The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves

The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves
Pub. Date: April 2, 2019
Source: ARC + finished copy via publisher (Thank you, St. Martin’s Press!)
Summary: Annika Rose likes being alone.
She feels lost in social situations, saying the wrong thing or acting the wrong way – she just can’t read people. She prefers the quiet solitude of books or playing chess to being around others.

Apart from Jonathan. She liked being around him, but she hasn’t seen him for ten years. Until now that is. And she’s not sure he’ll want to see her again after what happened all those years ago.

Annika Rose likes being alone.
Except that, actually, she doesn’t like being alone at all.

Genre: Contemporary, Romance

I’m the first one to admit I’m a little hesitant to reach for books that are overly praised. After being let down one too many times by books claiming to be the next big thing, I’ve learned to take these proclamations with a grain of salt. That said, let me be the 500th person to say this book is worth the hype. So worth it. Any book that could have me tearing up over an opossum is something special.

Annika – rhymes with Monica – is extremely particular about the fabric of her clothes. She’d much rather wear a dress two sizes too big than feel the tag up against her neck. She doesn’t understand little quirks and traits that make up everyday conversations, avoids eye contact at all costs, and her overly-direct, matter-of-fact personality can instantly turn people off.

It was her college roommate, a living angel named Janice, who introduced Annika to chess club. It was also at chess club where Annika first met Jonathan, a boy completely unlike any she had ever met. She might not grasp the fundamentals of flirting (or when a boy is just being mean to look cool in front of his friends), but she does understand kindness and Jonathan is nothing but kind.

Ten years later Annika runs into Jonathan, each one knowing they need to talk about their past, but neither one wanting to confront it. Told during their college days in 1991 and their 2001 present, The Girl He Used to Know is about two people who once brought out the best in each other – and whether a second chance will bring them their happily ever after.

OH THIS BOOK. This beautiful book is worth absolutely every bit of praise it’s received. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that it’s release date happens to also be World Autism Awareness Day. Though she doesn’t know it at first, Annika has high-functioning autism: she lives independently, can drive, has a master’s degree and a job as a librarian. It’s the little things, like understanding she can’t walk around the college dorm naked (as much as she hates the feel of certain clothes against her skin) or finding certain phrases confusing (her brain is very black-and-white and takes meanings literally) that makes her who she is and, unfortunately, it also makes her seem odd and weird in the eyes of others.

Many times in this book I wanted to reach through these pages to rescue Annika. From the awful girls in grade school to her scumbag boyfriend in college who used her in the worst way. Thankfully, however, these instances were few and far between; Annika had the most amazing support system surrounding her. Friends who took over keeping an eye on her once her was no longer at her parents’ side, Janice and Jonathan, even Annika herself was far more capable than she believed.

I didn’t know much about this book going in and I feel that was the perfect way to read it. I knew Annika had autism and that a chess club was involved. Because of this, I was totally thrown for a loop when capital-S Something happened. There were moments leading up to it where I took notice and when I finally turned the page and realized where in time I was, my stomach sank. As I mentioned in the beginning, I teared up over an animal. What happened later on in this book had me both ugly crying and cheering for Annika like I’ve never cheered for another fictional character. I was so unbelievably proud of her in these scenes. Naturally I ugly cried even harder.

The Girl He Used to Know is such a special, lovely, heartfelt, gem of a novel. I knew only the bare bones going in and that worked to my benefit: it made everything that came after hit that much harder (for good AND bad). I won’t be at all surprised to see this book pop up on year end Best Ofs lists and all the popular Beach Reads recs. Do yourself a favor though – don’t wait until vacation or the end of the year to read this one. My only regret if not having read anything else by Tracey Garvis Graves before now.

Hard Loving Cowboy by A.J. Pine

Hard Loving Cowboy by A.J. Pine
Pub. Date: March 26, 2019
Source: Finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Forever!)
Summary: Walker Everett spends his days at the Crossroads Ranch wrangling cattle-and steering clear of anything that would complicate his already too-complicated life. Until Violet Chastain, the ranch’s newest employee, asks him to pretend to be her boyfriend for her parents’ anniversary party. She’s the most beautiful woman he’s ever met and needs his help. How can he refuse?

Violet isn’t about to fall for a brooding bad-boy cowboy, no matter how sizzling their chemistry. But she also never expected Walker to go along with the charade. Before long, he’s charming her parents at their weekly dinners and kissing her way more than necessary. Spending so much time together tests the limits of their “just friends” relationship, but what happens when their game of pretend becomes all too real?
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Western Romance

Walker Everett is 25 years old and 90 days sober after a broken nose and busted bar window left him spending a night in jail. As far as his older brothers were concerned, he finally hit rock bottom and three months in rehab was his only option. Now working at the family’s ranch-turned-vineyard, Walker’s well aware that all eyes are on him, waiting for his next screw-up.

Eager for a paycheck, Violet Chastain makes the 94-minute drive from the city to the middle of nowhere, hoping for a chance at a sommelier position. Before she’s even had the chance to interview, she unknowingly kisses her new boss in order to get away from a total creep. One kiss leads to Walker playing a pretend boyfriend at Violet’s parents’ anniversary dinner, neither one in a hurry to end their fake romance. Though neither one is ready for a relationship – Violet’s main concern is her mother’s medical diagnosis and Walker needs to focus on his recovery – it isn’t long before the lines blur between work and play.

Hard Loving Cowboy was my introduction to A.J. Pine and holy cow was it an introduction! How about I end things right here and say that, while reading this, I was so lost in the pages that dinner one night consisted of a nice bowl of cereal, that was all the attention I could spare from this story!

Walker had always been the black sheep of his family, the youngest boy, the one his older brothers needed to protect from their abusive father. For his 15th birthday, his father gave him a bottle of whiskey as a gift, thus beginning Walker’s longest relationship. It took a decade before things finally got out of control enough to seek help and now that he’s back home, he feels like he’s walking on eggshells. If it’s not his family paying random house calls, it’s the neighbors; Walker knows they’re not around for a friendly chat, they’re all dropping in, hoping they don’t catch him drinking.

While Violet’s peppy, exuberant personality shines, she’s dealing with her own demons. Just before graduation she dropped out of college despite her parents’ protestations. Her mother’s battle with MS isn’t cheap and Violet didn’t want to add to her parents’ financial situation. Plus, since her mother wasn’t able to help out in the family restaurant, she was needed back home. Now she’s looking for an extra job – her mother is still a French citizen and Violet has learned of a French doctor who’s doing an experimental procedure that seems to halt the effects of MS. Along with somehow coming up with the funds to pay, Violet needs to find a way to mend the relationship between her mother and aunt – an aunt whom Violet has never met.

Though there are a lot of heavy topics at play in this novel, I never felt overwhelmed. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad though. I do think Walker’s recovery and sobriety could have been handled a bit differently. He doesn’t attend AA meetings and keeps a bottle of whiskey in a cabinet that he tests himself with every night. While I get that he doesn’t need to advertise his alcoholism, it wasn’t until nearly the end of the novel that Violet learns about it – and this is after multiple scenes involving alcohol, one in which Violet actually adds some to tea as a pick-me-up when Walker’s sick. That was a ticking time bomb and I wish someone (if not Walker, then a member of his family) would have said something to avoid those potentially disastrous situations.

One thing I was pleasantly surprised about was that Violet was biracial: her father was white, her mother was half Senegalese. This was super cool and I was not expecting a POC main character!

Though Hard Loving Cowboy was my first of A.J. Pine’s books, it will definitely NOT be my last. Now that I’ve come to know Walker, I need to get to know the other Everett boys! I’ll admit I found a few things problematic with the way Walker’s recovery was presented, but overall I absolutely loved this one. The dialogue was great, the characters were fantastic, the chemistry..hoo boy!

The Parting Glass by Gina Marie Guadagnino

The Parting Glass by Gina Marie Guadagnino
Pub. Date: March 5, 2019
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, Atria!)
Summary: By day, Mary Ballard is lady’s maid to Charlotte Walden, wealthy and accomplished belle of New York City high society. Mary loves Charlotte with an obsessive passion that goes beyond a servant’s devotion, but Charlotte would never trust Mary again if she knew the truth about her devoted servant’s past. Because Mary’s fate is linked to that of her mistress, one of the most sought-after debutantes in New York, Mary’s future seems secure—if she can keep her own secrets…

But on her nights off, Mary sheds her persona as prim and proper lady’s maid to reveal her true self—Irish exile Maire O’Farren—and finds release from her frustration in New York’s gritty underworld—in the arms of a prostitute and as drinking companion to a decidedly motley crew consisting of a barkeeper and members of a dangerous secret society.

Meanwhile, Charlotte has a secret of her own—she’s having an affair with a stable groom, unaware that her lover is actually Mary’s own brother. When the truth of both women’s double lives begins to unravel, Mary is left to face the consequences. Forced to choose between loyalty to her brother and loyalty to Charlotte, between society’s respect and true freedom, Mary finally learns that her fate lies in her hands alone.
Genre: Historical Fiction, LGBT

When I was initially contacted about potentially reviewing Gina Marie Guadagnino’s debut The Parting Glass, I only knew one thing about the book: it involved a 19th century love triangle between a young heiress and two Irish-immigrant siblings. Not gonna lie, that was all I needed to know and I couldn’t jump on it fast enough!

Set in the 1830s, The Parting Glass tells the tale of Maire and Seanin, orphaned twins, as they leave Ireland in search of a new life in America. Once in New York, the newly dubbed Mary and Johnny are at the mercy of a family friend, hopeful he’ll be able to secure them work in a house that will take them both. The pair have already lost the rest of their family, they’re determined to remain together at all costs.

It isn’t long before the two find employment in the Walden household; Mary as a lady’s maid to the recently-debuted Charlotte, Johnny as a stable groom and it’s after the two have settled into their new roles that the story truly takes off. Charlotte Walden is one of the most sought-after ladies in New York…yet to her mother’s dismay, Charlotte is hesitant to accept any suitor’s proposal; men with titles and vast fortunes are clamoring for her hand, but she only has eyes for one boy: a highly unsuitable stable groom. As their affair deepens, Charlotte takes Mary into her confidence, all the while unaware of both Mary’s own feelings for Charlotte and that Johnny is Mary’s brother.

Night after night, Charlotte and Mary lead double-lives: Johnny sneaks into Charlotte’s bedroom while Mary spends her evenings in the company of a prostitute. When carefully guarded secrets begin to unravel, however, it’s Mary who’s left to deal with the fallout and both her love and loyalty are put to the test.

At just shy of 300 pages, this slim novel packs a punch. While I loved the focus on the upstairs/downstairs dynamics that comprise the Walden household, The Parting Glass is awash in historical elements: a large aspect of the plot heavily deals with Tammany Hall and The Ancient Order of Hibernians, neither of which I’ve ever encountered before in novels. It’s clear Gina did some serious research for this book, but in no way did this detract from my enjoyment of the novel. In fact, I found it enhanced the story. I never felt bogged down with unnecessary facts and figures, instead New York in the 1830s came alive within these pages. All the sights and smells (for good AND bad!) were there, I could close my eyes and effortlessly picture Mary’s life.

I will say though, that for all the research and care that was put into this novel, I’m a bit shocked at how accepting of the gay and lesbian community the city was. No one so much as batted an eye at who Mary brought to her bed, all the hardened fisherman and pub tenants simply shrugged – if they reacted at all.

The Parting Glass was a delight to read. From the forbidden relationships to the rich historical detail, I breathed in every page of this book. Every character, from the main players to those hidden below stairs, had a distinct voice and personality, each one felt genuine. It’s not every day an ending leaves me surprised, but this one did and I can’t wait to see what’s next for this author!

What I’m Loving this March!

IT’S BEEN AN AMAZING MONTH OF BOOKS As I type this I currently have 13 books under my belt for the month and, of those, two are 5-star reads. They’re actually my FIRST five-star reads of the year! It took 29 books, but my first five-star rating of 2019 went to A Year with Nature by Marty Crump (I recently mentioned this one in a post about backlist bumps for recent reads). But the great reads didn’t end there! Book 39 of the year was ANOTHER five-star! Stephanie Marie Thornton’s American Princess had my ugly crying all over the place – you can read all about that in my review. Other fantastic reads this month (so far!!) have included Jen Sincero’s You are a Badass, Lauren Wilkinson’s American Spy, Caroline Preston’s The War Bride’s Scrapbook, and AJ Pearce’s Dear Mrs. Bird. This month has been such a good one for books, I can’t wait to see what the remaining 11 days hold!

THE GOOD PLACE On a whim I decided to check out the first episode of The Good Place after hearing nothing but great things. I did NOT expect to fall so hard so quick! It’s clever and funny and has a phenomenal cast. There have been nights where I put on an episode (or 5) and Matt stopped playing video games to watch with me. It’s that good.

DOLE SMOOTHIE MIXES I’ve had my eye on these fruit & veggie blends for a while, but only just recently decided to try them out. …and holy cow. They seriously take all of the guesswork out of making smoothies. Literally, open the bag, scoop some into the blender, and add a dash of almond milk/apple juice/etc. I’m a big fan of the Tropical Avocado with Kale blend: bananas, pineapple, mango, kale, and avocado. Yum!!

SPRING IS HERE I mean, do I need to explain myself here?!

NACHO’S TURNS TWO My big boy turns 2 on Friday and I can’t. When did this happen. Where did my itty bitty puppy go.

my latest library haul 3/17


Last month I shared a library haul post and it was so fun I’ve decided to make it a thing here!

Today I’m sharing my most recent batch of holds that have arrived!

The War Bride’s Scrapbook by Caroline Preston
This 2017 release was a completely random grab that caught my eye while browsing one day. Lila Jerome has a few extra pounds, a passion for architecture, and has spent her life playing second fiddle to her more glamorous (and svelte) younger sister. Her mother deemed her time at college a failure because she returned home without the most important three letters attached to her name: Mrs. While Holly has found a wealthy young man and immediately started a family, Lila works for her father’s insurance company. And it’s there she first runs into Perry.

A few years later, their paths cross once more. With only a handful of weeks before Perry ships out to fight overseas, the pair have a whirlwind romance – one that results in marriage mere days later. The scrapbook that follows is Lila’s way to not only pass the time until Perry returns, but to also keep his memory alive. I’ve already read this one and loved the fun formatting!

Belonging by Nora Krug
Subtitled A German Reckons with History and Home, this graphic novel is the author’s attempt to confront her family’s past in Nazi Germany. Though she was born decades after the war, Nora grew up not really knowing anything about her family’s ties to it: all four of her grandparents refused to speak about those years.

It’s while living abroad that she decides to finally seek the answers to all of her childhood questions. She returns to Germany to visit archives and interview family, hoping to uncover their story.

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
If there was ever a book Instagram made me read, it’s this one. I’ve seen it everywhere lately and the praise has been extraordinary.

I don’t really even know much about it, apart from the fact that 1, it’s the first in a trilogy and 2, it’s a fantasy that’s based on African history and mythology. I’ve heard the opening pages are exceptionally gruesome and gory, so we’ll see how it goes! I also want to point out that I’m shocked my hold has already come in. From the posts I’ve been seeing, I expected this to be a book EVERYONE wants to read and honestly wasn’t thinking it would be in my hands anytime soon! (Okay, scratch that – I just checked my library’s site and clearly I must have put in a request at the perfect time. There are currently 119 copies in the system and they’re all checked out with an additional 27 people on waitlists).

I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening) by Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers
Because I sorely needed A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations hahaha.

Sarah (a liberal) and Beth (a conservative) are the hosts of Pantsuit Politics, a podcast I’m thinking I might need to check out! Despite being on opposite ends of the political spectrum, the pair provide insight into having calm, respectful, grace-filled political discussions and, I’ll admit, I’m really curious about this one. Also, it’s worth noting this one has a whopping 4.5 rating on GoodReads! So many of the reviews are singing its praises!

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
1967, four female scientists have been working together to build the first time machine. Just before they debut their creation, however, one woman suffers a breakdown. To protect their invention, the other three exile her from the team – effectively writing her contributions out of history. Fifty years later, time travel is booming. Ruby knows her grandmother was one of the pioneers, though no one will tell her more. It’s not until Granny Bee receives a newspaper article from the future detailing the murder of an unidentified woman that Ruby becomes obsessed. Could the future victim be her grandmother? And who would want her dead? More importantly, is there a way for Ruby to stop it?

The Woman in the Lake by Nicola Cornick
Two confessions: I received an e-ARC of this one but never got around to it (whoops!) and I had NO idea this was part of a series. I’ve read the previous two novels, House of Shadows and The Phantom Tree, but assumed they were just standalone, time-travely reads. Oops!

Bouncing between 1765 and the present day, The Woman in the Lake tells the story of a golden gown and a murder. Lady Isabella Gerard orders her maid to destroy her new gown, its beauty tainted by her husband’s actions of the previous night. A few months later Lord Gerard stands at the lake’s shore, staring down at the body of a woman in a dress, realizing she was not his intended victim… Two centuries later, a stolen dress finds its way back to Fenella who finds herself enchanted all over again and delves deep into the gown’s history.

Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Another book I’ve already read since bringing it home. This bite-size book is a compilation of tweets, all adorably illustrated, each one making me smile bigger than the last.

Daily Rituals: Women at Work by Mason Currey
Another totally random book that caught my eye. This one explores the day-to-day of 143 women from Zora Neale Huston to Tallulah Bankhead to Eleanor Roosevelt. Painters, writers, dancers, composers, while flipping through these pages I realized more names are unfamiliar to me than ones I knew and I’m looking forward to jumping into this book!

American Princess by Stephanie Marie Thornton

American Princess by Stephanie Marie Thornton
Pub. Date: March 12, 2019
Source: Finished copy via publisher + e-ARC via netgalley (Thank you, Berkley!!)
Summary: Alice may be the president’s daughter, but she’s nobody’s darling. As bold as her signature color Alice Blue, the gum-chewing, cigarette-smoking, poker-playing First Daughter discovers that the only way for a woman to stand out in Washington is to make waves–oceans of them. With the canny sophistication of the savviest politician on the Hill, Alice uses her celebrity to her advantage, testing the limits of her power and the seductive thrill of political entanglements.

But Washington, DC is rife with heartaches and betrayals, and when Alice falls hard for a smooth-talking congressman it will take everything this rebel has to emerge triumphant and claim her place as an American icon. As Alice soldiers through the devastation of two world wars and brazens out a cutting feud with her famous Roosevelt cousins, it’s no wonder everyone in the capital refers to her as the Other Washington Monument–and Alice intends to outlast them all.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Biographical Fiction

To say American Princess was my most anticipated release of the year is an understatement. I gasped when I first became aware of its existence, was rendered momentarily speechless – a novel about Alice?? – and spent months counting down the days until its release.

If you know me, you know I’m a massive Theodore Roosevelt buff. I probably have more books on him than any other single topic. He was absolutely fascinating and that fascination extends to the rest of the Roosevelt clan, naturally popping up in any and all biographies. Teddy’s eldest child, Alice, was positively captivating, a total spitfire, and as though the universe somehow knew what was in store for me, just a week or so before I received a copy of American Princess, I was telling Matt about Alice Blue (he didn’t believe me that it was an actual thing!)

Spanning some 80-odd years, American Princess introduces the reader to a 17-year-old Alice as the Roosevelts learn they’ll be moving to the White House, and on through the years as she becomes America’s most famous daughter, falls in (and out) of love, travels the world, and suffers tremendous loss. Right from the start it’s evident Alice has a mind of her own and isn’t afraid to say what she’s thinking (for good or bad…typically the latter). For instance, she takes to smoking on the White House roof: her father forbade her from lighting up cigarettes under his roof, he never mentioned anything about lighting up on it. That glimpse into her character should give the reader a pretty good idea what they’re in for with this magnificent young woman.

Beautiful, famous, the most powerful man in the world as her father, Alice’s life should have been smooth sailing, full of balls and suitors and not a single care in the world. Unfortunately, that’s not the case and I truly felt for her while reading this one. Alice was the only child of Teddy’s first wife. She died two days after giving birth and Teddy’s heartbreak caused a rift between him and Alice that seemed to remain present the rest of Teddy’s life. Alice was raised by her aunt (who deserves her own book!) for the early years of her childhood. Even after Teddy’s remarriage, and the subsequent children that followed, Alice drifted on the edge. I got the feeling she was VERY much like her father – stubborn, determined, fiercely independent – and that likeness only made the pair clash. Throughout the novel she tried time and again to please him, to make him proud, and it always seemed to either backfire or result in a mere pat on the shoulder (instead of the full-on bear hug she craved).

One of my favorite things about historical fiction, especially when there are actual historical figures involved, is that I have the chance to go off and do more research on my own. SUPER nerdy, I know! American Princess took me far longer to read than it should have, simply because I was constantly going off and googling people mention or events that happened (an elderly Alice hanging out with Jackie Kennedy, Alice chatting up Queen Elizabeth and Elizabeth admiring Alice’s purse – one given to Alice as a teen by Elizabeth’s father!).

There are two moments I knew of that would be present in these pages, one I knew for sure would be given ample screen-time, the other I was pretty confident would be included. They both were and, I’ll be honest, I sobbed. This book made me ugly cry and as I was down with a horrible cold as the time, the ugly was even uglier. I’ll admit I don’t think either scene will be as gut-punchy for other readers, but I seriously adore this family and felt those moments right along with Alice.

American Princess was my most anticipate release of 2019 and I’m beyond thrilled to say it didn’t disappoint. In fact, it went so far above any and all expectations and despite its size (pretty hefty at over 400 pages), I would have happily spent even more time with Alice. I was so upset over reaching the end that I did something I never do: I read the Author’s Note AND the reader’s guide. Just so I could have a few more minutes with this stunning novel.

backlist bumps for recent reads!

I love backlist titles. There’s something so delicious about discovering a book from 5, 10, 20 years ago while everyone is fawning over the latest releases. Today I want to share a few backlist titles for some of my recent reads!

For more backlist bumps, head over to these posts:
BACKLIST BUMPS FOR RECENT READS (one of these books became a TOP READ OF 2018!)


Headless Males Make Great Lovers by Marty Crump
May 1, 2005

If you follow me on Instagram, you’re already well aware of my feelings on Marty’s November 2018 release, A Year with Nature. It took until just last week, but I finally have my first 5-star read of 2019 – and it’s this beautiful book. Presented in an almanac format, A Year with Nature starts with January 1 and ends with December 31st, each page highlighting an event dealing with nature from from Darwin’s birthday to the Fitzgerald Wild Chicken Festival to Lonesome George to Cow Appreciation Day.

As I said in my IG review: I’ve learned about the discovery of metamorphosis, delighted in the history of garlic as medicine and an antibiotic – as well as the best protection against vampires. I rejoiced along with a Belgian biologist as he spotted the first sign of life 9 months after Krakatoa erupted (it was a spider spinning its web). I learned more Americans visit aquariums and zoos than sporting events!

Naturally I want to get my hands on everything Marty’s written, starting with this one. Headless Males Make Great Lovers “celebrates the extraordinary world of animals with essays on curious creatures and their amazing behaviors.” Intestine-ejecting sea cucumbers, blood-squirting horned lizards, this book has my name written all over it.

Evans Above by Rhys Bowens
December, 1997

Oh, Rhys. Where to begin? I first fell hard for her with 2017’s The Ghost of Christmas Past, which is seriously saying something because I do NOT enjoy holiday novels. From Molly Murphy I devoured 2018’s The Tuscan Child, a WWII standalone and, more recently, February’s release, The Victory Garden.

I had previously mentioned another of her series, Her Royal Spyness (which I still need to read ughhh), so for this backlist bump I’m going to focus on her other-other series: Constable Evans.

Constable Evan Evans is brand-new to the tiny Welsh village of Llanfair, but from the moment he arrives, the town is anything but quiet. Flashers, two men are pushed off a mountain, Mrs Powell-Jones’ prized tomatoes are vandalized. You really can’t go wrong with a good cozy!

Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie
January 1, 2004

Okay, so TECHNICALLY, I guess this is a recent bump for a backlist read?? My introduction to Crusie’s work was 1996’s The Cinderella Deal, which I demolished last month as part of my Tacking the TBR project! Within the first few chapters I was cackling and swiftly kicked myself for not reading any of her books sooner!

Bet Me is by far the book I’ve been recced the most after announcing my Crusie newbie status. I feel like she’s the queen of tropes – but not in a bad way! One of my all-time favorites is the fake fiance trope, which was the backbone of The Cinderella Deal. Bet Me revolves around a bet: in order to win a bet, Calvin asks Minerva to dinner. He, gorgeous and successful; she, cranky and cynical. At the end of the night, they say goodbye and that’s that….or is it?

The Fate of Mercy Alban
February 5, 2013

Don’t be at all surprised to see Daughters of the Lake on my Top Reads of 2019 list. Haunting and lyrical, this beautiful book had me awake before 5am on a Saturday so that I could savor it in the quiet for a few hours. I loved it so much that the second I finished I rushed to text my friends about it.

Back in 2015, I featured a GoodReads Recommends post based on novels by Jennifer McMahon. One of the novels I highlighted was Wendy’s The Vanishing, a gothic tale of a caretaker and the novelist the world believes to be dead. It’s also worth noting that Wendy blurbed Black Rabbit Hall, my absolute FAVORITE read of 2016 and a favorite read period. Yet somehow I’ve only just started reading her books.

The Fate of Mercy Alban is somewhat reminiscent of Black Rabbit Hall in that it also features a grand old house and dark family secrets. Throw in some ghosts, a lost manuscript, and a decades-old mystery of a scandalous party where a famous writer committed suicide. I. Am. There.

Quackery: A Brief History of the Worst Ways to Cure Everything by Lydia Kang
October 17, 2017

2019 started off with a bang. While I ultimately awarded A Year with Nature my first 5-star rating of the year, it ALMOST went to my second read of 2019: Lydia Kang’s The Impossible Girl. This random library grab was such an unexpected gem. Manhattan, 1850. Born out of wedlock to a wealthy socialite and a nameless immigrant, Cora Lee is a woman between worlds, mingling with the rich just as easily as she can slip amongst those in the slums. Earning a living as a ressurectionist, she and her ‘brother’ (Cora in disguise) have garnered a reputation for acquiring bodies. Strange bodies afflicted with a number of anomalies. Bodies that will put a nice profit in her pocket. But Cora has a secret. She’s not in the grave robbing business out of pleasure. She’s in it to survive: she was born with two hearts and knows it’s only a matter of time before she becomes the most sought-after specimen.

I had such a hard time debating which of her previous novels to feature. Did I want to go with Beautiful Poison, another historical novel, or did I want to go with something a little different? In the end I chose Quackery. I LOVE medical history – especially bad medical history and trivia books are such fun to dive into when I have a few minutes here and there. This one mentions mail-order tapeworms (the latest diet fad!) and how doctors knew just what to give to crying babies (spoiler: morphine!)