Inconvenient Daughter

Inconvenient Daughter by Lauren J. Sharkey

A 5-Star Book Review

  • Representation and the search for identity?
  • Complicated mother-daughter relationship?
  • A battle to define self-worth?
  • Beautiful writing that made me want to cry?

Inconvenient Daughter by Lauren J. Sharkey checks all the boxes for me to make it a 5⭐️ book. I loved this surprisingly brutal novel because of it’s characters and prose, and I highly recommend Inconvenient Daughter as a next read!

Rowan Kelly lives on Long Island with her parents and younger brother, but from the moment her 5-year-old peers question where her “real” mom is at Kindergarten Drop-off, she knows that she is different. Rowan and her brother were adopted from Korea by a white couple, and while there are details available about her brother’s bio parents, Rowan knows nothing. From the outset, Rowan’s perceived other-ness drives her decisions and her search for acceptance.

What I loved about Inconvenient Daughter:

The Representation

Rowan’s story of being a transracial adopted child is not often one that I’ve seen in a novel, and I am here for it. I have friends who were adopted, and I could relate Rowan’s story to what they’ve shared about their own experiences. This book remained true to Rowan, despite all of her bad decisions, and her feelings about being adopted, not knowing about her bio parents, and questioning whether she was truly wanted by her Irish-Catholic parents who do not look like her.

The Complex Relationships

Rowan and her mom have the usual teenage girl/mom fights about clothes, school, and boys, but underneath those explosive arguments, Rowan believes that ultimately Mom did not want her, did not accept her, and will not be satisfied with Rowan’s decidedly average achievements.

The Search for Self-Worth

The bulk of this novel is about how Rowan grapples with the desire to be worthy of others. She seeks outward praise from her mom and in intimate relationships, which lead to startling consequences for this young woman.

The Writing

Ms. Sharkey uses multiple timelines to tell Rowan’s story, giving us a look at what happened in childhood and young adulthood and then switching to the present to let us feel how all of those experiences shaped Rowan in the now. The prose is stark – beautiful and dark while remaining simple and clear, making this book all the more powerful.

I listened to Inconvenient Daughter as an audiobook, but I plan to find a physical copy to add to my shelves because I loved it so much. At 232 pages, this short book packs so much into the story, and I know I’ll want to revisit it in the future – a true indicator that this is a 5-star book.

Why I Love the A Court of Thorns and Roses Series

If you’ve been around any book lovers on social media in the last minute, you have seen a post or two about Sarah J Maas and her trio of series: Throne of Glass, A Court of Thorns and Roses, and most recently Crescent City. The general consensus amongst Bookstagrammers is that these series are swoon-worthy, fandom-worthy, and praiseworthy. There are some naysayers amongst the group, and the best series is up for debate, but overall, these series are popular to the max.

I am fully entrenched in the SJM camp, mostly because of my love for A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACOTAR). This was the first SJM series I read, and while I love Throne of Glass (Celaena and Rowan forever) and think Crescent City is well-worth the read, ACOTAR will always have my heart. Here’s why I love this series so much.

A Retelling of the Best Kind

ACOTAR begins as a retelling of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. There are plenty of references to this much-beloved tale in the first book, from which the series draws its name. We meet our protagonist, Feyre Archeron, as she’s trying to feed her father and two sisters after years of hardship and poverty, into which the family was thrust when her merchant father wrongly hinged all his fortune on a ship full of riches and paid for it with a crippling beating from his creditors. That loss, along with the tenuous treaty between the human world and the Faerie who live across the border (The Wall), have left the Archeron family in a wooden shack where Feyre takes on all the responsibilities for her family as her father has regressed into depression and her sisters, Nesta and Elain, are still mourning their life of riches.

In desperation, Feyre becomes a huntress and in a moment of fear and opportunity, she kills a wolf in the forest beyond the wall. That wolf pelt will feed her family, she knows, but she sees something unique in the wolf’s eyes before she makes the kill. This is where the story begins, and Feyre quickly learns that her kill would not be without repayment when a monstrous beast breaks into the Archeron cabin in the middle of the night. He terrifies the family as he demands to know who killed the wolf. Feyre, as she has done so many times before, sacrifices herself to protect her father and sisters. The beast insists she become his prisoner, and he takes her into the Faerie world beyond The Wall.

This is classic Beauty and the Beast inspiration, and I am here for all of it. The beast – named Tamlin – whisks Feyre to a mysterious castle where he shifts back into his Fae form, complete with a mask welded to his face. Tamlin is High Lord of the Spring Court, a brooding High Fae who protects his lands with mystery and passion. As the original BATB story goes, the Beauty melts the Beast’s cold exterior, but in ACOTAR, it is Tamlin’s wooing that eventually breaks Feyre’s apprehension.

Feyre faces kidnappings and challenges within a High Fae’s nightmare court as we meet Amarantha, a former general and now self-proclaimed Queen of Prythian, the Faerie realm. Amarantha is cruelly evil against her subjects Under the Mountain, and presents Feyre with three challenges to free Tamlin, who is now imprisoned by the Queen. From this adventure to those in the next four books, the story expands from a retelling of BATB and into an epic story of love, found family, war, and magic. It is glorious, and please read it!

The Characters

As the story grows beyond Book 1, the depth of the characters grows and becomes more intimate. When I first read the series and then re-read it, I found my love for the characters deepening because no one is who they seem at first, each has a backstory, and each acts with a passion to reach their goals. Here are four of my favorite characters, although I could go on about many more. (Note: This is where I’ll be spilling a few spoilers for the series.)

  1. Feyre: She loves her family (biological and found), will sacrifice herself, and doesn’t know how much she can accomplish. She is full of fire and love, but she is much more. She feels deeply and puts herself in danger to protect others; she’s flawed and guilt-ridden because she can’t eliminate all pain. Her guilt pushes her to fight against evil, and she does it with a beautiful partner next to her.
  2. Rhysand: At first meeting, this half-Fae, half-Illyrian High Lord is the typical bad boy with a heart of gold. He sacrificed himself to Amarantha’s court to protect the people of Velaris, his Night Court home. Like Feyre, he feels a deep sense of responsibility for his people and is willing to do anything to protect his citizens, his found family (The Inner Circle), and his mate, Feyre. He is overprotective in many ways, but he believes in Feyre’s power more than she does herself.
  3. Morrigan: This magnetic siren of a High Fae woman is Rhysand’s cousin and a member of the Inner Circle. She is sexy and flirtatious, but she uses those traits to hide the painful past that exists because her father feared her immense power so much that he sold her in marriage to a son of the High Lord of the Autumn Court. Morrigan fought the marriage and was punished, but she escaped to the sanctuary of the Inner Circle and will fight to the death to save them.
  4. Azriel: This Illyrian warrior is mysterious, literally cloaked in shadows that swarm around his massive wingspan as he watches everything. He and Rhysand met in the Illyrian war camp when they were children sent there to train, joining together with Cassian, another one of my favorite Illyrians. Azriel is the spy shadowsinger of the Inner Circle, and he remains silent most of the time, but once he has something to say, people listen. He is haunted by his past and even shy, pining for Morrigan and then Elain. While he may be one of the most lethal of the Inner Circle, he is also one of the most gentle characters in ACOTAR.

There are so many more characters I could talk about: Cassian, Manon, Nesta, and more. But I’ll stop to transition to the third reason I love this series.

The World Building of Prythian

This was my first venture into High Fae fantasy, and I had no idea how much I loved it. SJM does an amazing job of world-building throughout the series. The unique characters, the settings across the nine Courts of the Prythian realm, the monsters, and the lore that lives in the background of these stories is just so intriguing and fantastically described.

Reading an ACOTAR book is like being whisked away into a technicolor world of intrigue, romance, violence, and magic. It’s a world that I am here for. If you want a deeply descriptive book, illustrative of a fully fleshed-out story and history for all characters, then this is the series for you.

I hope these three reasons will be enough to encourage you to read the ACOTAR series in its entirety, or at least give it a try. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Reckless Girls (May Contain Spoilers)

Reckless Girls

By Rachel Hawkins

Writing a book review about a thriller is a challenge for me. I want to provide a good synopsis of the book, as well as my thoughts, but try to avoid spoilers as much I can. Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins presented such a challenge. So, here’s a friendly warning, this post may contain a few spoilers.

Lux followed her new boyfriend, Nico, from California to Hawaii with the hope of making a new life with this intriguing, good-looking man. Before meeting Nico, she was lost, having watched her mother die of cancer, quitting college, and waitressing to make ends barely meet. Nico presented her with a grand plan: he’d sail his boat, The Susannah, to Hawaii where Lux could meet him and they’d earn enough money to then start their sea adventure across the world.

A few months after arriving in Hawaii, Lux and Nico still haven’t started their global travels. With a damaged boat and Nico’s apparent satisfaction in working on the docks, they’ve grown stagnant, and Lux isn’t sure what will happen next. Then they meet Brittany and Amma, two college girls who have been on a whirlwind international trip and want to end it with a bang on a sailing trip to Meroe Island, a remote location with a dark history of shipwrecks, military bases, murder, and even cannibalism. The girls offer enough money for Nico to repair his boat in order to take them to Meroe Island, and Lux agrees with the plan with the hope that this will jumpstart her and Nico’s travels.

When they arrive at Meroe Island, the four discover that two more travelers have had the same plan. Jake and Eliza are a beautiful, sun-kissed couple with money and a gorgeous boat, Azure Sky. While Amma shows disdain for the unplanned additions to the group, Jake and Eliza are magnetic personalities with plenty of wine and good food.

Meroe Island is mysterious and exotic, but the allure starts to wear away for Lux. Then, with the new arrival of Robbie, another sailor with a much more questionable past. Lux takes an instant dislike of him. Robbie disrupts the balance of the group but disappears with as much mystery as his arrival. Soon, Lux suspects that Brittany and Amma have a dangerous connection and starts to further question her relationship with Nico.

The entire trip starts to fall apart, with blood, skulls, and drugs. Lux doesn’t understand what has happened, and soon all that she knew explodes.

What I liked about Reckless Girls:

  • The multiple timeframes and points of view. This book is set in The Before and The Now. While Lux is the protagonist, we learn more about Brittany and Amma in their own chapters.
  • Meroe Island (at first). Sailing to an abandoned island seems exotic and adventurous, and I like the idea of being on a beach with just a few people, but after reading a few chapters of the island’s descriptions, I don’t think it would be for me.

What I did not like about Reckless Girls:

  • The overall plot. I liked this book at first, and I am happy to have read it. However, I don’t think gothic mysteries are for me.
  • The characters. None of the characters in Reckless Girls are likeable. Unreliable narrators, characters with questionable pasts? I’m here for those in a lot of books, but these characters, including Lux, were just too much for me.
  • The ending. This resolution of this book definitely soured my opinion of it. I wanted more. It felt too much like a movie ending where the producers forced a cliffhanger.

Overall, I’m glad I read this book because of the hype I’ve seen on Bookstagram and because this was one of my Book of the Month picks. But, it wasn’t one that I loved and the ending was unsatisfactory.

Book Review: Wish You Were Here

Wish You Were Here

By Jodi Picoult

Did I stay up past my bedtime to finish one more book in February? Yes.

Was it worth it? Absolutely.

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult is a 5-star book with so much heart and thought surrounding the story of Diana as she faces the start of the pandemic in New York City in March 2020. This book treats the COVID pandemic and all who have been impacted by it with care and opened my eyes to others’ experiences.

What I loved about this book

  • Diana’s drive and ambition, to which I can totally relate, and how she struggled when life took an unplanned turned.
  • Finn, Diana’s boyfriend, who is a frontline resident and whose narrative builds respect and empathy for all caretakers.
  • The Galapagos. I definitely added this archipelago to my bucket list after reading Picoult’s descriptions.
  • The people Diana meets on Isabela Island. Beatriz and Gabriel are rich, nuanced characters. Abuela is a joy.

This book is full of triggers, as the pandemic is still real in so many ways. But, Picoult handles it with the grace and beautiful writing for which she is known. I definitely recommend this book as I found it to be unique and engaging.

Gouda Friends: A Ponto Beach Book

Gouda Friends by Cathy Yardley

A Five-Star Book

Do you have favorite fictional couples, whether from books, TV, or movies? For me, Jim and Pam from The Office (U.S.) are so sweet because they started as friends and complement each other so well.

Liking that friends-to-lovers trope from The Office was probably one of the reasons why I loved Gouda Friends by Cathy Yardley so much.

Now that they’re in their late twenties, Tam has distanced herself from bestie Josh and her other SoCal friends (the Ponto Beach Nerd Herd) as she’s across the country in New York City dealing with a critical boyfriend, a demanding (and unfulfilling) job, and a general feeling of being lost. When things go further sideways, she reaches out to Josh, using code word “goldfish” to let her bestie know she needs help. Josh will walk through fire and glass to get Tam a sandwich, especially one filled with her favorite cheese, so he steps up to help her design her life. But what happens when these two friends start to feel the pull of a romantic relationship?

What I loved as much as I love cheese:

  • The relationship. I was rooting for Josh and Tam from the start, and I liked that Yardley kept their relationship arc realistic, keeping them out of contrived situations.
  • Josh. He’s sweet and almost too good, but he’s determined to ensure that Tam designs a life that makes her happy.
  • The Nerd Herd. This is the second book in Yardley’s Ponto Beach series, so we get to revisit and learn more about the crew. They’re fierce, successful, and funny.

This was a 5-star read for me, and I can’t wait for the next Ponto Beach book. I can see this series going so far with all the different storylines!

The Woman with the Blue Star

Book Review

The Woman with the Blue Star

By Pam Jenoff

Historical fiction about World War 2, strong female characters, and tragic circumstances were all indicators that I should have loved this book, but The Woman with the Blue Star just didn’t meet the “love” mark for me. I am happy to have read it, yet something just didn’t connect for me.

Sadie and her parents have been interned at a Jewish ghetto in Poland. Their lives are fraught with daily fears of being taken by the Nazis to another most unimaginably horrific location: Auschwitz. When that night comes, they escape into the sewers of Krakow and begin a fight to survive in their new underground hiding spot.

Ella is lives a bland existence with her stepmother in Krakow. She mourns the absences of her missing father, her brother who has escaped to Paris, and her boyfriend, Krys, who broke off their relationship before he went to fight for the Polish army. Her stepmother has started entertaining German SS officers, and Ella’s world is getting even smaller.

One day, Ella sees Sadie looking through the sewer gate, and both young women form a careful friendship that pushes them to face the boundaries of war-torn Poland and their own fears of how tenuous life has become.

I liked the plot of this book and the friendship between Sadie and Ella. But something about the writing didn’t make me love it. It’s solidly written, but with a lot of “telling” more than “showing” and a bit removed for my tastes.

What is most important to you when reading a book? Plot development, character development, or writing style?

The Fastest Way to Fall

A Five-Star Book Review

The Fastest Way to Fall

by Denise Williams

Do you have a positive relationship with your body? I’ll admit that I don’t. I’ve always felt like I take up too much space and have battled cycles disordered eating and low self esteem for decades. Right now I’m at a low point in that cycle, TBH.

I think that’s why The Fastest Way to Fall resonated with me so deeply. Britta dreams of being a writer at BestLife, and when she gets the opportunity to compete in a column challenge in the hopes of being promoted. Tasked with reviewing the FitMi app and sharing her journey to reach her goals: “to look and feel good naked” and “to meet the weight limit to jump out of a plane,” she signs up with the app, gets a trainer, and starts on a course that she didn’t know she needed.

Wes, her trainer, has his own hills to climb. He’s the restless CEO at FitMi, worries constantly about his addict mom and absent sister, and feels like something is missing.

What happens when the two pair up? This is a romance, so you can guess! But what I loved even more about the book:

  • Britta is confident about herself before her health competition. She doesn’t know her full worth at the beginning of the book, but she knows who she is and embraces her life.
  • I feel most romances I read ignore a lot of male characters’ backstories. This book didn’t! We is a flawed but human character with a huge heart and sense of responsibility.
  • The workout scenes were precious and realistic. FitMi is a fictional brand that focuses on non-scale victories, and we need more of that in real-life. Britta’s claims of “I hate you” when Wes pushes her to try just a bit harder felt real, just like I would want in a personal trainer. (I’m married, so none of that romance spark, of course.)

In short, I loved this book and it as what I needed to read right now. Will I start a 5K training program tomorrow because of it? Who knows. But if a fictional story can make me think about personal changes, then it’s a great read.

A Dark and Twisty Turnout

The Turnout by Megan Abbott

A 4⭐️ Book Review

The Turnout by Megan Abbott s a dark, twisted look at two sisters, Dara and Marie, who run their mother’s ballet studio, the Durant School of Dance, with Dara’s husband, Charlie, who was once the star pupil at the school.

The three live in a very insular, rigid world of dance and family, and just as they are prepping for the start of Nutcracker season, an accident occurs. Then a stranger arrives at the studio claiming that he will fix their studio and their lives. But like a fatal misstep on the dance floor, the Durant family starts to spin out of control.

I love dark books like this one, and I love ballet, though I’m definitely not a dancer. Black Swan is one of my favorite movies, and The Nutcracker is a classic. I enjoy reading this one because of the dark, fantastical world of ballet and the twists between the characters.

This was a good, solid read to add to my December 2021 list!

A Year in Books, Part 2

As 2022 is close upon us, here is my final wrap-up of the best books I read this year. To be honest, I could have featured so many more tomes that impacted me on some level, but I tried to be a bit ruthless in my list.

July: The Guncle

The Guncle by Steven Rowley is a delightful, true 5-star read. When Patrick O’Hara’s best friend and sister-in-law dies, he must care for his niece and nephew while his brother Greg deals with his own health issues. What is a Golden Globe-winning actor supposed to do with two kids under 10 who are grieving for their mother?

The answer comes in the form of funny shenanigans, pool floats, and a grumpy Aunt Clara, along with a new dog Marlene and a pink Christmas tree in July. Maisie and Grant help GUP (Gay Uncle Patrick) heal his own losses as much as he does theirs. One of my absolute favorite reads of 2021!

Read The Guncle if you love exceptional protagonists who pepper the pages with wit and spot-on voices.

August: The House in the Cerulean Sea

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune is a gift of love and color and adventure and magic. It is a book about being comfortable in your own skin, questioning your preconceived notions, and finding where you belong.

Linus Baker is a caseworker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He lives a grey existence and follows the RULES AND REGULATIONS to the letter as he investigates orphanages housing magical children. He does not sway from his life as an observer. Until Extremely Upper Management sends him on a month-long Classified Level Four assignment on Marsyas Island. As Linus gets to know – and love – the brood of characters on the island, he shifts from being an observer to an active participant in life.

Read The House in the Cerulean Sea if you love found families, magic, and endearing child-like characters.

September: The Madness of Crowds

The Madness of Crowds by Louise Penny was one of my most anticipated reads for 2021, and it did not disappoint!

This is the seventeenth installment of the much-loved Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series by Penny. The beloved Three Pines characters, led by Gamache, are cautiously tiptoeing out into a post-COVID-19 world. There is fear and trepidation and a keen desire for a return to “normal,” despite a question of whether normal will ever exist again.

This book is gorgeous and haunting and a little too real. I savored every page but also rushed to read the ending. Reading a story about a post-pandemic reality was difficult for me as it felt too real at times, but Penny is a master storyteller who has created characters and settings that move me.

Read The Madness of Crowds if you love a mystery that ties together multiple voices and plotlines. But – if you haven’t read any of the series yet, start with Still Life and enjoy the ride!

October: A Torch Against the Night

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir continues the story of Laia and Elias, two strong-willed protagonists who are bound together by a sense of right and duty. This book is the second installment of one of my new favorite series, An Ember in the Ashes, a story of high-fantasy, Rome-like intrigue, and magical jinn while holding on to the power of family, honor, and love.

While Laia and Elias continue the search for her brother, Darin, we also get to better know Helene Aquilla, the Blood Shrike and Elias’s oldest friend. I liked reading Helene’s point of view as she battles two unbearable choices: to follow the Emperor’s orders and kill her best friend or to deny her role as Blood Shrike and see her family slaughtered. With magical secrets attached to each of these characters, this book is driven by their wants and needs, as well as an action-packed plot.

Read A Torch Against the Night if you like high fantasy, action, and magic – but of course, start with An Ember in the Ashes first. I think you’ll be hooked on the series within the first 100 pages!

November: Ace of Spades

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé is amazing, and I was shocked to learn that this is the author’s debut novel. It’s smart, socially aware, and engaging. With race, sexuality, social status, and money factoring into all parts of this story, Àbíké-Íyímídé has created a world where you don’t know who to trust or what to believe, and then she brings it all home to an incredibly satisfying ending.

Devon and Chiamaka are seniors at Niveus Private Academy. They both have high hopes for their futures, but Aces wants to dash all those dreams to the side. This anonymous bully knows their secrets, and isn’t afraid to tell. Devon, a quiet musician who is determined to fulfill his mother’s wishes of going to college, and Chiamaka, an overachieving It Girl who considers popularity as important as her college applications, are desperate to confront Aces, so these polar opposites join together to bring the masked texter down.

Read Ace of Spades if you like YA fiction that addresses social justice issues and thrilling mind-twists.

December: State of Terror

State of Terror by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny sat on my to-be-read shelf for far too long. Although I’m not much of a political thriller girl, this book blew my mind. I loved the insights into politics, and this fast-paced book kept my mind turning. This book was full of tension and alluded to so many real events/potential events that it felt like I was reading nonfiction at times.

The relationships between the characters, especially Secretary of State Ellen Adams and her best friend and counselor Betsy Jameson, were so strong and well-designed. Also, there were a few treats along the way as Three Pines (Louise Penny’s masterpiece of a small village in Canada) and its characters made brief cameos. Finally, I love that this book was written by two intelligent, strong women!

Read State of Terror if you like political thrillers, smart female protagonists, and a fast-paced novel.

December: The Love Hypothesis

I couldn’t keep myself from highlighting more than one book for December. The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood has been getting rave reviews across Bookstagram, and there’s good reason for that! I’m not a die-hard romcom fan, but this one was a definite hit.

The Love Hypothesis utilizes the classic fake dating trope to bring its love interests, Olive and Adam, together, but it works on so many more levels. While I wasn’t a STEM student in grad school, I could completely relate to the pressures of graduate research and finally getting my doctorate. That stress is real, folks! Olive and Adam are a great pair, and I’ve already pre-ordered Ms. Hazelwood’s three novellas that are due out in 2022.

Read The Love Hypothesis if you like a great romcom with excellent character development.

And that’s a wrap on my 2021 favorite books! I can’t wait to see what 2022 brings for my love of reading.

A Year in Books – Part 1

As 2021 comes to a close, I’ve been taking a look back at my favorite reads for the year. This was a fun exercise to reflect on what I consider to be the best of the best for my year of reading.

January: A Woman is No Man

There are some books that manage to rip your heart out, filling you with grief for the characters, and then they give you hope for the future at their conclusion. A Woman is No Man by Etaf Rum is a story of three generations of Palestinian-American woman, and it explores fate, choices, culture, and traditions. It is a book about suppression and violence, but also about faith and personal strength. I loved it so much!

Read A Woman is No Man if you want to explore the depths of female relationships and cultural expectations.

February: A Court of Silver Flames

Sarah J. Maas took the Prythian world to the next level with her much-anticipated novel of Nesta and Cassian. With new mythology, new creatures, and new steam, A Court of Silver Flames is a great story of fierce action, heat, and love, all the things the Maasdom has come to expect.

What I loved most is that Ms. Maas went even further with this book. In taking us back to the Night Court and sharing Nesta and Cassian with us, Ms. Maas managed to build a fantasy that also addresses mental health, self worth, and the Me Too movement. The struggles and desire for empowerment may be cloaked in Fae magic here, but they’re relatable to us humans as well.

Read A Court of Silver Flames if you want a steamy book that makes your heart ache for an unlikeable protagonist (Nesta) while diving deep into a fantasy world that is well-designed and intricate.

February: The Four Winds

I couldn’t pick just one book for February, so here is my second favorite book from the shortest month of the year: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. Ms. Hannah is an author whose books I pick up knowing that my heart is going to be ripped out, and her newest novel did not disappoint!

I could feel the despair and heartache that these characters experienced in the Dust Bowl of 1930s Texas and in the neverending circle of poverty when Elsa, our heroine, moves her children to California in search of a better life. From the touching relationships between Elsa, her in-laws, her children, and her friends, and the emotive descriptions of the landscape during the Great Depression, Ms. Hannah has created a book that will stay with me for a long time.

Read The Four Winds if you love historical fiction and deep-rooted familial love alongside a lot of conflict.

February: Concrete Rose

And another favorite from February is Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas, a book full of Ms. Thomas’s beautiful prose, vivid imagery, and glorious characters. I truly hope she continues to tell stories about Garden Heights because each novel gets better and better.

Maverick Carter is 17 and dealing with a lot: his dad is in prison, he’s dealing drugs outside of his gang’s operation, and he just found out he’s a father. That’s just the start of the challenges that Maverick faces in Concrete Rose, and every bit of his journey brings all the emotions. With plenty of Easter eggs from The Hate U Give and On the Come Up, this book takes us back to the Garden Heights in the 1990s. It’s a powerful, emotional book that deserves all the Sevens, all the roses, and all the stars.

Read Concrete Rose if you want a brutal, beautiful story of a young man who has to grow up suddenly and to see how his choices make an impact on everyone’s future.

March: People Like Her

People Like Her by husband-wife writing team Ellery Lloyd is a cautionary tale about social media, motherhood, and appearances not being what they seem. Told from three points of view, the story is fast-paced and nuanced. We get an inside look at the world of Instamums, their hangers-on, and what happens behind the little squares of our favorite social platform.

I loved the relationship between Emmy and Dan, the power couple of the story. They love each other, but also they want to pay their bills and achieve greatness. As their priorities conflict, their husband-and-wife relationship becomes more convoluted, ending in a climax that shocks you.

Read People Like Her if you like fast-paced novels that make you question all your expectations of the characters and if you want to see a behind-the-curtain view of social media influencers.

April: The Last Story of Mina Lee

The Last Story of Mina Lee by Nancy Jooyoun Kim is a beautiful read! Ms. Kim crafted a gorgeous story about family, loss, language, and tragedy. I loved the dual timelines that told the story of Mina Lee and her daughter, Margot. With differences in culture, understanding, and desires, this mother-daughter relationship is complex but realistic, and I felt empathy for both characters.

The book shares the immigrant experience in a vulnerable, often brutal way, while honoring the stories of each character. As her debut novel, Ms. Kim has set the bar high and I can’t wait to read more from her.

Read The Last Story of Mina Lee if you like books about mother-daughter relationships and the complexities of the immigrant experience.

May: The Final Revival of Opal & Nev

I know there have been comparisons to Daisy Jones & the Six, but The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton goes so far beyond a journalism-style review of a 1970s rock group. Ms. Walton addresses racism and bigotry in the U.S., weaving a story that shows that we really haven’t done that far since the 1970s. She illustrates how women’s voices – especially those voices of BIPOC women – were silenced then and now. She brings together music and fashion to demonstrate how art can take so many forms for so many people.

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev that spans 40 years but is timely for today. It is a book that is about much more than music and a failed rock band. It’s about the choices each character has made themselves and the demands that society places on them because of their appearances and their backgrounds.

Read The Final Revival of Opal & Nev if you love it when an author combines historical fiction, music, and social justice to craft a great story that sticks with you.

June: Finlay Donovan is Killing It

Different than most of my heavy picks for the first half of 2021, Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano is a wild romp of a novel that pits a woman who’s life is falling apart against her ex-husband’s fiancé.

This book was funny and fresh with a touch of murder-for-hire thrown in. Finlay is a nuanced protagonist who makes a lot of bad decisions but remains plucky and endearing at the same time. I enjoyed this one at lot more than anticipated, so it was a pleasantly surprising read. My only complaint was I wanted more backstory for Vero, Finlay’s nanny-accountant-accomplice.

Read Finlay Donovan is Killing It if you like protagonists who make bad decisions but keep a deadpan sense of humor about them. Pick it up before the sequel, Finlay Donovan Knocks Em Dead, drops in February 2022!

What’s Next?

I’m wrapping up the last half of 2021 this week and still haven’t found my favorite book for December! Stay tuned for what I choose! Happy reading, friends!