The Paper Palace
The Paper PalaceRead the book
I am not sure the last time I got so many DMs about a book, just from showing it a few slides on my Instagram story. This book is divisive!!! It is also very dark. I read it as it came recommended by so many of you (and also my mom). My mom really liked it but warned me that her book club did not like it. I think that my mom and I enjoyed it for the same reasons: the depiction of Cape Cod (specifically the Outer Cape) is spot on, and the writing is flawlessly good. It sparked so many memories for me – especially because when I was a child we would rent a cabin on the marsh in Truro for a week most summers. The book opens on a balmy summer night. Elle Bishop has just cheated on her husband Peter with her childhood best friend and first love, Jonah. It then proceeds to alternate back and forth over fifty years (the past) and 24 hours (the present), helping us to understand how Elle got here. It’s a love story (sort of), it’s beautifully written (I would classify this as literary fiction), but as I mentioned, it is dark. There are content warnings for a lot of things: sexual abuse, infidelity, miscarriage, death of a sibling, suicide, I could go on. The sexual assault scenes are particularly hard to read. I did not care for the main character, but the trauma she endured made her more sympathetic. I also felt like a lot of the characters (especially the older ones) felt very familiar to me. Hours after reading the book I still can’t really say what I think about the ending. Anything that has infidelity in it (not a spoiler, this happens right at the beginning) tends to upset me a little bit, but I think (I may change my opinion on this!), that I liked how it ended. This book is a conversation starter for sure. I think it would make a really excellent book club pick as there would be a lot to talk about. Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
The Art Forger
The Art ForgerRead the book
This book is older (from 2010 I believe) and I’ve had it in my TBR pile for over a year! What pushed me to read it was wanting more art forgery after reading Fake last month. First of all, I loved it and am mad that I waited so long to read it. Second, now I feel like maybe I could forge a painting? (I’m kidding – I can’t actually paint… but like now I know all of the steps?). Claire Roth is a pariah in the art world. Despite being incredibly talented she’s struggling to pay rent, supplementing her income by doing reproduction paintings for an online company. One day powerful gallery owner approaches her with an offer – forge a Degas painting (stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum!) in exchange for $50,000 and a one-woman show at his famous gallery. It’s an offer that is too good to be true… but it’s also very dangerous. I loved this book. It’s so well-researched (I assumed the author was an art historian and/or artist as her knowledge of painting techniques runs so deep), it’s fast paced and fun, it’s absolutely fascinating! A must-read. And less importantly, I loved that it was set in Boston (I went to college there and lived there for 4 years after graduation). Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
Too LateRead the book
Let me be clear: I am a huge, huge fan of Colleen Hoover’s. Whenever she has a new book, I’m first in line to read. And while some of her books have been misses for me, I generally love them all and consider her one of my favorite authors. But this book was… upsetting and kind of awful? A reader had messaged me telling me that it was darker and twistier than Verity (one of my all time favorite books, so I ordered it immediately. I thought the author’s note at the beginning was interesting. She never intended to publish it, it started as an experiment for fun (if you’ve read it, you will question that idea of fun!!!). She ended up deciding to publish it, but under her initials and not her name. The author’s note also came with a strong content warning (graphic, sexual content, abuse, pretty much everything). I thought she was exaggerating but she wasn’t. So in a way, it feels really rude to trash this book as I was warned. But it is just purely upsetting and kind of just disgusting. Nearly 400 pages of abuse and graphic (also abusive) sex scenes. It’s trashy – but not in the good way. I would say to absolutely skip this book unless you are curious and can’t help yourself. (In which case I get it!!!). There are zero twists and turns, just twistedness. I love twists, I like some types of twisted, but this is the kind of twisted that I do not like. At all. It is my least favorite book in a very long time. Like I said, I still love her – just not this one!!! Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
Friends Like These
Friends Like TheseRead the book
I really love this author but in my opinion, gotta be honest: this was the worst of all her books. It had a great twist at the end but it was a slog to get to. It’s a little bit overwritten and there are so many characters (and a lot of unnecessary sub-plots). Five friends from college head up to the Catskills. It’s part bachelor party, part “let’s get our friend clean and send him off to rehab.” Two days later, one of the friends is dead and the other friend is missing. The book alternates between the detective investigating the case and the five friends’ perspectives. With diary entries from their sixth friend, who died in college. I found parts of it to be enjoyable but really just felt it was mostly a lot of unnecessary twists and turns that didn’t really go anywhere (plus, keeping up with whose POV it was as in my opinion, the author didn’t do a great job giving each character a separate voice). Mostly, I wanted to know what happened so I kept on reading… but found myself frustrated it. Not terrible but not great either. There are just SO many other really good thrillers out there, so I would say to skip this one and read something else. Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
Just One Look
Just One LookRead the book
OK, I absolutely loved this! I needed a palate cleanser after Too Late (see below) and this was a slight gamble as I hadn’t seen much about it (though it was blurbed by so many of my favorite authors). If you loved You (or books by Liv Constantine or Sarah Pekkanen & Greer Hendricks, you will love this!). It’s got stalking, suspense, and an unhinged-but-still-loveable protagonist. Cassie’s life is in shambles: due to a previous incident at her last firm (we’re not sure what it was, we just know it was embarrassing) she is doing temp work. We also know that her father was very sick, her mother is not in the picture, and her boyfriend has dumped her. During her temp work for another law firm, one of the senior partners’ emails is accidentally leaked. Suddenly, she is immersed in all of the loving emails between Forest and his wife Annabelle. She can’t stop herself from reading them and in time knows all of the intimate details of Forest and Annabelle’s seemingly perfect life. When a real life encounter leads her to believe that he may no longer be married, she becomes determined to replace Annabelle. For the first time in forever, she feels hopeful. But are things as they seem? Does she even have a chance? Does she want a chance? This book was positively addictive – I couldn’t put it down. Any book that makes me want to stay up past 2am is a must-read in my book! Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
In a New York Minute
In a New York MinuteRead the book
As you know, I am more of a murder and suspense kind of girl, but I had heard amazing things about this book and I absolutely loved it. It’s well worth the pre-order (especially if you love/miss New York right now – it will provide all of the warm and fuzzy nostalgia for the city). Franny is having the worst day.. She gets laid off from a job that she doesn’t even really like and then on the subway her dress gets stuck in the door and rips, leaving her nearly naked. When a stranger (handsome Hayes) lends her his jacket, the moment goes viral on instagram and the two of them become known as the “Subway QTs.” Neither of them is particularly crazy about this, but they wind up on TV together, keep bumping into each other, and ultimately forming an unlikely friendship. I loved this because it made me nostalgic for my younger years in New York. Also, the story arc is so good… and I really fell in love with these characters. It is such a fun read… I hope it becomes a series as I would really love more from these characters! Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
Our American Friend
Our American FriendRead the book
A political thriller! And oh my gosh, I cannot stop thinking about this book. Also: because I know so little about Melania Trump, I can’t help but feel like this was about her (it’s not – it’s purely fiction!!!). Sofie is a young but burnt out journalist, tired of covering the Caine (a very very Trump-ish president) administration. When the first lady, Lara Caine, reaches out to her asking her to write her biography, she is baffled, but intrigued. Lara has shown so little of herself to the world… notoriously private and aloof. All anyone really knows is that she was born in Soviet Russia and raised in Paris – modeling, and eventually moving to the US where she met Henry Caine (aka Donald Trump). As the two women work together, they grow closer and begin to really trust each other. Lara entrusts Sofie with some huge, (unbelievable) secrets about her past. I don’t want to say anything else for fear of giving something away, but this is a must read. I couldn’t put it down! Alternating between 70s Russia and Paris (I loved the “book within a book” format) and modern day, I couldn’t put this down. Seriously – I missed dinner as I didn’t want to stop reading. This is fast paced and smart and just really fun! Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
The Golden Couple
The Golden CoupleRead the book
I am such a huge, huge fan of Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen’s books and this one (their fourth!) may be my favorite of all. I want you to know what a big statement this is… they’re such a talented duo: their thrillers are always twisty, unpredictable, and smartly written. Avery is an unconventional (but highly effective) therapist. In just ten sessions, she gets guaranteed results. When Matthew and Marissa (the seemingly perfect, “golden” couple) pay her a visit, all bets are off. It becomes very clear to Avery that they are both withholding some pretty big secrets. Avery is determined to get to the bottom of it. The plot gets twistier and twistier as some of Avery’s other clients’ problems begin to get in the way… with a pharmaceuticals scandal, an angry and narcissistic ex-wife, and a cast of unreliable characters. It feels like the entire second half of the book is one new fire after the next… in the best possible way. I loved this book. It’s smart, clever and twisty. It kept me on my toes. I can’t recommend it enough! Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
We’re SpeakingRead the book
Proud friend moment: my incredible friend Hitha wrote this book, it’s amazing, and I really think that pretty much everyone that reads this blog will really love it!!!! Also, she wrote it very quickly and I have no idea how she did it… I bow down. This book is an absolute MUST for every woman on your list, especially a younger woman beginning her career or graduating from college. This is a book about Kamala Harris, but it is not a policy book. It’s a book about Kamala’s life, and the lessons we can all learn from it… across family, relationships, work, and beyond. It’s part biography, part self-help/inspirational. It’s a book about finding your voice, being more confident, and stepping into your power. No matter what your political views may be, I think that we can agree that Kamala is pretty awe-inspiring… and it’s pretty amazing to have a Black, Asian-American female VP in the White House. I loved learning more about her life and her career (especially her family life), there is a lot I didn’t know! Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
Greenwich ParkRead the book
I am calling it now, I think that Greenwich Park is going to be the Girl on the Train of 2022. If you like those types of thrillers (you know how much I love them!), you will not be able to put this book down… it is just so good. We have it all… an unreliable narrator, a potentially dangerous and destructive new best friend, erratic behavior, etc. There is definitely a content warning for infertility and also for rape/sexual assault so keep those things in mind… but this book is excellent! Helen is living a perfect life. A baby on the way, a handsome architect husband, and a beautiful Victorian home in London’s poshest neighborhood that they are renovating. When she meets Rachel at a prenatal class, she’s a little bit caught off guard (Rachel is much younger, brash and unconventional… smoking and drinking even while pregnant) but the two women strike up an unlikely friendship. They’re both a little lonely, and soon they’ll both be new moms! As time goes on though, she begins to wonder what Rachel actually wants… and it seems like Rachel may actually be a huge danger to her family and everything they’ve worked so hard to build. I will say no more but this book is twisty and smart and totally unputdownable. Two solid thumbs up from me! Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
State of Terror
State of TerrorRead the book
I wasn’t sure what to expect from a political thriller co-written by Hillary Clinton, but my net takeaway/one sentence opinion is that this is such a FUN BOOK. It is a fast read, too. It’s a big fat book (around 500 pages) and I have been in a more stressful state of mind where I am wanting lighter reads, so I put off reading it because for whatever reason I assumed it would be a more “serious” read. It’s not. If you loved Scandal or 24, you will love this! It’s a new political administration after a very tumultuous time (seems familiar) and Ellen Adams has just been sworn in as Secretary of State. It’s interesting though, as her and the president do not get along. They’re sworn political enemies, actually. Shortly into the new presidency, things go belly up with a series of terrorist attacks taking place across Europe. Now, it’s up to Ellen to figure out what happens. A cat and mouse hunt occurs as she flies all over the world trying to catch who did this. But as with so many things, the problem is even bigger than she could have imagined. I loved this. I thought it was fun and smart and read it in one day (I was sick that day so I had a lot of free time). I also loved the Trump-esque character, he was fun. I highly recommend this book! Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
CultishRead the book
This is hands down, the best book I’ve read in a long time. Sometimes I will struggle with non-fiction, either putting it down and then picking it up or just taking a really long time to read it!!! Not the case with this one. I packed it for my trip to LA and DEVOURED it on the plane. I usually nap or work on the plane but once I started this, I couldn’t put it down. It’s just so smart – and interesting. I learned a lot from it but also was very much entertained.Amanda walks through more traditional cults like Heaven’s Gate and Jonestown while also teaching us about the language of cults (aka “Cultish”) and their charismatic leaders. Once we get through the more traditional cults she then takes us through more commonly accepted things that use this same language… MLMs, “cult” fitness studios, and social media gurus. I found the whole book fascinating but especially the chapter on MLMs. The language these founders use, and how they manipulate the lower tiers… just WOW. I can’t recommend this book enough, I can’t stop talking about it to anyone who will listen and want to give it to all of my friends! Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
You’ll Be The Death of Me
You’ll Be The Death of MeRead the book
I am such a fan of Karen McManus’s books. They’re always about a group of high school students and tend to give me those nostalgic Breakfast Club (or in this case, oddly – Dawson’s Creek) vibes but with a side of murder and mystery. The best YA thrillers (and an author Becca and I tend to bond over – the books are twisty enough for me but not so scary that she won’t want to read them). This is her latest and it is such a fun read. Three students (who were once thick as thieves but are now a lot less close) skip school for the day. While out and about, they spot a fellow student, also skipping. They follow him… to the scene of his murder! The rest of the book is spent figuring out who did it and working to clear their own names as now they were the only four seniors out of school that day. This was fast-paced and fun with a few good twists along the way. I really enjoyed it and read it in just two sittings. Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
If You Tell
If You TellRead the book
I’m going to give this book a good rating because it IS perfectly researched, with excellent story telling (it reads like fiction), and the writing is great BUT I don’t know that I can actually recommend this book as it has pretty much every trigger warning I can think of (particularly child abuse, body shaming, torture, murder, I could go on…), leaving me really, really upset and a little bit nauseous. This is the story of Shelly Knotek and her three daughters (+ random friends who joined the family at times but always somehow ended up disappearing). You can read more about Shelly/everything she did in this article… make your decision from there. The book is terrifying. I felt truly sick to my stomach by the end (though relieved as all three daughters made it out alive and seemingly have normal lives today). I know I read a lot of books that are dark and twisty… but they’re all fiction. I think that separation between fiction and reality is what makes me love my twisty thrillers. Knowing that this was real and actually happened to these girls (and the people who were murdered) was deeply upsetting. I read it as research for my friend Casey’s podcast. I’m excited for our episode to come out. If I hadn’t been reading it as research I probably would have stopped reading, instead I read it (all traumatic 400 pages of it) in just a couple days. Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
FakeRead the book
I absolutely devoured this book… reading it in literally one day. (I had the most delicious Sunday afternoon where I just read and read and read until it was dark outside). This is a thriller (maybe more of a suspense novel) set in the art world, about rich criminals… which basically is all about my favorite things to read about in one place. Emma Caan is working as an art copier for a Manhattan company. This is a perfectly legal profession (copies are noted as such, and used by collectors, museums, etc. for when the original is being cleaned or to protect it when there is a party or event). One day, she catches the eye of Lenny Sobetsky, one of the agency’s biggest clients. Before she realizes it, she’s gotten a new job at the city’s best gallery, is traveling to Hong Kong (privately!), and living in a chic Soho loft. All for just a few strings and agreeing to help Lenny cut out the middleman and copy his works for less than he was paying the agency. This was so fun to read. I loved the glamour and escapism (the art! Hong Kong! exciting parties and a meteoric rise for our protagonist) all while knowing it would eventually come crashing down. I can’t recommend it enough… pre-order it! Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
GhostsRead the book
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this book as the reviews have been so mixed! I will tell you that while it is British, it is much less “British chick lit” than I thought it would be (a positive – that is not really my genre, the writing style can get so rambly; I prefer a more direct style of writing). I really liked the writing. I liked the plot too. Nina Dean is a successful cookbook author, owns her own flat, and is living a pretty great life with great friends (including her long time ex and his girlfriend Lucy). When she meets Max on a dating app, sparks fly and things move quickly . They date for four months, when out of the blue… Max ghosts her. Nina is devastated (and at the same time dealing with her father’s Alzheimer’s, Lucy’s annoying hen do (bachelorette), and issues with her friends. I thought this was really well written, relatable and poignant (it’s probably the most realistic look at modern dating I’ve read in awhile), and also very funny at times too. This one is our November Bad on Paper book club pick and I’m excited to talk about it (and ghosting) in greater detail. Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
Not a Happy Family
Not a Happy FamilyRead the book
This was… not good. It bummed me out as I really enjoyed The Couple Next Door, a few years ago. I found it really predictable and I guessed who the murderer was pretty early on. A wealthy couple is found murdered just after Easter, and an investigation begins. At first the police believe it to be a robbery, but they quickly change their tune, believing it to be someone close to the family… or maybe a member of the family. As time goes on we learn that this family was indeed… not a happy family. The father was abusive and vindictive toward the kids, the mom complacent. All three adult children become suspects, and no one trusts a soul. Who could have done it? Who was capable of murder? Or was it actually an outside job. The book takes us through the investigation. Parts were really interesting (and it could be that I read too many of these types of book) but I just found it to be super predictable, a bit of a slog at times, and I guessed the ending really early on. I would skip this one if I were you! Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
Goodnight BeautifulRead the book
I LOVED THIS! You know that my favorite genre is twisty thrillers (or Gone Girl rip-offs, as Becca lovingly calls them). I read so many of these sort of books though that the twists have stopped hitting me as hard. Or, I guess them. This one had SO many good twists and was different from any other thriller I’ve read. Sam Statler and Annie Potter are newlyweds in love! They’ve left New York City to move to a small town upstate. Sam’s mother is in a home for her dementia, and Sam’s opened his own therapy practice (where he tends to a mostly needy, mostly female clientele). The only thing: there’s a vent in the ceiling and every word of his conversations can be heard upstairs. What’s wrong with a little eavesdropping? One day, a French girl in a mini cooper shows up. And from there, everything begins to unravel. Sam disappears, horrible money issues come to light, and Annie begins to wonder if she every really knew her husband at all. The first couple chapters of this felt a little sleepy, but then it gets GOOD. I highly recommend this one if you love a good twist as much as I do. Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
Little SecretsRead the book
I was convinced that the universe did not want me to read this book. The first copy I ordered was lost in the mail and the second came but was misprinted… the first half of the book was upside down/printed backwards. It had come highly recommended by @things.i.bought.and.liked (and I reallllly wanted a thriller), so I read it anyway. Let’s just say that I am very glad I persevered… this was SO good. There is a trigger warning for suicide. Marin and her husband Derek were madly in love, but fifteen months ago their little boy was abducted in plain site, kidnapped by someone dressed up as Santa. Marin was with him at the time and blames herself. Meanwhile, in present day, the PI she hired to help her find her son has discovered something else: her husband is cheating on her with a 24 year old (McKenzie Li). Marin becomes unhinged. She couldn’t save her son but she can save her marriage. And she will do *anything* to get McKenzie out of the picture. When Mary Kubica (another fav) blurbed this she said “You don’t just read this book; you inhale it.” She was right!!!! I’d just add that you exhale very deeply at the end. Whew. A wild ride! Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
White SmokeRead the book
This was Tiffany D. Jackson’s first foray into horror and it absolutely does not disappoint. She is one of my favorite authors and usually she writes twisty suspense thrillers for the YA set. Despite being written about teens and generally YA oriented, her books tend to get dark… really, really dark… nothing is off limits and most of her books come with at least a couple trigger warnings! Her books are suspenseful and keep you on your toes but they’re not usually scary. This one was terrifying! So naturally, I loved it. Mari and her newly blended family (her Black mother and little brother Sammy + white father and ten year old step sister Piper) pick up from California and move to a small town in the midwest where her mother has secured a residency. It will be a fresh start for everyone (Mari has a troubled past and also suffers from crippling anxiety). But from the minute they arrive, creepy things start to happen. The floors always creak. Things vanish and get moved around. Mari is convinced that the house is haunted, but her family blames her anxiety and no one will listen her. How far do things have to go before they believe her? I read this while I was sick with strep throat and it was the absolute perfect distraction. Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
Reminders of Him
Reminders of HimRead the book
This book is going to make you cry. A lot. You’ve been warned. Wow. You never know what you are going to get with a Colleen Hoover book and in this case, it’s a tearjerker. A redemption story. An impossible scenario with no real villain (but still, a horrible tragedy).Kenna Rowan is a woman who has hit rock bottom. Five years ago, a tragic mistake (her mistake) left her boyfriend dead, and sent her to prison for five years. Now she’s out of prison and has returned to the town where everything went wrong. All that she wants is to meet her four year old daughter (she gave birth in prison and the daughter is now being raised by her boyfriend’s parents), but those closest to him don’t want that to happen. Through a chance encounter, she winds up connecting with his best friend, Ledger Ward. The two have immediate chemistry, but once they realize who the other one is, they avoid each other. Still, they find themselves being drawn to each other even though they know they can never really be together and that Kenna can never be with her daughter. This one really drew me in and made me cry more than once – highly recommend! Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon!
Apples Never Fall.
Apples Never Fall.Read the book
I want to call this a thriller, but it’s more of a novel about family dynamics. I’m having a hard time classifying it! Regardless, Liane Moriarty is one of my favorite authors and this is her first new book in a few years (her last book came out in 2018 and I wasn’t a huge fan). This was very good, and as with all of Moriarty’s books, I felt as though the understanding of humans (specifically, families) was just so sharp and on point. Stan and Joy have been together for years. They have four children and have just sold the family business – a tennis coaching center. But as they enter retirement, cracks in their marriage (and big secrets!) appear. One night. a young woman (about the age of their adult children) appears at their door, in need of help. And so they offer to help. But what happens? Is she who she says she is? The book alternates between present day where Joy has gone missing and events leading up to her disappearance. I loved this. It kept me on my toes and surprised me more than once. And as someone who ran competitively through high school and part of college I REALLY related to the sports bits. It’s on the longer side but I still managed to finish in a couple of days. Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
56 DaysRead the book
This one was also set in the time of COVID-19 (though in Ireland, so it felt less triggering?) It’s a thriller – fun and twisty… something you can definitely read in a day, preferably on the beach with a cocktail. Ciara and Oliver have a meet-cute at a supermarket in Dublin and start dating. Everything seems perfect, except that the week they meet is also the same week that COVID-19 hits Ireland. He has secrets and worries about her intentions. She can’t believe someone like her could be into her. When lockdown hits, Oliver suggests that they move in together. It’s fast, but it’s just two weeks, right? No one even knows they are together and here they are… living together like a married couple. 56 days later, a decomposing body is discovered inside Oliver’s apartment. What happened? I won’t say any more but this had lots of twists and turns. I liked that it was told from both characters’ perspectives. It’s suspenseful and DARK! Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.
Wish You Were Here.
Wish You Were Here.Read the book
Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite authors. I never miss anything she writes! I was a bit deterred when I saw that this one was set during COVID-19, in New York. I will say that if you got really sick or lost a loved one from COVID, maybe skip this – it may be a bit triggering. That being said, it’s one of my favorite books of the year. I don’t want to tell you too much as there’s a great twist. Diana O’Toole is one of those women who has everything figured out. She has a plan. Married by 30, kids done by 35… all while climbing the ladder in the art world, working at Sotheby’s. Her boyfriend Finn is a surgical resident at a hospital in New York. They are about to go on a romantic getaway to the Galapagos Island and she knows he is going to propose. But when a horrible virus hits New York, it is all hands on deck at the hospital. Their tickets are nonrefundable and he encourages her to go without him. So she goes, only to get stuck there. When she arrives, the island is completely shut down. There’s no WiFi. Her luggage is lost. The hotel is shut down. Relying on the kindness of strangers, she settles in and waits it out. I don’t want to say anymore but I LOVED this book. Worth the pre-order. Pre-order on Bookshop.org or Amazon.