Review: We Are All So Good at Smiling

We Are All So Good at Smiling
We Are All So Good at Smiling by Amber McBride
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beautiful, haunting, a viseral story about how depression feels.

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Review: Hello Stranger

Hello Stranger
Hello Stranger by Katherine Center
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 stars rounded up.

Katherine Center never disappoints. Her characters are sweet, quirky and just so lovable. I really loved this story that’s centered around face-blindness and I loved the element of how that impacts the way we move thought the world. I loved the bits around her making art and I loved the way the book made me feel.

Center’s comments at the end of the book about the romance genre were also very touching and wonderful to read. Here’s to more books that lean into hope and positive anticipation.

with gratitude to netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: When Stars Are Scattered

When Stars Are Scattered
When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was nominated for my book club but didn’t get picked. I was curious so I decided to read it anyway and I am so glad I did. What a marvelous story and so well told. I knew almost nothing about the refugee camps and what day to day can look like and i really loved reading this story of love and perseverance.

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Review: The Bandit Queens

The Bandit Queens
The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars

This was perfect on audio! I loved the characters and I really enjoyed the way they interacted with each other. It’s funny and fun to read. Recommeded.

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Review: The Block Party

The Block Party
The Block Party by Jamie Day
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love reading these neighborhood mystery stories. This is the story of a group of families who live in the same block and how their lives intersect and crescendo into a murder during the annual block party. You know there’s been a murder right at the beginning but you don’t know who or why.

And then the book rewinds and tells you the story of the families and how they overlap with each other and piece by piece you start seeing all the secrets and it keeps you guessing until the very end.

Nothing is really what it seems and everyone has multiple secrets.

I really enjoyed my time with this one.

with gratitude to netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review

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Review: Everything’s Fine

Everything's Fine
Everything’s Fine by Cecilia Rabess
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I know this book has garnered a lot of controversy for the blurb. The blurb is unacceptable and also not representative of the book. I don’t know if this author wrote their own blurb or even had a say in it. If so, this egregious mistake should have been caught and corrected. If not, I want to make sure we don’t punish the author for something they had no say over.

This is the story of Jess and Josh. It’s mostly the story of Jess navigating spaces where as a black woman she’s consistently in the minority and undermined. She’s incredibly smart and very hard working and yet consistently experiences racism, misogamy, and some micro and some macro-agressions.

Josh stands up for her sometimes but then lets her down spectacularly other times. His political and personal beliefs are wildly opposed to Jess’ and yet he is also kind and loving to her and truly seems to think he loves her.

The book explores Jess’ journey as she navigates corporate finance and New York and her relationship and her friendships and her hometown and dad. It also explores the political climate.

Even though the blurb would like to convince you otherwise, this is not a romcom, it’s not a cutesy book. It does not tie up in a nice bow. It’s complicated, real and messy. Both of the characters are imperfect (in fact deeply flawed in some ways) and the book doesn’t shy away from making the reader uncomfortable.

I think it was a worthwhile read.

with gratitude to edelweiss and Simon & Schuster for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Nightcrawling

Nightcrawling
Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I put off reading this book because I knew it was going to be really, really sad. And it was. It was so incredibly sad. It was beautifully written and living close to Oakland and visiting Oakland at least 5-6 times a month, it felt like I should read this story that’s based on some horrific true events. I am glad I read it but it also was really sad.

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Review: In the Dream House

In the Dream House
In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I took a while to read this book because I knew it was going to be really sad. And it was. The horrible story of abuse and gaslighting told through a creative and beautiful memoir reminds you that abuse is not reserved for a certain kind of relationship and it exists between same-sex. relationships too. It’s heart wrenching and brutal.

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Review: Lost in the Moment and Found

Lost in the Moment and Found
Lost in the Moment and Found by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This might be one of my all-time most favorite series to read. The Wayward children series is so creative, so original and each of the books is so unique. This one might be one of my favorites in a long time, which is a little odd to say because the subject matter is so tough and so heart wrenching. I really really appreciated the author’s note in the beginning, it allowed me to enjoy the story and be present instead of triggering the whole time.

I felt so much compassion and love towards Antoinette, who loses her father and her life from thereon is never the same. One day, she walks through a door and finds herself in the place where the lost things go. But like all the places in these books, things aren’t what they first seem.

This book is so sad and yet so very beautiful. I really loved the themes around innocence, loss and time.

with gratitude to netgalley and Macmillan Audio for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review

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Review: The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida
The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida by Shehan Karunatilaka
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story was hard to follow for quite a bit of the beginning but eventually I couldn’t stop reading because I wanted to know what happened to Maali and what the photos were about. As the story slowly unravels, we learn so much about Sri Lanka’s political situation and get to know these amazing and interesting characters. This book has some of the best one-liners I’ve read anywhere. It’s visual, rich and an experience unlike anything. But it also requires patience and endurance to be willing to stick with it.

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Review: Gone Tonight

Gone Tonight
Gone Tonight by Sarah Pekkanen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

3.5 stars, rounded up

I really liked this fast-paced story about Catherine who is a nurse at an elderly home and her mother, Ruth. They have been together all their lives and have a very close dependable relationship. Until things start to unravel. Catherine catches her mother in one lie, and then another, until she is not sure she can believe anything her mom says and their paths start forking.

This story goes back and forth between the present time and Ruth’s diary entires about her past. While I liked the diary entries, it felt a bit like telling more than showing so made those parts of the story feel like I was reading someone’s synopsis of a book.

Unlike so many mystery books, this one didn’t have any dislikable characters and I found myself rooting both for the mom and the daughter. I read this one in a single sitting and I am sure you will, too.

With gratitude to netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: What Alice Forgot

What Alice Forgot
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can be hit or miss on Moriarty’s books and I didn’t want something that was a gimmick so I kept picking this book up and putting it back down. But as my vacation winds down, I felt the pull towards something light and flowing. And I knew she would deliver.

This book turned out to be surprising for me. There wasn’t one big twist or revelation. In fact, as woman who’s been married 20+ years with teenage kids, there was a lot of interesting food for thought in this story if you’re willing to look past the superficial bits.

It was an interesting narrative on the stories we tell ourselves and how time and experiences can alter our perspective in ways that feel irredeemable. And yet how we always (at any moment) have the option to change the course of our life and choose what we remember or where we shine the light.

Resentment breeds more resentment and gratitude breeds more gratitude. I am very glad I read this book.

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