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  • The Herd

    B
    Grade: B

    The Herd

    This was a fun, fast-paced thriller that had me think that literally everyone involved committed the crime. Eleanor Walsh is the polished and put together founder of The HERd, an elite members-only coworking space for women. She seemingly has the perfect life. Two successful brands, a handsome and devoted husband, a close group of friends. But then: just as the company is going to make a major announcement, Eleanor vanishes. No one is entirely sure what to think. Did she flee the country? Was fowl play involved? A mysterious whodunnit arises. Told from the perspectives of two sisters Hana (Eleanor’s best friend and head of The Herd’s PR) and Katie (a journalist who wants to secretly write a book about Eleanor’s life and the Herd), it’s fast and fun. The sisters (and Eleanor’s other close friend Mikki) try to figure out what happened to Eleanor, while also uncovering secrets they’ve been hiding from each other. I will say it goes a little off the rails at times, but I liked that it was twisty and kept me guessing. It wasn’t my perfect book but it held my attention. Order it on Amazon (I can’t find it on Bookshop!)

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  • The Stranger in the Mirror

    B+
    Grade: B+

    The Stranger in the Mirror

    I am a big fan of Liv Constantine’s books. They (it’s a sister duo) write some of my most favorite read it in a day / stay up all night thrillers like The Last Mrs. Parrish and The Wife Stalker, etc etc. This one is not out until July and I will be honest, it was not my favorite of their books, but it was still very engaging and kept me on my toes. Addison wakes up on the side of the road with no memories. She cannot remember a thing about her past or who she was. Luckily, she’s taken in by an older couple in Philadelphia and slowly starts to build a life, even getting engaged to handsome and charismatic Gabriel. Meanwhile, up in Boston, Julian’s wife Cassandra is missing. One day she just vanished, leaving him and their seven year old daughter alone. Julian struggles to figure out what happened to Cassandra and where she went… while Addison struggles to figure out who she really is. Of course at some point, there stories intersect and that’s where it gets really good. I will say that I felt like the end went a little (a lot?) off the rails and wasn’t so believable, but that didn’t stop me from tearing through it and really enjoying it! It’s a fun fast read, perfect for the beach. Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon!

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  • Malibu Rising

    A
    Grade: A

    Malibu Rising

    OK I had been saving my ARC of this forever and then I forgot about it during the move. This was my favorite book from the month, I think. I mean you know how much I love Taylor Jenkins Reid. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was one of the best books I have ever read – or at least, one of my favorite books ever. And when I found out that she had a new book out, set in Malibu in the eighties, I knew it was going to be good. This is the story of the Riva family. Four siblings and their parents. Their father Mick (a huge star) abandoned them as kids and their mother was an alcoholic who wound up dying young. It was the oldest sister, Nina, who ultimately held the family (and their family restaurant) together, dropping out of school to raise her three siblings and hold the business together. Throughout this traumatic period though, the kids all love to surf, which winds up leading the siblings  Nina ends up getting discovered while she is out surfing and becomes a famous model / surfer. This ends up as a means to an end, but she’s not truly happy (and ends up married to an awful guy). The book goes back and forth between present day and the past, uncovering layers of family trauma… ending in 1983 a the Riva’s famous summer party (and the start of the 1983 Malibu fires). I really, really enjoyed it. As with all of TJR’s books it is gritty and glamorous with complex relationships and characters you really love and relate to. I LOVED this book! Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon!

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  • People We Meet on Vacation

    A-
    Grade: A-

    People We Meet on Vacation

    Oh my gosh, this book is so cute! We chose it as our June Bad on Paper book club book and Becca said it was her favorite book she’s read all year. It’s been spun as a modern day When Harry Met Sally and I didn’t see too many parallels but I really enjoyed it regardless. Alex and Poppy are college best friends. They couldn’t be more different – Alex is a teacher who loves his khakis and longs for a conventional life whereas Poppy is a wild child who wants to travel the world (she’s a travel writer) and never settle down. But they are as close as can be, and every summer without fail, they plan “The Summer Trip.” The book opens and Poppy and Alex are just not as close as they used to be. The trip didn’t happen last year, and Poppy desperately misses Alex. She convinces him to plan one more trip (to Palm Springs – which was fun, as I read it while I was there). The book alternates between past summer trips and the current one, as we figure out what happened to their friendship, and what is going to happen next for them. It is a very cute romcom of a book. I really liked both characters (I typically find most of the leads in romcom style books to be annoying, which is why I don’t always enjoy the genre) and it’s my favorite romance type of book I’ve read in ages. Really cute and heartwarming, with a satisfying ending. Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon!

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  • The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba

    A-
    Grade: A-

    The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba

    I don’t generally read a lot of historical fiction, but I really love Chanel Cleeton’s writing. I also tend to really love anything about Cuba (you might remember that Next Year in Havana was one of my favorite books a couple years back… I had been on a kick of reading books about Cuba after going there for a week). This one is set at the end of the 19th century, during the gilded age of New York City. There’s a journalistic battle between Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers. Meanwhile, Spain has invaded Cuba and is wreaking havoc on the Cuban people. Imprisoning them in camps, treating the women horrifically, taking all property for themselves. This book takes us through three brave womens’ stories, which ultimately intersect. There is Grace Harrington who gave up a life of privilege to pursue her dream of becoming a journalist. There’s Marina Perez who grew up in a wealthier part of Cuba but abandoned her family to marry for love. After her husband goes to war, she’s left to provide for her family and becomes a courier, hoping to help with the war in her own way. And there’s Evangelina Cisneros who has caught the eye of a brutal Spanish general. When he tries to force himself on her, her friends and family come to her aid and she is jailed and accused of inciting an attack on him. Evangelina’s story gets to America where she’s billed “the most beautiful girl in Cuba,” and Grace + Marina help (in their own ways) to free her. I read this in just a couple days and really really enjoyed it. Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon!

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  • Anna K Away

    A-
    Grade: A-

    Anna K Away

    This was the sequel to Anna K (which I really really enjoyed) and I loved it almost as much as the first one. If you missed Anna K, it’s a modern retelling of Anna Karenina (but in a very Gossip Girl style, set in New York City / Greenwich / The Hamptons). It’s one of the most fun books I read last year… such a clever idea. This one picks up the day that Anna leaves for Korea, where she will spend the summer abroad nursing a broken heart after the death of her beloved Alexia Vronsky. I loved her storyline and adventures (particularly the K-Pop element). Meanwhile back in America, Vronsky’s cousin Beatrice is acting out (and falling in love), and there are some sweet storylines between sisters Kimmie + Lolly and their respective boyfriends (Dustin and Steven -Anna’s older brother). If you enjoyed Anna K as much as I did, definitely pick this up… it’s very satisfying and just a fun read, like candy, and I love that it was set all over the world (including a train ride on the Orient Express which is something I have always wanted to do. I will add that you definitely need to have read the first one to enjoy this… there are a lot of characters and it took me a minute to remember who was who. Order on Bookshop.org or Amazon!

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  • The Final Revival of Opal & Nev

    B
    Grade: B

    The Final Revival of Opal & Nev

    You might have seen me whining a bit about this one on Instagram. I had been so excited about this book that I’d even pre-ordered it (it’s gotten a tremendous amount of buzz!), but it ultimately fell flat for me. There were parts I really loved, and I thought it tackled race issues so well. It just (for me) dragged! Set in the 70’s it is the story of Opal and Nev, an interracial (once iconic) rock duo, about to reunite. I think, if I’m being honest, I don’t always enjoy oral histories as they feel like non-fiction but are fiction. So I felt like I was reading this long (very slow at times) history book about this iconic musical duo… but it wasn’t real. I don’t know. Not my favorite. On a more positive note, I did think the second half of the book was much better than the first half. I really loved all the parts that were told from the narrators’ perspective (I thought she was fantastic). And I don’t regret reading it, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it… (unless you really love these sort of books!). I feel comfortable saying that as when I did an Instagram poll, 75% of you who’d read it said not to keep going and several of you messaged me saying that you had to DNF as it was just too slow! Order on Amazon or Bookshop.org

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  • The Last Thing He Told Me

    A-
    Grade: A-

    The Last Thing He Told Me

    This book was such a fun little mystery! And frankly… it helped me to get out of my recent reading rut: I read it in a 24 hour period. It is a thriller but not a murdery one… it’s more of a suspenseful mystery? Hannah Hall is a late thirty-something, married to who she thinks is her dream man, raising his daughter in beautiful Sausalito. But one day, everything changes. He disappears, leaving behind only a note that says “protect her.” At the same time, his company goes under fire for fraud. As  the FBI and a US marshal both descend upon their home with questions, Hannah becomes determined to figure out what has happened to Owen. Where did he go? Is he the man she thought he was? What really happened? She enlists a reluctant partner in crime: her stepdaughter Bailey (who basically despises her). What follows is a fast-paced series of events as they find themselves in Texas, searching for the truth. This is fun and twisty and I could not put it down. AND, it’s going to be our May Bad on Paper book club pick! Order it on Amazon or Bookshop.org.

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  • Delicious

    B+
    Grade: B+

    Delicious

    This was our April Bad on Paper Podcast book club pick and it was such a fun read. (And you know I am a little bit obsessed with Ruth Reichl; Save Me the Plums is one of my all time favorite books!) Ruth Reichl is known for her food memoirs and memoirs, so it was fun to see her venture into fiction. Becca described it to me as “Devil Wears Prada, but for food,” but that’s only the first section of the book – from their, a whole historical fiction mystery transpires! Billie is an aspiring food writer from California, who takes a position at Delicious (New York’s most iconic food mag). While she is there, she meets a quirky cast of characters in the food world: writers, chefs, and shop owners. Through a turn of events she ends up uncovering a series of letters written to James Beard from a young girl in Ohio, which leads her on a wild ride trying to track down the girl (now an older woman). In between, she falls in love and comes to terms with some unresolved family issues from her past. I thought this was very cute. A little cheesy at times but a fun read that was hard to put down. Order it on Amazon or Bookshop.org.

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  • Anne of Manhattan

    B
    Grade: B

    Anne of Manhattan

    I am going to start out by saying that if you were not a fan of Anne of Green Gables or Avonlea growing up, you can absolutely skip this book. But if you loved the original books or TV show as much as I did as a kid, I think you will really enjoy this. It’s a reimagining of my childhood favorite, set in modern day. In this case, Avonlea is a small town in the North Fork of the Hamptons… and Anne is attending grad school and living with her best friend Diana Barry in Manhattan. And of course, there is the romance between her and Gilbert Blythe. Similar to with the classic, Anne has her walls up and Gilbert must prove to her that they are meant to be together. (Also I should warn you, it gets pretty steamy at times, there are a couple hot and heavy sex scenes – not a bad thing, but the original books and TV show were so prudish that I wasn’t prepared for it!). This book is very campy but if you loved the books or the show as a child, I think you’ll find this book very satisfying and fun. All of the nostalgia! Order it on Amazon or Bookshop.org.

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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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