getting older, both of his sons are wondering what Richard’s plans are for the company’s future. So when each gets an invitation to join Richard and his fifth wife, Serena, on his new yacht for a weekend trip to Catalina Island, each thinks that Richard is ready to name them his successor.

When both Ted and John arrive at the yacht with their wives, they’re less than pleased to discover that the other has been invited. So now the challenge is for each brother to outmaneuver the other and prove to their father that they’re worthy to run the company.

No one can count on the tricks and surprises Richard has up his sleeve, or just how rough the water is during the trip. And when his estranged daughter Sibley arrives, she wreaks havoc in different ways.

This is one of those books where everyone has secrets, everyone has grudges against others, and even the wives want a piece of the pie. Who will walk away with what they want? And what does Richard have in store for his family?

There isn’t a likable character in the bunch, so I wasn’t rooting for anyone. The twists come fast and furious—some were surprising and some were predictable—but it was a quick and entertaining read, and I’ll be interested to see what Rouda does in the sequel.

Book Review: "Prince of the Palisades" by Julian Winters

Wow, this was such a great book! I didn’t realize how much I needed a story like this until I was fully immersed in it.

Jadon’s parents are the king and queen of Îles de la Rêverie, a small island off the coast of Africa. When a drunken tirade of his goes viral and causes an outrage, Jadon is sent to California—where his mother grew up—to try and rehabilitate his image.

The palace hopes that some carefully crafted public appearances, along with attending a private high school, might show Jadon in a more favorable light. But no matter how hard he tries to be the prince he believes the people of Rêverie want, the more mistakes he makes. If he doesn’t clean up his act, he may be forever banned from returning home.

Things get even more complicated when he falls for Reiss, a pink-haired, movie-loving, aspiring film student. Reiss isn’t necessarily impressed with Jadon’s arrogance, but he can see the vulnerability and hurt in the young prince, and sees how much more comfortable he is when he is being himself and speaking his own mind.

This has glimpses of Red White & Royal Blue, but it goes beyond a sweet romance. This is a powerful story about being your authentic self and speaking out, even if it might not be what people want from you. It’s also a thought-provoking commentary on racial disparity, how young Black people have to act a certain way to be accepted.

I really loved everything about the story, including Jadon’s royal guard, his sister the crown princess, and the palace liaison. Thanks so much to NetGalley and Viking Books for the advance copy; the book will publish 8/20.

Sunday, May 26, 2024

Book Review: "The Ex Vows" by Jessica Joyce

It’s been a while since a romance hit me so hard in the feels that I sobbed happy tears. But Jessica Joyce’s upcoming book, The Ex Vows, caused a waterworks, and I loved every minute of it.

Georgia and Adam were childhood best friends, and when Eli moved to town, the group became a close-knit trio, as much family as friends. That closeness remained as they went to college. Then Georgia and Eli fell in love, moved in together, and slowly but surely, their relationship disintegrated, as much for what they didn’t say as what they did.

Now, Georgia and Eli haven’t seen each other in 5 years. She’s back home in the Bay Area, while he is in NYC. But with Adam getting married, and their both being his “best people,” it’s coming time for them to see each other again. They’re both determined not to fully reveal how far apart they’ve drifted; instead they plan to present a united front for Adam’s sake.

As disaster after disaster occurs in the week before the wedding—the venue burns down, they can’t find someone to make them a cake, their DJ fell through—Georgia and Eli band together to solve all of the crises. At the same time, they both realize how intense their feelings still are for one another, despite both dealing with their own crises and issues. Can they have a second chance, or will the same things doom them again?

I seriously loved this book, with its friends-to-lovers plot as well as chosen family. It’s emotional, seriously steamy, funny, and absolutely beautiful, and I love Joyce’s treatment of anxiety and fear. I could totally see this as a movie!

Thanks so much to NetGalley and Berkley for the advance copy! The book will publish 7/16.

Book Review: "Savor It" by Tarah DeWitt

Fisher was a chef at the top of his game in New York City, even getting a Michelin star. But after his sister dies, he loses the star, and he isn’t even sure he wants to cook anymore. He also has custody of his teenage niece, Indy. So the owner of the restaurant sends him and Indy to the small coastal town of Spunes, Oregon (“not to be confused with Forks, Washington”), where he will consult on a new restaurant and develop the menu.

Sage has lived her whole life in Spunes, which means everyone in town has seen her ups and downs. Her relationship with Ian, the town’s golden boy, has ended after 5 years, and he’s already engaged. She’s desperate to find her self-worth and follow her dreams—if she can figure out exactly what they are.

Fisher and Indy’s summer home is a guest house right near where Sage lives with a small menagerie of animals. It’s not long before a series of awkward encounters blossoms into a friendship and an intense attraction, which has the whole town talking. When the locals start protesting about the new restaurant (which has a somewhat phallic design), Fisher turns to Sage for advice and assistance—and then their flirtation turns to serious passion.

“I remind myself that it’s absurd, that life is not a meritocracy. Just because you do everything right, even if you know you deserve it, doesn’t mean that it will all be perfect in the end. Just because you accomplish a dream doesn’t mean it’ll make you happy forever.”

This is a book about second chances, of realizing you’re more than your situation. It’s a book about overcoming grief and hurt, finding what (and who) matters, and trusting your heart. I absolutely loved this, and found it romantic, steamy, funny and emotional, with an immensely endearing cast of supporting characters—and animals!

Book Review: "Providence" by Craig Willse

“Before I completely destroyed my life, I taught English at Sawyer College in Ohio. I wasn’t the world’s greatest professor, but I also wasn’t the worst—although it’s possible I would become that.”

Mark is growing weary of teaching, of the pressure to publish and schmooze. He’s definitely one of those people who is happiest alone, which isn’t particularly satisfying for his boyfriend, a mathematics professor at Sawyer, or his fellow professors he considers his friends. He knows there’s got to be something better out there.

Two weeks into the semester, Tyler comes into his class. He’s a sophomore, a scholarship student among an immensely wealthy student body, yet he’s highly intelligent, as Mark witnesses when Tyler participates in a class lecture.

Little by little, Mark finds himself growing obsessed with Tyler, even though he knows pursuing a student is the last thing he should be doing. But one night, Tyler makes the first move, and they wind up having sex. It becomes a strange relationship, alternately attracting and repelling Mark, yet he starts losing sight of everything but Tyler.

Mark starts to realize Tyler hasn’t been entirely truthful with him. But while the red flags should be a sign to stay away, Mark winds up getting manipulated by Tyler into helping with something unspeakable. Can Mark take control of his life before it goes fully off the rails? Does he even care?

I loved the concept of Providence, and the idea of a teacher obsessed with a student. But while this book is marketed as a thriller, I didn’t find it particularly thrilling; while there is a bit of mystery, the pacing of the plot drags for three-quarters of the book and then leaves you hanging a bit at the end. While these issues dampened my enjoyment, I did like the intense mood of the book.

Book Review: "Lies and Weddings" by Kevin Kwan

Kevin Kwan once again gives us a close and personal look at the lives of immensely wealthy Asian families. There’s tons of drama, scandal, secrets, romance, and utter excess to be had—it’s a world I love getting glimpses of.

Arabella Gresham (aka the Countess of Greshamsbury) is ready to show off to the world’s wealthiest people when her eldest daughter Augusta marries His Serene Highness Maximillian zu Liechtenberg. While Arabella became privy to money when she married her husband Francis, Earl of Greshamsbury, she has brought the family into the limelight, becoming a doyenne of fashion, interior design, and luxury hotels.

What Arabella cares about most (other than money) are appearances. She wants everything to be the most luxurious, the most extravagant, and the most envied, and she wants to ensure her family’s legacy. With Augusta marrying a prince, she wants to be sure her two other children, Rufus and Beatrice, make the right decisions for their future—and only she knows what is right.

But try as she might to cajole, guide, even strong-arm Rufus into making a royal match, he only seems to have eyes for Eden, his childhood best friend and daughter of the family doctor. This will not do, especially with the Greshams’ financial future in jeopardy. (It doesn't help that Rufus is—gasp—a surfer and—double gasp—a photographer!)

“You’ve been so focused on marrying off your children to the debilitated descendants of Victoria and Albert that you’ve forgotten where all the real action is nowadays: Asia.”

Kwan takes us on a romp to some of the most luxurious locales and feeds us incredibly sumptuous meals, unforgettable fashion, bank-breaking furnishings, and elaborate celebrations, name-dropping all the way. You’ll root for true love to win and hate the odious manipulators. There’s tons of drama and lots of sass, both from Kwan and his characters. It’s quite a ride!

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Book Review: "The Guncle Abroad" by Steven Rowley

I always am a bit worried that a sequel won’t live up to its predecessor. In the case of The Guncle Abroad, my fears were completely unwarranted: it had all of the humor, emotion, and heart that the original did.

Five years have passed since Patrick took care of Maisie and Grant, his niece and nephew, following the death of his sister-in-law, who was also Patrick’s best friend. During this time, Patrick has relaunched his acting career and moved to New York City, while the kids are back at home in Connecticut with their father, Greg.

When Greg decides to get married to an Italian woman, he once again enlists his brother’s help, because the kids—particularly Maisie—are vehemently opposed to the marriage. Patrick agrees to travel with the kids through Europe, with their final destination being Lake Como, where the wedding will take place.

“That was the thing about grief, none of us wanted to travel with it, exactly, but the suggestion that we would or should be over it was somehow an even more unwelcome passenger.”

As they make their way through London, Paris, and Salzburg, en route to Venice and Lake Como, Patrick tries to provide Maisie and Grant with more “Guncle Rules” to help them process the changes coming to their lives. At the same time, Patrick is dealing with his own questions about his recently ended relationship as well as the grief he still feels for Sara. But most of all, he wants to make the kids happy—mostly with him.

There are some uproariously funny moments in this book with several of the supporting characters. There also are moments of true poignancy which made me tear up. This is a book about all kinds of love—romantic, filial, familial—as well as the balance between moving on and holding on to memories. I loved this so much!!

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Book Review: "Colton Gentry's Third Act" by Jeff Zentner

Through the years I’ve found so many auto-buy authors. One of these is Jeff Zentner, whose YA books (particularly In the Wild Light and The Serpent King) are among some of my favorites. I was really excited when I learned that his latest book would be his first foray into adult romance, and he didn’t miss a beat as he shifted audiences.

“Grief is an arsonist, stealing in under cover of dark to reduce you to ashes. You can expect it or not. But you can’t prepare for it, and there’s no defense. Well, one maybe: self-immolate first.”

Colton Gentry’s country music career is on the cusp of a renaissance. He’s about to have his first hit in a long while, he’s opening for a mega-star, and he’s married to another famous singer. But while all of this should make him happy, he’s grieving: his best friend Duane was recently killed during a mass shooting at a country music festival. So one night during his set, fortified with alcohol, he expresses his views on gun control along with some choice epithets.

Needless to say, Colton’s views and the profanity he used while speaking up, alienates his fans and the country music industry. Within a day or two, his career and his marriage have both imploded, leaving him no choice but to return to his rural Kentucky hometown, live with his mother, and lick his wounds.

Colton feels like a total failure, as being a musician is what he has wanted since high school graduation. He has no idea what his next step will be, until a chance encounter with his first love, Luann, who is now the chef and owner of a prestigious restaurant in town. She sees how broken he is, and offers him a job in the kitchen, despite the fact that he once broke her heart.

This is a love story, but it’s also a story about grief, friendship, redemption, and picking yourself back up when you’ve hit rock bottom. Zentner is at the top of his game, and there are so many fantastic characters.

This isn’t to be read on an empty stomach unless you’re planning your gorge yourself on gourmet food afterward!

Monday, May 20, 2024

Book Review: "The Pairing" by Casey McQuiston

There’s always that sense of anticipation I feel when I pick up the latest release from an author whose work I enjoy. Sadly, the upcoming book by Casey McQuiston (author of my all-time fave, Red White & Royal Blue), resulted in disappointment for me. There were definitely things I liked, but overall, I just didn’t enjoy it.

Kit and Theo were childhood best friends who became lovers, until their relationship disintegrated on a plane to Europe. The breakup led to their canceling a European food and wine tour, and after all their history, they were out of each other’s lives for good.

After 4 years apart, both have moved on. Theo is a bartender who is studying to be a sommelier; Kit went to pastry school, and he now bakes at a fancy Parisian restaurant. When both decide to use their tour cancellation vouchers at the last possible opportunity, they see each other for the first time in 4 years.

Both Theo and Kit haven’t been lacking for sexual relationships during their time apart; both have had male and female lovers. While neither likes watching the other flirt during the tour, they’re both over each other, so why not challenge each other to see who can hook up with more people?

As both throw themselves into the challenge, of course, they realize they’ve never stopped loving each other. But have they truly changed in four years?

One of the things I dislike most in romances is miscommunication. So much of the plot hinged on their inability to express their feelings to one another or discuss what went wrong between them. And while I enjoyed the sumptuous, detailed descriptions of food, wine, and tourist attractions, neither character really appealed to me, and I never believed they really loved each other.

Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the advance copy! The book will publish 8/6.

Book Review: "The Reappearance of Rachel Price" by Holly Jackson

I’ve been wanting to read this for a while, since I was a huge fan of Holly Jackson’s A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder series. I’m not sure if this is a standalone or the start of a new series, but it definitely was great either way!

Sixteen years ago, Rachel Price, a young wife and mother, disappeared without a trace. The only witness was her infant daughter, Bel, who was found alone in Rachel’s car, with the motor still running. The police and Rachel’s mother had some theories of what happened to her, but they couldn’t prove anything.

Bel has no memories of her mother, but Rachel is still a huge presence in her life, although Bel wishes everyone could move on. Yet when her father agrees that the family will participate in a documentary looking into Rachel’s disappearance, Bel is hoping it will end quickly and give everyone the closure they need.

One day, the unthinkable happens: Rachel reappears after being gone for 16 years. Her story of what happened to her is wild, and when Bel notices some inconsistencies, she starts to wonder what is true and what is not. Where was her mother all those years? Is Rachel the one she should be afraid of?

Bel decides she’s the only one that can figure out what really happened to Rachel. Along the way she realizes that lots of people know more than they’re sharing, and she uncovers a twisted web of secrets and lies that grows more confusing by the day.

I couldn’t put this down. The pacing is a little uneven but the twists toward the end come fast and furious. It’s a fun read, full of suspense and emotion.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Book Review: "Haunted Ever After" by Jen DeLuca

After four terrific romances that centered around a Renaissance Fair in Maryland, Jen DeLuca has packed her bags and headed down to Florida for the start of a new series.

Life in Orlando hasn’t been kind to Cassie. Her friends are all getting married and having kids, and her landlord just decided to put her house up for sale. Not being able to afford anything in Orlando, she winds up buying a place in Boneyard Key, the Most Haunted Small Town in Florida.

Cassie figures that the whole haunted town thing is just a tourist gimmick. But it’s not long before she realizes that the fact her laptop won’t charge in her house and the magnetic poetry words on her fridge keep forming sentences means that the former owner, “Mean Mrs. Hawkins,” is haunting her.

In order to get any work done, she has to bring her laptop to the Hallowed Grounds coffee shop. The owner, Nick, is grumpy but very handsome, and the attraction between them is very intense. But Nick can sense that Cassie isn’t sure about staying in town, so do they have any chance at a future?

This was such a fun book. It’s definitely slow-burn where the romance is concerned, but once it gets going it’s pretty steamy. The ghost angle is really fascinating (and there’s an interesting twist to it), and boy, did I love Elmer!! (IYKYK) I definitely look forward to visiting Boneyard Key again!

Thanks so much to NetGalley and Berkley for the advance copy! The book publishes 8/13.

Book Review: "Summers at the Saint" by Mary Kay Andrews

Pack your bags and join Mary Kay Andrews at the St. Cecelia (better known as “The Saint”), a famous resort on the Georgia coast. The Saint has been a haven and a playground for wealthy travelers for decades, and its exclusivity rankles those who can’t afford to stay there.

When Traci first saw the pink building that looked like a fairytale castle, she wanted to go there, but as a local “ain’t,” her kind wasn’t welcome. She was able to land a summer job there for several years, which led to her meeting and marrying one of the heirs to the resort. Now, a widow in her 40s, she’s determined to return The Saint to its glory days, before the pandemic took its toll.

Faced with unprecedented staff shortages, she increases salaries, provides housing for employees, and recruits new staff, including the daughter of her former best friend, who worked with Traci years ago before ending their friendship. Traci even convinces her niece to abandon her study-abroad plans and work at The Saint for the summer.

What Traci doesn’t fully grasp is how the deck is stacked against her. She has to deal with the machinations of her brother-in-law, who wants nothing more than to wrest The Saint from her hands. And it turns out there’s a lot of nefarious goings-on behind the scenes, which threaten to take the resort down for good. When a member of the staff is killed, and someone comes looking for answers about an incident at the hotel years ago, Traci realizes she can only depend on herself—and maybe one or two others.

There’s no shortage of family dysfunction, drama, people behaving badly, even murder and violence. Who’s responsible for the chaos that has broken out, and why? Can Traci turn things around at The Saint before she winds up in danger—and/or loses a place that reminds her of her late husband?

Andrews knows how to tell a story and paint an evocative scene, and this hooked me from start to finish. It's definitely a little darker than many of her books. There’s suspense, romance, intrigue, grief, even rehashing old memories. I definitely enjoyed my time at The Saint!

Thursday, May 16, 2024

Book Review: "I'll Have What He's Having" by Adib Khorram

I was so excited to see that after writing several terrific YA novels, Adib Khorram is making his first foray into adult romance—and it was really good!⁣⁣

⁣⁣ Farzan may be the oldest of three children, but he’s not been the stellar success that his siblings have, either professionally or romantically. He’s a substitute teacher, which is exhausting, and he’s just had another relationship end really before it began.⁣⁣

⁣⁣ To drown his sorrows, Farzan goes to Aspire, one of Kansas City’s hottest wine bars. He gets fantastic personal attention from Aspire’s wine director, David, who is not only tremendously knowledgeable, but he’s the sexiest man Farzan has ever seen. They flirt over each pour, and both feel the intense attraction. David thinks Farzan is a restaurant critic—a hilarious misunderstanding that gets cleared up during post-meal passion.⁣⁣

⁣⁣ After an incredibly steamy night, David tells Farzan that he’s taking the master sommelier exam in a few months, and once he passes, he’s planning to leave Kansas City. Farzan doesn’t want just a casual fling, but when he decides to take over his parents’ restaurant, he needs David’s help—and David could use a study buddy—so they agree to be friends with benefits.⁣⁣

⁣⁣ Of course, the no-strings-attached thing rarely succeeds, and it’s not long before both have fallen for each other. But if David is going to leave, what’s the point in giving into their feelings? Are they running the risk of losing the best thing that has happened to both of them?⁣⁣

⁣⁣ This was a moving, romantic, fun, and incredibly steamy book. It’s a story of family, friendship, love, food, wine, and trusting your heart and your dreams. And boy, did it make me hungry!!

Thanks to NetGalley and Forever for the advance copy. The book will publish 8/27.⁣⁣ ⁣⁣

Book Review: "Sipsworth" by Simon Van Booy

We’ve previously established that I am a complete and utter sap. But this beautiful little book got me all choked up while on a plane, and the woman sitting next to me asked if I was okay. (That’s always an embarrassing conversation.)

After 60 years living abroad, Helen returns to the English village where she grew up. She’s at a point in her life where she “was old with her life broken in ways she could not have foreseen.” She’s just ready to die, and hopes to do so quickly.

Each day of her life is much like the one before. She enjoys watching old movies and listening to opera, but more often than not she finds herself sleeping longer and longer during the day. But then one night, her quiet existence is disrupted when she discovers a mouse has gotten into her cottage.

At first, all she wants to do is get the mouse out. But then she starts to worry that it might get eaten by the neighbor’s cat, or even freeze to death, so she decides to bring it back into the house. Little by little she finds herself caring for the mouse, feeding it treats and even talking to it as if it were a companion. She even gives him a name, Sipsworth, and he proves to be much more personable and smarter than your average mouse.

For the first time in years, Helen doesn’t feel entirely alone. And when a crisis occurs she realizes that there are people to whom she matters, people who notice her and want to help her. This woman who was prepared to live her final days alone has found her with numerous companions, especially Sipsworth.

This was such a beautiful, sweet story of second chances, realizing you’re more important than you think, and, of course, the power of hope. It definitely requires a little suspension of disbelief, but this felt like a gigantic hug.

Book Review: "Swiped" by L.M. Chilton

Every time I talk to a friend who is looking to start dating, I hear about another dating app. There’s always at least 2-3 I’ve never heard of before. (And for my friends just looking for, umm, fun, there are apps for that, too!)

Ever since she and her boyfriend broke up, Gwen has been trying to find the magic with someone new. And with her best friend and roommate getting ready to move out and get married, Gwen has become addicted to swiping on Connector, and enjoys the thrill when she is notified of a match.

Unfortunately, while many of the men she matches with seem terrific, in reality, they’re all just different degrees of awful. There’s the one who’s still hung up on his ex, the racist yet handsy woman-hater, the secretly married guy, etc. But still, she keeps hoping that she’ll luck out and find the right guy.

Then she finds out one of the guys she went out with was found dead, and all signs point to murder. As more men die, the only thing that connects them is they all went out on one disastrous date with Gwen. The police are starting to wonder if Gwen might be a dangerous killer, but she’s determined to figure out who’s really responsible, and why they’re targeting her.

This is a fun thriller that definitely does keep you guessing. Gwen is really a mess, but you feel for her as her life is imploding. Sure, you have to suspend your disbelief at times, but it didn’t bother me that much. I just enjoyed this look at how crazy the online dating world can be!!

Thanks to NetGalley and Gallery Books for the advance copy of this one. The book will publish 5/21.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Book Review: "Love, Literally" by J.T. Tierney

I read a lot of rom-coms and romances, and one of the things I like best about that genre is when there’s banter between the main characters. So when I heard about Love, Literally, about two people who connect over their shared love of wordplay, language, and literature, how could I resist?

It’s 2020, a few months into the COVID pandemic. Hallie has been laid off from her set design job, her boyfriend has disappeared, and her roommate has left town to care for a sick relative. Unable to make ends meet, her best friend Maria comes to her rescue, offering her the opportunity to move in with her and her husband.

Not long after, friends of Maria’s decide they’d like to escape to their second home, a mansion on Cape Cod, and they invite Maria and her husband, as well as Hallie. Also included is Quinn, a professor of literature whose own life has been chaotic as well.

It’s not long before Hallie and Quinn begin engaging in intellectual one-upmanship, stemming from their shared fondness for literature, language, musicals, and puns. Not just their minds are sparked, of course—their playful flirting soon gives way to stronger chemistry, both emotional and sexual.

Both Hallie and Quinn have had their share of turmoil, pain, and sadness. They want to see where this connection may lead, but they both have issues dealing with their feelings and hopes, not to mention their ability to express what they want from one another.

There’s much to enjoy about this story, but there is far too much drama and indecisiveness, which leads to lots of tears and handwringing. The author also threw in a bunch of other subplots and social issues that made brief ripples and then were forgotten. I wish the focus of the book had stayed on the romance.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Book Review: "Alternate Endings" by Ali Rosen

Beatrice is one of those people whose professional life is spectacular, yet her personal life is a mess. She loves her job and she’s great at what she does, and she loves her six-year-old son, Bash.

What she doesn’t love is being in the midst of a divorce with her ex, Lucas, who is living in the basement apartment of their townhouse so he can still be fully involved in Bash’s life. Every tweak to their custody schedule causes a fight with Lucas, and he threatens to rectify things when their divorce is finalized.

When Bea’s boss, Brigid, gets divorced, she decides to move to a castle in Ireland. (Half of the company is already based there.) Bea and the team are expected to fly to Ireland for a few days every two weeks, which causes significant tension with Lucas.

And if that’s not enough chaos, Brigid has hired a new chief technology officer for the company, and much to Bea’s surprise, it’s Jack Sander. As in the guy who utterly broke her heart in high school, and whom she’s not seen in 20 years. (And, of course, he has grown into an immensely sexy man.)

Jack’s presence upends Bea. She tries to juggle a potential promotion at work, fighting with Lucas, and alternately resenting and lusting after Jack. Their competitive banter is the same as it was in high school, and it turns out both of their lives are messy in different ways. When they finally give in to their sexual chemistry, they decide that what happens in Ireland stays in Ireland, and it’s purely a physical thing. (Yeah, ok.)

This was a fun second-chance romance with lots of steam and swoon-worthy moments, especially between Jack and Bash. It definitely sent the message that having it all—or trying to—doesn’t mean your life has to be perfect. I also really enjoyed the supporting characters, from Bea’s best friends to her colleagues, her sister-in-law, and even the manager of Brigid’s castle. Bash was simply adorable as well.

Book Review: "Long Island" by Colm Tóibín

I’m trying to decide which concept I like better: knowing a sequel to a book you enjoyed is coming out, or being completely surprised because it’s been a while since the first book was published. In the case of Long Island, Colm Tóibín’s latest book, I had no idea that he was writing a sequel to Brooklyn, a book I really enjoyed and a movie I loved even more.

It’s 1976, and Eilis Lacey is in her 40s and lives in Lindenhurst, Long Island, with her husband Tony and their two teenage children. Eilis and Tony live on a cul-de-sac along with Tony’s parents and two of his three brothers. Tony works with his brothers and his family dominates every aspect of Eilis’ life. She often thinks of her mother and brother back in Ireland.

One day, a man comes looking for Eilis. He tells her his wife is pregnant with Tony’s child, and he refuses to raise another man’s baby. He vows that when the baby is born, he will bring it to Tony and Eilis, even leaving it on their doorstep if he must.

Eilis feels betrayed and humiliated by this revelation. While Tony and his family try to figure out how they will deal with the impending arrival of a baby, Eilis wants no part of it. Instead, she travels home to Ireland for the first time in 20 years, ostensibly to celebrate her mother’s 80th birthday, and her children will follow soon after.

Enniscorthy, the Irish town where Eilis grew up, has both changed and stayed the same since she was last there. Her return does stir up gossip from her last trip, but as she tries to process the situation with her marriage, she wonders what her future holds.

I’ve always been a fan of Tóibín’s writing, and it was amazing to reconnect with Eilis and other characters from Brooklyn. This is a quietly powerful, thought-provoking, and moving book, which could be read as a standalone, but I’d recommend reading Brooklyn too, either before or after.

Book Review: "Cinema Love" by Jiaming Tang

“Theirs is the kind of love that can change the weather. A radio forecast predicting rain switches its tune the moment Old Second sees Shun-Er. Clouds part, a breeze picks up, and the sun becomes so yellow it looks delicious. Just peel the skin, remove the seeds, and bite. Not hard but soft, the way Shun-Er touches Old Second.”

Within just a few sentences, I knew that Cinema Love was a beautifully written book. Jiaming Tang’s word choices convey so much, creating a layered story full of emotion, pain, and hope.

To see Bao Mei and her husband, Old Second, walking through New York’s Chinatown, you’d assume they were a typical Chinese couple. But the two contain multitudes—before they came to America, they both frequented the Worker’s Cinema in Fuzhou. Bao Mei worked as the ticket seller, while Old Second, like many of the cinema’s patrons, was looking for illicit encounters with other men, as old movies played.

Bao Mei works at the cinema knowing who its patrons are, and she appoints herself as a protector of these men, chasing nagging wives and others away who might be looking for their husbands or sons. She herself has a relationship of sorts with the projectionist, who is the cinema owner’s son. But they all know this idyll cannot last, and when a series of events occurs that exposes the truth, it leads to tragedy, as well as some fleeing to America.

This is the story of Bao Mei and Old Second, as well as others who have come to America, and while the ways that these characters are interconnected might not be obvious at first, it all falls together nicely. The book shifts narration as well as timeframes, between the past in China and the present in New York.

While I felt that the pacing of the book was a bit slow and there are places where you are left to formulate your own answers, this is a moving story about how, even years later, we are indelibly affected by parts of our life.

Friday, May 10, 2024

Book Review: "The Return of Ellie Black" by Emiko Jean

I’ve definitely had FOMO seeing so many people rave about this book. But now that I’ve raced through it, I can unequivocally say: Believe. The. Hype.

More than two years ago, 17-year-old Ellie Black disappeared during a party. Her broken phone was found a short time later, but the clues stopped there. Her family never stopped hoping, but everyone knew the odds of a missing girl being found after so much time had passed.

Yet one evening, Ellie sees some hikers in a Washington forest. She is haggard, malnourished, afraid, overly sensitive to light, but she is able to remember her name.

Detective Chelsey Calhoun investigated Ellie’s disappearance, and she cannot believe that the young woman is still alive. As she tries to figure out what happened to Ellie, where she was held captive, and who was responsible, she starts to believe there’s so much more Ellie isn’t telling her. She’s determined to figure out what Ellie is hiding, no matter that her bosses, Ellie’s family, and Ellie herself try to convince her to stop digging.

For Chelsey, this case is so much more than the return of a missing girl. This is also about her older sister, Lydia, who vanished when they were teenagers. And this is about trying to protect other girls from being taken.

"She would ask the media, the world: When will it be enough? How society accepts women dying at the hands of men. Chelsey mourns girlhood."

Tension-filled and twisty, this is a fantastic book. The characters were really complex and will stick in my head. It’s quite dark, and it may be triggering for some, but Emiko Jean has written a thriller with a heart, a book which makes you think.

Thursday, May 9, 2024

Book Review: "This Summer Will Be Different" by Carley Fortune

Even though I’ve read other “summer” books, for some reason I feel like the season has arrived now that I’ve read Carley Fortune’s new book, This Summer Will Be Different. And not just that, but I’ve officially added Prince Edward Island to my travel bucket list!

Lucy and Bridget are former roommates and inseparable best friends. When Lucy goes to visit Bridget’s childhood home on PEI, she arrives alone because Bridget was delayed. On a whim she goes to an oyster bar, where in addition to some fantastic food, she meets Felix, a sexy local. They spend an incredible night together, and then she realizes Felix is Bridget’s younger brother, so he is off-limits.

But every time Lucy and Bridget travel from Toronto to PEI, they take in the beauty of the island, spend time walking on the beach and drinking by the fire, and acting like tourists. And every time, Lucy winds up sleeping with Felix, and they both promise not to let it happen again, and to keep it a secret from Bridget.

A week before Bridget’s wedding, she mysteriously flees Toronto and goes home without telling anyone. Then she calls Lucy and asks her to come to PEI, but doesn’t explain why. Lucy is determined to help Bridget weather whatever crisis she is dealing with, but Bridget isn’t ready to share why she came home. And at the same time, Lucy still cannot resist Felix, but this summer it feels like more than just a fling. But will this hurt her friendship with Bridget?

This is a romance, complete with some serious steam and the push-and-pull of two people who want each other but are deathly afraid of truly letting their hearts go. Yet it’s also a story about true friendship. As Bridget says, “It’s how I learned that the greatest loves are not always romances.”

Fortune not only weaves beautiful stories, but she creates such vivid, evocative imagery that touches all of your senses. I have my passport ready and know all the words to “O Canada”!

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Book Review: "Happy Medium" by Sarah Adler

Sarah Adler made me a fan with her spectacular debut, Mrs. Nash’s Ashes, and her new novel was equally fun and romantic.

Gretchen Acorn (not her real name) is a medium, helping people communicate with their dead loved ones. The truth is, her abilities are about as genuine as her name, and she comes from a long line of con artists. But Gretchen prides herself on not taking real advantage of her clients—she only helps those who truly would benefit from her “services.” (And if that helps pay her bills, so be it.)

When one of her clients asks Gretchen to help her bridge partner by investigating the phenomena that seem to interfere with his selling his family farm, she’s a tiny bit apprehensive. However, her client is going to pay her handsomely, so how can she pass up helping an old man?

She makes some quick discoveries when she arrives at the farm. First of all, her client’s bridge partner isn’t a little old man—Charlie is young, hunky, and doesn’t want anything to do with a fraud like Gretchen. And much to her surprise, Gretchen meets Everett, a distant family member of Charlie’s, who happens to be the ghost that’s been causing all the trouble on the farm. (So maybe there’s some truth to this whole medium thing after all?)

Everett, who has been haunting the farm since the 1920s, is a little annoying and quite a bit of a flirt. He asks Gretchen to convince Charlie not to sell the farm or he’ll face the same curse that killed Everett. But Charlie doesn’t believe Gretchen, so she vows to stay on the farm to make sure she wins him over. Of course, that entails actually working on the farm (physical labor is not her strong suit), and the more time she spends with Charlie, the more she realizes she needs to be honest—with him and with herself.

Everett is one of the best characters I’ve encountered in some time. The banter between him and Gretchen cracked me up. This was a sweet, steamy, and enjoyable romp that made me smile.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Book Review: "Bite by Bite" by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

As you might have figured out from previous posts, I love food. I went to culinary school a number of years ago and worked as a personal chef for a while. I’m a bit of a foodie (although not to the extreme), and definitely love reading food writing and books where cooking factors into the plot.

All of this to say, when I saw Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s new book, Bite by Bite, sitting on a bookstore shelf, I picked it up immediately. In this book of short essays, she looks at how food can be linked to memories and how our senses can be awakened and enhanced by the foods we encounter.

“For what is home if not the first place where you learn what does and does not nourish you? The first place you learn to sit still and slow down when someone offers you a bite to eat?”

In this beautifully illustrated book, Nezhukumatathil touches on foods both familiar (e.g., apples, butter, maple syrup) and more “exotic” (e.g., rambutan, jackfruit, mangosteen). She talks about her introduction to these flavors and the memories they convey. She discusses how these foods and tastes intersect with her heritage and she also shares her hopeful perspectives and memories raising her children.

“I wanted to be there when my boys first grab the berries from my hand and nibble on them with such abandonment, such a love and hunger and thirst that their mouths end up looking like those goofy bloody bunny pictures.”

This is such a lovely book, one you can open and read from any point. It would make a terrific gift for almost anyone—and Nezhukumatathil has given us quite a gift as well.

Monday, May 6, 2024

Book Review: "The Paradise Problem" by Christina Lauren

Whenever a new Christina Lauren book publishes, you can bet I snap it up pretty quickly. And while I love most of their books—and definitely have a few I cherish more than others—The Paradise Problem is a new favorite.

Anna was desperate for housing at UCLA, so when a friend suggested she marry his brother so they could live in family housing, it seemed like a no brainer to her. She and her “husband” West barely saw each other, and when they graduated, they filed divorce papers and went their separate ways.

Three years later, Anna is an artist who is barely making ends meet. Much to her surprise, West (whose real name is Liam) shows up, telling her that they never really got divorced. But he has another bombshell for her: he’s an heir to Weston Foods, one of the largest grocery chains.

But while Liam is a member of that family, he has no desire to work for the company. However, there’s the matter of his $100 million trust fund—which he can only access if he’s been married for five years. So, since he and Anna are technically married, he offers to pay her to be his wife at his sister’s wedding. But the wedding is at a private island in Singapore, so she’ll be on display in front of his entire family as well as the press.

With no real income, Anna agrees to attend the wedding with her “husband.” But she quickly realizes how toxic the relationships are in the Weston family—between Liam and his father, Liam and his older brother, and his father with, well, nearly everyone else. All the money in the world is just a tool to get what he wants from his family.

Fake dating and second-chance love? Sign me up. But this book has memorable characters, seriously steamy steam, terrific banter, and emotional richness—nothing like toxic families! And of course, I wouldn’t mind an overwater bungalow on an island!!

This book will publish 5/14.

Book Review: "Effie Olsen's Summer Special" by Rochelle Bilow

I’ve been reading a lot of thrillers and heavier books lately, so I was craving something a bit lighter. Boy, did this book fit the bill!

Effie grew up on a tiny Maine island and couldn’t wait to get out of there. She went to culinary school and then spent 16 years traveling all over the U.S. and the world, working in various restaurants. She finally got a gig as a head chef in San Francisco, but it turned out to be far less successful (and less enjoyable) than she had hoped.

In desperate need of money, she returns home to Alder Isle for the summer. Brown Butter, a Michelin-starred restaurant on the island, is in need of a sous chef. Effie plans to work there only for the summer, to get enough money to head to her next location, and she vows not to get attached to being back home.

Within a few hours of returning home, she runs into her childhood best friend, Ernie, whom she’s not seen since the night they graduated from high school. Ernie’s kindness and sense of humor makes Effie feel at home again, and it doesn’t hurt that Ernie has gotten seriously hot as he’s grown older. It turns out he’s working at Brown Butter, too.

She finds herself falling for Ernie but keeps pushing him away since she knows she’ll only be in Maine for the summer. As things at the restaurant become tougher, and a scandal is on the verge of blowing up, Effie wonders whether she’s found the place—and the person—she wants to stay with, or if she needs to leave again.

I love second-chance romances, and if you combine that with a story set in New England and at a restaurant, you bet I’m sold. I loved the banter between Effie and Ernie as well as all of the supporting characters, and I loved the way Rochelle Bilow combined romance, steam, humor, emotion, and heavier issues. So good!!

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Book Review: "Darling Girls" by Sally Hepworth

When I’m looking for a book to grab me from the start and keep me turning pages until I’m finished (no matter how late it gets), Sally Hepworth is definitely an author I can count on. Her books are always filled with tension, mystery, and domestic drama.

Jessica, Norah, and Alicia were raised together in a foster home, and now, as adults, they remain as close as ever. But while they were lucky to have each other while growing up, that was the only fortunate thing about their childhood.

The girls were raised on an estate called Wild Meadows by their foster mother, Miss Fairchild. While she opened her home to the girls one by one, it wasn’t done out of the goodness of her heart, but rather out of selfishness and a need for control. Miss Fairchild had strict rules and an unpredictable temper that manifested itself in many cruel and damaging ways.

The girls were able to get away from Miss Fairchild, but years later, each still bears the scars of growing up. And when a skeleton is found under the remains of Wild Meadows, the investigation summons them back to the town where their nightmares occurred. Whose body was found, and how did it get under the house? Could Jessica, Norah, or Alicia have been responsible?

This is definitely one of Hepworth’s darkest books, and the scenes of physical and emotional abuse may be triggering. And while I think this book is being marketed as a thriller, it’s definitely more of a combination of mystery and domestic drama.

I really loved Jessica, Norah, and Alicia’s characters, as well as the intense bond they shared. It definitely helped lighten the heaviness of the book’s subject matter.

Book Review: "The Last Boyfriends Rules for Revenge" by Matthew Hubbard

I’ve said this before, but this book makes me want to say it again for anyone who hasn’t heard it: I wish that The Last Boyfriends Rules for Revenge existed when I was in high school. It would have given me courage, and the foresight to know that it was okay to be who I was.

Growing up in Harper Valley, Alabama is hard, especially if you’re queer. Ezra, Lucas, and Finley are best friends, trying to be comfortable with who they are. But navigating relationships, not to mention the superintendent’s “Watch What You Say” campaign, which cracks down on anything not deemed “family-friendly.”

When all three boys’ relationships end badly, a viewing of The First Wives Club inspires them to plot revenge on those who did them wrong. And when the anonymous TikTok account Ezra launched to record their revenge starts to go viral, it starts them on a collision course with the initiative that is essentially trying to censor queer students from being themselves.

As everything they do garners more views and more publicity, it further antagonizes the school district. But somewhere along the line, they realize that what they’re doing is so much more than getting revenge—it’s the start of a rebellion which demands equal treatment for everyone, and takes the boys out of the shadows and into the spotlight.

“People are gonna tell you what you can’t do in this life. But there is one thing they can’t ever stop you from doing, and that’s trying. The best revenge is believing in yourself. Don’t let them take that away from you.”

I loved this book for so many reasons. I loved it for the unapologetic way it allowed the characters to be who they are, for those who supported them, for the friendships and the sweet romance, but also for the message that you should never be afraid of being yourself and standing up for what you believe in. Congratulations, Matthew Hubbard, on an absolutely incredible debut.

Book Review: "Home Is Where the Bodies Are" by Jeneva Rose

Here’s a tip: if you think your family is dysfunctional or even totally crazy, read Jeneva Rose’s new book. Believe me, you’ll feel so much better about your own situation afterward!!

Beth has moved back into the house she grew up in, in the small town of Allen’s Grove, Wisconsin, to take care of her mother in the final months of her life. When the hospice nurse tells Beth the end is very near, she reaches out to her estranged siblings, Nicole and Michael, to see if they can make it home in time.

Their family has been in pieces since their father disappeared seven years ago. He left a note and was never heard from again, although his truck was found abandoned. Yet in the moments before Beth’s mother died, she said to Beth, “Your father. He didn’t disappear. Don’t trust…”

Needless to say, Beth doesn’t know what to make of this cryptic statement. But when Michael and Nicole get home, there are too many old resentments and hurts to hash over. Yet as they go through all of the things in the house, they find a box full of videotapes. Watching one fills all of them with nostalgia and grief—until they discover some disturbing footage tacked on at the end of one tape.

What they watch shakes them to their very core and leaves them wondering who their parents really were. Was everything after that night in 1999 all a lie? Did this have any connection to their father’s disappearance?

Jeneva Rose is such a fantastic storyteller. The narrative shifts between the siblings as well as their mother’s recollections from the past. At the same time, there are resentments to be dealt with: Michael’s being treated better than either of his sisters, Beth’s martyrdom, and Nicole’s addiction.

This kept me turning the pages furiously until I was done. I had my suspicions about what happened (and I was mostly right) but that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the book!