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#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.”

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Cocktails & Book Tales With Ashley Winstead

July 28, 2022

Dear Fabulous Readers,

I am so excited to announce that I will be going LIVE on Instagram with author Ashley Winstead tonight at 8 pm EST. We will be discussing her new book, The Last Housewife, which comes out on August 16th, and a bunch of other fun things. I hope to see you all there. If you happen to miss it…It will be saved to my Instagram account and can be watched later. In the meantime, here is what I said about all three of her books.

Happy Reading!

Kelly

The Last Housewife (Sourcebooks Landmark)

I’m not going to lie… the potency of some of the scenes is mind-blowing and carries significant weight throughout the story. Survival and redemption ring true, but so does emotional and physical trauma. ⁣

Winstead’s book was BANANAS… in the BEST possible way. Here’s the scoop… Her writing is RAZOR-SHARP, and her attention to detail is veritable. She led me into a dark sadistic world filled with power and humiliation beyond anything my imagination could ever even try and muster up on its own. ⁣

I loved how Winstead brilliantly weaved in themes from some of the foundational thinkers of our time. Rigorous thoughts and pieces of writing from Plato, Aristotle, Rousseau, and good old Dante were no doubt examined and creatively incorporated into this psychosexual tale, and I was obsessed with every second of it! ⁣

Because The Last Housewife is graphic in nature, it may not be a good-fit read for sensitive readers. Winstead offers trigger warnings for her story in the actual⁣ Book and on her website. Please DM me for specific content warnings if you are in need. ⁣

Synopsis:

While in college in upstate New York, Shay Evans and her best friends met a captivating man who seduced them with a web of lies about the way the world works, bringing them under his thrall. By senior year, Shay and her friend Laurel were the only ones who managed to escape. Now, eight years later, Shay’s built a new life in a tony Texas suburb. But when she hears the horrifying news of Laurel’s death—delivered, of all ways, by her favorite true-crime podcast crusader—she begins to suspect that the past she thought she buried is still very much alive, and the predators more dangerous than ever.

Recruiting the help of the podcast host, Shay goes back to the place she vowed never to return to in search of answers. As she follows the threads of her friend’s life, she’s pulled into a dark, seductive world, where wealth and privilege shield brutal philosophies that feel all too familiar. When Shay’s obsession with uncovering the truth becomes so consuming she can no longer separate her desire for justice from darker desires newly reawakened, she must confront the depths of her own complicity and conditioning. But in a world built for men to rule it—both inside the cult and outside of it—is justice even possible, and if so, how far will Shay go to get it?

Fool Me Once (Graydon House Books)

𝘍𝘰𝘰𝘭 𝘔𝘦 𝘖𝘯𝘤𝘦…a ROMANTIC COMEDY Yes, you heard me correctly.  Winstead shifted from four-wheel driving up a steep hill in a blizzard to effortlessly cruising in a convertible down a long, windy country road.  What does this jumble of words mean, you ask?  It implies that 𝐀𝐬𝐡𝐥𝐞𝐲 𝗪𝐢𝐧𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞 𝐬𝐞𝐫𝐢𝐨𝐮𝐬 𝐰𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐜𝐡𝐨𝐩𝐬.  𝘍𝘰𝘰𝘭 𝘔𝘦 𝘖𝘯𝘤𝘦 is a ginormous departure from her other work, and it is literally “swoon-worthy,”… a phrase that thriller readers may not be well-versed in.   𝐋𝐞𝐞 𝐒𝐭𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐁𝐞𝐧 𝐋𝐚𝐝𝐞𝐫𝐦𝐚𝐧’𝐬 𝐬𝐭𝐨𝐫𝐲 𝐢𝐬 𝐚 𝐬𝐞𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐝-𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐞, 𝐞𝐧𝐞𝐦𝐢𝐞𝐬-𝐭𝐨-𝐥𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐭𝐚𝐥𝐞 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐦𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐲 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐩𝐚𝐬𝐬𝐞𝐬 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐟𝐞𝐞𝐥𝐬.  Heartbreak, trust issues, politics, green energy, and laugh-out-loud scenes line the pages of 𝘍𝘰𝘰𝘭 𝘔𝘦 𝘖𝘯𝘤𝘦.  Let’s not forget the serious banter and chemistry between our two potential “love-birds” that left my cheeks on the rosy side.  With fantastic rhythm and a wicked fresh storyline, 𝘍𝘰𝘰𝘭 𝘔𝘦 𝘖𝘯𝘤𝘦 deserves a place on your shelf.⁣

Synopsis:

“Lee Stone is a twenty-first-century woman: she kicks butt at her job as a communications director at a women-run electric car company (that’s better than Tesla, thank you), and after work she is “Stoner,” drinking guys under the table and never letting any of them get too comfortable in her bed…
That’s because Lee’s learned one big lesson: never trust love. Four major heartbreaks set her straight, from her father cheating on her mom all the way to Ben Laderman in grad school–who wasn’t actually cheating, but she could have sworn he was, so she reciprocated in kind.
Then Ben shows up five years later, working as a policy expert for the most liberal governor in Texas history, just as Lee is trying to get a clean energy bill rolling. Things get complicated–and competitive–as Lee and Ben are forced to work together. Tension builds just as old sparks reignite, fanning the flames for a romantic dustup the size of Texas.”

In My Dreams I Hold a Knife (Sourcebooks Landmark)

WOW! I could not put this thriller down to save my life.  This one kept me guessing literally to the very end. My heart was racing, and my mind was bending with every page I read.  All of the characters had significant issues, and I trusted no one. This book is dark academia at its finest! Can you say SPECTACULAR! 

Synopsis:

“Ten years after graduation, Jessica Miller has planned her triumphant return to her southern, elite Duquette University, down to the envious whispers that are sure to follow in her wake. Everyone is going to see the girl she wants them to see—confident, beautiful, indifferent. Not the girl she was when she left campus, back when Heather Shelby’s murder fractured everything, including the tight bond linking the six friends she’d been closest to since freshman year.

But not everyone is ready to move on. Not everyone left Duquette ten years ago, and not everyone can let Heather’s murder go unsolved. Someone is determined to trap the real killer, to make the guilty pay. When the six friends are reunited, they will be forced to confront what happened that night—and the years’ worth of secrets each of them would do anything to keep hidden.”

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.”

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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!

One Letter, Three Books

January 4, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway, 

Happy New Year! I don’t know about you, but I love the start of a brand new year.  Clean slate, endless possibilities, and of course…new books.  Today I am sharing one book that came out in September 2021 and two that were published TODAY! Three books for the price of one letter to you is not too shabby.  Let’s see what I’ve got, shall we!

Click on the book pic to purchase!

“Frida Liu is struggling. She doesn’t have a career worthy of her Chinese immigrant parents’ sacrifices. She can’t persuade her husband, Gust, to give up his wellness-obsessed younger mistress. Only with Harriet, their cherubic daughter, does Frida finally attain the perfection expected of her. Harriet may be all she has, but she is just enough.

Until Frida has a very bad day.

The state has its eyes on mothers like Frida. The ones who check their phones, letting their children get injured on the playground; who let their children walk home alone. Because of one moment of poor judgment, a host of government officials will now determine if Frida is a candidate for a Big Brother-like institution that measures the success or failure of a mother’s devotion.

Faced with the possibility of losing Harriet, Frida must prove that a bad mother can be redeemed. That she can learn to be good.”


Indiebound

The School For Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan is officially out today and has been named Book of the Week by PEOPLE magazine and Read With Jenna’s January pick.  This dystopian tale explores strong themes relating to motherhood, parenting, race, gender, and then some. It is unsettling and a wee bit anxiety-provoking, so if you are a parent, your need to hug your children will be powerful. Because my feelings on this book are truly all over the place,   I believe this to be an excellent selection to discuss and process with other readers.  Whether you love it or hate it, Chan’s book is most definitely…SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT! 

Click on the book pic to purchase!

“Hadi and Sama are a young Syrian couple flying high on a whirlwind love, dreaming up a life in the country that brought them together. She had come to Boston years before chasing dreams of a bigger life; he’d landed there as a sponsored refugee from a bloody civil war. Now, they are giddily awaiting the birth of their son, a boy whose native language would be freedom and belonging. 

When Sama is five months pregnant, Hadi’s father dies suddenly in Jordan, the night before his visa appointment at the embassy. Hadi flies back for the funeral, promising his wife that he’ll only be gone for a few days. On the day his flight is due to arrive in Boston, Sama is waiting for him at the airport, eager to bring him back home. But as the minutes and then hours pass, she continues to wait, unaware that Hadi has been stopped at the border and detained for questioning, trapped in a timeless, nightmarish limbo.

Worlds apart, suspended between hope and disillusion as hours become days become weeks, Sama and Hadi yearn for a way back to each other, and to the life they’d dreamed up together. But does that life exist anymore, or was it only an illusion?”

Indiebound

Another book that is out TODAY is No Land To Light On by Yara Zgheib.  This fictional story revolves around U.S. President Trump’s real-life Executive Order 13769 titled Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States (AKA… “Muslim Ban”) in 2017.  This story takes a deep dive into the repercussions of this order.  Zgheib’s writing is stunning, and her prose triggers a feeling of longing that lingers with you after the last page is turned. Her main characters Sama and Hadi alternate perspectives throughout the story offering the most intimate look at families divided by borders and the fearfulness and risks they endure all for the chance at freedom and a safe place to call home.  This gorgeous book weighs in around 300 pages, so not only is it an eye-opening read but a quick one too. I can not recommend this book enough!

Click on the book pic to purchase!

“This is the story of a serial killer. A stolen child. Revenge. Death. And an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.

All these things are true. And yet they are all lies…

You think you know what’s inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you’ve read this story before. That’s where you’re wrong.

In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, lies something buried. But it’s not what you think… “

Goodreads


My last recommendation is The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward. It is a tricky book to summarize, so do not put all of your stock in the synopsis above.  Ward’s book is the ultimate jigsaw puzzle, a complete “mind f*ck” if you will.  My brain entered an inescapable nightmare that not only broke my heart but tampered with my soul.  My head was spinning with equal parts terror and fascination, as I frantically turned the pages.  The Last House on Needless Street is storytelling at its finest but please be forewarned, its heaviness is difficult to shake. Trigger warnings are abundant including child abuse, child abduction, mental illness, trauma, serial killers, and a whole lot in-between.  Ward ends her book with a note to the reader that I felt was very helpful in understanding the ins and outs of the story.  It is a must-read AFTER you have read the book.  It contains major spoilers, so no cheating! 

Enjoy all the books you can ever imagine this new year!

Your Biggest Fan!

Kelly


P.S. Are you hungry? If so, be sure to check out some of my most recent cookbook recommendations RIGHT HERE!

***I received an advance reader copy of The School For Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan and
No Land To Light On by Yara Zgheib 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!

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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!

Watermelon Queen

Passerby by Britney King

So here I am, standing over two dead bodies, surveying the blood splatter, wondering if I’ll ever be able to find wallpaper this pretty again.  It’s like two paths diverged in a wood.  I know this isn’t a Robert Frost poem, but bear with me, it’s my favorite, and at this moment, my mind is going to strange places.  

July 22, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Today is a GREAT DAY!  One of my favorite/go to authors has a new book out and I had the pleasure of getting an early peek at it.  Passerby (Out Today), by the lovely Britney King was my perfect Saturday night read. King never fails to thrill me with her suspenseful tales and her latest did not disappoint.  Small town living and dead bodies wrapped in a bit of southern charm is what’s on tap today my literary friend.  Grab an ice coffee and your sunnies….the heat is on!

I personally find thrillers tricky to talk about without spoiling all the juicy surprises.  Because of this, I am sharing just the basic storyline and will tell you why it worked for me.  Jester Falls is the quintessential small town where you went to kindergarten with the local police officer and there is a life long feud between two of the big families in town.  Ruth Channing was born and raised here with her brothers and runs the Magnolia House, the most popular bed and breakfast around.  One of her brothers comes home with a random girlfriend that he quickly decides to marry. Ruth is on to her though.  After some digging around, she discovers that her sister-in-law, to be, has been lying about her name and her past.  To make matters worse, mysterious murders are happening under foot leaving Ruth suspicious and concerned for her family’s well being and the livelihood of The Magnolia House. 

It sounds lovely.   But it wasn’t all fun and games.  It takes an incredible amount of strength to hold a person under the water against their will.  Thankfully, not nearly as much to entice them to get sloppy drunk.  If you can imagine that, the rest is easy.

Now let me share with you the really good stuff.  The story is narrated by Ruth and the anonymous Passerby.   Let me just add real quick that I LOVE an undisclosed narrator.  Talk about fast paced and keeping me guessing !!!  King immediately presents two dead bodies and someone struggling with what to do about it right out of the gate. What I quickly learned was that King was teasing me with a scene that happens later on in the book, hooking me and reeling me in to the finish line.  The characters in Passerby weren’t exactly loveable, but instead hardened and even layered for that matter (side-effect of small town living).  As I was trying to figure out who was responsible for the different murders, I can honestly say, I was STUMPED! King threw me of course every step of the way and having that secret narrator made the journey way more fun.  In case you are wondering, yes there are murders and a few dead bodies, but the story is not overly graphic.  Passerby moves at a speedy pace, so plan on reading this in as close to one sitting as possible.  I promise, it’s easy to do.  

Enjoy this stellar read!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. See what I had to say about some of Britney King’s other books.

Kill Me Tomorrow

Savage Row

The Book Doctor

Click on this fabulous book cover to purchase!

***I received a 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!

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