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🎁2022 HOLIDAY BOOKS & PAIRINGS🎁

November 27, 2022

Dear Beautiful Book Family,

The 2022 Dear Mr. Hemingway Holiday Books & Pairings is HERE, and short and sweet—perfect for everyone exhausted from endless decision-making. In this year’s minimalist guide, I chose five books & five pairings that have DELIGHTED me every which way. This year’s lineup includes a scrumptious new cookbook, a mesmerizing book of poems, a musical memoir, a thriller in a secluded cabin, and a tantalizing tale of love and lust. My pairings are equally satisfying. They can be mixed and matched and open the doors to many products from pretty spectacular businesses. I hope you enjoy my holiday roundup for shopping made easy this holiday season! Be sure to click on the book pictures below to purchase these books for the book lover in your life. Don’t forget to click on the highlighted pairings as well. If you are looking for a more extensive list of Books & Pairings, check out my past gift guides RIGHT HERE!

Happy Reading, Happy Shopping, & Happy Holidays,

Kelly

Seclude Cabin Sleeps Six by Lisa Unger (Park Row Books)

Lisa Unger never disappoints. Like so many twisted thrillers, it is better not to know too much before reading, What I can offer you is this—three couples embark on a restful gateway to a luxurious secluded cabin only to be greeted by a dark and stormy night filled with more than just some gorgeous cocktails and mind-numbing edibles. Sketchy cell phone service, a busted generator, and messy characters with a lot of dirty baggage fill the pages of this locked-room mystery. Throw in a few ghost stories, characters have gone missing, and perhaps even a trail of blood, and you’ve got yourself a fast-paced atmospheric read. Don’t let the number of characters in this book scare you. They all come together for a wicked, fun ending! I paired this book with my latest fragrance obsession. NEAR & NATIVE Room and Body Mists are so wonderful. These naturally made sprays are created in Maine and are perfect for spritzing on your body, in your house, in your car, and even on your bed sheets for a hint of fabulousness. My favorite scents are rosewater, Japanese Yuzu, and citrus mint. I adore that they are not overpowering, and I ALWAYS receive compliments when wearing them! Shop for these spritzes RIGHT HERE!

Synopsis:

“What could be more restful than a weekend getaway with family and friends? An isolated luxury cabin in the woods with spectacular views, a hot tub, and a personal chef. Hannah’s generous brother found the listing online. The reviews are stellar. It’ll be three couples on this trip with good food, good company, and lots of R & R.

But the dreamy weekend is about to turn into a nightmare. 

A deadly storm is brewing. The rental host seems just a little too present. The personal chef reveals that their beautiful house has a spine-tingling history. And the friends have their own complicated pasts, with secrets that run blood deep.

How well does Hannah know her brother, her own husband? Can she trust her best friend? Meanwhile, someone is determined to ruin the weekend, looking to exact payback for deeds long buried. Who is the stranger among them?”

And Yet by Kate Baer (Harper Perennial)

If you are new to poetry, let Kate Baer lead the way. This is Baer’s third book of poems I have read, and I fell in love all over again with her writing. Her contemporary poems center around motherhood, friendship, love, loss, and just being a woman. Her poems shine a light on EVERYTHING, and I simply can’t get enough of her writing! I felt 100% seen in her words and believe that this will be true for so many other women. My favorite poems in this collection are Reasons to Log Off and Putting Away the Baby Clothes. This slim book of beauty will fit perfectly inside a fuzzy stocking or nestled between two books on a cozy shelf. My favorite pairing is Poppy & Pout’s Pink Grapefruit Lip Balm and Lip Scrub. To say I am obsessed with this flavor is an understatement. It smells so lovely and fresh, and lip-smacking has never tasted so great! This product combo has been my go-to birthday present to gift my friends this fall, and I have been using them non-stop myself every day. I feel confident that all of the flavors and products from this company will be winners. Have a blast shopping RIGHT HERE!

Synopsis:

“Kate Baer shot into the literary stratosphere with the publication of her debut poetry collection, What Kind of Woman, which became an instant #1 New York Times bestseller.

Kate’s second full-length book of traditional poetry, And Yet, dives deeper into the themes that are the hallmarks of her writing: motherhood, friendship, love, and loss. Taken together, these poems demonstrate the remarkable evolution of a writer and an artist working at the height of her craft, pushing herself and her poetry beautifully and impressively.”

The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl (Dey Street Books)

I LOVED THIS BOOK! Grohl’s musical memoir came out near the end of 2021, but I am naming it one of my favorite books read in 2022. You will be very satisfied if you are a music fan and a GenX generation member. Grohl takes his readers on his journey to musical greatest, beginning with his childhood in Springfield, Virginia. From there, Grohl shares his rise to stardom from his time with the punk rock band Scream, Kurt Cobain’s Nirvana, and founding his own band, The Foo Fighters. He shares details of his time on the road, being roommates with the famous Kurt Cobain, and being a father to three beautiful daughters. His writing is intimate, heartfelt, and didn’t feel like an obnoxious celebrity memoir. Despite his musical success, Grohl seems like a down-to-earth guy who loves hard and feels harder. I am obsessed with him and would love to have a cup of coffee with this guy (did I mention he is a coffee junkie?)! Speaking of obsessed, I paired his book with some spectacular socks. Yes, you heard me correctly…socks! Bombas is an incredible company that not only has tremendous socks but also GIVES BACK. For every pair of socks purchased, one is donated. How cool is that? I’ve been wearing Bombas for years in various styles, and I’m gifting them again to the peeps in my life. They are high quality, wash & dry like a dream, and last forever. Shop for all the beautiful feet in your life RIGHT HERE! Be sure to buy Grohl’s book too. You won’t regret it!!!

Synopsis:

So, I’ve written a book.

Having entertained the idea for years and even offered a few questionable opportunities (It’s a piece of cake! Just do 4 hours of interviews, find someone else to write it, put your face on the cover, and voila!) I have decided to write these stories just as I have always done, in my own hand. The joy that I have felt from chronicling these tales is not unlike listening back to a song that I’ve recorded and can’t wait to share with the world, or reading a primitive journal entry from a stained notebook, or even hearing my voice bounce between the Kiss posters on my wall as a child. 

This certainly doesn’t mean I’m quitting my day job, but it gives me a place to shed a little light on what it’s like to be a kid from Springfield, Virginia, walking through life while living out the crazy dreams I had as a young musician. From hitting the road with Scream at 18 years old to my time in Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, jamming with Iggy Pop or playing at the Academy Awards or dancing with AC/DC and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, drumming for Tom Petty or meeting Sir Paul McCartney at Royal Albert Hall, bedtime stories with Joan Jett or a chance meeting with Little Richard, to flying halfway around the world for one epic night with my daughters…the list goes on. I look forward to focusing the lens through which I see these memories a little sharper for you with much excitement.”

Feed These People by Jen Hatmaker (Harvest Publications)

Did someone say NEW COOKBOOK ALERT???? I will never apologize for my endless love for new cookbooks, and I even treated myself to Jen Hatmaker’s debut cookbook, Feed These People. I have been following Jen for quite some time now, and one thing is for sure…she is super funny and feels like a best girlfriend. Her recipes are overflowing with flavor, easy to execute, and are for folks who are not afraid to enjoy a good meal. All I have to say is Green Chile Chorizo Queso (with a block of VELVEETA cheese), Pasta Bake with House Cream Sauce, and Shakshuka (I used fresh duck eggs). Now that I have your attention, please grab this book for the hungry people in your life and pair it with Slack Tide Sea Salt, made right here in good old Maine. “Hand-harvested sea salt made in small batches from the deep ocean waters of Maine, and solar evaporated along York’s tidal river.” Can you say PERFECTION??? I used this salt on many of my Thanksgiving dishes, and it’s simply the best. Shop all their salts RIGHT HERE!!!

Synopsis:

“With five children and a close-knit community of family and friends, bestselling author, podcaster, and inspirational speaker Jen Hatmaker has been sharing her love of cooking and food with her fans for years. Now she’s compiled all her favorite sure-thing recipes into one personal and highly entertaining cookbook, including chapters like Food for Breakfast (or brunch so you can drink), Food for Your Picky Spouse or Spawn, and Food for When You Have No More Damns to Give. This is real food for real people.”

Half-Blown Rose by Leesa Cross-Smith (Grand Central Publishing)

Half-Blown Rose is decadent, indulgent, and seductive as all hell⁣. It’s a woman named Vincent and a man name Loup⁣. It’s everything Paris⁣ and a teeny bit Irish⁣. It’s swift love, deep-rooted love⁣, and an intoxicating affair. It’s altruistic yet considerate⁣ and alarmingly sexy⁣. I could not stop reading this electrifying tale with lovers, family, art, and even a Tuscan Villa. I can not recommend this mouth-watering story enough. By now, you should know that I am a huge fan of all the products that come from Cape Gold. Fresh honey, soaps for days (there is even a Dear Mr. Hemingway Soap), shaving balms, and everything in between. Their latest creation is a Cucumber Honey Lotion that will make your skin feel smooth as butter. This magnificent lotion can be used anywhere on your body but works particularly well on your face and, for me…under my eyes. It is luxury in a bottle made with honey from their hives and other natural ingredients. Grab a bottle of this fantastic lotion to pair with Cross-Smith’s book RIGHT HERE!

Synopsis:

“Vincent, having grown up as the privileged daughter of artists, has a lovely life in many ways. At forty-four, she enjoys strolling the streets of Paris and teaching at the modern art museum; she has a vibrant group of friends; and she’s even caught the eye of a young, charismatic man named Loup. But Vincent is also in Paris to escape a painful betrayal: her husband, Cillian, has published a bestselling book divulging secrets about their marriage and his own past, hinting that when he was a teenager, he may have had a child with a young woman back in Dublin–before he moved to California and never returned. Now estranged from her husband, Vincent has agreed to see Cillian again at their son’s wedding the following summer, but Loup introduces new complications. Soon they begin an intense affair, and somewhere between dinners made together, cigarettes smoked in the moonlight, hazy evenings in nightclubs, and long, starry walks along the Seine, Vincent feels herself loosening and blossoming.”

*Book links provided in today’s post are affiliate links. Dear Mr. Hemingway makes a tiny commission through books purchased in our storefront. Even better, 20% of purchases made through the Dear Mr. Hemingway storefront go towards an independent bookstore. Thank you so much for all of your support!

#DEARBASICBUDDYREADS OCTOBER SELECTION

The Chain by Adrian McKinty (Mulholland Books)

September 29, 2022

Dear Book Family,

It’s that time again. I am THRILLED to announce our OCTOBER pick for #DEARBASICBUDDYREADS. We will be reading The Chain by Adrian McKinty. COME READ WITH US! As always, this is an online book club held on Instagram only. If you are not a big social media person or do not use that platform regularly, do not worry. You can make a generic private account just for this purpose. You are not obligated to follow anyone or take in any followers yourself. I know many people who do this who NEVER post on Instagram but want to participate in our private chat. Just some food for thought.

You can find me on Instagram @dearmrhemingway to sign up.

Katie and I are psyched for this book!

See you all soon!

xoxo,

Kelly

P.S. Check out the synopsis below. It’s a crazy one 😳!

“It’s something parents do every morning: Rachel Klein drops her daughter at the bus stop and heads into her day. But a cell phone call from an unknown number changes everything: it’s a woman on the line, informing her that she has Kylie bound and gagged in her back seat, and the only way Rachel will see her again is to follow her instructions exactly: pay a ransom, and find another child to abduct. This is no ordinary kidnapping: the caller is a mother herself, whose son has been taken, and if Rachel doesn’t do as she’s told, the boy will die. “You are not the first. And you will certainly not be the last.”Rachel is now part of The Chain, an unending and ingenious scheme that turns victims into criminals–and is making someone else very rich in the process. The rules are simple, the moral challenges impossible; find the money fast, find your victim, and then commit a horrible act you’d have thought yourself incapable of just twenty-four hours ago. But what the masterminds behind The Chain know is that parents will do anything for their children. It turns out that kidnapping is only the beginning.”

Click on the book pic to purchase through my affiliate link.

*Book links provided in today’s post are affiliate links. Dear Mr. Hemingway makes a tiny commission through books purchased in our storefront. Even better, 20% of purchases made through the Dear Mr. Hemingway storefront go towards an independent bookstore. Thank you so much for all of your support!

Cleopatra’s Dagger & An Honest Lie

April 26, 2022

Hello Gorgeous Readers!

Today I am sharing two books that couldn’t be more different from one another. On tap is a psychological thriller that will knock your socks off and a slow-burn historical mystery with a few dead bodies floating around. Let’s take a peek at these spring 2022 releases, shall we?

Cleopatra’s Dagger by Carole Lawrence (Thomas  & Mercer)

Cleopatra’s Dagger was a delight to read.  Lawrence immediately transported me to New York City circa 1880.  Her writing is rich in detail and showcases a feminist journalist way ahead of her time. A serial killer, mysterious dead bodies, and an Egyptian flair fill the pages of this book. I went into this novel anticipating gruesome details and an unsettling storyline; however, I found her writing more intriguing than disturbing.  There were twists along the way that kept me guessing and a “whodunnit vibe” present throughout the book.  I believe that historical fiction and mystery lovers will equally enjoy this slow-burn historical mystery.

Synopsis:

“New York, 1880. Elizabeth van den Broek is the only female reporter at the Herald, the city’s most popular newspaper. Then she and her bohemian friend Carlotta Ackerman find a woman’s body wrapped like a mummy in a freshly dug hole in Central Park–the intended site of an obelisk called Cleopatra’s Needle. The macabre discovery takes Elizabeth away from the society pages to follow an investigation into New York City’s darkest shadows.

When more bodies turn up, each tied to Egyptian lore, Elizabeth is onto a headline-making scoop more sinister than she could have imagined. Her reporting has readers spellbound, and each new clue implicates New York’s richest and most powerful citizens. And a serial killer is watching every headline.

Now a madman with an indecipherable motive is coming after Elizabeth and everyone she loves. She wants a good story? She may have to die to get it.”

An Honest Lie by Tarryn Fisher (Graydon House)

An Honest Lie is my second Tarryn Fisher book, and what can I say…I am a fan.  This novel is a story of survival, redemption, and everything in-between. It is written in two different timelines with a horrific cult as the backdrop. I adored the complexity of Fisher’s characters and was captivated by each messy layer that was slowly unpeeled. I was pulled in many directions, which kept me briskly turning the pages to see what happened next.  One minute I was lingering in sadness, and the next minute I felt like I was on an over-the-top roller coaster ride. Most importantly, though, Fisher kept me wildly entertained while I basked in the sun poolside over spring break.

Synopsis:

“Lorraine–“Rainy”–lives at the top of Tiger Mountain. Remote, moody, cloistered in pine trees and fog, it’s a sanctuary, a new life. She can hide from the disturbing past she wants to forget.

If she’s allowed to.

When Rainy reluctantly agrees to a girls’ weekend in Vegas, she’s prepared for an exhausting parade of shots and slot machines. But after a wild night, her friend Braithe doesn’t come back to the hotel room.

And then Rainy gets the text message, sent from Braithe’s phone: someone has her. But Rainy is who they really want, and Rainy knows why.

What follows is a twisted, shocking journey on the knife-edge of life and death. If she wants to save Braithe–and herself–the only way is to step back into the past.”

Happy Reading my friends!

xoxo,

Kelly

Click on the book pic to purchase.
Click on the book pic to purchase.

May #DEARBASICBUDDYREADS SELECTION

Necessary People by Anna Pitoniak (Little, Brown & Company)

April 25, 2022

Hello Beautiful Readers,

The month of May is just around the corner, and Katie @basicbsguide and I have selected 𝘕𝘦𝘤𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘢𝘳𝘺 𝘗𝘦𝘰𝘱𝘭𝘦 by Anna Pitoniak for our next Buddy Read! ⁣

It’s time to dive into something with chills, drama, ambition, and intensity and we anticipate Pitoniak’s 2019 book will deliver.⁣

As always, this is is read at your own pace situation with a killer private chat at the end of May!⁣

DM me over on Instagram to join in the madness!⁣

xoxo,⁣
Kelly⁣

𝐒𝐲𝐧𝐨𝐩𝐬𝐢𝐬:⁣

“𝐀 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐩𝐮𝐥𝐬𝐢𝐯𝐞, “𝐜𝐡𝐢𝐥𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐠” 𝐧𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐥 𝐞𝐱𝐩𝐥𝐨𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐝𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐬 𝐟𝐚𝐮𝐥𝐭 𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐞𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐟𝐞𝐦𝐚𝐥𝐞 𝐟𝐫𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐬𝐡𝐢𝐩𝐬 (𝐋𝐞𝐞 𝐂𝐡𝐢𝐥𝐝), 𝐍𝐞𝐜𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐚𝐫𝐲 𝐏𝐞𝐨𝐩𝐥𝐞 𝐝𝐞𝐟𝐭𝐥𝐲 𝐩𝐥𝐮𝐦𝐛𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐥𝐢𝐦𝐢𝐭𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐚𝐦𝐛𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧, 𝐥𝐨𝐲𝐚𝐥𝐭𝐲, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐥𝐨𝐯𝐞. ⁣
𝐎𝐧𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐦 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐢𝐭 𝐚𝐥𝐥. 𝐎𝐧𝐞 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐦 𝐰𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐬 𝐢𝐭 𝐚𝐥𝐥. 𝐁𝐮𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐲 𝐜𝐚𝐧’𝐭 𝐛𝐨𝐭𝐡 𝐰𝐢𝐧.⁣

Stella and Violet are best friends, and from the moment they met in college, they knew their roles. Beautiful, privileged, and reckless Stella lives in the spotlight. Hardworking, laser-focused Violet stays behind the scenes, always ready to clean up the mess that Stella inevitably leaves in her wake.⁣


After graduation, Violet moves to New York and lands a job in cable news, where she works her way up from intern to assistant to producer, and to a life where she’s finally free from Stella’s shadow. In this fast-paced world, Violet thrives, and her ambitions grow — but everything is jeopardized when Stella, envious of Violet’s new life, uses her connections, beauty, and charisma to get hired at the same network. Stella soon moves in front of the camera, becoming the public face of the stories that Violet has worked tirelessly to produce — and taking all the credit. ⁣


Stella might be the one with the rich family and the right friends, but Violet isn’t giving up so easily. As she and Stella strive for success, each reveals just how far she’ll go to get what she wants — even if it means destroying the other person along the way.”

Click on the book pic to purchase.

Listen Up

Good Rich People by Eliza Jane Brazier (Berkley Publishing + Penguin Random House Audio)
In the Shadow of the Mountain:  A Memoir of Courage by Silvia Vasquez-Lavado (Henry Holt & Co + Macmillan Audio)

March 24, 2022

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Spring is officially in the air, and my reading life feels wonderfully on point.  I constantly switch up genres to keep up with my ever-changing mood, and it’s the #1 reason I hardly ever get bored with my books.  Today I am sharing two books that could not possibly be more different from one another, yet both were captivating in their unique way.  A memoir about healing from trauma while climbing Mount Everest and a work of spectacular fiction that involves dead bodies and over-the-top rich people is what I am talking about today, so listen up.

In the Shadow of the Mountain:  A Memoir of Courage by Silvia Vasquez-Lavado was phenomenal.  I had the pleasure of listening to this book on audio read by the author.  Vasquez-Lavado leads a group of sexual assault survivors on a trek to Mount Everest basecamp as part of their healing process. Her journey was far from over after reaching base camp, though.  She then joined up with another climbing group and took a shot at summitting the highest mountain on Earth.  Vasquez-Lavado shares her story alternating between her traumatic past and her epic climb.  I was moved to tears by the intimate details of the sexual abuse she experienced as a child and the fallout from these horrific events.  On the flip side, my heart was pounding out of my chest as she climbed for weeks and weeks in unfathomable conditions. Charged with brutal honesty, rich in unique culture, and filled with hope, Vasquez-Lavado’s memoir is a must-read/listen.

After immersing myself in Vasquez-Lavado’s profound journey, it was refreshing to switch it up with an over-the-top read about bored rich people who lie, scheme, and kill for entertainment.  Good Rich People by Eliza Jane Brazier is dripping in cash AND blood and I loved every second of it. Lyla and Graham are incredibly wealthy and enjoy playing games with people.  I’m not talking monopoly or a spicy pickleball competition, mind you.  Nooooo, I am talking about recruiting innocent self-made successful people to live in the guest house that they can destroy financially and maybe even kill if the spirit moves them. How fun is that??? Brazier’s story is a fast-paced, mannerless tale that had me wildly entertained.  Her writing is striking and razor-sharp. Her cast of characters is a spectacular melody of stunning and loopy all in the same breath and I had no problem gobbling up this juicy delight. I listened to Good Rich People on audio, and I must shout out the fabulous narrators who brought this wicked fun story to life.  Karissa Vacker and Sophie Amoss crushed the narration 100%!!!!

Well, my friend…I hope you enjoy experiencing these two incredible books one way or the other. 

Until next time!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly


P.S. I enjoy listening to my audiobooks via Libro.fm.  My audio purchases support an independent bookstore of my choice, which is something to cheer about.  Please feel free to use my member link to get started.

Click on the book pic to purchase!
Click on the book pic to purchase!

A Trio of Books Just For You

The Selfless Act of Breathing by JJ Bola (Atria Books)

The Prynne Viper by Bianca Marais (Audible Original)

Woman on Fire by Lisa Barr (Harper Perennial)


March 7, 2022

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

I have three books for you today and they are all so very different from one another. These three works of fiction each have their own unique vibe and I am thrilled to share them with you. I am offering up a man in search of his soul, a courtroom drama set way into the future, and a mystery around some Nazi stolen artwork. I can honestly say that I was swept away by all three of the books below. I was shocked, entertained, made to think, and above all…simply wowed by these three authors. I do believe there is something for everyone in today’s round-up. Happy reading and listening!

Until next time dear friend!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

Click on the book pic to purchase.

First up is The Selfless Act of Breathing by JJ Bola. All I can say is that I absolutely LOVED this book.  Bola’s writing knocked my socks off, that is for sure.  His main character Michael truly lost his way and my soul literally ached for him.  His journey is beyond profound and left me with a feeling of sadness that was hard to shed.  I was mesmerized by his introspection and oftentimes found myself drifting off into my own world of ruminating and reflecting on life, love, and loneliness.  The connections with the people he met along the way truly highlighted his internal needs and fears and I was in absolute awe of how Bola could take on the heavy themes of suicidal thoughts, race, culture, and family using a poetic tone.  The Selfless Act of Breathing is a raw and powerful read and I highly recommend it.

Synopsis:

“Michael Kabongo is a British-Congolese teacher living in London on the cusp of two identities. On paper, he seems to have it all: He’s beloved by his students, popular with his coworkers, and the pride and joy of a mother who emigrated from the Congo to the UK in search of a better life. But behind closed doors, he’s been struggling with the overwhelming sense that he can’t address the injustices he sees raging before him—from his relentless efforts to change the lives of his students for the better to his attempts to transcend the violence and brutality that marginalizes young Black men around the world.

Then one day he suffers a devastating loss, and his life is thrown into a tailspin. As he struggles to find a way forward, memories of his father’s violent death, the weight of refugeehood, and an increasing sense of dread threaten everything he’s worked so hard to achieve. Longing to escape the shadows in his mind and start anew, Michael decides to spontaneously pack up and go to America, the mythical “land of the free,” where he imagines everything will be better, easier—a place where he can become someone new, someone without a past filled with pain.

On this transformative journey, Michael travels everywhere from New York City to San Francisco, partying with new friends, sparking fleeting romances, and splurging on big adventures, with the intention of living the life of his dreams until the money in his bank account runs out.”

Click on the book pic to purchase.

Next up is Woman on Fire by Lisa Barr. Run, don’t walk to grab yourself a copy of this literary gem.  The dazzling art world, high-stakes journalism, and the history of Nazi stolen artwork during the Second World War are well framed in this remarkable literary mystery. Barr’s story is teeming with intricate details and a chic background that pairs well with her multi-layered and quite juicy characters that undeniably lit up the pages of this book.  The combination of unparalleled research weaved into modern-day fiction was THE creme de la creme for me.  Every luscious page I read made me more ravenous for the next because I simply had to know what happened next. I refused to cease my reading adventure until I reached the wicked satisfying ending the Barr so meticulously delivered.  At the end of the day, there is nothing better than being immersed in a world where the past meant everything and secrets kept everyone in the game.  Woman on Fire was an absolute pleasure to read. 

Lisa Barr’s stunning creation is the true work of art here and SHE is… The Ultimate Woman on Fire!

Synopsis:

“After talking her way into a job with Dan Mansfield, the leading investigative reporter in Chicago, rising young journalist Jules Roth is given an unusual—and very secret—assignment. Dan needs her to locate a painting stolen by the Nazis more than 75 years earlier: legendary Expressionist artist Ernst Engel’s most famous work, Woman on Fire. World-renowned shoe designer Ellis Baum wants this portrait of a beautiful, mysterious woman for deeply personal reasons, and has enlisted Dan’s help to find it. But Jules doesn’t have much time; the famous designer is dying.

Meanwhile, in Europe, provocative and powerful Margaux de Laurent also searches for the painting. Heir to her art collector family’s millions, Margaux is a cunning gallerist who gets everything she wants. The only thing standing in her way is Jules. Yet the passionate and determined Jules has unexpected resources of her own, including Adam Baum, Ellis’s grandson. A recovering addict and brilliant artist in his own right, Adam was once in Margaux’s clutches. He knows how ruthless she is, and he’ll do anything to help Jules locate the painting before Margaux gets to it first.”

Click on the book pic to purchase.

Last but never ever least is The Prynne Viper by Bianca Marais. Marais, author of Hum if You Don’t Know the Words and If You Want to Make God Laugh is back with something 100% fresh.  This time around she is not writing about South Africa, the Apartheid, or the Soweto Uprising.  Instead, she wowed me with a short story offered as an Audible Original. The Prynne Viper is a futuristic tale (yes, you heard me correctly) that left me thinking long and hard about the fate of humanity if left in the hands of some crazy predictive software. I was transfixed by this terrifying world and the idea that mankind could be predetermined by a courtroom jury haunted me for days.  Don’t let the length of this story fool you though.  Marais’ magnificent storytelling, the full cast of narrators, and an extremely pleasing ending all neatly fit into a unique two-hour listen. Marais’ ability to switch writing gears by seamlessly transitioning to a completely different genre was wicked impressive and she will forever be an auto-buy author for me.

Synopsis:

“In a futuristic world where predictive software can map out the lives of every living person and their descendants, Naomi Prynne is on trial. The charge: endangerment by way of a pregnancy.

Thirteen jurors will determine whether Naomi is allowed to carry the pregnancy to term, but the jurors are also all plaintiffs, the software having predicted how Naomi Prynne’s child will affect each of them in life-changing ways. Among them: a history professor who has given up on her own dreams for the sake of the greater good; a student participating in his first-ever trial who’s about to discover an earth-shattering truth; and a former mathematician, who knows all too well the dark machinations of the state, but is prohibited from speaking out against them. The future of the Prynne Viper – an acronym for “viable person” – is in their hands.

But this Prynne Viper is unlike Naomi’s other pregnancies. This time, Naomi Prynne is carrying a secret, one with the power to alter the future into something incalculable, and therefore, unpredictable.”

Yes or No

The Secretary by Britney King

February 3, 2022

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Britney King is BACK. I know you recognize her because I write to you often about her books.  Words can not express how excited I get when I hear that she (my favorite author of psychological thrillers) has a new book coming out.  When I received an early copy of King’s latest creation The Secretary, I immediately cleared my Friday night plans (I have so many these days 😂😂).  I rushed through dinner with my family, passed all driving duties over to my husband, locked up my chickens and ducks, then quickly landed in my cozy bed with all my snuggly blankets and a piping hot mug of tea.  Some may call this boring or uneventful, but this forty-something-year-old dreams of nights like these.  I read The Secretary late into the night and finished it up first thing in the morning.  Can you say absolute BLISS?

I will proceed with caution as I share the synopsis of this story with you.  Psychological thrillers are tough to summarize and I NEVER want to give anything away.  Gillian is about to start a new job as a secretary at an uber-powerful company. Her life is a bit blah at the moment with no clear direction so this job feels like the perfect remedy for all her problems.  Gillian is drawn to her new boss Ellis and his mysterious ways.  Despite feeling uneasy about her role at the company, she is very much drawn to this powerful man and finds herself abandoning her friends and family for her boss and new “job”. Things are not right from the start though and Gillian quickly gets tangled up in sleepovers, “company policy”, and covering up a murder leaving her not only terror-struck but questioning everything.  What happened to the secretary before her and what is going to happen to her? Does she really have what it takes to be a part of his world?

King is a master at setting the reading tone for all her books.  The tension booms in The Secretary from the first page to the very last and her unsettling office environment is the PERFECT backdrop.  What I love about King the most is that she doesn’t bore me with unnecessary details. She cuts immediately to chase offering me all the red flags and mystery I could ever dream of.  I furiously flipped the pages of this book soaking up Gillian’s naiveness and Ellis’ impenetrable vibe (think Christian Grey…but just for a split second and minus the red room).  I am always intrigued by stories with the powerful male boss and an innocent young woman who works for him.  It could be construed as a common trope with the man at the helm, but not in this case.  King is very strategic with who has the power and when so be sure to pay careful attention. As always, she sprinkled in just enough evil to make me squirm, but not turn away.  And let’s not forget the ending…NAILED IT!  

Set aside your weekend plans and binge-read King’s latest psychological wonder. It’s an absolute treat!

Until next time!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S.  Be sure to check out what I had to say about some of King’s previous books below.

Passerby by Britney King

Kill Me Tomorrow by Britney King

Savage Row by Britney King

The Book Doctor by Britney King

Kill Sleep Repeat by Britney King

Click on this seductive cover to purchase!

***I received an advance reader copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.  My opinions are 100% my own. If I don’t like it…I don’t share it!

Family Ties

A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham (Minotaur Books & MacMillan Audio)



January 9, 2022

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

All I have to say is that 2022 is HOT with fabulous books.  In two days, A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham will be hitting bookstores everywhere and I CAN’T WAIT for everyone to get their hands on this GEM!  Willingham’s debut “thrilling” novel unfolds one suspenseful page at a time leaving her readers gasping for more.  Let me share with you why this story is a “must-read”.  Here we go.

When Chloe Davis was twelve years old, her father was arrested for murdering six teenage girls in their small Louisiana town.  Her one and only father who she loved and adored was a SERIAL KILLER.  Fast forward 20 years and Chloe is working as a psychologist, planning her wedding, and trying desperately to move on from the evil that haunts her.  As the twentieth anniversary of her father’s summer killing spree grows closer, local teenage girls once again go missing.  As Chloe becomes immersed in these new cases, she revisits her childhood summer when her family’s life was forever changed, while trying to figure out who is killing all of these girls. 

Is this a coincidence or is there a copycat killer lurking around her?  

Let me share with you one more time that this is a DEBUT NOVEL and it is PHENOMENAL!  If this is how Stacy Willingham rolls, I am here for ALL of her tales!  On a side note, I listened to this book on audio, and narrator Karissa Vacker was spectacular.  Her voice was serene to listen to even during the darkest moments. 

Willingham’s book captivated me because it satiated all my serial killer needs minus all the graphic gore.  I loved getting a glimpse into what the collapse of Chloe’s family life was like when her father was sent to prison for murder. That may sound bizarre to some, but how a family rebounds (if that is even a possibility) from such horrors is beyond extraordinary to me and A Flicker in the Dark portrayed the aftermath of this fictional family in an exceptional way.  The story bounced back and forth between the present-day and Chloe’s memories which made the suspense all the more intriguing.  Willingham subtly peppered the pages with mini clues that threw me off track more than one time.  I caught myself MANY times with my jaw dropped to the floor muttering, “Wait, what?”.  All in all, Willingham’s story is the ultimate tale to be untwisted. With an outstanding cast of characters, a stellar storyline, and a monstrous ending that satisfies, A Flicker in the Dark is the ultimate read!

Happy Reading or Happy Listening!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly


P.S. A Flicker in the Dark is coming to the HBO MAX….CHECK THIS OUT!

Click on the book pic to purchase!
Click on the audiobook above to check out this title on Libro.FM using my referral code lfm136779.

***I received an advance listener copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  My opinions are 100% my own. If I don’t like it…I don’t share it!

Nutcrackers & Handsprings: Books About the Cutthroat World of Ballet and Gymnastics

Swan Dive: The Making of a Rogue Ballerina by Georgina Pazcoguin (Henry Holt & Company)
The Turnout by Megan Abbott (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
The Happiest Girl in the World: A Novel by Alena Dillon (William Morrow)
Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein (Atria Books)

September 21, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Like so many young girls, I wanted to be a famous ballerina AND an Olympic gymnast.  I was little, so both professions seemed like reasonable career goals even though I could barely touch my toes. Images of me gracefully dancing across the stage in a white nightgown clutching a wooden nutcracker or sticking a round-off back handspring on a balance beam filled my wandering mind.  I, of course, only saw what was directly in front of me.  Beauty, elegance, strength, and perfection were what graced the stage and gym mats for all the dreamers like me who dared to dream.  Little did I know what the making of an elite athlete indeed looked like.  Today I am sharing four books that capture the fierce passion and wild side of ballet and gymnastics.  Scandal, abuse, injuries, eating disorders, and love fill the pages of today’s reads.   The lineup is dripping in all of the blood, sweat, and tears that we love to read about.   And GUESS WHAT?  Legwarmers and leotards are entirely optional.   You can be captivated by these stories from the comfort of your living room couch wearing sweatpants and a baggy t-shirt.  How great is that!!!! 

Point shoes and tutus, anyone??? I LOVED Georgina Pazcoguin’s memoir, Swan Dive. Pazcoguin was the first Asian American soloist in the New York City Ballet.  Her story from leaving her small town in Pennsylvania at age 16 to train in New York City was mind-boggling.  Pazcoguin’s memoir is a backstage pass into the making of a true ballerina.  She is brutally honest with the highs and lows of the profession.  From bloody toes to dancing with injuries to the abuse and racism she experienced, Pazcoquin’s story of dancing in the ballet to performing in the Broadway musical CATS is exceptionally enchanting.  I could not put it down.

While we are still in the mood for tortured ballerinas and scandal galore, let’s move on to a work of fiction that takes place against the provocative backdrop of a ballet school and its yearly performance of The Nutcracker.  The Turnout by Megan Abbott is one heck of a page-turner.  Sisters Maria and Dara Durant run their family’s ballet school.  Things unravel when they hire a contractor to rebuild part of their studio that recently caught fire.  All I can say is that this man is more significant than he lets on. Nutcracker drama, family secrets, irresistible sexual encounters, razor blades in point shoes, and even a dead body fill the pages of this “un-put-downable” book.  I officially know what a “turnout” is and OUCH! The Nutcracker will never be the same again!

All you gymnastic fans out there will love Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein.  Avery’s Olympic dreams come to an end after an injury occurs during her Olympic trials.  To make matters worse, she is newly single and moving back to her hometown in Massachusetts.  In comes Ryan, Avery’s childhood acquaintance, and Olympic gold medalist.  When Ryan discovers that Avery is back home, he eagerly asks her to take the job as his assistant coach to Hallie, an up-and-coming gymnast.   As these two former gymnasts train the next Olympic star, sparks begin to fly on and off the mat.  Picture twists and turns, switch leaps and layouts, and maybe just maybe, some steamy fooling around on a sticky pile of mats.  Head Over Heels has it all…the love of gymnastics, the tension, the hot topics, and most of all, the romance.  Can you say perfect 10!

Alena Dillon’s book, The Happiest Girl in the World is a work of fiction reminiscent of the recent sexual abuse scandals in gymnastics.  Sera and her best friend Lucy are training for the Olympics.  Everything changes for these two when Lucy reports to the authorities that the team doctor sexually abused her during treatment sessions.  Sadly, Sera denies these facts to protect her career and destroys their friendship.  Dillon’s book is overflowing with dusty chalk and intense training but also takes a deep dive into the byproduct of sexual abuse and the ultimate drive for perfection in the cutthroat gymnastics world.  Reading this book felt very timely, especially with the 2021 summer Olympics still in the rearview mirror.  

Now that I have filled your To Be Read pile with pirouettes, flips, and spins, it’s time to get reading!

Until next time my friend!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. When I was little, my sister and I used to pretend the black lane lines in our community pool were balance beams.  In between swimming around, we would put together gymnastic routines and perform them in the pool, making sure to always stick our landings on the lane lines.  So much fun!

Click on the book pictures below to purchase!

DIG HERE

The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell (Atria Books) September 7, 2021

August 21, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

I am over the moon to share with you one of Fall’s most anticipated and buzziest new books.  This September, Lisa Jewell is back with her latest creation,The Night She Disappeared.   I feel like I write to you often about my love of dark mysteries and thrillers, and this is certainly not the first time I’ve written to you about this lovely author.  I always chuckle to myself with each of these letters because the books I share with you are pretty much the opposite of your writing.   However, even though your genre and style differ from Jewell’s, you both know how to create an atmosphere that brings out the very best in your stories. I believe you would enjoy Jewell’s moody vibes and dreary skies covering the English countryside that serve as the backdrop to her new chilling tale.  I most definitely did and today I am here to tell you why.  

The Night She Disappeared is set in a small English town between 2017-2019…basically right before Covid-19 hit and the whole world shut down.  Again, with mysteries and thrillers my plot summary will be cautious to keep every twist and turn from being spoiled.  One night in 2017, Tullulah and her boyfriend Zach (who is currently living with her at her mother’s house) decide to go out for the night and enjoy an adult evening of dining and hanging with friends.  They leave behind their young son with Tallulah’s mom Kim to mind.  Kim is alarmed when they do not come home that night or even the next morning.  She knows how strong Tallulah’s love is for her son and can’t fathom her disappearing by choice.  Tallulah and Zach are officially declared missing and a search begins.  Fast forward to 2019 and we meet Sophie.  Sophie is a cozy mystery writer who just moved to the area with her boyfriend who is a new educator at the Maypole House.  On her walk one day, she discovers something that opens back up the closed case of missing Tallulah and Zach.  Will this unsolved mystery finally be solved and at what cost?  

My summary may be sparse, but the story is surely not.  I loved how Jewell wrote this book using different timelines and from multiple points of view.  To me this created a well paced mystery that had me waiting with bated breath for 2017 to sync up with 2019. The back and forth between timelines generated the suspense I so desire and because of this, I was immersed in The Night She Disappeared from start to finish.  And let’s face it, short chapters with mini cliffhangers will always KEEP ME READING.  Jewell added a few of my favorite elements to her mysterious tale…the quintessential  private school and the ever so beloved “strange house”  that both hoard secrets and lies galore!  My perfect cup of tea! I loved the history of the Maypole House and all who dwelled there.  I was obsessed with Tallaluh’s temperamental friends and their unsteady yet eager behaviors. I was absolutely delighted with the eeriness of “Dark Place” and the neverending woods that encroached upon its morose existence (you’ll see).  I was entertained observing the characters take on the dangerous work of investigating a threatening affair even though the police and officials were already involved.  I was mesmerized by the darkness that seeped out of this story with each page I turned and tucked under my blanket a little tighter to absorb my chills.  I adored how fired up I was while reading and for the life of me… couldn’t predict the ending. I hoped for this kind of reaction and I am stoked that Lisa Jewell delivered me another fantastic reading experience.  So while I continue to chip away at all of her backlist books, I can say with confidence that I may just be…Her Biggest Fan! This book comes out September 7, 2021!  Be sure to grab yourself a copy!

Peace, Love and Reading…and a few dead bodies!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. If you haven’t read Jewell’s 2020 book, Invisible Girl….Let me convince you to do so.

Invisible Girl was an absolute clever read! I was instantly invested in all of Jewell’s characters from the very start. I desperately wanted to know EVERYTHING about them. Childhood trauma, family drama, strange neighbors, buried secrets, and a MISSING GIRL… this book had me at HELLO! Throw in some crazy twists and turns and a wicked moody vibe and I crossed the finish line with this book in just shy of two days. It’s fast and crazy and the perfect fall treat.

Click on my poolside reading pic to purchase. I spy my hubby in the hot tub 🥰🥰!
Click on this pic to purchase Invisible Girl!

***I received an advance reader copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  My opinions are 100% my own. If I don’t like it…I don’t share it!

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