What I Read This Week: May 22 to 28

Despite massive migraines, it was a pretty good reading week, especially considering that I finished three of my Book of the Month backlist books!

Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin

I love dystopian fiction, but this book was a miss for me overall. In a world where girls grow up to be married and have children, these women know that they or some of their peers will one day disappear from the village with no grace left behind. One woman opts to escape, choosing to abandon her family rather than be taken from them. Alexis Schaitkin is a talented writer, but Elsewhere fell flat for me.

Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn

Listening to Killers of a Certain Age, I kept envisioning this book on a movie screen with actresses like Jane Fonda and Candice Bergen as two of the nearly retired assassins who are now being pursued by their own employer. This was a fun audiobook, and I loved how Deanna Raybourn incorporated getting older into the stories of these expert murderers-for-hire.

Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn

As a fan of Abby Ramirez’s books, I’ve found a new author to add to my list with this week’s reading of Georgie, All Along by Kate Clayborn. When Georgie Mulcahy finds herself back in her hometown unexpectedly, she decides to use this break as a chance to fulfill some of her teenage dreams with the hope that she’ll figure out what’s missing for her future. Loner Levi Fanning might be the one to help her most of all. I loved the story of Georgie and Levi! The setting of the book, on the banks of Virginia, and the small-town community got me right in the feels, and I adored Hank the Dog, who would be best friends with my Indy. I’ll be picking up more Kate Clayborn books soon!

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides

I started The Maidens by Alex Michaelides as an audiobook but switched to print this weekend and flew through 200 hundred pages in a day. This is a fast-paced thriller set at Cambridge, where Mariana is determined to stop an alluring professor from drawing more young female students into his cultish following, including her niece, before more of them end up dead. I loved this book, from the mentioned Greek tragedies to the characters you meet throughout The Maidens.

What I Read This Week: May 15-22

This was a mixed week of audiobooks and physical books, with some really good reads topping my list!

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust

A loose retelling of Sleeping Beauty with so much depth and nuance, I loved this book. Read my full review of Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust here.

Before I Let Go by Kennedy Ryan

I loved Before I Let Go by Kennedy Ryan and am disappointed that I let this one sit on my Book of the Month backlist for so long. This is a contemporary romance about Yasmen and Josiah, who thought their love would never fall apart, but when life gets too hard, the two stopped talking and their marriage ended. Despite that, they still remain dedicated to their children and their thriving restaurant business, and soon both Yas and Si question if there’s still a spark between them. This is a second-chance romance story, with a lot of heart and I loved how Kennedy Ryan wove Black culture, mental health, and friendship into this novel. It looks like this is the first book in a series, and I can’t wait for what comes next.

The Royals Next Door by Karina Halle

I love when a book is more than what I expected it to be. Based on the synopsis and the cover of The Royals Next Door by Karina Halle, I thought this book was going to be a gossipy take on royal neighbors moving into a small town. Yes, it’s that, but the love story between elementary schoolteacher Piper and royal bodyguard Harrison is sweet and lovely, making this a good almost-summer read.

Heard It in a Love Song by Tracy Garvis Graves

Having loved Tracey Garvis Graves’s book The Girl I Used to Know, I was excited for Heard It in a Love Song when it first published, but kept pushing it back on my reading list. This story of Layla, a singer/music teacher, and Josh, an electrician and single dad, is sweet beyond measure, as both leads try to discover what makes them happy after their first marriages end. While the book was predictable, the writing was impeccable.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Like so many people, I consider To Kill a Mockingbird to be a nearly perfect book, but I’d heard mixed reviews about Go Set a Watchman, the 2015 published follow-up that was discovered after Harper Lee’s death. I have many mixed emotions about this book, which I have to believe was the intent of the author. Jean-Louise Finch (Scout) is all grown up and living in New York City, but when she comes home to Macon, Alabama, she discovers that her revered father, Atticus, is not the hero she has believed him to be. This was a hard character shift to understand after thinking of Atticus as one of the greatest fathers in American literature.

The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz

What I thought would be a ghost story about a creepy location for a writer’s event turned out to be so much more. The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz, her debut novel, has ghosts, lovers, frenemies, and mysteries galore. It is a character-driven novel with so many twists of whodunnit that you’re never sure of who is in control. Alex, the protagonist, is thrilled to receive a last-minute invite to Rosa Vallo’s secluded Blackbriar Estate for the famed author’s exclusive writer’s retreat, but when she finds her former best friend, Wren, amongst the other guests, Alex quickly learns that what is supposed to cure her writer’s block could be much more complicated.

What I Read This Week: April 24 to April 30

Does anyone feel pressure to squeeze in just a few more books during the last week of the month? I sure do. April has been a month of ups and downs, reading-wish, and I spent the first part of this week slogging through a book that I eventually decided to stop reading because I wasn’t enjoying it. However, I was able to finish three books to round out the month.

A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham

Stacy Willingham’s debut novel, A Flicker in the Dark, has all the pieces of a thriller that I love: a mentally anguished protagonist with a dark past, a cast of untrustworthy side characters, and a mystery with plenty of twists and turns. Chloe Davis is the daughter of a serial killer and has been haunted by her father’s brutal murders of six teenage girls for most of her life. Now at 32 years old, Chloe must confront the past she’s tried to ignore when an apparent copycat has come to prey on young girls in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

I really enjoyed this book, even though it took me awhile to get into the story. None of the characters, not even Chloe, are particularly likable, but the story is strong and I was surprised by the twists in the third act. Willingham is an excellent writer, and I look forward to reading more of her books.

Counterfeit by Kirstin Chen

This book has been on my list for a long time, and I flew through it this week. Ava Wong has been the good Chinese American daughter all her life. A graduate of Stanford and now a married corporate lawyer on sabbatical with her first child, Henri, she goes through her days meeting others’ expectations. Until her old college roommate, Winnie, returns to San Francisco and asks Ava to meet her for coffee. That meeting leads to Ava joining Winnie’s counterfeit purse dealings in China and the U.S., but if Ava is to be believed, her involvement is reluctant and Winnie’s coercive behavior is more powerful than the lure of millions in counterfeit luxury brands. Soon Ava is in deep, and the two must find a way to escape the FBI, Chinese gangsters, and their own cultural expectations.

This book gave me a Catch Me If You Can feeling, and I loved that. One of my favorite writing conventions is an unreliable narrator, and Ava is definitely one to be watched. Counterfeit is a fast-paced, fun read–perfect for the end of the month.

Hester by Laurie Lico Albanese

Confession: I think The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is one of the most ridiculous books I’ve ever read. It’s nothing but pages of narration with little compelling me to care about the characters, even poor Hester Prynne with her scarlet A branded across her Puritan’s dress.

Luckily, I found Hester by Laurie Lico Albanese to be a lot more engaging than The Scarlet Letter. I love a good historical fiction novel, and this novel delivered with a descriptive narrative across generations. Isobel Gamble, born in Scotland, lives in fear that someone will discover her synesthesia–her ability to attach one sense to another–and brand her a witch like her ancestor. With a warning from her mother, she learns to hide how she sees colors attached to noises, words, and smells while honing her skills as a needleworker. Then, she and her husband Edward move to Salem, and she meets young Nathaniel Hawthorne. With her husband away on shipping travels and her need to adjust to the community, Isobel draws closer to Nathaniel and into an affair. With themes of love, morality, and friendship, this book is a good read and full of historical tidbits, even for someone like me who doesn’t care for Hawthorne.

And now we’re at the start of May! What will the month bring, bookish friends?

What I Read This Week: April 17 to April 23

This week was slower compared to the last, but I still cleared two books from my to-be-read bookcase and most importantly finished Yours Truly, Abby Jimenez’s new book!

Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

I listened to Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour, and the narrator, Zeno Robinson, did an amazing job. I felt like he was sitting next to me, telling me Darren’s life story. And what a story it is. This book, Askaripour’s debut novel, is a satire about how Darren, a young Black man working at Starbucks, finds stardom when he’s whisked into the intriguing DotCom world of a mysterious business. From horrific hazing on his first day to his position as the only Black person in the company, Darren isn’t sure where he fits, but he’s swept up by the CEO’s magic and loses himself in the process. I enjoyed this book a lot, and the audiobook was fantastic as it brought each situation and emotion to life.

Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez

I hugged my copy of Yours Truly by Abby Jimenez when it finally arrived this month, and I felt the same way when I finished reading it this week. Like all of Jimenez’s books, this contemporary romance brings so much heart to a story that is more than what it appears to be. Dr. Briana Ortiz is prepared to hate Dr. Jacob Maddox when he invaded her ER, but those feelings change as this gentle man slowly wins Briana’s heart. This book has all the tropes—fake dating, miscommunication, forced proximity—but it tackles mental health issues like anxiety and depression, and it is a deeply moving love story, just what I expected from Jimenez, one of my new favorite authors.

Gallant by V.E. Schwab

Gallant is an award-winning gothic novel, one for which I’ve seen a lot of hype on Bookstagram. But, this wasn’t the book for me. I didn’t find the story engaging or the characters endearing enough to be invested in the novel. I’m glad to have cleared it from my to-be-read list, but I would have preferred spending my reading time with another book.

Did you read anything that you loved this week?

What I Read This Week: April 10 to April 16

This was a big week for reading, both physical and audiobooks. As I continue to clear my shelves, I checked five books off my to-be-read bookshelf! Here’s what I read from April 10 to 16, 2023.

Snobs by Julian Fellowes

Snobs has been on my shelf for at least four years, chosen because Julian Fellowes created Downton Abbey. Unfortunately, this book didn’t bring the drama or the delight that the show is famous for. This book, a character study on one man’s observations of his friend’s attempts to infiltrate high society in England, felt like a categorized list of the faults of the rich with a few eccentric characters thrown in. Maybe it was meant to be modernized, satirical take on the classics, like The Age of Innocence and The Great Gatsby, but all I was left with was a sense that Fellowes hates the wealthy.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Listening to The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion was a great experience. This book features characters who are implied to be autistic, and there is not enough representation of autism in literature. Don, the leading man in the story, is seeking a wife who will meet his specific requirements. This list of attributes leads him to meet Rosie, and intriguing graduate student at his university. The two are a perfect pairing, and their interactions are fun and endearing. I enjoyed Don’s journey through the novel, as he grew to realize what was most important to him and how Rosie could fit into his life without being who he originally thought would be his mate. This is a fast-paced read with a good message, and I’m glad I picked it off my my shelf.

Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead by Elle Cosimano

Oh, Finlay. You do get yourself into some situations, don’t you? But at least your bestie Vero is there to help out, even when it’s climbing through your ex-husband’s office at night or finding a cold place to store part of a corpse. Elle Cosimano’s second Finlay Donovan book is just as fun as the first! Yes, the plot requires a bit of suspended disbelief, but these are comedic mysteries, so it all works out. Finlay and Vero’s friendship is what keeps me coming back to the series, and Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead did not disappoint.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

Reading The Power by Naomi Alderman this week left me questioning why it’s been on my TBR shelf for so long. I love a dystopian novel, and this one comes highly recommended by the queen herself, Margaret Atwood. You can read my full review in another post, but here’s a quick summary:

In The Power, teenage girls suddenly develop the ability to shoot electricity from their hands, resulting in a mass shift in the world order, which is now under the power of women. With Mother Eve revising the traditional scriptures of world religions and queens and mob daughters taking control of populations by force and by charisma, the world is in an uproar. This book starts slow, but soon I couldn’t look away from the pages. With the mess of gender, power, religion, and humanity, this is a five-star book that I’ll be recommending to everyone!

The Masterpiece by Fiona Davis

Historical fiction is another favorite genre of mine, as I explained in my post about five reasons I love this genre, and Fiona Davis is a must-read author for me. I love how she blends multiple timelines, incorporates the arts, and adds mystery to her historical novels. Unfortunately, I didn’t love The Masterpiece, the story of Clara, a watercolor artist and illustrator poised to be the next leading artist right before the Great Depression begins, and Virginia, a divorcee recovering from breast cancer and learning to be on her own in the 1970s. When Virginia finds a painting of Clara’s, she’s determined to give the artist her due. I liked the premise and the historical aspects of the story, but the characters weren’t engaging enough to make me love this book.

What I Read This Week: April 3 to April 9

Despite reading every day, I only finished one book for the week. Sometimes that’s just what happens. However, the good news is that I’m still tracking ahead to reach my goal of 100 books for the year and I’m continuing to read books from my to-be-read bookcase.

Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

First, let me say that Eleanor is a delightfully quirky main character. She’s funny and outlandish, putting herself, her young son Timbly, and and her dog Yo-Yo into funny situations throughout the day. Whether it’s sleuthing to find out why her husband’s taken a vacation from his lucrative surgical career (without telling her) to having lunch with the man she unceremoniously fired during her old life as a leading animator on a top cartoon, Eleanor is having a day, and Timbly and Yo-Yo are along for the ride.

Over the course of 24 hours, which Eleanor promised herself would be different than her other mundane, stagnant days in Seattle, she meets people from her past, revisits her careers goals, and reckons with her broken relationship with her younger sister, Ivy. The day culminates in Eleanor learning that her husband, Joe, has made a life-changing career decision, and she now must make the decision to change the rest of her days.

Today Will Be Different is a character-driven novel with unique cameos from Eleanor’s past and present, all to demonstrate that she’s unsatisfied with her life as it is. She’s a fun character to spend the day with, and this was a good romp of a book for easy reading.

What I Read This Week: March 27 to April 2

Spending a good portion of the week in bed with a bad reaction to medication did have one benefit: I read four books from my to-be-read bookshelf!

Before I get into my mini-reviews, a quick health update. My migraines are about 40 percent better than they were a month ago, which is good but not great. The new emergency med that the neurologist gave me to try made me so nauseous that I couldn’t do anything but lay in bed, so no to that one! I am hopeful that with the more lifestyle changes I make, including my ongoing quest to cut out sugar, I will be able to get to a point that the migraines are manageable. A couple weeks ago I was at my wit’s end because of the near-constant pain and frustration of not being at my best, but today I’m feeling better.

But enough about my brain, on to to the books!

My Reads for the Week

Favorite: White Ivy by Susie Yang – I love a complicated main character, and Ivy is definitely that. This novel is a study on mothers and daughters, tradition, class and expectations.

Most hyped: The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd – So many fellow readers have recommended this book to me and others, but I had left it on my shelf for years. It was good, but I didn’t love it, partially because I did the audiobook, I think. I may try the printed version again another time.

A YA thriller: The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas – Sometimes you need to go back to high school just to be reminded of the meaning of angst, right? This book gave me Pretty Little Liars vibes all the way through. Not a perfect book, but a quick, entertaining read.

A Rom-Com Palate-Cleanser: The Honey Don’t List by Christina Lauren – I read a lot of heavy books in March and needed a rom-com romp to clear my head. This was a predictable, but enjoyable, read with main characters who are perfect for each other, of course.

What did you read this week?

What I Read This Week: March 20 to March 26

This week’s reading was a mixture of fiction and memoir, all books from my to-be-read list as I’m trying to clear my shelves. Here’s a recap of the reads I finished this week.

The Many Daughters of Afong Moy

I wanted to love this book by Jamie Ford; I really did. The Many Daughters of Afong Moy had all the conventions that I love on a regular basis: strong female main characters, a sweeping family saga, and deep explorations of the past. However, this book didn’t live up to my expectations. The concept of generational trauma is very compelling, and I think that Ford should be commended for his ideas in this book. Yet, it was a slow read for me, and even though each daughter was intriguing, they weren’t compelling enough for me to love the book. I think I would have enjoyed it more if there had been more focus on two or three Moy daughters, rather than a briefer look at them all. I wanted more of Afong Moy’s own story as well. Still, Ford is an accomplished writer and the book’s concept was unique.

Kiss Her Once for Me

Alison Cochrun’s Kiss Her Once for Me was the best book I read for the week.In general, I don’t care for the fake-dating trope in romance novels, but Ellie’s connection to Andrew, her fake fiancee, wasn’t overdone or trite. To summarize, Andrew proposes that he and Ellie get married in order to open the inheritance that his grandfather left him under stipulation that he marry before receiving the $2 million. Broke and lost after losing her dream job, Ellie says yes, but she soon finds out that Andrew’s sister is Jack, the woman with whom Ellie spent a magical 24 hours last Christmas. I really liked Ellie and Jack’s story, and I think the LGBTQIA+ representation was excellent. This was a good story with great character development and growth over the course of the chapters, and I recommend this read.

All Boys Aren’t Blue

I love a good memoir, and George M. Johnson’s writing took me into his world of being a gay Black man raised in a family who supported him as well as let him discover his own personhood. All Boys Aren’t Blue is a young adult memoir, written for young people like George so that they could hear from someone like them, an experience that George never received. As a forty-something white cis woman, I’m not Johnson’s target audience, but it’s important for me to read and learn about experiences like his so that I can be aware and more educated about the topics of race and sexuality. I appreciated his honesty and openness throughout the book, and I was happy to learn.

So now it’s the last week of March, and I have a goal to read three more books by the end of the month. I’ll be tuning in to at least one audiobook, but as I review the month so far, March has been a good reading month.