Book Review of The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

The Paris Library by Janet Skeslien Charles

368 pages

Published: 2/9/21 by Atria Books

Genre: Historical fiction

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Amazon | B&N

*Click on photos to view original source.

”Based on the true World War II story of the heroic librarians at the American Library in Paris, this is an unforgettable story of romance, friendship, family, and the power of literature to bring us together, perfect for fans of The Lilac Girls and The Paris Wife. 

Paris, 1939: Young and ambitious Odile Souchet has it all: her handsome police officer beau and a dream job at the American Library in Paris. When the Nazis march into Paris, Odile stands to lose everything she holds dear, including her beloved library. Together with her fellow librarians, Odile joins the Resistance with the best weapons she has: books. But when the war finally ends, instead of freedom, Odile tastes the bitter sting of unspeakable betrayal.

Montana, 1983: Lily is a lonely teenager looking for adventure in small-town Montana. Her interest is piqued by her solitary, elderly neighbor. As Lily uncovers more about her neighbor’s mysterious past, she finds that they share a love of language, the same longings, and the same intense jealousy, never suspecting that a dark secret from the past connects them.

A powerful novel that explores the consequences of our choices and the relationships that make us who we are—family, friends, and favorite authors—The Paris Library shows that extraordinary heroism can sometimes be found in the quietest of places.”


Thank you to Atria Books and NetGalley for an early digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

“Numbers floated round my head like stars.”


If you enjoy books about books, then you’ll absolutely adore this one. It’s all about the American Library in Paris, which is still up and running to this day. I enjoyed the female power and determination that takes place in the story. We love strong female roles. The writing is no doubt beautiful and well done. I believe that the author spends quite a bit of time in Paris, so I’d say it’s pretty accurate, if I had to guess. It’s overall a great novel, but it just didn’t keep my attention. Historical fiction typically captures my attention, but I never wanted to pick this one back up. It was honestly a two-star read up until the last 50-ish pages.

I didn’t really care for any of the characters even though I could recognize how tough they were. There’s a strong community and family dynamic that I think a lot of people would enjoy. It’s more of family by choice type of situation. I can appreciate all of that.

I think the main thing that caused me to give it three stars was that it felt too long. Whenever I thought the story was about to come to a close, there was quite a bit left in the story. I’m sure no one else felt that way, but when you’re already not enjoying a book, that’s something that makes it feel even longer.

I know this author has written one other novel, so I’m interested in seeing if it’s something I’m interested in. I’d definitely give her a second chance. I really thought I’d fall in love with this one. It’s such a wonderful read, but I couldn’t get myself to give it more than a three-star rating. I would still recommend this since it’s a beloved book to many readers out there.


Janet Skeslien Charles divides her time between Paris and Montana. She enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with family. 

The backdrop of her debut novel MOONLIGHT IN ODESSA is the booming business of email-order brides, an industry where love and marriage meet sex and commerce. 

Her second novel THE PARIS LIBRARY is based on the true story of the courageous librarians at the American Library in Paris during World War II. Janet learned about the story when she worked at the Library.

Website: https://www.jskesliencharles.com


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Book Review of Survive the Night by Riley Sager

Survive the Night by Riley Sager

336 pages

Publication date: 6/29/21 by Dutton Books

ISBN: 9780593183168

Genre: Thriller

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Amazon | B&N

*Click on photos to view original source.

“It’s November 1991. George H. W. Bush is in the White House, Nirvana’s in the tape deck, and movie-obsessed college student Charlie Jordan is in a car with a man who might be a serial killer.

Josh Baxter, the man behind the wheel, is a virtual stranger to Charlie. They met at the campus ride board, each looking to share the long drive home to Ohio. Both have good reasons for wanting to get away. For Charlie, it’s guilt and grief over the murder of her best friend, who became the third victim of the man known as the Campus Killer. For Josh, it’s to help care for his sick father. Or so he says. Like the Hitchcock heroine she’s named after, Charlie has her doubts. There’s something suspicious about Josh, from the holes in his story about his father to how he doesn’t seem to want Charlie to see inside the car’s trunk. As they travel an empty highway in the dead of night, an increasingly worried Charlie begins to think she’s sharing a car with the Campus Killer. Is Josh truly dangerous? Or is Charlie’s suspicion merely a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?

What follows is a game of cat-and-mouse played out on night-shrouded roads and in neon-lit parking lots, during an age when the only call for help can be made on a pay phone and in a place where there’s nowhere to run. In order to win, Charlie must do one thing–survive the night.”


Since this isn’t a finished copy, I’m not able to post a first line.


Thank you to Dutton Books and NetGalley for the early digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

I guess I’ll start with what I actually did like about this book.

I enjoyed the uneasiness this made me feel in the beginning. I thought Josh was such an odd character. He definitely served those serial killer vibes. He seemed almost robotic and cold. I actually loved his character when I first started the book.

I can also say that it’s very fast-paced. I probably could have read all of it in one day if I didn’t work all the time.

Okay, that’s about all for the pros.

I don’t want this to be super negative because I respect Sager as an author. He definitely has some great books, but this one just didn’t work for me.

This gave me I’m Thinking of Ending Things vibes when Charlie first got into Josh’s car. Obviously they’re not in a relationship, but it was the uneasy driving scene that made me think of it. This book just didn’t deliver the craziness that is Reid’s book.

I really, really didn’t enjoy the ending of this one. There was so much going on that I just didn’t care. I didn’t predict it, but at one point it all clicked in some weird way.

I don’t want to give any spoilers, so that’s about all I have to say. Even if I did spoil it, there’s not much to the book. It’s mainly one long car ride with some flashbacks and movie-filled daydreams. I just didn’t find the story thrilling in any way. I wouldn’t recommend this to Riley Sager fans or anyone in between.


Riley Sager is the award-winning pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer who previously published mysteries under his real name.

A native of Pennsylvania, Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey. When he’s not writing, he enjoys reading, cooking and going to the movies as much as possible. His favorite film is “Rear Window.” Or maybe “Jaws.” But probably, if he’s being honest, “Mary Poppins.”


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Book Review of The Boys’ Club by Erica Katz

The Boys’ Club by Erica Katz

416 pages

ISBN: 9780062961488

Published: 8/4/20 by Harper

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Rating: 3 out of 5.

B&N | Book Depository

*click on photos to view original source*

Sweetbitter meets The Firm in this buzzy, page-turning debut novel—already optioned to Netflix—about sex and power in the halls of corporate America.

Alex Vogel has always been a high achiever who lived her life by the book—star student and athlete in high school, prelaw whiz in college, Harvard Law School degree. Accepting a dream offer at the prestigious Manhattan law firm of Klasko & Fitch, she promises her sweet and supportive longtime boyfriend that the job won’t change her. Yet Alex is seduced by the firm’s money and energy . . . and by her cocksure male colleagues, who quickly take notice of the new girl. She’s never felt so confident and powerful—even the innuendo-laced banter with clients feels fun. In the firm’s most profitable and competitive division, Mergers and Acquisitions, Alex works around the clock, racking up billable hours and entertaining clients late into the evening. While the job is punishing, it has its perks, like a weekend trip to Miami, a ride in a client’s private jet, and more expense-account meals than she can count. 

But as her clients’ expectations and demands on her increase, and Alex finds herself magnetically drawn to a handsome coworker despite her loving relationship at home, she begins to question everything—including herself. She knows the corporate world isn’t black and white, and that to reach the top means playing by different rules. But who made those rules? And what if the system rigged so that women can’t win, anyway? 

When something happens that reveals the dark reality of the firm, Alex comes to understand the ways women like her are told—explicitly and implicitly—how they need to behave to succeed in the workplace. Now, she can no longer stand by silently—even if doing what’s right means putting everything on the line to expose the shocking truth.


Thank you to HarperCollins and NetGalley for the early digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

Either you’re going to be perfect or you’re going to be alive. Can’t be both.

› There’s something about lawyers / courtroom settings that really intrigues me. I’ve had my eyes on this once since it was first put on NetGalley, and I immediately requested it.

› The beginning of the book is actually really good. It starts off with her getting ready for her first day at the new law firm, and she can’t decide what to wear. It’s also very clear that her boyfriend, Sam, doesn’t 100% support her. He definitely hesitates in the support department. After her first day, she questions whether she even wants to be a lawyer. It’s mainly because she made a lot of mistakes, such as accidentally calling 911.

› Once she moves up to M&A, the book completely changes. I still turned the pages because it continued to keep me interested, but Alex managed to get on my very last nerve. She tries to get into M&A for the wrong reasons. She does it to prove she’s “better” at the job than Carmen—another new girl at the firm that Alex went to law school with. Given, Carmen wasn’t always good to Alex. That’s what I got out of it, anyway. That feeling went away as she got to know the men in the firm. She became a morally gray character, which doesn’t make or break a book for me, but she wasn’t an interesting one. She just cheats on her boyfriend with a man who sleeps around. That’s a hard no for me.

› There is quite a bit of sexual harassment / assault in this book, which didn’t surprise me. Of course, the egotistical men of the novel made it seem like Alex had to endure it.

I watched his lips moving, and in a crystal-clear moment, I saw it: my cheating with a serial adulterer, my assault by a rich scumbag, my entire existence in corporate America, was just so . . . typical.

› It becomes clear to her that she doesn’t have to put up with it, but that happens at the end of the novel. Unfortunately, this book doesn’t have the type of ending I expected. I didn’t really know where the book was going when I started it. It’s not one that has a clear end in sight. I will say that there’s no justice, but there is a glimmer of hope and determination. That’s all I’ll say about that. That doesn’t mean that I enjoyed the ending. I thought it was on the cheaper side, and it didn’t make the novel anymore interesting. It just didn’t seem to fit with the tone of the book.

› One last note about what’s inside: Gary Kaplan can take a long walk off a short pier. Thank you and goodnight. 🙂

› I didn’t have any issues with the writing style. I wouldn’t mind reading another novel by Katz. I believe she’s also involved in law. I can’t confirm or deny that the information about law is right or wrong, as I am not a lawyer. I will say that the jargon went right over my head, as I had expected.

› Would I recommend this one? Sure. I know a lot of people enjoyed it.

Triggers: cheating, lying, sexual assault / harassment, drugs.

Erica Katz is the pseudonym for a graduate of Columbia Law School who began her career at a major Manhattan law firm. A native of New Jersey, she now lives in New York City, where she’s employed at another large law firm. The Boys’ Club is her first novel.


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Book Review: The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver

369 pages

ISBN: 9780593135235

Published 3/3/20 by Ballantine Books

Genre: Contemporary

Rating: 4 out of 5.

B&N | Amazon

Thank you to Goodreads for the finished giveaway copy. Thank you to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for the early digital copy.

Goodreads synopsis:

Lydia and Freddie. Freddie and Lydia. They’d been together for more than a decade, and Lydia thought their love was indestructible.

But she was wrong. On her twenty-eighth birthday, Freddie died in a car accident.

So now it’s just Lydia, and all she wants to do is hide indoors and sob until her eyes fall out. But Lydia knows that Freddie would want her to try to live fully, happily, even without him. So, enlisting the help of his best friend, Jonah, and her sister, Elle, she takes her first tentative steps into the world, open to life–and perhaps even love–again.

But then something inexplicable happens that gives her another chance at her old life with Freddie. A life where none of the tragic events of the past few months have happened.

Lydia is pulled again and again across the doorway of her past, living two lives, impossibly, at once. But there’s an emotional toll to returning to a world where Freddie, alive, still owns her heart. Because there’s someone in her new life, her real life, who wants her to stay.

Written with Josie Silver’s trademark warmth and wit, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird is a powerful and thrilling love story about the what-ifs that arise at life’s crossroads, and what happens when one woman is given a miraculous chance to answer them. 

Review:

Tonight has felt much like trying to walk a tightrope. In fact, that’s a good analogy for how life is for me at the moment—I’m constantly standing on an invisible wire between two worlds and hoping like hell that I don’t plummet to my death. For a girl with bad balance, it’s hard work.

Trigger warnings: Death of a loved one, grieving, addiction to medication, miscarriage.

I know you’re probably asking, “Vivian, did you really give this four stars?”

Yes, I did give it four stars. I’m just as shocked as all of you, I think. I really found myself enjoying it the further I progressed. It’s just really cute, sad, and raw. It does get a little weird at some points (Lydia and delivering a baby), but I looked past them. They did mess with my rating a little if I’m being honest.

ANYWAY, I digress.

I’m sure you’ve heard by everyone that this a book about grieving. That’s basically all it us, but there’s actually a lot of growth with the characters that I didn’t expect.

Let’s start with Lydia, obviously. She loses her fiancé in a car accident he was in with his best friend, Jonah. She struggles to sleep because of it, so she ends up taking medication to help her sleep. She starts to dream about another life with Freddie causing her to become addicted. She soon realizes that the two lives are very different. She isn’t reliving the same memories she had with Freddie. Freddie doesn’t really act the way she remembered. As the story progresses, though, she notices more of what their relationship was about. She has to decide the right thing to do, which I found to be quite sad. This book did manage to break my heart a bit. I can’t imagine what I would do.

By the end of the book, she does have a lot of room to still grow, but I thought it ended in a good place. Nothing insanely sad about it.

If you thought I wasn’t going to talk about Jonah, then you’re wrong. He quickly became one of my favorite fictional love interests. He stuck with Lydia the entire time, even though he was dealing with the death of Freddie. He wanted to make sure that she was okay. I’m also happy that he got to live out a dream of his toward the end of the novel. He goes through quite a bit of growth as well, so don’t give up on him right away.

Jonah and Lydia do struggle in the beginning of the story because Jonah was with Freddie when he died, and Lydia has a hard time understanding it. She eventually loosens her grip. The good thing is that she doesn’t blame Jonah for the accident. She understands that what happened, happened, no matter how devastating it is.

There isn’t a handy grief blueprint. You don’t get over losing someone you love in six months or two years or twenty, but you do have to find a way to carry on living without feeling as if everything that comes afterward is second best. Some people walk up mountains, others throw themselves out of planes. Everyone has to find their own way back, and if they’re lucky they’ll have people who love them to hold their hand.

Overall, I recommend this novel, but it definitely won’t be for everyone. You need to have patience, and the ability to withstand a slow burn story. I really enjoyed this one, and I’ll probably check out anything else Josie Silver has written / will write. Go check this one out if you’re interested.


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Book Review: All Adults Here by Emma Straub

All Adults Here by Emma Straub

368 pages

ISBN: 9781594634967

Published: 5/4/20 by Riverhead Books

Genre: Contemporary

Rating: 4 out of 5.

B&N | Amazon

Goodreads synopsis:

When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus accident in the center of town, it jostles loose a repressed memory from her young parenting days decades earlier. Suddenly, Astrid realizes she was not quite the parent she thought she’d been to her three, now-grown children. But to what consequence?

Astrid’s youngest son is drifting and unfocused, making parenting mistakes of his own. Her daughter is intentionally pregnant yet struggling to give up her own adolescence. And her eldest seems to measure his adult life according to standards no one else shares. But who gets to decide, so many years later, which long-ago lapses were the ones that mattered? Who decides which apologies really count? It might be that only Astrid’s thirteen-year-old granddaughter and her new friend really understand the courage it takes to tell the truth to the people you love the most.

In All Adults Here, Emma Straub’s unique alchemy of wisdom, humor, and insight come together in a deeply satisfying story about adult siblings, aging parents, high school boyfriends, middle school mean girls, the lifelong effects of birth order, and all the other things that follow us into adulthood, whether we like them to or not.

Review:

Thank you to Riverhead Books and NetGalley for the early digital copy in exchange for an honest review!

Trigger warnings: Miscarriage/infertility, abortion, cheating, online pedophilia, bullying, transphobia, death, and probably a few others I can’t think of. Proceed with caution.

I managed to read this whole book in one sitting. It’s such a simply written yet complex novel about a family getting to know each other better. They all have secret baggage that they don’t want to reveal out of fear they’ll be judged.

The book opens with Astrid Strick, who witnesses Barbara Baker get hit by a bus, ultimately ending her life. Astrid was just getting ready to go in for her routine haircut when it happened. She was watching the small town of Clapham come alive—window shoppers, coffee drinkers, shop owners prepping their opening.

People their age—Astrid’s and Barbara’s—were too old for it to be outright tragedy, and seeing as Barbara had no children of her own, people were bound to call it a blessing, that is to say, a blessing that the school bus hadn’t run down someone else. But that didn’t seem fair to Barbara. She’d had a husband, and cats. She’d been a crossing guard at the elementary school decades earlier—oh, the irony!

It makes Astrid think about her life, and how much she loves her hairdresser Birdie. A secret she has never shared with her family. There is a bit of guilt because she was married to her husband Russell for so long. She didn’t even struggle as hard at his funeral. Now she has Birdie in her life, and she isn’t sure if it’s romance or her need for company.

Was that romance or co-dependence, the overwhelming need for another person in order to properly function?


Cecelia is Astrid’s granddaughter who has an addiction to the internet, allowing her to get involved with online pedophilia. She jokes around about going to her “Gammy’s” house for the year, but her parents agree. Her father is Nicky Strick, Astrid’s youngest son, and he’s married to Juliette, who is French. They both take a passive view with parenting. Her mother was a dancer who smoked, and her father became a Buddhist, and spent a year in a monastery in Tibet.

Cecelia becomes friends with August, who I will mention later in the review, and helps him become who he really wants to be.


Porter is Astrid’s daughter. She graduated from Hampshire College, but ended up moving back to Clapham. She weirdly inherited her friend’s land and goats. Porter’s baggage? She wants to have a baby on her own, so she decides that the sperm bank is where it’s at.

It was hard to decide which was more off-putting; a man donating sperm just to make some cash or a man donating sperm because he liked the idea of having lots of children borne by strange women.

She struggles to think that her father won’t be there to meet his grandchild. He would have been more than grandpa but gramps, gamps, pops, popsy.

Porter also struggled as the middle child. It always felt like her brothers got all the praise, Elliot being the oldest, and Nicky being the youngest.


August is an eighth grader who loves going to camp for the summer. It helps him forget about all the kids he goes to school with. His parents always want to talk about what’s going on in his life, and it gets a bit annoying. August is also a bit confused and sad.

Here is a brief list of what it (being alive) was like: Being a naked person in Times Square. Being a naked person in the middle of the cafeteria. Being a hermit crab scurrying along the ocean floor in search of a new shell. Being a baby turtle in the middle of a six-lane highway. That didn’t begin to cover all the ways August felt weird and strange and wrong every day.

It’s very hard to read about an eighth grader dealing with these problems. They should be having fun with their friends and family. His struggle? He’s confused about whether he should actually be she or not. 

This was what the Sullivans did. They bought old things by the bushel and, through their touch, transformed them into something desirable, something new. August wished that his parents could work their magic on him too.


Elliot is married to Wendy, and they have two boys, Aidan and Zachary. He learns that his mother is in a romantic relationship with another woman; he flips. He is confused as to how he would explain it to his boys.


Yes, this book deals with a lot of different hot topics. What I liked most is that she didn’t make it a big deal, and honestly, they should be explored with more ease. These are real-life situations that can happen to anyone. Don’t sit there and tell me that they won’t or can’t. Was it a little long for what it was? Yeah, maybe. Did I only care about certain characters? Yeah, but that didn’t take away the enjoyment. It wasn’t a five-star read, but I thought it was still a great book. The writing isn’t special, but it proved a point. If you’re interested, then go pick it up! 


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Book Review: The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren

The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren

308 pages

Published 3/24/20 by Gallery Books

ISBN: 9781982123918

Genre: Romance

Rating: 3 out of 5.

B&N | Amazon

Thank you to Gallery Books and NetGalley for the early digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Synopsis:

Carey Douglas has worked for home remodeling and design gurus Melissa and Rusty Tripp for nearly a decade. A country girl at heart, Carey started in their first store at sixteen, and—more than anyone would suspect—has helped them build an empire. With a new show and a book about to launch, the Tripps are on the verge of superstardom. There’s only one problem: America’s favorite couple can’t stand each other.

James McCann, MIT graduate and engineering genius, was originally hired as a structural engineer, but the job isn’t all he thought it’d be. The last straw? Both he and Carey must go on book tour with the Tripps and keep the wheels from falling off the proverbial bus.

Unfortunately, neither of them is in any position to quit. Carey needs health insurance, and James has been promised the role of a lifetime if he can just keep the couple on track for a few more weeks. While road-tripping with the Tripps up the West Coast, Carey and James vow to work together to keep their bosses’ secrets hidden, and their own jobs secure. But if they stop playing along—and start playing for keeps—they may have the chance to build something beautiful together…

Review:

Trigger warnings: Cheating

I enjoyed this one more than their previous book, but I don’t think I would have finished it if not for the audiobook. 


This one is told in two different perspectives, James McCann and Carey Douglas. They work for Rusty and Melissa Tripp, the Chip and Joanna Gaines of this world. Carey has worked for the Tripps for ten years, specifically Melissa, helping them build an empire. James recently started working for Chip, but it wasn’t the job he expected it to be—it was worse. It definitely wasn’t a structural engineer, which is what he was hired as. Their new television show and book is about to be released, so they all go on tour together. The only reason James and Carey go is to keep Rusty and Melissa from killing each other. They need to keep their perfect reputation. 


This one is pretty slow-going. I didn’t really care for any of the characters except for James. He is such a wonderful man, and he takes such good care of Carey. Because of him, the (very few) sex scenes are consensual. If you want rough and dirty, this won’t be for you.


Carey is just another basic character to me. She’s not memorable at all. I don’t have a lot to say about her.


Rusty and Melissa constantly get on my nerves. I didn’t want to hear about them because all they did is fight. I didn’t like their morals, and why they were staying together. Rusty is also extremely insulting at the end. I just wasn’t a fan. That’s one of the main reasons why this is a three-star book for me.


If you want something easy to read, then this would be something you could pick up. This isn’t the best Christina Lauren, but it’s still cute and somewhat fun. Even though I keep giving their books three-stars they’ll forever be an auto-read duo. I’m hoping the next one is better. 


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Book Review: The Big Finish by Brooke Fossey

The Big Finish by Brooke Fossey

336 pages

Published 4/14/20 by Berkley

ISBN: 9781984804938

Genre: Fiction

Rating: 4 out of 5.

B&N | Amazon

Thank you to NetGalley and Berkley for the early digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I also won this in a Goodreads giveaway, so thank you to them, too!

Goodreads synopsis:

Meet Duffy, an old curmudgeon who lives in an assisted living home.

Meet Josie, a desperate young woman who climbs through his window.

Together, they’re going to learn it’s never too late—or too early—to change your ways.

For Duffy Sinclair, life boils down to one simple thing: maintaining his residence at the idyllic Centennial Assisted Living. Without it, he’s destined for the roach-infested nursing home down the road—and after wasting the first eighty-eight years of his life, he refuses to waste away for the rest. So, he keeps his shenanigans to the bare minimum with the help of his straight-laced best friend and roommate, Carl Upton.

But when Carl’s granddaughter Josie climbs through their bedroom window with booze on her breath and a black eye, Duffy’s faced with trouble that’s sticking around and hard to hide—from Centennial’s management and Josie’s toxic boyfriend. Before he knows it, he’s running a covert operation that includes hitchhiking and barhopping.

He might as well write himself a one-way ticket to the nursing home…or the morgue. Yet Duffy’s all in. Because thanks to an unlikely friendship that becomes fast family—his life doesn’t boil down the same anymore. Not when he finally has a chance to leave a legacy.

In a funny, insightful, and life-affirming debut, Brooke Fossey delivers an unflinching look at growing old, living large, and loving big, as told by a wise-cracking man who didn’t see any of it coming.

Review:

Trigger warnings: Cheating, alcohol addiction, thoughts of suicide, grieving the death of a loved one, death, and mention of dementia/Alzheimer’s.

This was one of the purest novels I have ever read. It takes place in an assisted living facility called Centennial, where Duffy and Carl currently reside. Both of them are in pretty good shape for being in their eighties. They pick at the staff, specifically Nora and Anderson. The only problem is new management—she’s a WITCH. Anything out of place with the residents, and they go straight to the nursing home down the road, and it’s filthy!

Carl and Duffy are hilarious together. Carl likes to keep things cool and collected, while Duffy tends to stir the pot. He does try to tone it down since the nasty nursing home is looming over everyone’s head. Duffy also has a crush on Alice, another resident.

One day, a young girl named Josie climbs through their window with a black eye and boozy breath. She ends up being Carl’s granddaughter that Duffy didn’t even know existed. Carl and Duffy share everything with each other, except a shameful past apparently.

What I loved most about this is how real the characters are. The only problem I had was that the age of some of them didn’t match how they acted, Duffy especially. I know that there are eighty-year-olds who can still do a lot, but I just had a hard time wrapping my head around it. Other than that, these characters have so many flaws and so much baggage. Josie lies a lot about her black eye and about whether she has an alcohol addiction or not. What’s even better is that they are all confronted about their lies and secrets. It’s quite refreshing to see that. I think it helps the characters connect more than if nothing was brought to the surface. A lot of good discussions in here, and I think it would make a good book club pick.

There isn’t much of a plot here. There was a brief section where I got a bit bored right before the ending. This was the main reason I couldn’t give it the full five-stars. There was a lull in the book that I ended up skimming. It was only a few pages before it started to pick up again.

That ending, though! It truly broke my heart. I don’t know what I expected the ending to be, but I think I was just in denial. I subconsciously knew what was going to happen. The author did manage to bring light to the situation, and the book didn’t really end on a sad note. I appreciated that a lot!

Would I recommend this? Yes, of course! It was super cute and funny. There’s a lot of character development and important discussions. The author handles everything quite well, in my opinion. It just came out today. So go show the author some love and buy it or ask your library to buy it so you can read it!


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Book Review: He Started It by Samantha Downing

He Started It by Samantha Downing

384 pages

ISBN: 9780451491756

Publication date: 7/28/20 by Berkley

Genre: Mystery / Thriller

Rating: 5 out of 5.

B&N | Amazon

Thank you to Berkley and NetGalley for the early digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads synopsis:

Beth, Portia, and Eddie Morgan haven’t all been together in years. And for very good reasons—we’ll get to those later. But when their wealthy grandfather dies and leaves a cryptic final message in his wake, the siblings and their respective partners must come together for a cross-country road trip to fulfill his final wish and—more importantly—secure their inheritance.

But time with your family can be tough. It is for everyone.

It’s even harder when you’re all keeping secrets and trying to forget a memory—a missing person, an act of revenge, the man in the black truck who won’t stop following your car—and especially when at least one of you is a killer and there’s a body in the trunk. Just to name a few reasons.

But money is a powerful motivator. It is for everyone. 

Review:

Trigger warnings: Murder, gambling, cheating, manipulation, drugging, physical/verbal abuse.

I picked this up last month, and I couldn’t get into it. I set it down because I didn’t want to be disappointed. I wanted to give the book a good shot. I read it this month because I thought it was going to be published on the 28th, but it has been postponed until July because of the virus. I’m glad I decided to give it another go. It’s one of my new favorite mystery/thrillers.

If you start reading this and think it’s a little weird, keep going! The writing is extremely vague, short, and choppy. If you can get through that, then you’re golden. There is so much that happens after about 30% that you don’t even focus on how it’s written. You’ll just keep flipping those pages. I also think the writing was meant to be that way, so the reader doesn’t feel any attachment to the characters. Believe me when I say that you will not feel anything but hate for these characters. They are all pretty terrible human beings when it comes to morals.

Beth is our narrator, and at first I thought she was pretty clever. She has a very dry personality. She’s the type of person that I probably wouldn’t be friends with, but I can still appreciate their existence. Then she gets really weird when you learn who the missing person is. It doesn’t say it in the synopsis, so I won’t spoil it for you.

Eddie is my least favorite sibling. I could tell from the start that something was fishy about him. He goes off to talk on the phone with random people; he treats his wife like garbage, he never agrees with the group, and he always wants to be the boss. I would have shoved him out of the car.

Throughout the story there are flashbacks to when the siblings were on the same road trip with their grandpa. It was a total nightmare. Anyway, Portia was the only one I really felt bad for. She was too young to know what was happening. All the siblings took advantage of her. I still didn’t end up liking her by the end of the book, though.

There are some blunt murder scenes in here that don’t let you think twice about what just happened. Don’t be fooled by the normal-ish family road trip, because when money is involved, the meaning of family is thrown out the window.

I would highly recommend this one. If it doesn’t surprise you at all, then just enjoy the journey it takes you on, because it’s a wild ride. It can be brutal and weird, but I didn’t find it super unrealistic like some thrillers I have read recently. I loved it. And I can’t wait for Downing to write more!


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Book Review: You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

343 pages

ISBN: 9781250202031

Published: 3/3/20 by St. Martin’s Press

Genre: Mystery / Thriller

Rating: 4 out of 5.

B&N | Amazon

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the early digital copy in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads Synopsis:

You probably know someone like Shay Miller.
She wants to find love, but it eludes her.
She wants to be fulfilled, but her job is a dead end.
She wants to belong, but her life is so isolated.

You probably don’t know anyone like the Moore sisters.
They have an unbreakable circle of friends.
They live the most glamorous life.
They always get what they desire.

Shay thinks she wants their life.
But what they really want is hers

Review:

Trigger warnings: Suicide, rape, mention of panic attacks, killing of an animal, toxic familial relationships, alcoholism, body weight shaming, cancer / chemotherapy, manipulation, murder.

I read An Anonymous Girl by the same author duo, and I wasn’t a big fan. I had high hopes since it was considered a psychological thriller, but it ended up being more of a domestic thriller just without the chills and thrills. This one, however, was so much fun. This really was more on the psychological side, and had included more of a mystery.

You’re introduced to Shay, a single thirty-one-year-old statistics-loving woman. She has just been demoted at her market researching job and she can’t seem to find herself a man. She loves her best friend Sean, but he has a new girlfriend named Jody. She currently lives with Sean—and his girlfriend—YIKES! Shay takes the subway to work, but one day she witnesses a girl jump in front of the train, unexpectedly. That girls’ name was Amanda Evinger, a twenty-nine-year-old emergency room nurse, and she leaves her necklace behind. The moment Shay picks up the necklace is the moment her life changes…for the worst.

Meet Cassandra and Jane Moore, Stacey, Daphne, Beth, and Valerie. The unbreakable circle of friends. This aspect of the book reminded me of Bunny by Mona Awad, which I didn’t enjoy or understand at all, so I was hesitant to move forward. Thankfully this one didn’t confuse me like that one did.

This is a non-spoiler review, so I’m going to go into much more detail than that. Shay ends up getting involved with the circle of friends after going to Amanda’s memorial service (I believe) and chaos ensues. The group of girls actually threw me for a loop! They’re all pretty terrible, but there’s one in particular that I didn’t think anything about until things are being revealed. I was very happy with that. It also gets pretty dark as far as the reasons they have for their actions. Hence all of the trigger warnings at the beginning of my review.

I enjoyed how much I got to know the characters. I think the authors did a bang-up job with that. They all had their own personalities, and I never got them mixed up. The Moore sisters were like daylight and dark. It was a lot of fun to follow everyone around. I constantly wanted to scream at Shay because the reader finds out the plot twists before Shay does. She’s actually pretty dang gullible. That’s not to say that their actions are justifiable.

The one major point I didn’t like was how much the story jumped. I understand that it worked for the type of story, but it did take me out of the story a bit. Other than that, though, it was a ton of fun! I hope that you give it a try regardless of your opinion about their other novels. There are so many small details that went into this book, and I thought it was worth the read!


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Book Review: Network Effect (Murderbot Diaries #5) by Martha Wells

Network Effect (Murderbot Diaries #5) by Martha Wells

352 pages

Publication: 5/5/20 by Tor.com

ISBN: 9781250229861

Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: 3 out of 5.

B&N | Amazon

Thank you to Tor.com for the early physical copy in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads Synopsis:

Murderbot returns in its highly-anticipated, first, full-length standalone novel.

You know that feeling when you’re at work, and you’ve had enough of people, and then the boss walks in with yet another job that needs to be done right this second or the world will end, but all you want to do is go home and binge your favorite shows? And you’re a sentient murder machine programmed for destruction? Congratulations, you’re Murderbot.

Come for the pew-pew space battles, stay for the most relatable A.I. you’ll read this century.

I’m usually alone in my head, and that’s where 90 plus percent of my problems are.

When Murderbot’s human associates (not friends, never friends) are captured and another not-friend from its past requires urgent assistance, Murderbot must choose between inertia and drastic action.

Drastic action it is, then.

Review:

Did I enjoy this one more than the novellas? No. Will I miss Murderbot if this truly is the end? Absolutely.

I was super excited about a full-length novel involving Murderbot, but 350 pages of pure science fiction, for someone who isn’t fluent in the genre (yet), is a lot to process. I’m working on it, and this is a step in the right direction. I know this shouldn’t affect my rating but, unfortunately; it does. Here’s why:

The writing can get very convoluted at times. I’m not going to lie, a lot of this novel went over my head. Some wording threw me off, and it all took me out of the story. I don’t even know if I can thoroughly explain what happened all the way through the book.

I would love to go back and reread the four novellas that created my love for Murderbot. It’s been a bit since I read them, so I’m interested to see how I feel about them now. Did I actually understand them as much as I thought I did? If I ever do reread them, I will keep you all updated.

I think if the middle third of the book was removed, I would have enjoyed it a bit more. I love this series for its action, and there’s not a lot in this one. That’s not to say that I didn’t love the banter between Murderbot, the humans, and ART (Asshole Research Transport or Perihelion). I enjoyed the throwbacks to previous novellas and all of those characters. Many, many references to GrayCris and old memories with ART. You can feel the love that Murderbot has for ART, even though it doesn’t want to admit it. I also loved the references to Murderbot’s roots—where it all started.

I will not deny that there is some good character building in this one. We get tidbits of background information on random characters, which is a nice breath of fresh air. I don’t think I go into these novels for that, though. I’m not a huge character-driven reader. I thrive on plot, but I do love me a balanced novel.

The ending is very bittersweet. It did satisfy my Murderbot needs, and it was open enough to either end it there or continue. I wouldn’t mind either one. I’m sure a series like this could go on forever, but it’s probably smart to stop before it starts to drag.


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