Review: Anna K Away

Anna K Away by Jenny Lee
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Pub Date: 4/27/2021

Disclaimer: I received an advanced listening copy from LibroFM and MacMillan Audio in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: The sequel to Anna K, set over the course of the next summer, as the characters come to terms with Vronsky’s tragic death

How the mighty have fallen. Anna K, once the golden girl of Greenwich, CT, and New York City, has been brought low by a scandalous sex tape and the tragic death of her first love, Alexia Vronsky. At the beginning of the summer, her father takes her to the other side of the world, to connect with his family in South Korea and hide her away. Is Anna in exile? Or could this be her chance to figure out who she really is?

Back in the U.S., Lolly has forgiven Steven for cheating on her, and their relationship feels stronger than ever. But when Lolly meets a boy at her beloved theater camp, she has to ask herself how well Steven will ever really know her. Meanwhile, in Manhattan, everything between Kimmie and her new boyfriend, Dustin, is easy—except when it comes to finally having sex. And Bea escapes to LA, running away from her grief at her beloved cousin’s death, until a beautiful stranger steals her heart. Is Bea ready to finally forgive Anna, and let herself truly fall in love for the very first time?

Set over the course of one unforgettable summer, Jenny Lee’s Anna K Away is full of the risk, joy, heartbreak, and adventure that mark the three months between the end of one school year and the beginning of the next.

Review: Anna K Away is the sequel of Anna K. I’d definitely recommend reading Anna K before you read this one as the second book is a continuation on what happened in the first book. I loved that the Gossip Girl vibes continued in this young adult novel. The beginning started off a bit slow and there were a few parts that felt repetitive. The book picks up towards the second half of the story. Overall, I preferred the first book over this one, but I’d recommend reading it if you’ve already read the first book to see what happens.

Review: Greenlights

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Pub Date: 10/20/2020

Disclaimer: I received a free finished physical copy and audiobook copy of this book from Penguin Random House in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: From the Academy Award®–winning actor, an unconventional memoir filled with raucous stories, outlaw wisdom, and lessons learned the hard way about living with greater satisfaction

I’ve been in this life for fifty years, been trying to work out its riddle for forty-two, and been keeping diaries of clues to that riddle for the last thirty-five. Notes about successes and failures, joys and sorrows, things that made me marvel, and things that made me laugh out loud. How to be fair. How to have less stress. How to have fun. How to hurt people less. How to get hurt less. How to be a good man. How to have meaning in life. How to be more me.

Recently, I worked up the courage to sit down with those diaries. I found stories I experienced, lessons I learned and forgot, poems, prayers, prescriptions, beliefs about what matters, some great photographs, and a whole bunch of bumper stickers. I found a reliable theme, an approach to living that gave me more satisfaction, at the time, and still: If you know how, and when, to deal with life’s challenges – how to get relative with the inevitable – you can enjoy a state of success I call “catching greenlights.”

So I took a one-way ticket to the desert and wrote this book: an album, a record, a story of my life so far. This is fifty years of my sights and seens, felts and figured-outs, cools and shamefuls. Graces, truths, and beauties of brutality. Getting away withs, getting caughts, and getting wets while trying to dance between the raindrops.

Hopefully, it’s medicine that tastes good, a couple of aspirin instead of the infirmary, a spaceship to Mars without needing your pilot’s license, going to church without having to be born again, and laughing through the tears.

It’s a love letter. To life.

It’s also a guide to catching more greenlights – and to realizing that the yellows and reds eventually turn green too.

Good luck.

Review: Greenlights has been in my TBR since late last year when I received a physical copy from Random House. What can I say about the GoodReads Choice Award for Memoir & Autobiography 2020 that hasn’t already been said? First off, I really enjoyed this book! Matthew’s memoir explores taking chances, lessons learned, reminiscing memories, and truths. I loved switching from reading the book and listening to the audiobook. Matthew has notes and photos in the physical book which is fun to go through. The audiobook is also fun because Matthew narrates it himself and I love his way of storytelling. Highly recommend listen to this gem of a memoir!

Review: Perfect on Paper

Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales 
Publisher: Wednesday Books 
Pub Date: 3/9/2021

Disclaimer: I received a finished listening copy from Macmillan Audio in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: Her advice, spot on. Her love life, way off.
Darcy Phillips:

• Can give you the solution to any of your relationship woesfor a fee.

• Uses her power for good. Most of the time.

• Really cannot stand Alexander Brougham.

• Has maybe not the best judgement when it comes to her best friend, Brooke…who is in love with someone else.

• Does not appreciate being blackmailed.

However, when Brougham catches her in the act of collecting letters from locker 89out of which she’s been running her questionably legal, anonymous relationship advice servicethat’s exactly what happens. In exchange for keeping her secret, Darcy begrudgingly agrees to become his personal dating coachat a generous hourly rate, at least. The goal? To help him win his ex-girlfriend back.

Darcy has a good reason to keep her identity secret. If word gets out that she’s behind the locker, some things she’s not proud of will come to light, and there’s a good chance Brooke will never speak to her again.

Okay, so all she has to do is help an entitled, bratty, (annoyingly hot) guy win over a girl who’s already fallen for him once? What could go wrong?

Review: This is the first book I’ve read from the Sophie Gonzales and definitely won’t be my last! I agree with the synopsis that this is definitely a great mash up of To All The Boys I Loved Before and Leah on the Offbeat (part of the Simonverse series). This young adult LGTBTQ+ novel explores self love, high school dating world, friendship, being true to yourself. I liked that the author includes multiple gender identities throughout the book and explained each of them. Another big aspect I really liked about the book was the understanding about being bi and reevaluating what we think it means versus what it actually means. This was pretty important not only in the story, but as a readers, I learned quite a bit since I wasn’t familiar with it. Overall, I really enjoyed this thoughtful and entertaining read. Highly recommend picking this one up!

Review: You Love Me

You Love Me by Caroline Kepnes
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Pub Date: 4/6/2021

Disclaimer: I received a free finished physical copy and audiobook copy of this book from Penguin Random House in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: Joe is done with the cities. He’s done with the muck and the posers, done with Love. Now, he’s saying hello to nature, to simple pleasures on a cozy island in the Pacific Northwest. For the first time in a long time, he can just breathe.

He gets a job at the local library—he does know a thing or two about books—and that’s where he meets her: Mary Kay DiMarco. Librarian. Joe won’t meddle, he will not obsess. He’ll win her the old-fashioned way… by providing a shoulder to cry on, a helping hand. Over time, they’ll both heal their wounds and begin their happily ever after in this sleepy town.

The trouble is… Mary Kay already has a life. She’s a mother. She’s a friend. She’s… busy.

True love can only triumph if both people are willing to make room for the real thing. Joe cleared his decks. He’s ready. And hopefully, with his encouragement and undying support, Mary Kay will do the right thing and make room for him.

Review: You Love Me is the third book in You series. This has been one of my most anticipated reads this year! Overall, I really enjoyed this and it gave me similar vibes to the first book. All the characters are deeply complex and perfectly flawed. The storyline kept me on my toes the whole time and I didn’t expect the twists and turns. I kept switching from reading the book and listening to the audiobook since Santino Fontana is one of my favorite audiobook narrators. Santino is an incredible audiobook narrator. I love that he brings the story alive and he does distinct voices for each of the characters. If you are a fan of the book series or the TV series, I highly recommend picking this up! Now I can’t wait to watch the third season of You!

Review: The Bad Muslim Discount

The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M. Masood
Publisher: Double Day Books 
Pub Date: 2/2/2021

Disclaimer: I received a finished listening copy from Penguin Random House Audio in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: Following two families from Pakistan and Iraq in the 1990s to San Francisco in 2016, Bad Muslim Discount is a hilarious, timely, and provocative comic novel about being Muslim immigrants in modern America. For fans of Hanif Kureshi, Mira Jacob, and Mohammed Hanif.

It is 1995, and Anvar Faris is a restless, rebellious, and sharp-tongued boy doing his best to grow up in Karachi, Pakistan. As fundamentalists in the government become increasingly strident and the zealots next door start roaming the streets in gangs to help make Islam great again, his family decides, not quite unanimously, to start life over in California. The irony is not lost on Anvar that in America, his deeply devout mother and his model-Muslim brother are the ones who fit right in with the tightly knit and gossipy Desi community. Anvar wants more.

At the same time, thousands of miles away, Safwa, a young girl suffocating in war-torn Baghdad with her grief-stricken, conservative father will find a very different and far more dangerous path to America. These two narratives are intrinsically linked, and when their worlds come together, the fates of two remarkably different people intertwine and set off a series of events that rock their whole community to its core.

The Bad Muslim Discount is an irreverent, dramatic, and often hysterically funny debut novel by an amazing new voice. With deep insight, warmth, and an irreverent sense of humor, Syed Masood examines quirky and intense familial relationships, arranged marriage, Islamic identity, and how to live together in modern America.

Review: The Bad Muslim Discount is a contemporary novel that explores traditional vs. modern beliefs, immigration, family, and self- identity. I am not an own voices reviewer so please take my review with a grain of salt. I loved the dual perspective and the audiobook narrators did a phenomenal job bring these out! The storyline is entertaining, but I found it to be a bit all over the place. I wasn’t a fan of the romance in here. It just didn’t fit well with the rest of the story. The main characters, Safwa and Anvar, are complicated individuals. Safwa has a heartbreaking story, but her actions are so out of character which makes it a bit confusing. I liked Anvar’s relationship with his grandmother and his dry humor, but I couldn’t feel any empathy towards him. The author did an excellent job making their voices as distinct as possible which I appreciated. Overall, I had mixed feelings about this book.

Review: The Good Sister

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pub Date: 4/13/2021

Disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press and an advanced listening copy from LibroFM and Macmillan Audio in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: From the outside, everyone might think Fern and Rose are as close as twin sisters can be: Rose is the responsible one and Fern is the quirky one. But the sisters are devoted to one another and Rose has always been Fern’s protector from the time they were small.

Fern needed protecting because their mother was a true sociopath who hid her true nature from the world, and only Rose could see it. Fern always saw the good in everyone. Years ago, Fern did something very, very bad. And Rose has never told a soul. When Fern decides to help her sister achieve her heart’s desire of having a baby, Rose realizes with growing horror that Fern might make choices that can only have a terrible outcome. What Rose doesn’t realize is that Fern is growing more and more aware of the secrets Rose, herself, is keeping. And that their mother might have the last word after all.

Review: The Good Sister is the second book I’ve read from from Sally Hepworth. This book felt more like mystery than a thriller to me. The storyline is intriguing, more character driven and it’s a slow burn. Though I picked up on a couple of clues in the beginning, I found it to be an enjoyable read. All the characters were well thought out. I really enjoyed reading the perspectives of past vs. present perspectives from the twins, Rose and Fern. I kept switching from reading the physical book and the audiobook. I really liked the audiobook narrator as I felt like she made the story come alive. Highly recommend picking this up if you’re looking for a domestic slow burn mystery!

Review: The Lost Apothecary

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
Publisher: Park Row
Pub Date: 3/2/2021

GoodReads Synopsis: A female apothecary secretly dispenses poisons to liberate women from the men who have wronged them—setting three lives across centuries on a dangerous collision course.

Rule #1: The poison must never be used to harm another woman.

Rule #2: The names of the murderer and her victim must be recorded in the apothecary’s register.

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose—selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.

In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive. 

Review: The Lost Apothecary was my March BOTM pick. The storyline and mystery intrigued me. I really loved Nella and Eliza’s historical perspectives which really got me hooked. I could care less about Caroline’s present day perspective which didn’t add any insight to the story. Despite this having a gorgeous cover, this book ended up being a solid three stars for me. If it didn’t have Caroline’s perspective in here, I would have rated it higher.

Review: Survive the Night

Survive the Night by Riley Sager
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin Random House) 
Pub Date: 6/29/2021

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced copy of this book from Dutton (Penguin Random House) in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: It’s November 1991. George H. W. Bush is in the White House, Nirvana’s in the tape deck, and movie-obsessed college student Charlie Jordan is in a car with a man who might be a serial killer.

Josh Baxter, the man behind the wheel, is a virtual stranger to Charlie. They met at the campus ride board, each looking to share the long drive home to Ohio. Both have good reasons for wanting to get away. For Charlie, it’s guilt and grief over the murder of her best friend, who became the third victim of the man known as the Campus Killer. For Josh, it’s to help care for his sick father. Or so he says. Like the Hitchcock heroine she’s named after, Charlie has her doubts. There’s something suspicious about Josh, from the holes in his story about his father to how he doesn’t seem to want Charlie to see inside the car’s trunk. As they travel an empty highway in the dead of night, an increasingly worried Charlie begins to think she’s sharing a car with the Campus Killer. Is Josh truly dangerous? Or is Charlie’s suspicion merely a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?

What follows is a game of cat-and-mouse played out on night-shrouded roads and in neon-lit parking lots, during an age when the only call for help can be made on a pay phone and in a place where there’s nowhere to run. In order to win, Charlie must do one thing–survive the night.

Review: I’m a huge Riley Sager fan so I was ecstatic to hear he releasing a new book this year, Survive the Night.  This thriller takes place in the ‘90s and dives into cat-and-mouse chase, grief, guilt, and instinct. I really loved the concept and plot of this book, but unfortunately, the execution fell a bit flat for me which is surprising because I loved Riley’s previous books. I noticed in the beginning I kept comparing this book to No Exit by Taylor Adams which is unfair since they are different type of books but they both involve abduction and takes place in the winter. The beginning of the book was a bit slow for me, but as we got 60% through, I found Riley Sager’s familiar adrenaline type writing which I love. I found Charlie’s character to be a bit dull, but I liked the complexity of the other characters. Overall, this was a 3.5 star read which I rounded to 4 stars. I’d recommend this book to fans who love Riley Sager’s work. 

Review: Malibu Rising

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Pub Date: 6/1/2021

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced copy of this book from Penguin Random House in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: Malibu: August, 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over-especially as the offspring of the legendary singer, Mick Riva.

The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud-because it is long past time to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.

Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.

And Kit has a couple secrets of her own-including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.

By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface.

Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them . . . and what they will leave behind.

Review: Malibu Rising was one of my most anticipated reads this year. This historical fiction novel takes place in 1980s Malibu. If you read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo then Mick Riva may sound familiar to you as he is one of Evelyn’s seven husbands! I found this to be an entertaining read. I loved the strong sibling bond between the main characters and the supporting characters were entertaining. It was great to read the present chapters spanning in a 24 hour day while we got glimpses of the past as well. I enjoyed the past chapters more because that had more action while the present chapters seemed to have little action until the end. One part I realized I wanted more of that was in her previous novels and not in this one was a strong background setting. Also being introduced to multiple characters was fun but it felt that it was a bit distracting from the main storyline. If you loved Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones, then I highly recommend picking up Malibu Rising.

Review: The Four Winds

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pub Date: 2/2/2021

Disclaimer: I received a finished listening copy from Macmillan Audio in exchange for my honest opinion. This has no effect on my opinion, review, or rating.

GoodReads Synopsis: Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work and a drought has broken the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as the crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all. One of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl era, has arrived with a vengeance. 

In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life. The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American Dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.

Review: The Four Winds is the third book I’ve read from Kristin Hannah and one of my most anticipated reads this year. This historical fiction novel takes place during the dust bowl era and dives into family, bravery, the American dream, and determination. I loved the author’s writing style and how it kept me on my toes from the first page. The struggle, emotion, and grit that Elsa goes through is seen and felt through every page. I highly recommend picking this one up if you loved Kristin Hannah’s previous books.