Review: A Good Day for Chardonnay

A Good Day for Chardonnay
A Good Day for Chardonnay by Darynda Jones
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have been thinking about this book ever since I read the first one over a year ago. I loved Sunshine Vikram then and I love her now.

This book has a lot going on. It’s romance, mystery, and comedy all rolled into one. And just to keep it even more fun, in this one, there are several romances, several mysterious plots, and the comedy is just oozing from every dialogue. I totally understand that might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

but it’s totally mine.

I love every one of the characters in this book. I love that there are like 5 mysteries that come together and get solved and I just love this author’s voice. I love the way the characters love each other and tease each other. I love the nonstop commentary. I even love the absurd scenes.

I was waiting for this book for over a year and it absolutely did not disappoint. I know it looks like many of the subplots from book one are tied up in this one but I really do hope there are more in the series. These characters are too good to not have more books written about them!

with gratitude to macmillan audio and netgalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review

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Review: The Last House on Needless Street

The Last House on Needless Street
The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

4.5 stars, rounded up for incredible creativity.

I will remember this novel for a long, long time.

I don’t want to write too much about it because I think the best thing about this story is how it unravels and how you as a reader are constantly trying to figure out what’s going on and each time you think you have it, you realize you don’t. And it keeps going again and again.

This is not a story with a twist, it’s a story with a million little turns. It’s like each time a layer of the onion gets peeled your perspective of the onion’s actual shape changes. And in the end, the book leaves you devastated.

I almost didn’t request this book because it said it was horror and while I think the atmosphere and mood of the story definitely feels like horror, I don’t think calling this horror is the right fit. It’s a very atmospheric mystery maybe but really at its heart it’s a character study.

It’s absolutely phenomenal.

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

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Review: Several People Are Typing

Several People Are Typing
Several People Are Typing by Calvin Kasulke
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

What an unusual novel. I think this one will have polarizing views. One will either enjoy the gimmick and laugh the whole time or will get stuck in it and feel it’s too absurd. I think as a short story this might have been cute, especially in a year when many of us lived on chat since we couldn’t have face to face conversations at work.

But alas, for me, it was too absurd. It got long and weird and not super funny. I also didn’t like some of the consent related issues that were glossed over as a joke. No need for those to be in the book but if they are, they should be handled not as a joke.

I did like the idea of this book and I did think it was cute and funny and even hilarious at parts. I think as a short story with a much tighter plot, it would have hit the mark more.

with gratitude to edelweis and doubleday for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Heartbreak for Hire

Heartbreak for Hire
Heartbreak for Hire by Sonia Hartl
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

2.5 stars, rounded up. I have a lot of thoughts about this story.

On the one hand, I will say that it was a quick and light read in that I read it in one sitting, and enjoyed the time I spent with it.

On the other hand, I felt like most of the characters were not as layered as actual people are and this left the novel feeling not as enjoyable because everyone was playing a part in some ways. The really cold and distant mom (though she has a reason she’s that way, don’t we all?) to the point of cruelty. The really nice man, Mark, Brinkley meets that starts changing everything and he is just so nice again and again (even though he messes up once.) The weird closed-off boss who’s doing it all for your own good…. The other women who work with Brinkley were some of my favorites in the book. The side characters were fun, light, interesting and added the color the story enjoyed.

But the way women and men are treated like single dimensional beings in this story both makes it light and frustrating and frivolous. If you don’t spend too much time on it, you can enjoy the story and see it as a journey Brinkley is experiencing during what’s a low time in her life and how she’s building it back up. But if it’s hard to get past it, it will shadow too much of this story for you.

with gratitude to netgalley and Gallery Books for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Exit

Exit
Exit by Belinda Bauer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My favorite mystery novels are character-driven stories where there happens to be a mystery in the novel. This story by Belinda Bauer accomplishes the rare feat of being an interesting plot and character driven story. There’s a reasonably convoluted plot that unravels in pieces but there’s also deep and interesting character studies in this story. It’s also really fast paced. Accomplishing all that in a single novel is quite hard. I really enjoyed this one.

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Review: The Guide

The Guide
The Guide by Peter Heller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am a big fan of Peter Heller and have read and enjoyed every one of his stories. Even though his settings and characters are very far from my day to day life, I enjoy the depth of character exploration and the atmosphere each of his novels has.

“The virus had mostly burned itself out and been vaccinated against, and other novel viruses had moved over the world and hit different countries more or less hard, and economies had convulsed and adjusted, those who could afford it spent more and more time on retreat in the remotest places. Like these mountains. The densest cities were still the most dangerous. And vacationing deep in the mountains when possible had become a cultural habit more than anything.”

This is the first novel I’ve read that takes place “after” covid and has incorporated one version of what the world might look like into the novel. I loved that it was part of the story but not the point of the story. The way it was woven in made it feel natural.

This is the story of a guide who takes a job at this elite fishing lodge and is paired with a famous singer who is there to fish. Even though the story contains both of them and you hear bits and pieces about the singer to pull together somewhat of an image of who she is, the story is really about the guide. We don’t really hear her innermost thoughts or her motivations much of the time.

The guide, like many of Heller’s characters, is rugged and layered and no-nonsense with a deep and abiding sense of justice. So when he realizes something fishy is going on at this lodge, he can’t not do something about it.

This book is both quiet and fast. It’s both a mystery and a bit of a character study. The atmosphere is strong both in the wilderness and in the lodge itself.

I loved every minute I spent with it.

With gratitude to Knopf and netgalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Instructions for Dancing

Instructions for Dancing
Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nicola Yoon does not disappoint. This story is lovely and sweet and also profound of course. I enjoy reading her books and this was no exception.

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Review: The People We Keep

The People We Keep
The People We Keep by Allison Larkin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What an absolute joy of a book to read. This is the story of April Sawicki who finally manages to run away from her hometown where she lives practically alone in a motorhome as her dad moves in with his new wife.

She gets on the road with a car, a few trash bags of belongings and a little money. Her journey is hard, long, harrowing, uplifting, and joyous in parts. Each time she meets people and gets attached, she ends up feeling like she has to move on for one reason or another.

She’s always on the run, always untrusting, never wanting to let her guard down. But along the way, she can’t help but collect some people who love her for exactly who she is.

This is a wonderful story of friendship, the families we make and the people we keep. I’ve enjoyed every single minute I spent with it.

with gratitude to edelweiss and Gallery books for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Colorful: A Novel

Colorful: A Novel
Colorful: A Novel by Eto Mori
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Extraordinary joy and sadness can come out of the ordinary every day.”

What an unusual book. This short book is about a soul that gets a second chance and is put into the body of Makoto who has recently killed himself. This soul doesn’t remember what he did in his previous life to end up here but he has to live in Makoto’s life for a year to remember this own past so he can get to reincarnate into another body.

“Thinking about it, this didn’t just apply to Makoto. Maybe the world was actually filled to the brim with things it was simply too late for, things we couldn’t take back.”

As he slowly starts getting to know Makoto’s family and friends and life, he moves through a lot of feelings and while some parts of the book feel awkward to read I couldn’t tell if that was the translation or the original writing.

“The idea of the Kobayashi family I’d had in my head gradually began to change color. It wasn’t some simple change, like things that I thought were black were actually white. It was more like when I looked closely, things I thought were a single, uniform color were really made up of a bunch of different colors. That’s maybe the best way to describe it.”

I really liked how each character in the story was complex and not what they seem at first. How each of them have layers and layers like an onion. Like real people. And how Makoto has to reconsider everything each time he uncovers another layer.

“If in the world below, you do end up wanting to curl into yourself once more, please remember this time you spent on your do-over. Remember how it felt to move freely without trapping yourself in your own expectations. And remember the people who helped you up.”

Even though I was able to guess the ending, I enjoyed every page of this unusual book and really loved the author’s note at the end.

with gratitude to netgalley and Counterpoint Press for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: If Only

If Only
If Only by Angela Marsons
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I usually try to be generous and honest with my book reviews. I understand that writing a book is a huge commitment and often an effort that takes years and years. And I can tell many others loved this book.

Alas, I did not.

A book like this (where each of the three main characters is going through a journey where they realize what they think they want isn’t really what they truly want and what’s good for them) requires the reader to root for the main characters. It requires the reader to care about their dreams, to cheer for them when they win and want to hold their hand when they struggle.

The characters in this book all made me cringe. One woman wants to date her good looking senior boss even though it’s super clear he’s a total jerk, but she can’t see beyond his looks. Another woman wants to lure the man she’s having an affair with by secretly getting pregnant. Even though this man is married and has a child. And yet a third woman hates her mother in law who was almost comically annoying in the book.

All of these characters are petty, superficial and just annoying. Even though they each come to their senses in some ways, they behave abhorrently in most of the book and with the exception of a few select scenes (mostly with cher) I found myself getting more and more annoyed with them.

This was not the book for me.

with gratitude to netgalley and Bookouture for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: The 22 Murders of Madison May

The 22 Murders of Madison May
The 22 Murders of Madison May by Max Barry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love Max Barry. I’ve loved reading his books since Jennifer Government and Lexicon and I think it will be hard for me not to enjoy a book by him because I really like his writing style and his clever mind.

This book was no exception. I have read many books that contain the multiverse theory over the last few years so the parallel universes part of the book wasn’t novel to me. But the idea of a serial killer going through each universe and hunting down the same girl was definitely an interesting twist.

This is a fast-paced novel as all of Barry’s other ones. It’s hard to put down once you start it and even though it contained more violence and less character development than I’d prefer, I really enjoyed my time with it.

with gratitude to netgalley and PENGUIN GROUP Putnam for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead

Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead
Everyone in This Room Will Someday Be Dead by Emily R. Austin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars.

This book is a lot darker and drearier than the blurb would have you believe. Dry humor isn’t usually my thing which is maybe why I didn’t find it hilarious at all. For most of the story, Gilda is depressed and not feeling her feelings which makes it hard for the reader to feel any feelings.

Despite all that, I read this book in one sitting and enjoyed each of the characters. I think this book was actually an accurate representation of what it might feel like if the main character is depressed. Most of the books make that feel like there are big negative feelings, even though it’s usually an absence of feelings. It’s just that reading a book with the main character in that state is hard to enjoy.

with gratitude to netgalley and Artia books for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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