RomCom / Contemporary Romance
June 13, 2023
August 7 - 15, 2023
The many lives of theoretical physicist Elsie Hannaway have finally caught up with her. By day, she’s an adjunct professor, toiling away at grading labs and teaching thermodynamics in the hopes of landing tenure. By other day, Elsie makes up for her non-existent paycheck by offering her services as a fake girlfriend, tapping into her expertly honed people pleasing skills to embody whichever version of herself the client needs.
Honestly, it’s a pretty sweet gig—until her carefully constructed Elsie-verse comes crashing down. Because Jack Smith, the annoyingly attractive and broody older brother of her favorite client, turns out to be the cold-hearted experimental physicist who ruined her mentor’s career and undermined the reputation of theorists everywhere. And that same Jack who now sits on the hiring committee at MIT, right between Elsie and her dream job.
Elsie is prepared for an all-out war of scholarly sabotage but…those long, penetrating looks? Not having to be anything other than her true self when she’s with him? Will falling into an experimentalist’s orbit finally tempt her to put her most guarded theories on love into practice?
I have read all three of Ali Hazelwoods published books and this one is probably my least favorite, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it!
Elsie is a theoretical physicist slaving away as an adjunct professor making almost no money, therefor to pay the bills, she has a side gig as a fake girlfriend. Through a service, she can be hired to act as a fake girlfriend. A pathological people pleaser, Elsie is a pro at becoming exactly what someone else wants her to be.
Enter Jack. He’s the brother of her favorite fake dating client, and also a roadblock to her gaining employment as a tenured professor. Of course the sparks fly!
This book is far too smutty for me. So, so much smut. But I loved the characters (though Jack is a little too alpha for me) and I loved that some old friends from previous Hazelwood books make an appearance. Elsie’s character growth was great as well, and much of that she has Jack to thank for.
If you’re into romcom contemporary novels, and you’re okay with a high level of smut, this could be the book for you!
Beyond the Wand: The Magic and Mayhem of Growing Up a Wizard
Grand Central Publishing
October 18, 2022
July 24 - August 2, 2023
From the magical moments on set as Draco Malfoy to the challenges of growing up in the spotlight, get a backstage pass into Tom Felton’s life on and off the big screen in this #1 New York Times bestseller.
Tom Felton’s adolescence was anything but ordinary. His early rise to fame in beloved films like The Borrowers catapulted him into the limelight, but nothing could prepare him for what was to come after he landed the iconic role of the Draco Malfoy, the bleached blonde villain of the Harry Pottermovies. For the next ten years, he was at the center of a huge pop culture phenomenon and yet, in between filming, he would go back to being a normal teenager trying to fit into a normal school.
Speaking with great candor and his signature humor, Tom shares his experience growing up as part of the wizarding world while also trying to navigate the muggle world. He tells stories from his early days in the business like his first acting gig where he was mistaken for fellow blonde child actor Macaulay Culkin and his Harry Potteraudition where, in a very Draco-like move, he fudged how well he knew the books the series was based on (not at all). He reflects on his experiences working with cinematic greats such as Alan Rickman, Sir Michael Gambon, Dame Maggie Smith, and Ralph Fiennes (including that awkward Voldemort hug). And, perhaps most poignantly, he discusses the lasting relationships he made over that decade of filming, including with Emma Watson, who started out as a pesky nine-year-old whom he mocked for not knowing what a boom mic was but who soon grew into one of his dearest friends. Then, of course, there are the highs and lows of fame and navigating life after such a momentous and life-changing experience.
Tom Felton’s Beyond the Wandis an entertaining, funny, and poignant must-read for any Harry Potterfan. Prepare to meet a real-life wizard.
This is a must read for any Harry Potter fan. Scratch that, this is a must listen as any memoir read by the author should always be listened to rather than read.
Tom Felton aka Draco Malfo was, apparently, cast in the role he’s become most famous for simply because as a child, he was a little shit. From the sounds of it, all of the children cast to play the roles because their personalities were similar enough to their characters. Tom and I would not have been friends back then, but maybe we’d get along now.
A lot of this book talks about how it was on set for both Harry Potter and Tom’s first big role in The Borrowers. It was fascinating to me to hear about how live on set is, especially for a child. The bits about Alan Rickman cracked me up. It sounds like he was a very intimidating man (RIP).
This book also delves into Tom’s personal life, growing up with his brothers who kept him grounded. He wasn’t allowed to let his fame get to his head. It was also interesting to hear about how he was actually bullied for being in the Harry Potter films!
Felton also touches on mental health, both his family history and his own. On rehab. On a lot of personal issues. I also learned about what drove him to continue looking for acting jobs once Potter was in the past.
As far as memoirs go, this one is very entertaining and enlightening, one of the better ones I’ve read (er, listened to).
Thank You for Listening
August 2, 2022
June 8 - 19, 2023
From the author of My Oxford Year, Julia Whelan’s uplifting novel tells the story of a former actress turned successful audiobook narrator—who has lost sight of her dreams after a tragic accident—and her journey of self-discovery, love, and acceptance when she agrees to narrate one last romance novel.
For Sewanee Chester, being an audiobook narrator is a long way from her old dreams, but the days of being a star on film sets are long behind her. She’s found success and satisfaction from the inside of a sound booth and it allows her to care for her beloved, ailing grandmother. When she arrives in Las Vegas last-minute for a book convention, Sewanee unexpectedly spends a whirlwind night with a charming stranger.
On her return home, Sewanee discovers one of the world’s most beloved romance novelists wanted her to perform her last book—with Brock McNight, the industry’s hottest, most secretive voice. Sewanee doesn’t buy what romance novels are selling—not after her own dreams were tragically cut short—and she stopped narrating them years ago. But her admiration of the late author, and the opportunity to get her grandmother more help, makes her decision for her.
As Sewanee begins work on the book, resurrecting her old romance pseudonym, she and Brock forge a real connection, hidden behind the comfort of anonymity. Soon, she is dreaming again, but secrets are revealed, and the realities of life come crashing down around her once more.
If she can learn to risk everything for desires she has long buried, she will discover a world of intimacy and acceptance she never believed would be hers.
Right off the bat, this book was too steamy for my young adult reading ears. I almost quit. I just wasn’t connecting. But I stayed with it and it paid off.
What drew me to this book was that it was a romance about an audiobook narrator who started in romance before moving on to more “serious” books only to be coerced back into the romance audiobook world to narrate the final book of the author who helped her get started in the business.
What I didn’t like was her jumping into bed with a man hours after she met him, but I was able to move past that as the story went on.
I’ll be completely honesty with you, it’s been…a while between listening to this audiobook and writing this review, but I can tell you this, fans of romance will enjoy this one.
There’s family drama (Sewanee and her dad), overcoming tragedy (right away we learn that Sewanee lost an eye, ending her dream of becoming an A-list actress), and a whirlwind romance with a mystery man and an email/text flirtation with her narration partner.
This could’ve been just another romance, but those things listed above really made this more.
People We Meet on Vacation
Contemporary Romance / Women’s Fiction
May 11, 2021
May 31 - June 8, 2023
Two best friends. Ten summer trips. One last chance to fall in love.
Poppy and Alex. Alex and Poppy. They have nothing in common. She’s a wild child; he wears khakis. She has insatiable wanderlust; he prefers to stay home with a book. And somehow, ever since a fateful car share home from college many years ago, they are the very best of friends. For most of the year they live far apart—she’s in New York City, and he’s in their small hometown—but every summer, for a decade, they have taken one glorious week of vacation together.
It’s a hard thing to determine, but I think this may be my favorite Emily Henry book so far.
Poppy and Alex met in college. They both grew up in the same small town in Ohio and ended up at the same Chicago college, but that’s where the similarities end. And yet, thanks to a shared road trip home from college that first year, they quickly became the best of friends.
Bouncing back and forth between present day and the many annual summer trips the pair have taken over the past decade or so, we watch Poppy and Alex’s friendship grow and change. No matter what happens to the other, a bad breakup or a serious illness, the other is always there for them. They have the friendship dreams are made of.
Except something happened two years before the story begins. We don’t find out what that something is until later in the book, but we know that whatever it was, it led to Poppy and Alex not speaking for two whole years.
Feeling lost in her life and career, Poppy sends a text to Alex and asks him if he’s open to joining her on one more vacation, for old times sake. Turns out, he can’t, his brother is getting married in Palm Springs, but…would she like to come? With that, Poppy winds up in Palm Springs with Alex on the worst vacation ever. From the joke of a rental car to the Air B&N’s AC failing. Basically, if it could go wrong, it will.
But despite all that goes wrong, Poppy is just so happy to have Alex back in her life again. But is their friendship beyond repair? Can they go back to the way things used to be?
I love these characters. So much. I love all of Emily Henry’s characters, but these two were by far my favorite. Poppy, the wild free-spirit big city girl and Alex, the quiet and reserved home town school teacher/writer.
Their journey’s, both independently and together, were a joy. I felt like I was there with them on every trip they took.
This is a 5 star read and I would absolutely read it again.
Women's Fiction, Contemporary Romance
May 19, 2020
May 6 - 11, 2023
A romance writer who no longer believes in love and a literary writer stuck in a rut engage in a summer-long challenge that may just upend everything they believe about happily ever afters. Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast. They’re polar opposites.
It is my firm believe that Emily Henry is unable to write a bad book. Every book of hers I’ve read (and I’m quickly working my way through her entire backlist) has been varying degrees of amazing. Beach Read is no exception.
January is in a writing rut. Little does she know, her college nemesis, Agustus, is also in a rut. And fate has thrown them together.
When January’s father passes away unexpectantly and his secrets come to light, January begins to doubt everything she believed about love. When your lifelong example of a perfect couple experiencing true love turns out to be a sham, how are you supposed to write a believable love story? She’s blocked.
It’s as January is attempting to clear out the house her father owned in a small town she never knew about, that she reconnects with Agustus. He is also a writer struggling with his latest book. The pair exchange words and a bet is presented. He could never write a book with a happy ending, and she could never write a book where terrible things happen to the characters.
With the bet going strong, the pair take turns opening the others eyes to the romance and the darkness of the world, respectively.
What I love most about Emily Henry’s books is the characters. No two characters she writes are the same, each one has their own quirks and personality, and I love them all.
In the end, will January find her passion for romance again, or will her writing take a darker turn? And what about Agustus? And during their bet, will the pair move past their old college rivalry?
Look, if you read this review you’ve wasted time. Go find a copy of an Emily Henry book. This one, another one, I don’t care. They’re all amazing.
Mystery / Suspense
St. Martin’s Press
August 1, 2023
New from the #1 bestselling co-author of The Golden Couple and The Wife Between Us!
"I'm a huge fan of Sarah Pekkanen's books, and GONE TONIGHT is her best yet." —Colleen Hoover
Catherine Sterling thinks she knows her mother. Ruth Sterling is quiet, hardworking, and lives for her daughter. All her life, it's been just the two of them against the world. But now, Catherine is ready to spread her wings, move from home, and begin a new career. And Ruth Sterling will do anything to prevent that from happening.
Ruth Sterling thinks she knows her daughter. Catherine would never rebel, would never question anything about her mother's past or background. But when Ruth's desperate quest to keep her daughter by her side begins to reveal cracks in Ruth's carefully-constructed world, both mother and daughter begin a dance of deception.
I love a good mystery/suspense novel, but this one just fell flat for me.
The entire build up of Catherine believing her mother has alzheimer’s and Ruth questioning if her daughter has violent tendencies just didn’t work for me.
To be honest, most of the book I was bored. Everything happened in the past, which is filled in so slowly it was painful at times, or in the climax of the book, which I admit, was pretty good!
What would have worked better for me would’ve been if we’d learned Ruth’s story in real time, and then time jumped to the present time to learn how it ends. The format the author chose just dragged for me. I also needed more about Catherine’s father, to really establish his character, I felt he was very glossed over. He felt one dimensional.
What I did enjoy was the background of Ruth and the secrets she’s hiding. The climax was very engaging and I didn’t want to stop listening to the audiobook at that point.
Overall, this was a good story that was executed in a way that I personally did not find as enjoyable as I would’ve liked.
A Bridgerton Novel
Julia Quinn & Shonda Rhimes
May 9, 2023
May 12 - 25, 2023
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Julia Quinn and television pioneer Shonda Rhimes comes a powerful and romantic novel of Bridgerton's Queen Charlotte and King George III's great love story and how it sparked a societal shift, inspired by the original series Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, created by Shondaland for Netflix.“We are one crown. His weight is mine, and mine is his…” In 1761, on a sunny day in September, a King and Queen met for the very first time. They were married within hours. Born a German Princess, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was beautiful, headstrong, and fiercely intelligent… not precisely the attributes the British Court had been seeking in a spouse for the young King George III. But her fire and independence were exactly what she needed, because George had secrets… secrets with the potential to shake the very foundations of the monarchy. Thrust into her new role as a royal, Charlotte must learn to navigate the intricate politics of the court… all the while guarding her heart, because she is falling in love with the King, even as he pushes her away. Above all she must learn to rule, and to understand that she has been given the power to remake society. She must fight—for herself, for her husband, and for all her new subjects who look to her for guidance and grace. For she will never be just Charlotte again. She must instead fulfill her destiny… as Queen.
Review 1: For those who have seen the Netflix show.
Congratulations. You’ve read the book. No, really. It’s nearly identical. The book is missing the “present day” storyline with Violet and all, but the backstory of Queen Charlotte is the same.
Review 2: For those who haven’t seen the Netflix show.
Whether you’ve seen/read the other Bridgerton stories or not, this was a sweet romance about a new queen in a foreign land, with a husband hiding secrets from her. Once she discovers his secrets, she must decide what to do. Meanwhile, her mother-in-law is pressuring her to do her duty and get pregnant.
From the adorable meet-cute where Charlotte tries to enlist George, unknowing who he was, to help her escape over the wall and run away from her wedding to the very end, this is a sweet story about true love and acceptance.
The best part about this book/show was being able to understand Queen Charlotte a little better. In the Bridgerton show I never knew what to make of her. She just seemed so… mean. Now? I get it.
Where The Heck Have I Been?
I was on a real roll with sharing reviews… until I wasn’t. June 9. It’s been over 6 weeks since I shared my last review. Yikes! And I promise, this is not for lack of reading/listening. I have a stack of reviews that need to get written and shared!
So, what’s been keeping me away? A handful of things. The day job has been kind of stressful so when my work day ends I don’t want to stare at a computer screen ever again, so then when I do bring myself to look at a screen, I need to focus on my publishing job. Plus the freelance formatting/book cover design projects I took on recently.
Add to that, I decided to paint my entire living room/hallway. By myself (because my husband didn’t find the gray we’ve had on the wall the past 14 years as depressing as I do—the cream looks lovely and really brightens the place up!) So I have 3/4 of the project done. I was going to finish this weekend, but opted to have a relaxing weekend instead that didn’t involve moving ALL of the furniture in the living room, including taking down a 4′ mirror from the wall (don’t worry, he’ll help me with that).
And my family started playing Pokemon Go again, which has resulted in a LOT of outside walking, which is great because summer in Minnesota is fleeting and before we know it we’ll be waist deep in snow and arctic temps. (Psst! I’d love to be Pokemon Go friends if you play! My invite code is GH3TVWWRT.)
Oh yeah, I also had the time of my life attending Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour when it came to town! Seriously, well worth the ticket price. (And no, I did not pay thousands of dollars. I bought my tickets during the presales. 😉)
Unfortunately, none of my excuses are that I was busy writing. Whoops! Hopefully once the weather turns awful again I’ll be able to find the time and motivation to get to work on my long procrastinated sequel to Something I’m Good At… That’s right, Mark’s book is working its way through my brain! He’s not quite so happy-go-lucky like his good pal Kane, so this book is a little tougher, but we’ll get there someday. If it’s the last thing I do… I think I’m starting to see why so many authors are retired with grown children!
Okay! Back to work! This stack of reviews won’t write themselves!
The Music of Bees
April 1, 2021
April 21 - May 1, 2023
A heartwarming debut novel for readers of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, following three lonely strangers in a rural Oregon town, each working through grief and life's curveballs, who are brought together by happenstance on a local honeybee farm where they find surprising friendship, healing—and maybe even a second chance—just when they least expect it.
Forty-four-year-old Alice Holtzman is stuck in a dead-end job, bereft of family, and now reeling from the unexpected death of her husband. Alice has begun having panic attacks whenever she thinks about how her life hasn't turned out the way she dreamed. Even the beloved honeybees she raises in her spare time aren't helping her feel better these days.
In the grip of a panic attack, she nearly collides with Jake—a troubled, paraplegic teenager with the tallest mohawk in Hood River County—while carrying 120,000 honeybees in the back of her pickup truck. Charmed by Jake's sincere interest in her bees and seeking to rescue him from his toxic home life, Alice surprises herself by inviting Jake to her farm.
And then there's Harry, a twenty-four-year-old with debilitating social anxiety who is desperate for work. When he applies to Alice's ad for part-time farm help, he's shocked to find himself hired. As an unexpected friendship blossoms among Alice, Jake, and Harry, a nefarious pesticide company moves to town, threatening the local honeybee population and illuminating deep-seated corruption in the community. The unlikely trio must unite for the sake of the bees--and in the process, they just might forge a new future for themselves.
Beautifully moving, warm, and uplifting, The Music of Bees is about the power of friendship, compassion in the face of loss, and finding the courage to start over (at any age) when things don't turn out the way you expect.
The Music of Bees is a beautiful story of three unlikely people coming together and forming a found-family. Alice, a 50-something widow, who just wants to live her life and raise her bees. Jake, an 18 year old boy who’s recent status as paraplegic has put an end of his ever getting out from under his horrible father’s thumb. And Harry, whose severe anxiety has resulted in some bad life choices and trouble finding and keeping a job.
When these three come together, they unwittingly help each other, while finding themselves.
This book started out kind of boring, not gonna lie. I considered quitting early on because I just wasn’t feeling it. I stuck with it though, and I’m glad I did, because before long I was hooked. Watching these three characters come together and grow was wonderful. They’re a very unlikely trio, but somehow, together they worked.
When Alice puts out an ad looking for help with her beekeeping, Jake jumps at the chance to leave his parents home. Harry meanwhile, is terrified of bees, but he applies for the job because he loves doing the handyman work required to help Alice out.
They bond over the bees and form a beautiful friendship. When big agro threatens the local pollinators, they band together to stand up for the bees.
I love the unlikely relationship between the three and the awareness of pesticides and their affect on our pollinators, especially the bees.
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Taylor Jenkins Reid
Historical Fiction / Drama / LGBTQ
Simon & Schuster Audio
June 13, 2017
May 1 - 11, 2023
Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career. Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.
I didn’t really know what to expect going into this book. I chose to read it because a good friend of mine said that “BookTok is raving about this book!” So, I put myself on the hold list at the library, and bided my time.
What an excellent book. When Evelyn Hugo sits down with unknown journalist, Monique Grant, all Monique expects to get is a story for the magazine she works for. Little did she know, Evelyn had bigger plans for her—she wants Monique to write her life story.
After a slow start (sorry Monique, you just didn’t hold my interest!) I was engaged from the moment Evelyn begins to tell her tale. From growing up a poor immigrant, to marrying a man as a teenager and running off to Los Angeles with him, and right up til present day. Who were Evelyn’s seven husbands? What led her to each of them? Why did her marriages end? And the biggest question of all—who was Evelyn Hugo’s one true love?
Now, from the get go we knew there had to be some reason Evelyn chose Monique to write her story, and I had theories! I was dead wrong. I was so convinced that my theory was right that I missed all the clues pointing to what the real reason was. This made it all the more fun!
Now, if you hate historical fiction, don’t worry. This doesn’t feel like historical fiction. Yes, Evelyn is talking about Hollywood in the 1950s and onward, but the Hollywood glamor shines so bright you forget you’re not in present time!
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is an excellent book and I absolutely recommend it!
Size 12 and Ready to Rock
Heather Wells #4
William Morrow Paperbacks
July 10, 2012
April 15 - 20, 2023
After dallying with sexy vampires and ingeniously reinterpreting the Dracula legend (Insatiable, Overbite), #1 New York Times bestseller Meg Cabot is ready to rock ’n’ roll once more with Heather Wells.
The un-petite assistant New York City college dorm director and sometime sleuth is back in Size 12 and Ready to Rock—a delectable comedy mystery that proves once more that the much beloved author of The Princess Diaries rules in the realm of grown-up women’s fiction as well. Heather’s got her hands full when a pop star and her reality TV camera crew invade the dorm—bringing with them a summer camp-full of adoring teen admirers—only to have an inconvenient homicide spoil the fun.
There’s romance, treachery, merry mayhem and music—just the ticket for readers who like to rock out on the hip contemporary singleton fiction of Sophie Kinsella, Jennifer Weiner, and Jane Green.
Heather Wells is back with yet another death in the college residence hall she works in. This time, it’s her new boss, the interim residence hall director. To add to the chaos, Tania Trace, the woman who stole her ex-fiance, has moved her teen Rock Camp to Heather’s empty-for-the-summer residence hall!
This is the best Heather Wells book in the series. (So far. I read book 5 AGES ago, and I could not tell you what happened. I will be re-reading so I can assess if it’s better than this one.)
What I loved most in this book was that Tania Trace becomes a real person. In the previous books we’ve heard about Tania, but we’ve never actually met her. Everything we knew was Heather’s opinions of her, and I think we can all agree that Heather has major bias toward the other woman! Now that we actually meet this fiance-stealing-villian… she’s not a bad person. I actually really liked Tania and I was very happy that Meg Cabot gave her a chance to try and clear her name.
As for the murder, Heather wants no part of this investigation. She does, however, have an obligation to keep the Tania Trace Rock Campers safe during their stay in her residence hall. And somehow, because that’s just Heather’s luck, she gets caught up in it all.
This is a solid addition to the Heather Wells series and if you’ve made it through book 3, I promise you won’t want to miss book 4!