The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon

The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon
Pub. Date: June 9, 2020
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Forever!)
Summary: Samiah Brooks never thought she would be “that” girl. But a live tweet of a horrific date just revealed the painful truth: she’s been catfished by a three-timing jerk of a boyfriend. Suddenly Samiah-along with his two other “girlfriends,” London and Taylor-have gone viral online. Now the three new besties are making a pact to spend the next six months investing in themselves. No men, no dating, and no worrying about their relationship status . . .

For once Samiah is putting herself first, and that includes finally developing the app she’s always dreamed of creating. Which is the exact moment she meets the deliciously sexy, honey-eyed Daniel Collins at work. What are the chances? When it comes to love, there’s no such thing as a coincidence. But is Daniel really boyfriend material or is he maybe just a little too good to be true?
Genre: Contemporary Romance

After learning via a Twitter rant that the guy she was seeing was also seeing not one, but TWO other women, Samiah finds Internet fame when her epic takedown goes viral. With each refresh the views multiply. While gaining two besties out of the ordeal was a huge perk, as a Black woman at the top of her game in the tech world, Samiah does not need her newfound fame following her to the office.

Unfortunately, by the time Monday rolls around, everyone has already seen it. Multiple times. Including the jaw-droppingly gorgeous new guy, Daniel. Although there’s an instant attraction – mutual, if Daniel’s gazes and not-so-subtle trips to the coffee machine are anything to go by – Samiah is most definitely not looking for another relationship. For starters, hooking up with a coworker, especially a new coworker, is a big no-no. Secondly, Samiah and the other duped ladies, London and Taylor, have decided on a six-month period of no guys, just focusing on themselves and living their best lives with not a thought on dating.

Easier said than done, right?

With quarantine life making it near impossible for me to focus on anything for more than five minutes, I desperately needed something light and fluffy. And what could be fluffier than a rom-com? I dove right into The Boyfriend Project fully expecting to come out with a Top Read of 2020. And while I did enjoy it, I’m sad to say it was just okay. Just decent. One I doubt I’ll ever reread and I’m not sure how interested I am in the sequel.

The book started out great and I was 100% on board. Things opened with Samiah getting ready for a date while her pregnant sister scrolls through her Twitter feed. When she notices some poor woman on a horrific date, she begins reading the tweets aloud. Eventually Samiah realizes the guy on the date is the guy she’s dating – ironically, Craig pushed back his date with her to go on his current one – and marches right down to the restaurant to confront him. Not long after, the third jilted girlfriend shows up and Craig is kicked to the curb.

After those initial chapters, things slowly went downhill. Not to where the book was bad or that I was forcing myself to read, but it didn’t have the momentum of its opening. Throughout the novel, Samiah keeps saying these woman are her closest friends, but I never felt that connection come through on the page. Same with the romance. I was told they were attracted to each other, but never felt that chemistry.

There’s a secondary plot that’s almost a mystery if you squint. Daniel works for the Treasury Department with a special unit doing financial undercover work. His resume is a total lie, a backstory concocted to secure him a job at Samiah’s company. There’s some money laundering scheme going on and it’s up to Daniel to get to the bottom of it. I’ll be honest, if this was a different story by a different author where the sole plot was the corrupt group hatching a nefarious scam to rake in cash…I’d be all over that. But this is not a thriller and any time Daniel or his real job or his roommate came up, I was tempted to skip ahead. I went into this book looking for a fun romance, not some government agent schtik.

Because of Daniel’s job, his entire relationship with Samiah was built on lies. He can tell her bits and pieces (he comes from a military family, his ex wasn’t happy with his choice to turn down a high-paying job across the country), but the Daniel she knows doesn’t exist. He’s there to do a job, no matter what needs to happen…like stealing her badge when she’s one of the few employees with access to specific high-security areas of the building. His actions weren’t forgivable for me, and it looked as though Samiah felt the same. Unfortunately, things end with a nice, neat bow in true rom-com fashion.

The Boyfriend Project started off so strong, but that momentum began to wane a few chapters in. It’s a very easy-to-read novel that honestly flew by. I read this on my Kindle and I felt like every time I glanced down, the percentage was further and further. I rejoiced at Samiah being a Black woman in a STEM position and loved how she boosted other women around her…but was dismayed to see her contradict herself when it came to a female coworker. (Another scene that really rubbed me the wrong way was when Samiah went to the hospital to visit her sister right after her niece was born. Her sister just gave birth, and the first thought Samiah had upon seeing her sister is that she’s in desperate need of some eye cream and a hairbrush..) There was a tad bit too much showing, rather than telling (I never really bought the three ladies’ BFF connection nor the romance) and I could have done without Daniel’s super secret government job subplot. While this wasn’t a homerun for me, I did get through it very quickly and I know it’ll find plenty of fans this summer!

This is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf

This is How I Lied by Heather Gudenkauf
Pub. Date: May 2, 2020
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Park Row!)
Summary: Twenty-five years ago, the body of sixteen-year-old Eve Knox was found in the caves near her home in small-town Grotto, Iowa—discovered by her best friend, Maggie, and her sister, Nola. There were a handful of suspects, including her boyfriend, Nick, but without sufficient evidence the case ultimately went cold.

For decades Maggie was haunted by Eve’s death and that horrible night. Now a detective in Grotto, and seven months pregnant, she is thrust back into the past when a new piece of evidence surfaces and the case is reopened. As Maggie investigates and reexamines the clues, secrets about what really happened begin to emerge. But someone in town knows more than they’re letting on, and they’ll stop at nothing to keep the truth buried deep.
Genre: Mystery/Suspense

Back in my bookseller days, Heather Gudenkauf was an author I was always drawn to. Day after day I would shelve her titles and each one sounded more interesting than the last; from the very start with her debut, it was clear Gudenkauf was and is not an author who shies away from darker, grittier topics. Child abductions, abusive relationships, childhood trauma. Areas other mystery authors would deem as too far, Gudenkauf sees as fair game. Years later she’s still an author whose books catch my eye and when I was approached about reviewing her latest, well, I took that as a sign.

Twenty-five years ago the body of Eve Knox was discovered at the bottom of a cave. Though it was clear Eve was beaten and murdered, there was never any clear evidence, just rumors and pure speculation. Weeks turned to months and months turned to years, eventually her murder was considered a cold case, though never officially closed. The detective at the time, Henry Kennedy, continued pouring over the notes, the interviews, convinced there was some tiny clue he could uncover.

Twenty-five years later, Henry’s health is in decline and he’s no longer on the force. His daughter Maggie followed in his footsteps, earning her own badge. Now seven months pregnant, Maggie knows desk work is in her future, she’s in no position to be chasing down criminals. As luck would have it, two boys happen to come across an old boot…Eve’s boot, and with major strides in DNA technology over the past two decades, there’s a chance new light could be shed, finally solving the crime – and bringing justice to Maggie’s best friend.

As Maggie retraces her father’s steps in the case, she can’t help but think back to that night. The night she and Eve’s sister discovered Eve’s body. Who could be responsible? Nola and her mother were certainly convinced it was Nick Brady, the town’s golden boy – and Eve’s boyfriend. Maggie always thought there was something wrong about the way he treated Eve. Or could Cam Harper know something? Maggie and Eve used to babysit the Harpers’ kids, and Maggie knows all too well how Cam felt about teenage girls. And why does Maggie’s husband’s name show up among the case notes?

This is How I Lied is told in several voices (Maggie, Nola, Eve) as well as two time periods: the days leading up to Eve’s death and the present. Right from the start I was not a fan of Nola, Eve’s sister. She has no problems killing animals – when she’s first introduced it’s a scene on the job. She’s a veterinarian and has been called out to check on a horse. The horse is in bad shape and needs emergency surgery. While the family isn’t looking, Nola administers an injection, nothing that will kill the horse then and there, but quickly enough to ensure it won’t make it through the surgery…aka she won’t be to blame. She was rude and manipulative with zero redeeming qualities. I disliked her character so much (the Dexter-esque trophies she collected – instead of blood, she keeps ear bones, her blatant disregard for anyone, her all-around bad attitude) that I nearly abandoned the book. On more than one occasion.

I’m glad I stuck it out though. Between the past/present narrative, the case notes, and interview transcripts, This is How I Lied was an engaging read that kept me turning the pages (as long as the scene didn’t involve Nola with an animal). I felt there was only one truly good character, Henry. Everyone else was written in such a way that it was easy to peg them as a murderer. Each one, from the ex-boyfriend to Maggie’s husband to Maggie herself had moments where, if they weren’t already an outright monster, there was enough doubt to where the reader could be swayed.

Ultimately, the Big Reveal wasn’t much of a shocker. However, this was a quick read and a surprisingly easy read, given some of the more horrific elements (abuse, pedophilia, rape, animal cruelty). I read this on a rainy afternoon and the weather added to the novel’s atmosphere. While I don’t see myself ever picking this one up again for a reread, I’m delighted to say I’ve finally read a Heather Gudenkauf novel after all these years – and that she’s got an impressive backlist waiting for me.

The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez

The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez
Pub. Date: April 14, 2020
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Forever!)
Summary: Two years after losing her fiancé, Sloan Monroe still can’t seem to get her life back on track. But one trouble-making pup with a “take me home” look in his eyes is about to change everything. With her new pet by her side, Sloan finally starts to feel more like herself. Then, after weeks of unanswered texts, Tucker’s owner reaches out. He’s a musician on tour in Australia. And bottom line: He wants Tucker back.

Well, Sloan’s not about to give up her dog without a fight. But what if this Jason guy really loves Tucker? As their flirty texts turn into long calls, Sloan can’t deny a connection. Jason is hot and nice and funny. There’s no telling what could happen when they meet in person. The question is: With his music career on the rise, how long will Jason really stick around? And is it possible for Sloan to survive another heartbreak?
Genre: Contemporary Romance

When Sloan finds a puppy (or, rather, the puppy found her and promptly jumped into her car), she does want anyone would do: she called the number on Tucker’s tag. And called. And called. After a few weeks of unanswered voicemails, Sloan decides Tucker’s owner clearly doesn’t deserve him.

Jason is halfway around the world in Australia. Moments of free time for a touring musician are hard to come by and with spotty reception, it’s weeks before he’s able to check his phone. When he does, he’s greeted to a barrage of voicemails and, once the inbox was full, texts. Jason’s girlfriend was watching his puppy – what’s Tucker doing with this strange woman? This strange woman who refuses to return him?

While the texts were all business in the beginning, as the weeks wear on, they develop into something more. Flirty texts give way to calls and soon there’s no denying the pair have a deeper connection than their love of a puppy. But are they both willing to risk everything to see where this can go?

Okay, I’m legit the only person on the face of this earth who hasn’t read The Friend Zone, Abby’s debut. It took the book world by storm last year and seemed like just about everyone was obsessed. I’m not the type of person to give in to that kind of hype, so I never read it – and now I’m kicking myself for waiting so long. Doubly so since my library is currently shut down and the e-copy has a waitlist a mile long.

Naturally the announcement of a second book sent a spark through the book community and this time I couldn’t, wouldn’t ignore it. (It also helped that I received an email directly with an e-ARC copy!) The Happy Ever After Playlist is so much more than just a romance novel. Sloan is still grieving the death of her fiance two years later. She lives in a house that’s too big with too many needed repairs because it was their house. She gave up her true passion and makes a living by hawking novelty pet portraits. She hasn’t even cleaned out his closet. Despite what her friends think, she’s not – most definitely not – ready for a new relationship. ..right? And Jason. He’s juuust on the cusp of hitting the big leagues. He’s practically guaranteed stardom…if he records the music that was already written. By someone else.

Other reviewers have sung this book’s praises and have done so far more eloquently than I could. I’ll just say that the book I read immediately before The Happy Ever After Playlist was a re-read of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, one of my all-time favorites and the ultimate comfort read. A pretty big act to follow, right? My rating for this one…also 5 stars. Y’all, this piggybacked off Harry Potter and received a 5-star rating from me! What more do I really need to say? (Also, Abby created an actual playlist featuring the songs in this book! Check it out on Spotify!)

To Have and To Hoax by Martha Waters

To Have and To Hoax by Martha Waters
Pub. Date: April 7, 2020
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Atria!)
Summary: Five years ago, Lady Violet Grey and Lord James Audley met, fell in love, and got married. Four years ago, they had a fight to end all fights, and have barely spoken since.

Their once-passionate love match has been reduced to one of cold, detached politeness. But when Violet receives a letter that James has been thrown from his horse and rendered unconscious at their country estate, she races to be by his side—only to discover him alive and well at a tavern, and completely unaware of her concern. She’s outraged. He’s confused. And the distance between them has never been more apparent.

Wanting to teach her estranged husband a lesson, Violet decides to feign an illness of her own. James quickly sees through it, but he decides to play along in an ever-escalating game of manipulation, featuring actors masquerading as doctors, threats of Swiss sanitariums, faux mistresses—and a lot of flirtation between a husband and wife who might not hate each other as much as they thought. Will the two be able to overcome four years of hurt or will they continue to deny the spark between them?
Genre: Historical Romance, Rom-Com

Five years ago, Lady Violet Grey and Lord James Audley were introduced on a balcony. Minutes later, they were engaged. The year that followed was one of newlywed bliss. Then the Argument happened and the once madly-in-love couple stopped speaking to one another. For four years.

When Violet receives an urgent letter saying her husband has been thrown from a horse and is on his deathbed, she races to Audley’s side. ..unfortunately for Violet, her husband is the perfect specimen of health. She decides then and there to get back at him – this time by hiring an actor to play a physician and pronounce Violet to be on her own deathbed – thus setting off an endless game of one-upmanship between the spouses.

I’m going to keep this brief. To Have and To Hoax caught my eye the moment I first heard about it and I’m delighted to say it didn’t disappoint! The banter here is nothing short of delicious: fans of Julia Quinn and Tessa Dare, even contemporaries (!) will feel right at home within these pages. The secondary characters are all marvelous and I’m hoping for follow-up novels ASAP! I will admit that this one was a tiny bit too long (or at least felt like it could have been pared down a touch), but overall I enjoyed it immensely and am very excited to see what Martha Waters does next!

April releases I can’t wait to read!

Good morning! It’s that time again: a new month = new books and these are the releases of April I’m most excited to read.

It Sounded Better in My Head by Nina Kenwood | April 7
When her parents announce their impending divorce, Natalie can’t understand why no one is fighting, or at least mildly upset. Then Zach and Lucy, her two best friends, hook up, leaving her feeling slightly miffed and decidedly awkward. She’d always imagined she would end up with Zach one day―in the version of her life that played out like a TV show, with just the right amount of banter, pining, and meaningful looks. Now everything has changed, and nothing is quite making sense. Until an unexpected romance comes along and shakes things up even further.

The Beauty of Your Face by Sahar Mustafah | April 7
A uniquely American story told in powerful, evocative prose, The Beauty of Your Face navigates a country growing ever more divided. Afaf Rahman, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, is the principal of Nurrideen School for Girls, a Muslim school in the Chicago suburbs. One morning, a shooter—radicalized by the online alt-right—attacks the school.

As Afaf listens to his terrifying progress, we are swept back through her memories: the bigotry she faced as a child, her mother’s dreams of returning to Palestine, and the devastating disappearance of her older sister that tore her family apart. Still, there is the sweetness of the music from her father’s oud, and the hope and community Afaf finally finds in Islam.

The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead | April 7
After her parents’ divorce, Bea’s life became different in many ways. But she can always look back at the list she keeps in her green notebook to remember the things that will stay the same. The first and most important: Mom and Dad will always love Bea, and each other.

When Dad tells Bea that he and his boyfriend, Jesse, are getting married, Bea is thrilled. Bea loves Jesse, and when he and Dad get married, she’ll finally (finally!) have what she’s always wanted–a sister. Even though she’s never met Jesse’s daughter, Sonia, Bea is sure that they’ll be “just like sisters anywhere.” As the wedding day approaches, Bea will learn that making a new family brings questions, surprises, and joy.

The Love Story of Missy Carmichael by Beth Morrey | April 7
Boy meets girl. Girl meets boy. Woman meets dog…

The world has changed around Missy Carmichael. At seventy-nine, she’s estranged from her daughter, her son and only grandson live across the world in Australia, and her great love is gone. Missy spends her days with a sip of sherry, scrubbing the kitchen in her big empty house and reliving her past–though it’s her mistakes, and secrets, that she allows to shine brightest. The last thing Missy expects is for two perfect strangers and one spirited dog to break through her prickly exterior and show Missy just how much love she still has to give.

A HUGE thank you to Putnam for a review copy!

To Have and to Hoax by Martha Waters | April 7
Five years ago, Lady Violet Grey and Lord James Audley met, fell in love, and got married. Four years ago, they had a fight to end all fights, and have barely spoken since.

Their once-passionate love match has been reduced to one of cold, detached politeness. But when Violet receives a letter that James has been thrown from his horse and rendered unconscious at their country estate, she races to be by his side—only to discover him alive and well at a tavern, and completely unaware of her concern. She’s outraged. He’s confused. And the distance between them has never been more apparent.

Wanting to teach her estranged husband a lesson, Violet decides to feign an illness of her own. James quickly sees through it, but he decides to play along in an ever-escalating game of manipulation, featuring actors masquerading as doctors, threats of Swiss sanitariums, faux mistresses—and a lot of flirtation between a husband and wife who might not hate each other as much as they thought. Will the two be able to overcome four years of hurt or will they continue to deny the spark between them?

A HUGE thank you to Atria for a review copy!

The Book of Lost Friends by Lisa Wingate | April 7
Louisiana, 1875 In the tumultuous aftermath of Reconstruction, three young women set off as unwilling companions on a perilous quest: Lavinia, the pampered heir to a now-destitute plantation; Juneau Jane, her illegitimate free-born Creole half-sister; and Hannie, Lavinia’s former slave. Each carries private wounds and powerful secrets as they head for Texas, following dangerous roads rife with ruthless vigilantes and soldiers still fighting a war lost a decade before. For Lavinia and Juneau Jane, the journey is one of inheritance and financial desperation, but for Hannie, torn from her mother and eight siblings before slavery’s end, the pilgrimage westward reignites an agonizing question: Could her long-lost family still be out there? Beyond the swamps lie the seemingly limitless frontiers of Texas and, improbably, hope.

Louisiana, 1987 For first-year teacher Benedetta Silva, a subsidized job at a poor rural school seems like the ticket to canceling her hefty student debt–until she lands in a tiny, out-of-step Mississippi River town. Augustine, Louisiana, seems suspicious of new ideas and new people, and Benny can scarcely comprehend the lives of her poverty-stricken students. But amid the gnarled oaks and run-down plantation homes lies the century-old history of three young women, a long-ago journey, and a hidden book that could change everything.

Dead on the Vine by Elle Brooke White | April 7
Charlotte Finn never wanted to inherit the family’s produce farm–much less plow a heap of money into it. Her plan is to hammer a great big FOR SALE sign into the farm’s fallow furrows–but Charlotte’s sunny hopes of a quick sale succumb to a killing frost when she finds a dead body entwined supine in the tomato vines. The poor man, it seems, was run through…with a pitchfork?

Now, Charlotte is stuck with running the farm in the midst of a murder investigation. Charlotte’s knowledge of farming is smaller than her bank balance, so she relies on caretakers Joe and Alice Wong and their farmhands. Can she trust them? She doesn’t know them. There’s also farmer Samuel Brown, who still carries a childhood grudge. But the case gets personal when Charlotte learns that the victim might have been her own kin–and seeds of suspicion grow into a fertile field of suspects. Charlotte turns to the farm’s baby pig to help root out the killer. Soon, the goats, geese, and horse join in, but will Charlotte harvest a murderer–or buy the farm?

Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega | April 7
For Lucely Luna, ghosts are more than just the family business.

Shortly before Halloween, Lucely and her best friend, Syd, cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious spirits, wreaking havoc throughout St. Augustine. Together, they must join forces with Syd’s witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head-on and reverse the curse to save the town and Lucely’s firefly spirits before it’s too late.

A Hundred Suns by Karin Tanabe | April 7
On a humid afternoon in 1933, American Jessie Lesage steps off a boat from Paris and onto the shores of Vietnam. Accompanying her French husband Victor, an heir to the Michelin rubber fortune, she’s certain that their new life is full of promise, for while the rest of the world is sinking into economic depression, Indochine is gold for the Michelins. Jessie knows that their vast plantations near Saigon are the key to the family’s prosperity, and while they have been marred in scandal, she needs them to succeed for her husband’s sake—and to ensure that her trail of secrets stays hidden in the past.

Jessie dives into the glamorous colonial world, where money is king and morals are brushed aside, and meets Marcelle de Fabry, a spellbinding French woman with a moneyed Indochinese lover, the silk tycoon Khoi Nguyen. Descending on Jessie’s world like a hurricane, Marcelle proves to be an exuberant guide to ex-pat life. But hidden beneath her vivacious exterior is a fierce desire to put the colony back in the hands of its people, starting with the Michelin plantations, fueled by a terrible wrong committed against her and Khoi’s loved ones in Paris.

Yet it doesn’t take long for the sun-drenched days and champagne-soaked nights to catch up with Jessie. With an increasingly fractured mind, her affection for Indochine falters. And as a fiery political struggle builds around her, Jessie begins to wonder what’s real in a friendship that she suspects may be nothing but a house of cards.

A HUGE thank you to St. Martin’s Press for a review copy!

One Perfect Summer by Brenda Novak | April 7
When Serenity Alston swabbed her cheek for 23andMe, she joked about uncovering some dark ancestral scandal. The last thing she expected was to discover two half sisters she didn’t know existed. Suddenly, everything about her loving family is drawn into question. And meeting these newfound sisters might be the only way to get answers.

Serenity has always found solace at her family’s Lake Tahoe cabin, so what better place for the three women to dig into the mystery that has shaken the foundation each of them was raised on? With Reagan navigating romantic politics at her New York City advertising firm, and Lorelei staring down the collapse of her marriage, all three women are converging at a crossroads in their lives. Before the summer is over, they’ll have to confront the paths they walked to get there and determine how to move forward when everything they previously thought to be true was a lie. But any future is easier to face with family by your side.

A HUGE thank you to MIRA for a review copy!

Girls Save the World in This One by Ash Parsons | April 14
June’s whole life has been leading up to this: ZombieCon, the fan convention celebrating all things zombies. She and her two best friends plan on hitting all the panels, photo ops, and meeting the heartthrob lead of their favorite zombie apocalypse show Human Wasteland.

And when they arrive everything seems perfect, though June has to shrug off some weirdness from other fans—people shambling a little too much, and someone actually biting a cast member. Then all hell breaks loose and June and her friends discover the truth: real zombies are taking over the con. Now June must do whatever it takes to survive a horde of actual brain-eating zombies—and save the world.

Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer | April 14
With her father recently moved to a care facility for his worsening dementia, Beth Walsh volunteers to clear out the family home and is surprised to discover the door to her childhood playroom padlocked. She’s even more shocked at what’s behind it—a hoarder’s mess of her father’s paintings, mounds of discarded papers and miscellaneous junk in the otherwise fastidiously tidy house.

As she picks through the clutter, she finds a loose journal entry in what appears to be her late mother’s handwriting. Beth and her siblings grew up believing their mother died in a car accident when they were little more than toddlers, but this note suggests something much darker. Beth soon pieces together a disturbing portrait of a woman suffering from postpartum depression and a husband who bears little resemblance to the loving father Beth and her siblings know. With a newborn of her own and struggling with motherhood, Beth finds there may be more tying her and her mother together than she ever suspected.

A HUGE thank you to Graydon House for a review copy!

The Caretakers by Eliza Maxwell | April 14
Filmmaker Tessa Shepherd helped free a man she believed was wrongly imprisoned for murder. When he kills again, Tessa’s life is upended.

She’s reeling with guilt, her reputation destroyed. Worse, Tessa’s mother has unexpectedly passed away, and her sister, Margot, turns on her after tensions from their past escalate. Hounded by a bullying press, Tessa needs an escape. That’s when she learns of a strange inheritance bequeathed by her mother: a derelict and isolated estate known as Fallbrook. It seems like the perfect refuge.

A crumbling monument to a gruesome history, the mansion has been abandoned by all but two elderly sisters retained as caretakers. They are also guardians of all its mysteries. As the house starts revealing its dark secrets, Tessa must face her fears and right the wrongs of her past to save herself and her relationship with Margot. But nothing and no one at Fallbrook are what they seem.

A HUGE thank you to Lake Union for a review copy!

The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez | April 14 *I have already read this one – keep your eyes peeled for the review!*
Two years after losing her fiancé, Sloan Monroe still can’t seem to get her life back on track. But one trouble-making pup with a “take me home” look in his eyes is about to change everything. With her new pet by her side, Sloan finally starts to feel more like herself. Then, after weeks of unanswered texts, Tucker’s owner reaches out. He’s a musician on tour in Australia. And bottom line: He wants Tucker back.

Well, Sloan’s not about to give up her dog without a fight. But what if this Jason guy really loves Tucker? As their flirty texts turn into long calls, Sloan can’t deny a connection. Jason is hot and nice and funny. There’s no telling what could happen when they meet in person. The question is: With his music career on the rise, how long will Jason really stick around? And is it possible for Sloan to survive another heartbreak?

A HUGE thank you to Forever for a review copy!

The Prettiest by Brigit Young | April 14
It’s the last thing Eve Hoffmann expected to be, the only thing Sophie Kane wants to be, and something Nessa Flores-Brady knows she’ll never be . . . until a list appears online, ranking the top fifty prettiest girls in the eighth grade.

Eve is disgusted by the way her body is suddenly being objectified by everyone around her.
Sophie is sick of the bullying she’s endured after being relegated to number two.
And Nessa is tired of everyone else trying to tell her who she is.

It’s time for a takedown. As the three girls band together, they begin to stand up not just for themselves, but for one another, too.

A HUGE thank you to Roaring Brook Press for a review copy!

The Address Book by Deirdre Mask | April 14
When most people think about street addresses, if they think of them at all, it is in their capacity to ensure that the postman can deliver mail or a traveler won’t get lost. But street addresses were not invented to help you find your way; they were created to find you. In many parts of the world, your address can reveal your race and class.

In this wide-ranging and remarkable book, Deirdre Mask looks at the fate of streets named after Martin Luther King Jr., the wayfinding means of ancient Romans, and how Nazis haunt the streets of modern Germany. The flipside of having an address is not having one, and we also see what that means for millions of people today, including those who live in the slums of Kolkata and on the streets of London.

The Silence of Bones by June Hur | April 21
1800, Joseon (Korea). Homesick and orphaned sixteen-year-old Seol is living out the ancient curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Indentured to the police bureau, she’s been tasked with assisting a well-respected young inspector with the investigation into the politically charged murder of a noblewoman.

As they delve deeper into the dead woman’s secrets, Seol forms an unlikely bond of friendship with the inspector. But her loyalty is tested when he becomes the prime suspect, and Seol may be the only one capable of discovering what truly happened on the night of the murder.

But in a land where silence and obedience are valued above all else, curiosity can be deadly.

A HUGE thank you to Feiwel & Friends for a review copy!

Pretty Things by Janelle Brown | April 21
Nina once bought into the idea that her fancy liberal arts degree would lead to a fulfilling career. When that dream crashed, she turned to stealing from rich kids in L.A. alongside her wily Irish boyfriend, Lachlan. Nina learned from the best: Her mother was the original con artist, hustling to give her daughter a decent childhood despite their wayward life. But when her mom gets sick, Nina puts everything on the line to help her, even if it means running her most audacious, dangerous scam yet.

Vanessa is a privileged young heiress who wanted to make her mark in the world. Instead she becomes an Instagram influencer—traveling the globe, receiving free clothes and products, and posing for pictures in exotic locales. But behind the covetable façade is a life marked by tragedy. After a broken engagement, Vanessa retreats to her family’s sprawling mountain estate, Stonehaven: a mansion of dark secrets not just from Vanessa’s past, but from that of a lost and troubled girl named Nina.

Nina’s, Vanessa’s, and Lachlan’s paths collide here, on the cold shores of Lake Tahoe, where their intertwined lives give way to a winter of aspiration and desire, duplicity and revenge.

In Her Shadow by Kristin Miller | April 21
Once his secretary, Colleen is now pregnant with Michael’s baby. When he brings her to his opulent estate, Ravenwood, she is abruptly thrust into a life of luxury she’s never known. But Colleen finds the immense house suffused with the memory of Michael’s beautiful wife, Joanna, who left months ago and who haunts her imagination. It quickly becomes apparent that there is little room for a new mistress of this house: The staff greets her with hostility, and there are entire wings and corridors from which she is prohibited to enter.

Then bones are unearthed in the grove across the street.

When Michael falls under the suspicion of the detectives investigating the case, the soon-to-be mother of his child finds herself hurled deeper into her boyfriend’s dark past–a past that threatens to upend all her dreams. But the terrifying secrets lurking in the shadows of Ravenwood pale in comparison to the drastic measures Colleen will take to stake a claim to her new life.

Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier | April 21 *I have already read this one – keep your eyes peeled for the review!*
Marin had the perfect life. Married to her college sweetheart, she owns a chain of upscale hair salons, and Derek runs his own company. They’re admired in their community and are a loving family. Up until the day Sebastian is taken.

A year later, Marin is a shadow of herself. The FBI search has gone cold. The publicity has faded. She and her husband rarely speak. The only thing keeping her going is the unlikely chance that one day Sebastian reappears. She hires a P.I. to pick up where the police left off, but instead of finding him, she discovers that Derek is having an affair with a younger woman.

Kenzie Li is an artist and grad student—Instagram famous—and up to her eyeballs in debt. She knows Derek is married. She also knows he’s rich, and dating him comes with perks: help with bills, trips away, expensive gifts. He isn’t her first rich boyfriend, but she finds herself hoping he’ll be the last. She’s falling for him—and that was never part of the plan.

Discovery of the affair sparks Marin back to life. She’s lost her son; she’s not about to lose her husband, too. Kenzie is an enemy with a face, which means this is a problem Marin can fix. But as she sets a plan in motion, another revelation surfaces. Derek’s lover might know what happened to their son. And so might Derek.

A HUGE thank you to Minotaur Books for a review copy!

My Kind of Cowboy by R.C. Ryan | April 28
Brand Merrick is a take-charge cowboy who loves a challenge and being in the thick of the action on his family ranch. When Brand takes a fall from his horse and the town doctor orders physical therapy, he doesn’t intend to rest for long. They make a compromise that the physical therapist will come stay on the ranch for six weeks so Brand can do his exercises between his duties running the ranch. But Brand wasn’t expecting to be working with beautiful, tough city-girl Avery.

Avery Grant has no patience for the sexy cowboy who makes it clear therapy is a waste of his time. She won’t back down, especially since she came to Wyoming for another reason… to get away from the mysterious threats she keeps receiving. But the threats have followed her to the Merrick ranch. And soon, Brand isn’t feeling quite so hostile toward his new therapist… in fact, keeping her safe becomes his only priority.

The Split by Sharon J. Bolton | April 28
The remote Antarctic island of South Georgia is about to send off its last boat of the summer – which signifies safety to resident glaciologist Felicity Lloyd.

Felicity lives in fear – fear that her ex-husband Freddie will find her, even out here. She took a job on this isolated island to hide from him, but now that he’s out of prison, having served a term for murder, she knows he won’t give up until he finds her.

But a doctor delving into the background of Felicity and Freddie’s relationship, back in Cambridge, learns that Felicity has been on the edge for a long time. Heading to South Georgia himself to try and get to her first is the only way he can think of to help her.

A HUGE thank you to Minotaur Books for a review copy!

Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon | April 28
The Overland Trail, 1853: Naomi May never expected to be widowed at twenty. Eager to leave her grief behind, she sets off with her family for a life out West. On the trail, she forms an instant connection with John Lowry, a half-Pawnee man straddling two worlds and a stranger in both.

But life in a wagon train is fraught with hardship, fear, and death. Even as John and Naomi are drawn to each other, the trials of the journey and their disparate pasts work to keep them apart. John’s heritage gains them safe passage through hostile territory only to come between them as they seek to build a life together.

When a horrific tragedy strikes, decimating Naomi’s family and separating her from John, the promises they made are all they have left. Ripped apart, they can’t turn back, they can’t go on, and they can’t let go. Both will have to make terrible sacrifices to find each other, save each other, and eventually…make peace with who they are.

A HUGE thank you to Lake Union for a review copy!

The Heirloom Garden by Viola Shipman | April 28
Iris Maynard lost her husband in World War II, her daughter to illness and, finally, her reason to live. Walled off from the world for decades behind the towering fence surrounding her home, Iris has built a new family…of flowers. Iris propagates her own daylilies and roses while tending to a garden filled with the heirloom starts that keep the memories of her loved ones alive.

When Abby Peterson moves next door with her family—a husband traumatized by his service in the Iraq War and a young daughter searching for stability—Iris is reluctantly yet inevitably drawn into her boisterous neighbor’s life, where, united by loss and a love of flowers, she and Abby tentatively unearth their secrets, and help each other discover how much life they have yet to live.

A HUGE thank you to Graydon House for a review copy!

Music from Another World by Robin Talley

Music from Another World by Robin Talley
Pub. Date: March 31, 2020
Source: e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Inkyard Press!)
Summary: It’s summer 1977 and closeted lesbian Tammy Larson can’t be herself anywhere. Not at her strict Christian high school, not at her conservative Orange County church and certainly not at home, where her ultrareligious aunt relentlessly organizes antigay political campaigns. Tammy’s only outlet is writing secret letters in her diary to gay civil rights activist Harvey Milk…until she’s matched with a real-life pen pal who changes everything.

Sharon Hawkins bonds with Tammy over punk music and carefully shared secrets, and soon their letters become the one place she can be honest. The rest of her life in San Francisco is full of lies. The kind she tells for others–like helping her gay brother hide the truth from their mom–and the kind she tells herself. But as antigay fervor in America reaches a frightening new pitch, Sharon and Tammy must rely on their long-distance friendship to discover their deeply personal truths, what they’ll stand for…and who they’ll rise against.
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction, LGBT

Tammy Larson has kept her true self hidden: her Christian school, her extremely conservative church (run by her family), and her uber religious political campaigner aunt would all do anything – and everything – they could to turn this closeted lesbian straight if they were to find out. Tammy’s only safe space is her diary where she writes letters to gay civil rights activist Harvey Milk.

A class assignment, however, changes everything. Two schools on opposite sides of the country have teamed up for a pen pal project. With Sharon, Tammy can talk about things she has been sheltered from: punk music in particular, and while a fast friendship forms, Tammy remains uncertain of just how much she can trust Sharon. Sharon, on the other hand, has a secret of her own: her brother recently came out to her and she’s been helping him hide the truth from their mother. While she isn’t completely comfortable with his sexuality, she does love her brother, and soon finds her world view expanding as she’s introduced to the punk scene and begins volunteering at a feminist bookshop.

I was excited to read Music from Another World for one specific reason: I know zip about this era in history. Harvey Milk, Anita Bryant, the political climate of 1977, I couldn’t tell you the first thing about any of it and, being the history-loving bookworm I am, was eager to dive in and learn about this time period. Even better was that it was told through the eyes of two girls who were witnessing it first-hand.

The novel reads incredibly fast as it’s told entirely through diary entries and the letters the girls exchange. I nearly put the book down 20% of the way in, I just wasn’t invested in the story. Still, I stuck with it, given how quick the story read, and in the end…it was just an okay book.

My main issue was with the narration. Sometimes epistolary novels can work really well, other times the characters’ voices blend together and that was the case here. Half the time, I honestly could not tell which girl’s letter I was reading; I needed to look for context clues (okay, we’re in a church, it must be Tammy’s chapter). Both girls sounded so similar that they became the same character in my eyes. Also, they’re meant to be in high school, but sounded far younger. At one point one of them wrote “My birthday’s tomorrow. I’ll be sixteen year old, but I feel about nine.” Well they both sounded about nine.

Music from Another World was a very quick read that clued me in on a time period I know very little about. Unfortunately, it didn’t have much more going for it – but I know I’m in the clear minority here. This book will be sure to find a following. Sadly I found it hard to differentiate between the two main characters and every single person who was a practicing Christian was absurdly vile and hateful.

quarantine life: what I’m watching on youtube!


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If you’re anything like me, you’re quickly running out of things to watch – though let’s be real, is there such a thing as too many Office rewatches? Also, if you’re anything like me, you’ve come across everyone and their uncle posting their Netflix/Amazon/Hulu/Disney+ recs.

Today I’m sharing something a little different: youtube recommendations. Yep, youtube. No longer just for music and cat videos. I have six channels for you today that I’ve been loving!

BINGING WITH BABISH

Probably the most well-known out of my recs, Binging with Babish is the massively popular channel from Andrew Rea where he recreates dishes from movies and television shows.

He’s done everything from chocolate pudding inspired by Rugrats to the Krabby Supreme to Eggs Florentine from my favorite show ever, Frasier. Honestly, half the fun is just seeing what he takes on next, his picks are so varied and cover practically every genre!

While I can’t see myself ever tackling any of the recipes on my own (and he recently released a cookbook of the first 100 recipes), new videos are a highlight of my week.

LATEST VIDEO: Cold Cure from Kenan & Kel

GOURMET MAKES

Gourmet Makes is a series from Bon Appetit where Claire, a pastry chef, attempts to recreate a candy or junk food. She gets SUPER technical, y’all. One of the first things she does is breaks out a rule and takes measurements to get the dimensions right.

She’s covered Twinkies, Bagel Bites, Twizzlers, Lucky Charms, Hot Pockets, seriously the list goes on. These episodes are around 30 minutes each and I love to both watch this and leave it play for background noise.

Bon Appetit’s channel in general is so fun – they have another series called Reverse Engineering where a chef is blindfolded and is given a dish to taste, touch, smell – but he can’t look at it. He then has a few days to try and replicate it.

LATEST VIDEO: Girl Scout Cookies

ASMR VIDEOS

I mentioned these two channels last month, but I’m going to mention them again! I know the bookstagram world is currently loving the Harry Potter room videos and, yeah, they’re okay, but they’re not my favorite. Instead, I gravitate toward videos from The Guild of Ambience and New Bliss. These videos range from one hour to three or four, perfect for putting on in the background and sinking into a good book!

New Bliss tends to lean more toward rain and thunder (they have three library videos: Ancient Library, Royal Library, and Old Library Sounds) and feature fun places like an Apothecary and and Cozy Attic.

The Guild of Ambience is definitely more fantasy-based and some of their videos include a medieval tavern, a pirate ship, and a swamp.

LATEST VIDEOS: Haunted House (The Guild of Ambience) + Forest Sounds at Night (New Bliss)

BAUMGARTNER RESTORATION

Piggybacking off the ASMR videos, Baumgartner Restoration is equal parts relaxing AND fascinating. Julian Baumgartner is a second generation fine art restorer and his videos are nothing short of mind-blowing.

In his videos, Julian shares his craft with viewers, explaining the hows and whys of what he does and giving little history tidbits regarding the tears and blemishes he comes across that past restorers have done. I’ve let videos play as I fall asleep but mostly I just love to watch, I find it so interesting!

His videos have definitely changed over the past two years, going from quickie 5-minute videos to his current 40-minute in-depth processes. Every single time I’m in awe of the final piece.

LATEST VIDEO: Art Conversation; Live Retouching (This is a nearly 3-hour long live stream he did where he answered fan questions while retouching a painting.)

TIMELINE

Nerd alert. It should come as NO secret that I love documentaries. I love to watch them and love to leave them on in the background – I’ve even gotten Matt hooked on them (though he says they’re his favorite thing to put on to fall asleep to ha)!

Timeline has a wealth of history documentaries from the fall of the Maya to Jane Austen to Richard III and a look inside Charles Dickens’ kitchen. I especially love the Time Team episodes (and that show alone should get its own spot on this list)! Really, this channel is just incredibly soothing to have in the background when I am focused on something else (work, reading) but don’t want to be in a totally quiet room. It doesn’t hurt that I’m always finding my attention wandering back to whatever is on the screen.

LATEST VIDEO: The Tide Turns for the Allies