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  • Yolk

    A-
    Grade: A-

    Yolk

    (CW: Eating disorder, cancer) This is a book that will make you FEEL. I started out only medium on it (but to be honest I think this may be because I was just in a little reading rut this month!!!) but ended up really, really enjoying it. This is the story of two sisters who could not be more different: June and Jayne. They’re living in New York but estranged. Jayne is 19 and in art school, June is three years older and has a plush job in finance. When June is diagnosed with uterine cancer, the two reunite under unlikely circumstances – Jayne is the only one to help her. What follows is an incredibly emotional and heartfelt story about the importance of family. I cried at the end. I initially found Jayne to be deeply immature and unlikeable: self-obsessed and just a complete mess. That being said, she’s 19. I will say that I found the eating disorder scenes (bulimia) to be pretty graphic so if that is a trigger for you, definitely skip this book. Order it on Amazon or Bookshop.org

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  • A Special Place for Women

    A-
    Grade: A-

    A Special Place for Women

    I was beyond excited for this one as I absolutely love this author (she also wrote Happy And You Know Itand I had heard it was (very loosely!) based on The Wing. This book is a wild ride. It goes a little off the rails, in the best way possible. I don’t want to give you any hints about how or why it goes off the rails, as it will spoil it. Jillian Beckley is a journalist who has lost her job. Her life is a mess. Her mother has passed away and she has to sell her childhood home to pay off medical bills. She has nowhere to live, she’s a little bit in love with her (married) ex-boss, and she’s just floundering. Meanwhile, for years there have been rumors of a secret club called Nevertheless: an invitation-only members’ club for important, (generally) wealthy women. Almost like a secret society. After a chance encounter with beautiful, wealthy Margot (rumored to be one of the founders), Jillian sees an opportunity: finagle an invitation and write an expose, taking down the club. What follows is an absolutely wild ride. I loved this book and think you will too.. highly recommend pre-ordering it!!!! Order it on Amazon or Bookshop.org

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  • Her Three Lives

    B+
    Grade: B+

    Her Three Lives

    I was conflicted on this one! I was really excited about it but struggled through the first 2/3 of the book. But I will tell you, the ending was really good. I’d describe this more as a suspense read vs. a thriller, but still enjoyed it. Jade Thompson is a successful influencer with an sexy (older!) architect fiance, Greg. It’s not without problems, though: Jade’s family has a past and Greg’s ex-wife and children hate her and are convinced that Jade just wants his money. One day, they are horribly attacked.  Greg ends up in a coman with a horrible brain injury and Jade loses the baby. They are both deeply affected by this and Greg begins to wonder if perhaps he is worth more to Jade dead vs. alive. Should he listen to his family’s concerns? Is Jade just a mid-life crisis mistake? Meanwhile, Jade has her own issues and concerns. Neither of them knows whether to trust the other. This one takes several twists and turns and it definitely drags a bit in the beginning but the ending makes up for it, in my opinion! Keep with it!!!! Order it on Amazon or Bookshop.org

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  • The Therapist

    A-
    Grade: A-

    The Therapist

    I am so sorry for reviewing a book that is not coming out until July but I am incapable of having a B.A. Paris book in my general vicinity and not dropping everything to read it!!!! You may remember B.A. Paris as the author of Behind Closed Doors which is one of my all time favorite terrifying read-in-a-day thrillers. This one (set in London) is about a couple – Leo and Alice, who move into a beautiful new home in a gated community known as The Circle. The only drawback? A horrible murder took place in the bedroom just a year ago. As Alice becomes more and more obsessed with solving the murder (the husband was charged and committed suicide), she alienates herself from Leo and her new neighbors… stopping at nothing to figure out who did it. This one is unputdownable. It’s not as good as Behind Closed Doors but I loved it, and would definitely recommend pre-ordering it so that you have a fun (very scary!!) treat to look forward to this summer! Order it on Bookshop or Amazon.

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  • Too Good To Be True

    A-
    Grade: A-

    Too Good To Be True

    I loved Carola Lovering’s last book, Tell Me Lies. It came out a few years ago and I still credit it as the book that made me stop dating guys that didn’t treat me well. Better than any self-help book, a cautionary tale! This is her newest and I was SO excited to read it. It’s a wild ride. I read it in a 24 hour period and had to take a nap afterward. The book alternates between the perspectives of Skye, Burke, and Heather. Skye is a rich, beautiful 29 year old who has battled with OCD since the death of her mother. She lives a glamorous life in Manhattan, working as a book editor, but her love life has always suffered. When she meets Burke, a handsome older man, they fall madly in love. Of course, all is not that it seems, Burke is actually happily married with a wife and three kids in Connecticut. The last perspective is Heather (Burke’s wife), but a young Heather – before Burke and her were married. The book is definitely very twisty. Some parts I saw coming, others, definitely not!!!! I don’t want to tell you too much (truly – the less you know going into a book like this, the better!) but I think there are some great conversations around wealth, forgiveness, and obsession. I highly recommend it! Order it on Bookshop or Amazon.

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  • The Lost Apothecary

    B+
    Grade: B+

    The Lost Apothecary

    I had been thinking how much I wanted to read more historical fiction (I barely read any historical fiction in 2020 and it’s actually a genre I really enjoy), and this one was sent to me. I was immediately intrigued: a hidden eighteenth century apothecary helping women to kill abusive or predatory partners with poisons. The idea of this secret network of women felt like a fun take on feminism, and a mystery I’d absolutely want to read. I will tell you that Becca DNF’d it, and I almost did until I got to about a hundred pages. It was just a slow start. But once I got into it, I really enjoyed it. It alternates storylines between 1791 – Nella the apothecary and her young friend Eliza; and modern day, with Caroline visiting London to take a break from her husband after learning he’s had an affair and feeling discontent about her life. It starts slow, but definitely gets better – I’m glad I kept reading! There’s also a few fun twists at the end. Order it on Bookshop or Amazon.

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  • Everything After

    B-
    Grade: B-

    Everything After

    Trigger warnings: miscarriage/infertility, side character that contemplated suicide. I was really excited for this book as I love this author. She has such a knack for writing dramatic, gut-wrenching romances… I still think about The Light We Lost. But this one fell a little bit flat for me. I think it’s really that I just could not identify or relate to the main character at all. Emily is 33 years old, a therapist, and married to a successful doctor. When she suffers a miscarriage she is transported back to when she was 20 years old (and also had a miscarriage).  Old feelings come up, and at the same time an old flame (now a successful musician, with a hit song about her!) comes back into the picture. I think that for me, I just couldn’t understand why she was still so gutted by a miscarriage she had at that young age (half the book is letters to that unborn child). I truly apologize if this comes across as insensitive, but it just wasn’t my kind of book. Again, I do love this author and feel badly leaving a less than glowing review. I still read it in a day but it was a little bit of a letdown for me. I think that maybe someone who desperately wants children could identify with her better than I did. Order it on Bookshop or Amazon.

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  • Untamed

    A+
    Grade: A+

    Untamed

    I’ve been on a bit of a self-improvement kick around here. It started with Big Magic and then interviewing Elizabeth Gilbert. When we interviewed Elizabeth, we talked about her podcast, Magic Lessons. She was talking about the episode with Glennon, so I went back and listened to that and found myself so taken with Glennon (who I did not realize got her start as a blogger) especially with regard to the insights she shared around building her community. And so I found myself downloading Untamed. If you are a people pleaser, you must read this book. One of the biggest takeaways I had from it was the fact that when we focus on pleasing others we stop thinking for ourselves. It’s one of my favorite books I’ve read in ages in terms of self-help/personal growth. If this says anything, I have been relistening and ordered a hard copy so that I can re read it in sections. Order it on Bookshop or Amazon.

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  • Detransition, Baby

    A-
    Grade: A-

    Detransition, Baby

    I was really excited about this one but had no idea what to expect. There’s been a tremendous amount of buzz and excitement about it, all verrrry merited. I’ve read a lot of books with trans side characters, but never a main character, and never anything that went this deep into looking at trans culture and what life as a trans person would feel like. I will tell you that the ending crushed me a bit, but it’s such a great book. It’s about a trans couple that broke up. Ames and Reese were once in love (back when Ames was Amy), but have gone their separate ways. After enduring horrible trauma as a trans woman, Amy decided to detransition and live life as a man. He meets Katrina (her boss), and the two of them begin dating. Ames thinks he can’t get her pregnant because of the hormones he’d taken to initially transition but surprise – he accidentally gets Katrina pregnant. Meanwhile all that Reese has ever longed for is motherhood. The three strike an unlikely decision to raise the baby together). I am not going to tell you anything else, but will tell you that I had to call Becca when I finished it, I needed to talk about the ending. I was really upset! Order it on Bookshop or Amazon.

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  • The Underground Railroad

    A+
    Grade: A+

    The Underground Railroad

    This past summer, I read The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead and really loved it. Similar to this book, it was painful to read but beautifully written and one of those books that will probably stick with me together. This one was even more painful – it tore my heart in half. Colson Whitehead has a knack for describing horrible torture and atrocities in such a straightforward manner that can be really unsettling. Some of the things he describes are visually horrific and incredibly painful to read. It’s the story of Cora, a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell, but as she approaches womanhood, it’s getting even more awful. Her and her friend Caesar hatch a plan to escape. But when things do not go as planned and Cora accidentally kills a white boy that tries to capture her, the hunt for the two of them escalates – her former master will stop at nothing to hunt her down. Making her way to South Carolina (where a different sort of atrocity awaits), and up the states looking for freedom, Cora faces terrible danger around every corner. I could not put it down. It was so upsetting and sad. I cried several times. But the writing is beautiful and this is a really important book to read. Also, Colson Whitehead’s version of the Underground Railroad (where it’s actually a series of trains and tunnels underneath the South) was really interesting and unique. Order it on Bookshop or Amazon.

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  • The Soulmate Equation

    A
    Grade: A

    The Soulmate Equation

    This was SO. GOOD. Go pre-order it immediately. You might remember that I was not the biggest fan of In a Holidaze which broke my heart to say as they (Christina Lauren is two people!) are one of my all-time favorite authors. This redeemed that; it’s up there with Love and Other Words – it is definitely one of my favorite books they’ve written. Jess is a single mom, about to turn 30. Dating is not a priority – she’s cynical and just trying to piece together a living. River is a handsome scientist turned matchmaker… his company has actually figured out a way to make a match based upon genetics. When Jess’s friend peer pressures her into taking the DNA test, a surprise match (Diamond, the highest level) occurs between Jess and River. They’re both shocked by this… especially as they don’t really like each other too much. Still, the results are too compelling to ignore. They begin dating (at first for publicity), but is their “diamond match” for real? I don’t want to give anything away but I loved this book so much and think you will really enjoy it!

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  • Layla

    B+
    Grade: B+

    Layla

    If you are a regular in these parts then you already know what a big fan of Colleen Hoover I am. With her books, you truly never know what you’re going to get. They are always very emotional and will rip your heart out in one way or another. Maybe it’s a wild and disturbing thriller like Verity (my favorite of hers), maybe it’s YA like Heart Bones… the one uniting thing is that they are dramatic and will have your stomach in knots. This one was a thriller and wow did it go WAY off the rails. I don’t want to say anything to ruin the surprises but it deals with paranormal activity. Leeds and Layla are madly in love – one of those fated romances where everything is just perfect and a dream… until Layla is brutally attacked. Layla spends weeks recovering in the hospital and Leeds has the idea to sweep her away and take her to the B&B where they first met. But from there, things just get weirder. Layla is even less like herself and strange things keep happening in the house. Leeds finds himself developing a connection (and attachment) to another guest, Willow. But Willow also needs his help and Leeds must make a choice. I know I am being vague but I’m trying not to give it away! I will say I was really annoyed with Leeds for most of the book but it all ultimately makes sense in the end!

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  • The End of Her

    B
    Grade: B

    The End of Her

    After DNFing several books I was kinda just like, “I just want a murdery thriller that I won’t be able to put down.” A reader had recommended this and I loved The Couple Next Door (this was by the same author), so I picked it up. It did not disappoint. It’s not the best book I’ve ever read, but it was engaging and fun to read. Stephanie and Patrick have just had twin girls and are adjusting to the new realities of parenthood when Erica Voss arrives in their life. She and Patrick have a history and she has some pretty shocking allegations about Patrick and his first marriage (his wife had died in a tragic accident, years ago). Patrick maintains he’s innocent, but Stephanie isn’t sure what to believe. Meanwhile, Erica is pretty hell-bent on dismantling pretty much everything in Patrick’s life. Who is lying? Who is the sociopath? The answer may be EVERYONE. I read this in a day, it cleansed my palette after a vicious news cycle, but the ending felt a little bit lazy. Still, I enjoyed it?

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  • All Girls

    B-
    Grade: B-

    All Girls

    I had been really excited about this one (it’s gotten a lot of hype and has been compared to The Girls meets Gossip Girl with a dash of My Dark Vannessa and Taylor Jenkins Reid even blurbed it) but it just fell flat for me. It’s set in modern day (or at least 2015/2016) Connecticut at a prestigious prep school. It’s about teens, but I wouldn’t classify it as YA. A horrible scandal has just taken place (a woman who graduated ten years earlier accuses a professor of rape, and the professor still works there). The book follows nine young women attending the school, from eager young freshmen to seniors on the brink of the next steps of their lives, as they find their voices and figure out how to help make the school they love so much a better place. Honestly, maybe the book was hyped up to me so much but I just didn’t love it. I felt like the writing was slow (it’s been compared to Sally Rooney’s books which I get but even when Sally’s books are slow they just have that something extra that makes you want to keep reading), and I just didn’t care enough to keep slogging through. Not a bad book, but not a great book and just… slow! Not my personal cup of tea, but not poorly written or a “bad” book… just not my thing.

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  • The Lynching

    A
    Grade: A

    The Lynching

    This book chronicles the trial(s) surrounding a horrible race-based killing of 19 year old Michael Donald that took place in Alabama in 1981 that ultimately took down the KKK. I listened to it and at times felt sick to my stomach, and just plain angry. And at times also just really grossed out as the attitude of some of the good ole Southern boys (men) involved reminded me a lot of our last president. Donald was abducted off of the street, beaten, had his throat slit, and ultimately hung from a tree. All because these klansmen were upset that a jury had been unable to reach a verdict in the trial of a Black man accused of murdering a white man. So you know, they retaliated by brutally killing a Black Man. One of the killers, Henry Hays, is sentenced to death (at the time a monumental decision – it was rare to sentence a white man to death for killing a Black man). But Morris Dees (the famous civil rights lawyer) wasn’t content to leave it there. He then filed a civil suit against the klan, charging them with conspiracy… and ultimately flattening the organization. The book was fascinating and dramatic. A little dry at times (as with, for me, most history books) but excellent and incredibly documented. I think it’s a very important book to read or listen to.

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  • The Mothers

    B
    Grade: B

    The Mothers

    This had been sitting on my shelf since summer. I loved The Vanishing Half so much so I ordered this one immediately after but for whatever reason, took my time actually picking it up. (I think my mom had said that she didn’t like this one, I feel like that’s what happened!). Anyway, this book is beautifully written and I’ll read anything Brit Bennett writes but I was kinda bored by this one – I just didn’t really care about the subject matter. It’s set in a modern day Black community in San Diego and is about a group of three teenagers: Nadia Turner who has just lost her mother, the pastor’s son Luke, and Nadia’s very religious best friend, Aubrey. Nadia and Luke, both going through a rebellious period, spend a summer fooling around and she gets pregnant. They decide to have an abortion, but do not tell anyone: not Nadia’s father, her best friend, anyone. The book is really about the aftermath of the coverup as they grow into adults. There is a love triangle, heartbreak and betrayal… it’s well written but for whatever reason I just didn’t really like it!

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  • If I Had Your Face

    A
    Grade: A

    If I Had Your Face

    First of all, this is going to be our February 2021 Bad on Paper Book club book… I can’t wait to talk about it with you! Set in modern day Korea, this book is a wild look at Korean beauty standards  and plastic surgery (I found myself googling different procedures and gasping!). I had thought that maybe it was an exaggeration but many of you chimed in to say that no, it is not!  Aside from that, this is the story of five women and their struggles and friendship. I absolutely LOVED each women for different reasons, and thought the character development was incredible, especially the protective friendship between Sujin and Ara. There is Ara, mute after a horrible accident, who is a hairdresser and obsesses over a Korean boy band star. Her roommate (and best friend from childhood) Sujin is obsessed with beauty and saving for the operation(s) that she believes will change her life. Across the hall is Kyuri (who is drop dead gorgeous and has had many operations) and works at a “room salon” where she entertains businessmen while they drink (becoming a room salon girl is Sujin’s biggest goal). Kyuri’s roommate is Miho (an artist who lived in New York for school), who is dating a very wealthy guy. And downstairs from the four girls is Wonna, newly married and trying to have a baby. Ultimately, this is a book about friendship. I loved these women. I loved their friendships. And I tore through the book. Highly recommend!

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  • Infinite Country

    A+
    Grade: A+

    Infinite Country

    If you take one thing away from this post, pre-order this book. It is absolutely wonderful, thought provoking, and utterly captivating. It came HIGHLY recommended to me by my friend Morgan Hoit, who knows her stuff and told me it could be THE book of 2021. I am inclined to agree with her. It is beautifully written (I found myself feeling jealous at times, wishing I could write even a fraction as well as the author) and centers around a family divided between Bogota, Colombia and the US. It opens with Talia who has just escaped an all-girls prison (the book opens with her tying up a nun) in the mountains of Colombia. When not imprisoned, she lives with her father Mauro who was deported from the US back to Bogota when she was just a baby. Meanwhile, her mother Elena and her two siblings Karina and Nando, are still living (undocumented) in the US. Her siblings are trying to fit in at the local high school as her mother works to earn enough to support them and send money back home. Told from the perspective of all five family members, this is a novel about family, pain, suffering, and sacrificing for the people you love. One of my priorities this year is to read books about people and families with backgrounds different than my own and this one is particularly poignant especially when thinking about immigration and undocumented workers. Add to that the writing, and this is a book you just can’t miss. It flies by in under 200 pages – please read it!

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  • The Midnight Library

    A+
    Grade: A+

    The Midnight Library

    Oh wow, this book was just… excellent. The writing is exquisite, it’s evocative and thought provoking… it’s one of my favorite works of fiction I have read in a long time. This is a book about regret. Nora Seed showed so much promise. At one point, she could have been an Olympic swimmer. At another, a rockstar. But bad decision after bad decision leads her to a sad and lonely life. When her cat dies, she decides it’s time to end her life. But in between life and death, she arrives at a place called The Midnight Library. There, she meets her childhood librarian who shows her around. Each book on the shelf represents a different regret or decision, and the life she would have had if she’d chose differently. But as soon as she finds a life to be disappointing she is taken back to the library to take out another book. And so Nora goes on to live tons of different lives. In one, she’s a former Olympian. In others, she’s a mother. In one, she’s a famous rockstar. In another, she didn’t break up with her ex-fiance. I could go on. Needless to say I could not put it down. It’s thoughtful and creative and such a great conversation starter (and I loved the lessons – on love, being present, and not dwelling on what could have been because maybe it isn’t as good as you imagined it to be). I cannot recommend this book enough!

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  • Joyful

    A+
    Grade: A+

    Joyful

    I finally finished it! I have been reading this for months. This book came highly recommended to me by my sister and I can’t recommend it enough. The reason it took me so long to read is that I was taking copious notes like a good little student. But she mentions so many different artists, architects, creators… that I wanted to stop, pause, look them up, and then keep reading. So I’d read maybe a quarter of a chapter at a time and I do not regret that. I learned so much from it. This book is all about the power of aesthetics and objects to impact our happiness. From the way we delight over rounded objects, to why we are drawn to symmetry, and beyond. It is such an interesting read… if you are someone who nerds out over good design OR are just somebody who wants to create a personal space that leaves you feeling joyful, absolutely read this book. I loved it and learned so so much from it.

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  • Big Magic

    A+
    Grade: A+

    Big Magic

    This was not my first time reading this book, but I’d never reviewed it here! We did an entire podcast episode about this book (and then had Elizabeth Gilbert on to talk more). This book. I don’t even know where to begin but I will say that everyone should read it, even if you don’t necessarily identify as a “creative person.” The content is just so valuable, it’s a fairly quick read, and every time I read it I take something different away from it. The things for me that really resonated were the parts about fear, and letting fear hold you back. And approaching your creativity (or your whole life for that matter) from a perspective of curiosity as opposed to fear, or even passion. This book is truly life changing. I love that Becca re-reads it every January and may start doing the same exact thing. If you are feeling in a rut, uninspired, a little bit stuck, not sure what you want to do next, OR you’re about to start a new project, read this book!!!!

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  • Heavy

    A
    Grade: A

    Heavy

    I listened to this in audiobook form and it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s going to blow you away and I can’t recommend listening to it enough. You know that I love a good memoir, and this is just wonderful as an audiobook. It’s poetic, powerful, beautifully written, honest, vulnerable, I could go on and on. Written as a letter to his mother, Laymon takes us through his childhood (and the trauma he endured growing up Black), walking us through his complicated relationships with weight (dealing with both obesity and anorexia), growing up “big and Black,” women and sex, and ultimately gambling. He combines personal stories with history lessons. Anecdotes and stories that can be humorous at times but dark and heartbreaking at other times. This was one of the books on my personal anti-racist reading list. I really believe that one of the best things we can do is to read more books by diverse authors to (a trite expression) put yourself in their shoes. I absolutely love this book – I could not stop listening to it and felt sad when it’s over (I recommend listening to The Stacks’ episode with Kiese to quench your book hangover!

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  • An Object of Beauty

    A
    Grade: A

    An Object of Beauty

    This was recommended to me in the Facebook group after I gushed about The Talented Miss Farwell last month. SUCH a good one. It’s a bit older (from 2011) and written by Steve Martin – yes, THAT Steve Martin the actor. I had absolutely no idea what an incredible, keenly observant writer he is. I was all at once impressed and surprised! Lacey Yeager is young, beautiful, clever and smart… working her way up in the art world of New York City. The book follows her career through the nineties and into the two thousands as she begins her career at Sotheby’s and climbs the social and career ladders in front of her. From the rise of the art world to the tragedy of 9/11 to the recession of 2008 and beyond. It’s told from the perspective of her friend Daniel and along the way we find out that the two of them have done something unethical together, but you don’t find out just what that is. I couldn’t put it down, I thought that the writing was excellent, the characters were so fantastically developed… it’s just so smartly written and interesting. I can’t recommend it enough!

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  • People Like Her

    B
    Grade: B

    People Like Her

    You know I can’t resist a thriller, especially when it’s about an influencer. This one was creepy, and I will admit it probably best got down the influencer job better than most books about influencers I’ve read… (so often they dumb down the job to just opening packages and snapping selfies!). The authors (it’s a husband and wife duo) clearly put in the time to do the research. And it was fast paced – I read it in a day. Emmy Jackson is an “instamum” in the UK, with over a million followers, a handsome writer husband Dan, and two adorable kids. Her brand is based all on honesty and telling it like it is… except she is not exactly always h0nest. The book alternates between the perspectives of Emmy and Dan (so you quickly see how disingenuous Emmy can be, though you still do root for her most of the time) and… Emmy’s stalker who blames Emmy for a series of terrible tragedies in her own life. Emmy’s stalker is hell bent on hurting Emmy. The book is suspenseful and hard to put down, but at the same time it was a little bit predictable and you kinda knew what would happen next. I did like the character development of Emmy and the way the book explored the darker side of influencer culture though, so I would still definitely recommend it!

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