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Kelly’s Top 10 Books Of 2020

January 4, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Happy New Year!  We made it to 2021!  Let‘s face it, 2020 was an absolute doozy!  I personally had a difficult time focusing on reading and was in a perpetual state of ruffled feathers.  This year, quality over quantity was the name of the game and I found myself way more picky with my book selections.  If a book didn’t reel me in from page one or work with whatever my current mood was on that day (or hour 😂😂), I tossed it.  Definitely a bit harsh for me, but I truly needed books that distracted me from my distractions and took me somewhere outside of my quarantined mind.  Here are my Top 10 Books Of 2020 in random order!  Whether I laughed out loud or was completely moved, each one of these books spoke to me in a unique way! Click on the book pictures for their full synopsis or to purchase from your local bookstore.   Here we go….

His & Hers by Alice Feeney (Flatiron) ~ This book was sooooo good! I could not put this down.  I listened to this on audio and the narration was incredible.  This was the ultimate suspense/thriller.  Click here to read my past review.

Admission by Julie Buxbaum (Delacorte Press) ~ Can you say,  juicy tale?  I really enjoyed this behind the scene look at what it takes to get into college and how far families will go to ensure their kids receive the creme de la creme education. Buxbaum explored issues of wealth, race, white privilege and more in her latest book. Though this is a work of fiction, it was inspired by the recent admission scandal this past year. I love how the teenager’s point of view is so prevalent in this story. Admission is an eye-opening read that will have you glued to your seat. It is the perfect book club pick. Discussions galore will come out of it.

Untamed by Glennon Doyle (The Dial Press) ~ This book was hands down, the equivalent to a perfect cup of tea!  I am a huge Glennon fan and her book was the breath of fresh air I needed this year.  Click here to read my past review.  

Green Lights by Matthew McConaughey (Crown Publishing) ~ Such a fun read.  Though Matthew’s life is most definitely different than mine, I strangely found comfort and could even relate to some of his words. I love how green lights, yellow lights, and even red lights are all opportunities to halt what you are doing or move ahead.  It is like the universe is talking to us.  Maybe some things do happen for a reason. Nevertheless, I got quite a few laughs from this charmer. Wait until you read about all of his “dreams”!!

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell (William Morrow)~ Why all the fuss about this book???? In short, it is the story of a fifteen year old girl and her relationship with her 42 year old HIgh School teacher. It is a book that shines light on things that are strenuous to acknowledge. It is a book that is easier to just not read. It is a book that had my mind twisted every which way. It is a book that never left me, even when my reading time was through. It is a book that made me feel terribly uncomfortable yet completely captivated. It is a book that made my stomach turn and my mind wander. It is a book filled with power. It is a book that is so beautifully written, my heart ached. 

The Girl With The Louding Voice by Abi Dare (Dutton)~ I do not think this book has a star rating less than 5+.  Adunni absolutely stole my heart.  I rooted for her with all my heart and soul throughout her journey.  Dare’s book was powerful and complete perfection! If you have not read this yet, make it happen ASAP.  You will have no regrets.  

Blacktop Wasteland by S.A. Cosby (Flatiron)~  I am so glad I squeezed this book in before 2020 ended.  WOW……this was awesome! Robberies, car chases, drugs and family drama….this book was a 100 mph ride that kept my beating heart in business.  Cosby’s writing was colorful, sharp and seriously captivating.  Enjoy this high speed read!!

The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez (Forever Publishing)~ Oh La La.  Sloan and Jason…need I say more.  This was the super fun and steamy read I needed this 2020. I loved Jimenez’s last book The Friend Zone, and her follow up was equally as fabulous!  Be prepared to swoon.  Consider yourself warned!

Master Class by Christina Dalcher (Berkley) ~ I am obsessed with this book. Dalcher’s contemporary dystopian tale incorporates contentious issues from the past and present into a fictional world where the unimaginable may not be far from the truth. This was a 5 star read for me.  Fans of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood will be all over this one.  Click here for my past review.

The Roxy Letters by Mary Pauline Lowry (Simon &Schuster) ~ Take it from me, The Roxy Letters is the PERFECT book to slip in your bag when heading to the beach (or pool, or lake, or front porch).  With so many uncertainties in the world, why not escape for a few hours with some much needed laughter and a story that just makes you feel great.  I spent so much of my time reading this book giggling, while my cheeks turned uber pink.  With a heart of gold and a thirst for all things good, Roxy is one to root for. Click here for my past review.

Well my friend, that is a wrap!  Look out for all my bookish love coming your way this 2021.  Until next time…

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S.  Click here to read my last post in December.  If you love a good domestic suspense novel, I have got you covered.  

#bringthemback

Master Class beauty shot

Master Class by Christina Dalcher (Berkley)

Master Class beauty shot

September 28, 2020

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

It is always wise to remember the past when talking about the future. History doesn’t always remain a distant memory. It often likes to rear its ugly head when you least expect it, begging you to pause and reevaluate.   

Christina Dalcher’s contemporary dystopian tale, Master Class incorporates contentious issues from the past and present into a fictional world where the unimaginable may not be far from the truth.  

You would think that over the past hundred-plus years, people would be free from discrimination, inclusivity would be the norm and inequality would be considered a term from “the olden days”. This is not the case in Dalcher’s latest novel. She vividly creates a present-day world designed to promote the elite…the creme de la creme. A cookie cutter society that breeds only the best. In Master Class, the educational system is tiered. Everyone has a quotient or “Q” score. Think of it similarly to an I.Q. You are either placed in a Silver, Green, or Yellow school. Silver is for the elite/high quotient students, Green is a step-down, and Yellow is the lowest. Students are tested monthly to ensure they are in the correct placement at all times. Slip up and you are swiftly brought down. Careful though, what goes down doesn’t always come back up. Silver is obviously your best bet. Green is acceptable, but a tough place to be in. It is like being in “purgatory”…you are incessantly waiting to see if you will elevate to the heavens above (Silver) or plummet to the fires of hell below (Yellow). Can you say… constant state of panic? Parents are regularly holding onto the edge of their seats the Monday after testing day. Which bus color will come and pick up their child? Silver, Green, or will the Yellow bus come collecting their child and their suitcase too.

In comes Elena Fairchild. Elena is a teacher at one of the Elite schools, a mom to two school-age girls, and married to Malcolm, one of the masterminds behind this educational system.  When one of their daughters does poorly on her monthly tests, she is demoted to a yellow school. Absolutely heartbroken that her daughter will now be sent away from her, Elena begins to question the “weeding out” process that she at one time helped dream up (hello Serena and Fred Waterford…AKA The Handmaid’s Tale). As she takes inventory of what is going on around her, she makes an appalling discovery about the end goal of this educational system and the fate of those who don’t make the cut.  

Elitism, class systems, abortion, and eugenics fill the pages of Dalcher’s story. Master Class may be a work of fiction set in a “make-believe” world, but let’s not forget that these are real issues that have held a place in the past and are still debated even today. Women having a baby over the age of 35 is unheard of in Master Class. Cranking out babies needs to happen early on to ensure they have the highest “Q” score. Did I mention that you can determine your baby’s “Q” potential before you give birth? Abortions are highly encouraged if scores are not up to snuff and the women in Dalcher’s world actually complain that manicures take longer then their abortions…as if!!!! Have a quotient score above a nine and the world is your oyster. Start dipping below and your prospects grow dim. So dim that your “kind” is not beneficial to society. Probably not worth investing much time, money, or resources into this “yellow” population. In fact, better to stop them in their tracks before more of “them” are born.  Can you say WILD? 

Eugenics-The study of how to arrange reproduction within a human population to increase the occurrence of heritable characteristics regarded as desirable~Oxford Languages

I absolutely LOVED Master Class. As a parent, I can honestly say I got the chills reading this.  There is most certainly a vibe in today’s parenting world to push your child to their maximum potential. Extra tutors, private schools, club sports, college advisors, you get the gist.  Whether its sports, AP classes, college admission, job opportunities, and EVEN PRE-SCHOOL for Pete’s sake, there is always a competition going on. Who makes the grade and who falls under the radar? Let’s face it…it’s hard to keep up with the Joneses. Is this book far fetched or is it a little too close to home? I’ll let you decide.  

How appropriate it feels to have read this book during this heated political climate that I am immersed in each day. While waiting to see who the next  Supreme Court Justice will be (R.I.P. RBG) and of course THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, Master Class is beyond thought-provoking.  Dalcher brilliantly embeds some of the most controversial topics of our time in her dystopian world. Her writing is edgie and downright eerie. Her book is a gripping read that absolutely warrants a conversation. I highly recommend reading this for a book club or with a group of friends.  I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.  It’s a page turner…that’s for sure!  Happy Reading!

Until Next time friend!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S.  For those of you who have been following me for the last two years, you know that I am an audiobook junkie. Master Class was incredible on audio. If you love listening to your books while out running errands or doing dreaded housework, I can’t urge you enough to join Libro.fm.  It is the exact same as the other big brand audio bookseller  (you know who I am talking about), but it supports YOUR LOCAL INDIE BOOKSTORE OF CHOICE. Click here to use my referral link!

Click on the pic below to purchase Master Class.

Master Class book cover

I Tumble For You

Head over Heals Beauty Shot

Beach Read by Emily Henry (Berkley)

Head Over Heels by Hannah Orenstein (Atria Books)

May 19, 2020

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Summertime, summertime, summertime. While you longed for feeling your fishing rod between your hands on a clear Michigan river with endless trout in sight, I ache to feel a book between my hands, my toes in the warm sand, and endless chapters to devour while lounging in my beach chair.  Today, I am focusing on the summertime beach reading scenario (my husband can handle the fishing one another time…if you are interested). Beach Read by Emily Henry (OUT TODAY) and Head Over Heels (OUT JUNE 23) by Hannah Orenstein are two books that you must make time for this summer. Though these books appear to be light and fizzy at first glance (hello, cover love), they both offer a surprise pop of “something more” than your typical rom-com.  Henry and Orenstein give their readers plenty of passion and steam, but they also include characters with complicated pasts and a yearning for self-discovery.  Plan to be swept away to a classic beach town and the competitive world of gymnastics. Friends to lovers, opposites attract, and everything in-between……these books are bursting with goodness. Henry’s and Orenstein’s books will both quench your summer reading thirst.  Bottoms up!!!

All you gymnastic fans out there will love Head Over Heels, the most anticipated hot new release this June.  Orenstein captures the dusty chalk, the intense training, the drive for perfection and the love of the sport with ease. 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 home town 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. While Ryan struggles with being a male coach during a sexual abuse scandal involving other female gymnasts, Hallie is seeking to figure out how to navigate her life off the mat as a retired gymnast.  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!

Lets pirouette over to January Andrews and Augustus (Gus) Everett from Henry’s Beach Read.  These two twenty something college writing rivals are now living next door to one another in their summertime beach houses. January is a romance writer in the midst of the biggest writing slump of her career, while Gus is a successful literary fiction writer managing his own writers’ block.  In order to get out of their respective ruts, Gus challenges January to a writing contest.  Get ready… the competition between the two gets heated, and so does the chemistry.  As they both tussle with the intense urge to be together (and boy do they fight it), they continue to grapple with their thorny pasts. Be ready for January and Gus’ snarky remarks, funny banter and above all, their heartfelt dynamics. The atmosphere of this summer beach town coupled with two hot and heavy novelists on the mission to pen the next great book, equal a book lovers dream.  

If you can’t head to the beach this summer, bring these two summer treats outside with you and take delight in reading them under the warm summer sky.  They will not disappoint!

Happy Reading!!! 

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. Thank you to Atria Books and Netgalley for offering me an advance readers copy of Head Over Heels in exchange for my honest opinion.

P.P.S. I was able to read Beach Read before its publishing date as a Book of the Month Club member. Check them out if you are interested. I’ve been a member for over two years now and adore them.

Click on the book pictures below to purchase and pre-order.

Off With Her Head

Wife After Wife cover

Wife After Wife by Olivia Hayfield (Berkley)

February 11, 2020

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Do you remember Henry VIII? You know, the English King from the 1500s who was known for his six wives. Well, through the years, I have personally had a small obsession with him and his many wives. You can imagine how excited I was when I found out there was a fictional re-telling of his reign set in the 21st century. Wife After Wife by Olivia Hayfield, brings Henry VIII, his wives, and his entire court to life in today’s world. This is my absolute dream re-telling and I am so excited to share it with you.

As a Tudor enthusiast, Wife After Wife was a perfect read. Fans of the Henry VIII saga and his six wives will find this modern-day re-telling unique and entertaining. With Harry Rose of the Rose Corporation starring as Henry VIII, Ana Lyebon (designer) as Anne Boleyn, and Clare Barr (nurse) as Catherine Parr (just to name a few), the cast of characters resembled their historical equivalents with lots of pizzaz. Hayfield’s attention to detail was completely on point. Some of my favorites were the Rack Magazine (How brilliant is that for a name?), Charles Lisle (I love Charles Brandon), and of course the 21st-century glitz and galas.

Even though I know the tale of Henry VIII and his six wives inside and out (I named one of the chickens, Anne Boleyn), I still found this book exciting and fresh. Yes, I knew everyone’s fate in the story, but to see how it played out with a modern twist kept me on the edge of my seat. Hayfield’s book was charming, witty, and beyond clever. I hope she writes more stories similar to this one.

With that said, let’s review Henry VIII’s six wives.

Catharine of Aragon: Catharine was Henry’s first wife. She married his older brother Arthur first. She then married Henry after Arthur’s early death. Catharine was a devout Catholic who refused to have her marriage annulled, causing Henry many of his future problems. During her marriage to Henry, she failed to give him a son. Her only living child was a daughter named Mary. Mary went on to be the queen of England in 1553 until her death in1558. Her nickname was “Bloody Mary” from all of the Protestant heretics she burned at the stake (hundreds and hundreds).

Anne Boleyn: Anne Boleyn is my favorite of all the wives. Anne too failed to give Henry a living son. She gave birth to a daughter named Elizabeth. Anne was eventually charged with adultery, incest, witchcraft, and conspiracy against her husband, the King. She was sentenced to death by decapitation. Anne’s daughter went on to be the famous Queen Elizabeth, who reigned for 44 years. So much for having a male heir to sit on the throne…….#girlpower.

Jane Seymour: Jane married Henry the DAY AFTER Anne was executed. She was actually Anne’s second cousin. She was the only wife to give Henry a legitimate son. She, unfortunately, died two weeks after giving birth. Her son was Edward VI, the future king of England. Henry is buried with Jane.

Anne of Cleves: Henry’s fourth wife was more of a political strategy. Anne was essentially a “mail-ordered bride”. They never met before their betrothal. Henry was appalled at her appearance when meeting for the first time. The short of it is….they never consummated their marriage and their marriage was annulled within six months. Surprisingly, they went on to be good friends (she made it out alive).

Catharine Howard: Henry truly robbed the cradle with his fifth wife. Catharine was just a teen when she married this 50-year-old King. After a little less than two years of marriage, Catharine was accused of treason for her sexual past. She was executed in 1542……bye bye head once again.

Catherine (Katherine) Parr: Last but not least, Catherine Parr. Catherine married Henry in 1543, even though she was in love with Sir Thomas Seymour (Jane Seymour’s brother). After Henry died in 1547, she went on to marry Thomas. She died a year later following the birth of her daughter. She was 36 when she died.

Well, Mr. H. That is the briefest summary I could give on the six wives of Henry VIII. Before, during, and after his reign as King, is equivalent to the juiciest of soap operas. Definitely worth reading more on in my opinion.

I wish you the grandest day!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. Instead of her head on the chopping block, Anne Boleyn was executed by a French swordsman. A classy way to go! FYI, Catharine Howard got the ax. Chop Chop!!!

Click here to purchase Wife After Wife by Olivia Hayfield.

Click here to purchase my favorite book on Anne Boleyn

Get A Room!!!

The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James (Berkley)

February 4, 2020

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

WOW!!!!! That is all I have to say about today’s book. I am always blown away when an author can write something that causes such an intense, visceral reaction. Murder, ghosts, and fear are what’s on tap for today. While my dreams at night were hijacked by my ruminating thoughts, daytime gave my wandering mind no rest.  The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James is a five-star story brilliantly crafted to heighten your senses and shake your soul.  Here we go!

“And one night, that woman was on my bed. Sitting on the foot of the bed. I woke up and she was just there, looking at me. The bed didn’t sag or anything-she had no weight. She was there, and then I blinked and she was gone. I could smell her perfume, and something bad. Coppery, like blood.” 

Whether or not ghosts are real is for you to decide.  Simone St. James brings this paranormal phenomenon to life in her latest book, The Sun Down Motel.  In 1982, Viv began to work the night shift at the Sun Down Motel.  Young and alone, she takes this job in an effort to make some money and hopefully move on to something bigger and better.  Her future is abruptly cut short when one night, she disappears in the middle of her shift…forever!

In 2017, Carly decides to investigate the unsolved disappearance of her Aunt Viv. She temporarily moves to Fell, NY, and resides at her aunt’s old apartment from the 1980s. In an effort to find some answers, she takes on the night shift at the Sun Down Motel.  Except for the difference in time, everything is exactly the same as when her aunt worked there. Seedy transactions smoked stained linens, and a noisy ice machine was to be expected. She had no idea that her nights filled with darkness would soon shine a light on a string of unsolved murder mysteries. Every night at the motel revealed more clues to her aunt’s disappearance and the murdered women of Fell, NY. The closer Carly gets to figuring out this puzzle, the more danger she is in.

St. James’ book alternates between two timelines…Viv’s in 1982 and Carly’s in 2017. As the chapters bounce back and forth between narrations, the truth begins to slowly unfold. This book is a wild ride. Normally, I stay clear of ghost stories. Not with this book though. St. James includes a supernatural aspect to her story that truly fits the bill. Be forewarned….this story is a wee bit disturbing.  Be prepared to be scared. Not horror movie scared, but a fear that lingers while you are reading scared. Creepy scenes that are described so vividly, they take up a permanent residence in your mind. A whiff of cigarette smoke, the sound of footsteps close behind you, whispers…the DARK!

The murder investigations in this book were chilling.  Backtracking through time to piece together a serial killer’s motives was engrossing and stomach-turning all wrapped up with one big bow.  From the secrets it kept, to the sleazy vibe that filled the air, the Sun Down Motel was more than just the backdrop to this story. It is a living, breathing entity that served as the pulse for this mind-blowing tale.  The pace was fast and the suspense was gripping. With no stone left unturned, the attention to detail was spot on. Most of all though, the female characters in this book were powerful and completely kicked butt! This book screamed Girl Power and I LOVED it!!!

If this sounds like your cup of tea, take a sip……..it will not disappoint you!  The Bates Motel has nothing on Sun Down!!!!!

Sleep tight, all through the night Dear Friends!

Until next time Mr. H.

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. If you need a breather after reading The Sun Down Motel, check out The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams (Berkley). Men and women alike will enjoy this charming, witty and sexy tale. A husband trying to win his wife back with the help from his buddies and Regency romance books……..absolutely delightful!

Click here to Pre-order The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James. It hits bookstores February 18, 2020.

Click on The Bromance Book Club below to check it out!

The Sun Down Motel – Content Warning

Murder, serial killers, rape, disturbing images, paranormal aspects, suspense, mental health

Thank You For Being a Friend

The Last Year of the War book cover

The Last Year of the War
By Susan Meissner

March 14, 2019

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

I love historical fiction. Historical facts mixed with a splash of fiction is the perfect reading cocktail for me. I have spent many hours of my reading life devouring books set during the Second World War. A time period filled with destruction, terror, and utter devastation has been the backdrop for so many award-winning books. Not only do these books give prominence to an unimaginable time in our history, but they shine a light on the human spirit. Fans of Susan Meissner rejoice!!!!!! Her new book, The Last Year of the War, is set during this unbelievable time in our history. Her story draws attention to the love of family and the power of friendship during war. Once again, Meissner delivers a story that will have you hooked from the very beginning.

It is 1943. Elise Sontag is a 14-year-old girl living in Iowa with her parents and younger brother. Her parents emigrated from Germany two decades prior. Since then, they have lived a typical American life. However, things take a turn for the worse when Elise’s father is arrested on suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer. Once the details of his conviction are settled, Elise and her family are moved from their home to an internment camp in Texas for the remainder of the war, or until their fate is decided. Living behind barbed wire fences and isolated from the world, Elise must try to embrace her new setting and make the best of it. It is at this camp where Elise meets a Japanese girl her own age named Mariko, who becomes her best friend and kindred spirit. Their 18 months of friendship is abruptly interrupted when Elise and her family are sent back to Germany and Mariko and her family are soon after sent to Japan.

Living in the internment camp was like living in a bubble for the Sontag family. With no access to newspapers and information from the outside world, they had no idea of the severity of what they were walking into when they arrived in Germany during the last year of the war. The beautiful Germany that Elise’s father remembered was now a war-torn mess. Little did they know how endangered their lives would be during the years to come. Elise’s strength was fueled by her need to see Mariko again. She was determined to fulfill their dream of meeting up once they turn 18 in NYC to start a fresh and fabulous life together.

The Last Year of the War was such a wonderful book. The chapters alternate between Elise’s younger years during the war and the present day. Glimmers of present-day Elise intertwined with younger Elise will keep readers on their toes throughout the book, making it difficult to predict how the story will unfold. I enjoyed how Meissner incorporated what it was like to live in an American internment camp. This is one area I haven’t read a lot about in historical fiction. It also explores what life was like for civilians living in Germany during and after the war and how one’s nationality determined whether or not they were viewed as the enemy. Readers will gain insight into how difficult it was to be loyal to your country, yourself, and to mankind during this difficult chapter in our history. This story captivated me from the first few pages. Meissner writes with pure love and grace. Her story comes instantly to life from the very beginning. The Last Year of the War is a beautiful story that was easy to read and digest. I looked forward to reading this book every time I picked it up. It wasn’t long at all before I finished the last page of yet again……another magnificent Susan Meissner book.

I now wait with bated breath for her next novel. Good Grief…….I hope she is a fast writer!

Until next time my friend!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. If you haven’t already, you must read A Fall of Marigolds, also by Susan Meissner. It is a work of art! I Promise you……you will not regret it!!!!

Click here to purchase The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

Click here to purchase A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner

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