I was gifted a copy of Westering Women by Sandra Dallas from St. Martin’s Press in order to participate in a book tour. This was the first time I’ve been a part of a book tour and I really felt bad when the book I was reading was problematic & flat, because I couldn’t hold up my end of the bargain with the book tour with positivity & light.
The characters were flat and the pacing was slow. But beyond that, I felt uncomfortable with the problematic amounts of racism, misogyny, and abuse that were everywhere in the novel.
The background of this novel is that a group of women, escorted by two reverends, leave Chicago to find husbands in California. Our main character is Maggie, who is fleeing her abusive husband with her daughter, Clara. The entire novel follows the women on their harrowing journey across the United States – and all of these women have some secrets that get revealed throughout the novel.
While I was reading the book, I experienced a NUMBER of uncomfortable feelings & had really interesting conversations with friends about the moral obligation of historical fiction. This particular book upheld the stereotype that all Native Americans are “savages.” It had only one character of color with a name — and this character was lied to throughout the entire book about her parentage. Every man in the book (except one or two) was an absolute piece of garbage who abused their wives or raped their children while drunk.
I totally get that in the era, women were powerless to leave their abusers, were taken advantage of. I understand that to the travelers on the Overland Trail, Native Americans were seen as savages. I understand the context of this novel. What I don’t get is WHY another novel that perpetuates these notions was published by a major publisher in 2020.
We need to be more critical of the content we consume. I am pushing to get more #OwnVoices novels into my school library AND into my own reading life. This book is unfair to the marginalized voices in this story. I am constantly trying to be a better ally, educator, parent, and reader — and this book is NOT one I can recommend if you want to be the same.
The Wives by Tarryn Fisher has been HYPED all over #bookstagram and was even a December Book of the Month selection! I chose it for my January BOTM box and was super excited to dive into it.
The premise of this novel is wild from the get-go: a man has three wives, none of whom know anything about each other. One day, one of the wives — “Thursday” — learns a snippet about the identity of one of the other wives, and goes down a rabbit hole of information. Thursday realizes that her husband is maybe not quite who she thinks he is once she meets this other wife.
This book gave me whiplash. There was A LOT going on here. I realized about halfway through the novel that I genuinely didn’t know the main character’s real name. I was wondering if there were multiple narrators or multiple story lines going on. I was reading at a rapid-fire pace because I couldn’t wait to find out what the hell was going on.
The ending though — WHAT. I was SUPER invested in the first half of the novel, and then — it was just frustrating. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but it was slightly problematic and unclear. I almost felt bad for the narrator and how lost & confused she was and how she clearly needed more support in her life that just wasn’t given to her.
I can’t give this book higher than a 3/5 star rating. It was well-written and fast-paced, but I can’t get past the WTFness of the ending.
Thank you so much to Wednesday Books for sending me an Advanced Readers Copy of Tweet Cute, Emma Lord’s debut young adult novel. This was a deliciously adorable read that will be super popular when it comes out later this month!
The story is told in two voices. Pepper’s parents own a burger chain called Big League Burger, and they’ve just decided to start selling a special grilled cheese sandwich. Jack’s family owns a deli called Girl Cheesing, where the most popular sandwich’s recipe, passed down by Jack’s Grandma Belly, happens to be the ‘special’ sandwich at Big League Burger. Jack & Pepper happen to manage the Twitter accounts of the two business, and their meme war, ragging on each other’s sandwiches, goes VIRAL.
Pepper & Jack also happen to attend the same school and participate in the same after school activities. They start off as enemies, but end up becoming friends and despite the tough words on Twitter, they actually kind of feel bad about hurting one another. Pepper’s a skilled baker, and Jack is a great app coder, both important sub-plots that play into their story. There’s also lots of fun family drama and some really goofy side characters. I also just loved the use of memes and tons of pop-culture references.
All in all, this book was totally adorable. It was a quick and fun read, and one that made my mouth water! I was craving grilled cheese sandwiches & Pepper’s baked goods the entire time I read this book. If you like enemies-to-lovers YA stories, this one should be on your TBR! It’ll be out on January 21, 2020.
Long Bright River by Liz Moore was another choice in my December Book of the Month box and I am so, so glad I chose this one. This tells the story of Mickey, a Philadelphia police officer, who realizes her younger sister Kacey, an opioid addict, has gone missing. The tension is ratcheted when Mickey realizes that there appears to be a serial killer in her precinct, Kensington, a neighborhood known for its sex work and drug trade — and Kacey’s stomping grounds.
This dual timeline story partly focused on Kacey & Mickey’s childhoods and how so many memories and relationships are marred by drug use and poverty. They were raised by their grandmother because their mother suffered from addiction. It really highlighted how cyclical these patterns can become, and how hard they are to break.
The other timeline focuses on the mysterious circumstances in Kensington, and Mickey’s life as a single mother to her son, Thomas. I really enjoyed the focus on Mickey’s investigation into her missing sister, and the difficulties faced with being a female police officer. The neighborhood of Kensington itself was a fascinating snapshot of the world of the addicted.
I loved the quick pacing of this book, including short chapters and quick dialogue. Some may be turned off by the lack of quotation marks, but I found that it enhanced the pace. I also loved how the author made me feel that the city of Philadelphia — all its neighborhoods and politics — was another character in the story. It was reminiscent of Dennis Lehane’s police procedural novels.
I am a huge, huge fan of this book and will be looking to add some of Liz Moore’s backlist novels to my TBR. I gave this 5/5 stars and I cannot wait for others to read this when it is officially published on January 7, 2020.
I received The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey in my December Book of the Month box. It was a sweeping historical romance that spanned the course of eleven years through 1920s and 1930s London.
The story follows Selina Lennox Carew and her daughter, Alice. Selina has traveled to Burma with her husband Rupert to check on their ruby mines. Alice is left behind at the Lennox’s family estate, Blackwood. This location gave me vibes reminiscent of The Secret Garden — curt wait staff, children only allowed in certain areas of the house at certain time, and some overgrown landscaping. At Blackwood, Alice feels lonely and depressed, with the only bright spots in her day being letters from her mother & their trip. One of the maids, Polly, works with Selina to create a treasure hunt for Alice as well, and Alice is learning more and more about her mother with each clue.
At first, I wasn’t a fan of the dual timeline stories. It felt like Alice was just being used as a framing device for the story, and I wasn’t entirely sure how she fit in to the grand scheme of things. I found myself more drawn to the chapters and sections of the text that revolved around Selina and her friends, notorious London socialites known as Bright Young Things. The setting was decadent and Selina’s friends were an absolute joy to read about. Once I was moved further into the book, Alice, I grew to love both timelines equally. In fact, by the end, I was obsessed with the heartbreaking mother-daughter dynamic that really highlighted how oppressed women were at the time.
I don’t want to spoil anything, but I did predict a big piece of the ending pretty quickly. However, the author crafted the story in such a way that I was invested in these characters and wanted to see it through to the end. This was also a point in time I’m not too familiar with, but it has definitely inspired me to find more books set in this era!
If you’re a fan of historical romance, I think you’ll love The Glittering Hour. It has lovable characters, a lush setting, a little mystery, and a love of romance. This was a 4/5 star read for me!
Followers by Megan Angelo was a really fun read. This is a dual timeline story that examined the high price that comes with fame & followers. It follows Orla & Floss in the present day, and Marlow in 2051. Marlow lives in a separate state called Constellation, and it’s similar to The Truman Show, where everyone is a reality star. I found myself super interested in the sci-fi future that Marlow was living in and I was fascinated by the mysterious Spill and it’s aftermath.
Orla & Floss are NYC residents in 2017, trying to find fame and often failing. They reminded me of the Instagram ‘influencers’ of the current age, and it was an interesting examination of cancel culture and D-list celebrities.
I thought the ending was wonderful and, without spoiling it, I REALLY wanted MORE of that side of things! This book was a satirical look at privacy and social media, but also a heartfelt look at friendships, family, and fame.
This novel comes out on January 14, 2020 from Graydon House Books. Add it to your TBR on Goodreads!
Thanks so much to bookishfirst.com for the opportunity to read & review this ARC. If you want to try reading & reviewing on BookishFirst, type in my referral code: c19189acce945646f and we BOTH get points! 😀
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood A beautiful follow up to one of my all-time favorites, The Handmaid’s Tale. Review here.
Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane This novel follows two men who were NYPD beat cops and then how their families intertwine when they happen to move into the same neighborhood. This was a well-written examination of family dynamics, mental health, love, and forgiveness. It was really hyped up on #bookstagram, and was a BOTM selection for June. I gave it a 4/5 stars because it was a little lengthy for me, but very well done.
MYSTERY & THRILLER
The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth This book was an absolute surprise to me! I was expecting a thriller but it was much more of a family examination. It ended up being a heartfelt story that showed that there are always many, many sides to the truth. There were multiple perspectives which really underscored that you need to see the world from someone else’s point of view, and it was an astounding look at trying to understand one another. 5/5 stars
Lock Every Door by Riley Sager This was an AMAZING thriller set in the fictional NYC hotel The Bartholomew. Sager did a phenomenal job of not only creating a creepy setting, but also creating a twisty book that completely blindsided me. 5/5 stars!
An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen An interesting thriller about a professor running a psychological study and the person she uses as a subject…and how the study isn’t what it seems.
Miracle Creek by Angie Kim I wouldn’t have put this one in the thriller category, personally. This read like a courtroom drama with a lot of family dysfunction. It was certainly well-written, but I wasn’t in love with it like many people were. 4/5 stars.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides This book BLEW MY MIND! I read it in less than 24 hours! The author’s writing style was compulsively readable and impossible to put down. The twist was PHENOMENAL! I really don’t want to blow it, but it was just so, so great. The writer uses some different, slightly unconventional writing strategies in order to create the twist. I’ve seen others say that the twist was too predictable for them, but honestly, I felt blindsided. Absolutely worth all of the hype! 5/5 stars
The Whisper Man by Alex North The Whisper Man was a the nickname of a serial killer that terrorized a town in the English countryside about 20 years ago, and when some new crimes that look like the work of the Whisper Man — who got his name by whispering in the victim’s bedroom windows at night — the detective from the original case goes back to work. This novel is not just a creepy atmospheric novel of a serial killer (and possibly ghosts?). It is also an exploration of how far a parent would go for their child, how parental relationships change over time, and how to deal with loss. It absolutely kept me on my toes the whole time and I was able to read it in only two days. 4/5 stars.
The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware Rowan takes a job as a nanny for three young girls in rural Scotland, where her only company is often her charges and the caretaker of the house, Jack. This novel is written as a series of letters from jail, where Rowan has been charged with the murder of one of the girls. There were so, so many twists & turns and I was stunned by how well this one was done. A definite winner for me! 4/5 stars.
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid This book holds a special place in my heart as my first ARC. I wrote a review article about it for Candor Magazine — check it out!
The Huntress by Kate Quinn This was a wonderfully written historical novel about Nazi hunters and a mysterious woman who enters the life of a Boston teen. 5/5 stars!
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert I LOVED this novel of 1940’s New York City! Our main character Vivian takes on a job at her aunt’s low-budget theatre after dropping out of college. She meets a lively cast of characters at the Lily Playhouse and this novel is all written as Vivian looks back on her past and how she learned what life was all about. 4/5 stars
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo Quite possibly my favorite book of 2019. I am so looking forward to the rest of this creepy, gothic series about ghosts & the occult at Yale. Review here.
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern Her first book, The Night Circus, is one of my favorite books EVER. This was written just as beautifully, but I just…don’t understand this one. Definitely need a re-read, but initial rating is a 4/5.
The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren I am sad to report that this is my first CLo book, but it will NOT be the last! This was a hysterical enemies-to-lovers tale filled with wacky characters, a little bit of steaminess, and lush descriptions of tropical locales. 4/5 stars for me!
The Bride Test by Helen Hoang A cute, steamy, #ownvoices novel that gave a voice to characters with autism and the Vietnamese community. Esme & Khai have great chemistry and it was an adorable read. The fact that Esme was chosen by Khai’s mom felt strange to me, but only because it’s really not part of my culture. It was a little far-fetched and over-the-top, but sometimes the best romances are. 4/5 stars
Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center A cute, but somewhat predictable, romance novel. This is the 3rd book I’ve read by Katherine Center and they’re always enjoyable & lighthearted. I like the ‘twist’ at the end and everything is resolved. 4/5 stars.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow I loved this debut novel that took you in and out of other worlds & doorways & stories. Beautifully done and a pleasure to read. Review here.
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo This book will resonate with SO MANY teens. It examines family dynamics, teenage parenthood, poverty, race, and sexuality, to name a few. Gorgeously written descriptions of all of Emoni’s cooking were the icing on the cake — pun intended! Review here.
The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys Ruta Sepetys has taken another era of history often overlooked and written a beautiful story of oppression, young love, and sacrifice. Her short chapters and jumps in character perspective make this a quick, compelling read. She deftly includes quotes from documents about Franco & this era in history in between chapters so that the reader can quickly get an understanding of the historical context. I never felt lost; Sepetys is marvelous at weaving a story into meticulous research. I loved each character, up until the triumphant end. 5/5 stars
On the Come Up by Angie Thomas Angie Thomas is the queen of realistic YA fiction. She has yet again created such vivid and authentic characters and a book that is compulsively readable. Her books should be required reading in late middle school/early high school! 5/5 stars
Wilder Girls by Rory Power I absolutely loved this story of survival and female relationships. It was a creepy, gory story, intertwined with a mystery. Hetty and her fellow classmates at Raxter Island School in Maine are living with an unknown disease called the Tox. They are sent supplies based on the generosity of the Navy, but secrets are hiding underneath all the levels of survival and struggle. They’re not only trying to survive the elements, the disease, and wild animals, but it almost becomes the hardest part to survive each other. 4/5 stars