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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.  

You Thrill Me Right Round Baby

In Case of Emergency and His and Hers Beauty Shot

In Case Of Emergency by E.G. Scott (Dutton)

His & Hers by Alice Feeney (Flatiron Books)

 

August 12, 2020

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Today I am writing to you about two books that literally thrilled me to death. Suspense and crime fiction have really added some zest to my summer days.  I’m not going to lie though, you weren’t exactly Mr. Thriller back in the day.  As you are aware from previous letters, I will always rely on your simple, yet zealous writing.  But once again, I am leaving the thrills and chills to a few others.  Let me introduce you to E.G. Scott and Alice Feeney.  Even though these authors are relatively new to me as a reader, they have won me over with their recent books.  I believe you would have enjoyed these two authors’ company (ok…technically there are three. See my postscript for the explanation).  I can imagine you and E.G. Scott discussing writing techniques and the ever changing publishing industry, while you and Alice Feeney swap stories of your shared experiences as journalists. I am sure your conversations would be accompanied by some sort of fabulous drink.  Perhaps a stiff, no nonsense alcoholic bevy or even a frothy cappuccino would do the trick.  Anyway, I digress.  Here is the scoop on today’s post. Feeney and Scott know how to write stories that bring on the goosebumps.  I am talking heart pounding, quick shivers of mind bending crazy that run through your veins kind of writing.  Let’s check out their latest creations. 

First up, we have E.G. Scott’s, In Case of Emergency.  When thirty something Charlotte’s career as a neurosurgeon abruptly ends, she takes on the world of acupuncture and holistic healing.  Here is Charlotte in a nutshell.  She is a member of an online support group for trauma survivors, she struggles to keep her new business afloat, and she believes her mysterious and secretive boyfriend, Peter, has gone missing.  To add a shake of salt to her already open wounds, she is called in to help identify a dead (presumably murdered) woman in town.  The crazy thing is, Charlotte has no idea who this woman is or why this “Jane-Doe” had Charlotte down as her “in case of emergency” contact.  Here is where all of the questions come in.  Why on earth is Charlotte being questioned by the police, who IS this mysterious dead woman, and where the hell is Peter?  Throw in Charlotte’s ex-junkie best friend/co-worker, an officer and a gentleman, and a whole lot of acupuncture needles going every which way, and this book is crazy good!  Scott’s fast paced story will have you effortlessly dipping in and out of chapters until the very end.  Enjoy this summer treat!  

Next up is His & Hers by Alice Fenney.  This book is ridiculously incredible on audio.  I repeat, this book is ridiculously incredible on audio. So, I guess the saying goes…there are two sides to every story, right?  Well… in Alice Feeney’s latest thriller, there may be yet another side.  The story starts with Anna Andrews, a temporary TV Presenter on BBC (filling in for Cat Jones on a never ending maternity leave).  When her dreamy presenter job is jeopardized, she is asked to cover a murder in Blackdown, Surrey.  It turns out that the woman murdered was a childhood friend of hers.  Anna’s ex-husband, Jack Harper, is a detective at the scene of the murder and may be a suspect in this horrid crime.  Shortly after this woman’s body is discovered, a string of murders occur nearby, thickening the plot of this already juicy mystery.  His & Hers is told from alternating POVs… Anna and Jack’s. Feeney’s story moves quickly and is gushing with unimaginable twists and turns.  She meticulously exposes her characters’ pasts and closely guarded secrets every step of the way.  I mentioned two sides of every story, but sometimes…there is a possible third 😯!  Feeney offers up the POV of the “killer” for an extra layer of creepy.  Be prepared to be sucked into this very dark read from page one.  Fans of true crime stories who just adore the craftiness of a well mannered serial killer will drool over this book!  Enjoy your pounding pulse everyone! 

That is a wrap my friend!  

Until next time!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly 

P.S.  Did you know that E.G. Scott is the pseudonym for two writers…Elizabeth Keenan and Greg Wands. These two authors have been friends for over 20 years.  How fun is that?  Also, rumor has it that His & Hers was picked up for TV…WOW! I know I will be watching. 

Click on the book pics below to purchase!

 

Audio Books Worth Your Hours

Audiobooks Worth Your Hours collage

Part 2

Tales From An Audio Book Junkie

June 12, 2020

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

I have written to you about my love of audiobooks before. In my days, they were actually referred to as “books on tape”. I still catch myself saying that from time to time…especially when my kids look at me like I am speaking a foreign language. Anyway, do you know how many times I have fallen asleep listening to your book, The Old Man and the Sea? Well, it feels like a thousand. As much as I adore that particular book of yours, it is my darling husband that plays it over and over again as he drifts off to sleep. Every now and then he throws on the audio version of your book, A Moveable Feast. I have no problem listening to that book over and over again. Falling asleep to your words from this story ensures my dreams will be filled with Parisian streets, salty oysters, and crisp white wine. Anyway, I digress. Today I am sharing some books that I found to be quite entertaining on audio. A little bit of romance, friendship, mystery, memoir, and time travel is coming your way today. Grab your headphones and hit play! Let the listening begin!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. If you are looking for a way to listen to your books while supporting ANY participating local bookstore, check out Libro.FM. Feel free you use my REFERRAL LINK to get your first month free. Any member can share their referral code. Click on the book pics below to take you directly to their info page.

Abby Jimenez’s book, The Friend Zone, came out last year, and I JUST recently listened to it. I am actually pumped that I was was fashionably late to this fabulous book party. This book was the perfect feel good, pick me up during this uncertain time. Not only did I get to spend the night in bed reading this warm and fuzzy tale, I acquired a new book boyfriend who goes by the name of Josh. Married or not, you can never have too many book boyfriends 😂😂😂. Also, if you end up liking this book, the sequel just came out. It’s called The Happily Ever Playlist.

9 hours 32 minutes

Hachette Audio

Forever Publishing

Synopsis:

“Kristen Peterson doesn’t do drama, will fight to the death for her friends, and has no room in her life for guys who just don’t get her. She’s also keeping a big secret: facing a medically necessary procedure that will make it impossible for her to have children.

Planning her best friend’s wedding is bittersweet for Kristen — especially when she meets the best man, Josh Copeland. He’s funny, sexy, never offended by her mile-wide streak of sarcasm, and always one chicken enchilada ahead of her hangry. Even her dog, Stuntman Mike, adores him. The only catch: Josh wants a big family someday. Kristen knows he’d be better off with someone else, but as their attraction grows, it’s harder and harder to keep him at arm’s length.”

⁣WOW! I’m embarrassed to say that I did not know who Mikel Jollett was or for that matter, who his band, The Airborne Toxic Event was. Well, after listening to his brand new memoir, Hollywood Park I have a pretty good sense of who this writer and musician is! Mikel Jollett narrates his profound journey from his early childhood In the 70’s to present day with an honesty that spares no details! From his early days living in a cult with his family to his unsettled adolescence and young adulthood, Jollett’s journey was rocky to say the very least. He effortlessly brings his readers into his world of family love, loyalty and survival by exploring the intimate most details from his relationship with his parents and older brother. His writing is stunning and his story is absolutely unforgettable. His emotional memoir will no doubt stir your soul and fill your heart with love. ⁣Bonus……Jollett narrates his audio book.

11 hours 44 minutes

Macmillan Audio

Celadon Books

Synopsis:

“So begins Hollywood Park, Mikel Jollett’s remarkable memoir. His story opens in an experimental commune in California, which later morphed into the Church of Synanon, one of the country’s most infamous and dangerous cults. Per the leader’s mandate, all children, including Jollett and his older brother, were separated from their parents when they were six months old, and handed over to the cult’s “School.” After spending years in what was essentially an orphanage, Mikel escaped the cult one morning with his mother and older brother. But in many ways, life outside Synanon was even harder and more erratic.

In his raw, poetic and powerful voice, Jollett portrays a childhood filled with abject poverty, trauma, emotional abuse, delinquency and the lure of drugs and alcohol. Raised by a clinically depressed mother, tormented by his angry older brother, subjected to the unpredictability of troubled step-fathers and longing for contact with his father, a former heroin addict and ex-con, Jollett slowly, often painfully, builds a life that leads him to Stanford University and, eventually, to finding his voice as a writer and musician.”

The Guest List by Lucy Foley is absolutely wonderful on audio. Who wouldn’t want to attend a wedding with friends and family on a small Irish island? The privacy from the outside world, the weekend escape from everyday life, one big hurrah with friends and family to tide you over until someone else’s big day. Sounds like the perfect weekend. The narrators’ Irish accents and the icy cold ocean air will make you feel like you are actually on this Emerald Island. There is a creepy vibe while the bride and groom and all their guests get ready for the ceremony. Family drama and dark secrets from their pasts give this wedding day a very unsettling vibe. Throw in some blood and a dead body and you have one heck of celebration. Foley’s slow burn mystery is an atmospheric treat.

9 hours 53 minutes

Harper Audio

William Morrow

Synopsis:

“The bride – The plus one – The best man – The wedding planner  – The bridesmaid – The body

On an island off the coast of Ireland, guests gather to celebrate two people joining their lives together as one. The groom: handsome and charming, a rising television star. The bride: smart and ambitious, a magazine publisher. It’s a wedding for a magazine, or for a celebrity: the designer dress, the remote location, the luxe party favors, the boutique whiskey. The cell phone service may be spotty and the waves may be rough, but every detail has been expertly planned and will be expertly executed.

But perfection is for plans, and people are all too human. As the champagne is popped and the festivities begin, resentments and petty jealousies begin to mingle with the reminiscences and well wishes. The groomsmen begin the drinking game from their school days. The bridesmaid not-so-accidentally ruins her dress. The bride’s oldest (male) friend gives an uncomfortably caring toast.

And then someone turns up dead. Who didn’t wish the happy couple well? And perhaps more important, why?”

When I think about time travel, my mind instantly goes to The Magic Treehouse or Outlander. In Margarita Montimore’s new book, Oona Lockhart travels to a different time in her life every New Year’s Eve for one year. Can you even imagine revisiting yourself in the past or for that matter, meeting yourself in the future? If given the chance, would you alter your past knowing that in turn, it could change the future? Montimore offers her readers this, and so much more in her unique tale. Oona Out of Order definitely made me think. Between the pages of this compelling read are funny and light hearted moments coupled with self reflection and a giant splash of pop culture (80s and 90s anyone?). Do not think too deeply about the ins and outs of time travel. Simply enjoy Oona’s wild ride!

11 hours 30 minutes

Macmillan Audio

Flatiron Books

Synopsis:

It’s New Year’s Eve 1982, and Oona Lockhart has her whole life before her. At the stroke of midnight she will turn nineteen, and the year ahead promises to be one of consequence. Should she go to London to study economics, or remain at home in Brooklyn to pursue her passion for music and be with her boyfriend? As the countdown to the New Year begins, Oona faints and awakens thirty-two years in the future in her fifty-one-year-old body. Greeted by a friendly stranger in a beautiful house she’s told is her own, Oona learns that with each passing year she will leap to another age at random. And so begins Oona Out of Order...

Hopping through decades, pop culture fads, and much-needed stock tips, Oona is still a young woman on the inside but ever-changing on the outside. Who will she be next year? Philanthropist? Club Kid? World traveler? Wife to a man she’s never met? Surprising, magical, and heart-wrenching, Margarita Montimore has crafted an unforgettable story about the burdens of time, the endurance of love, and the power of family.”

The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon is an all-star treat. Here is my favorite quote….“If sexy and adorable had a baby together, the result would be Daniel Collins.” SOLD! Farrah’s book is filled with sass, class, and a whole lot of smarts… did I mention Daniel Collins??? Women lifting each other up, staying true to yourself, and a tall, dark and handsome man lingering in the background….sign yourself up for this one. Such a perfect summertime listen.

9 hours 41 minutes

Forever

Hachette Audio

Synopsis:

Samiah Brooks never thought she would be “that” girl. But a live tweet of a horrific date just revealed the painful truth: she’s been catfished by a three-timing jerk of a boyfriend. Suddenly Samiah-along with his two other “girlfriends,” London and Taylor-have gone viral online. Now the three new besties are making a pact to spend the next six months investing in themselves. No men and no dating.

For once Samiah is putting herself first, and that includes finally developing the app she’s always dreamed of creating. Which is the exact moment she meets the deliciously sexy Daniel Collins at work.What are the chances?But is Daniel really boyfriend material or is he maybe just a little too good to be true?

Audrey Hepburn is So Pretty

The Dinner List Book Cover

The Dinner List By Rebecca Serle

October 30, 2018

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

I am going to get right to the question of the day. If you could invite five people to dinner, living or dead, who would you choose? Think of how many stories can come from a dinner party crafted by this one crazy list. Well, I am happy to say that Rebecca Serle took this question and put into words, one dinner party scenario that readers will never forget. You are going to want to go get yourself a copy of her new book, The Dinner List, ASAP.

When Serle’s lead character Sabrina was in college, her BFF Jessica, asked her to write down the five people she would invite to dinner if given the chance.  Sabrina wrote her list, then gently tossed it aside. Years later, her life changed forever on her 30th birthday. As she walked into a restaurant with Jessica to celebrate, she was shocked to be greeted by the five people on the list she wrote many moons ago.  Jessica, Sabrina’s father, a beloved college professor, the famous Audrey Hepburn (I am not kidding), and Tobias (the love of her life) were all seated at the table eagerly waiting for Sabrina.

The structure of Serle’s book is wonderful.  The chapters alternate between the present day dinner party and Sabrina’s past.  Readers get an in-depth look at her love story with Tobias and how the other people on her list influenced and shaped her story (Hello Audrey).  I loved how at first it was difficult to know which characters on Sabrina’s list were living or dead. However, after sitting at this dinner table long enough, it became very apparent who was walking home at the end of the night and who was going elsewhere.

Sabrina’s conversations with her dinner companions were tender and complex.  The actual dinner party itself had a celestial charm that felt real and dreamlike all at the same time.  The clock is ticking during Sabrina’s evening. It was hard as a reader not to feel a sense of urgency and sadness as the time moved closer to midnight.  Sabrina has a lot of ground to cover with the people around her before the clock strikes twelve. Will there be enough time for all her questions to be answered?  How on Earth will this end?

The Dinner List was a quick and easy-going read filled with lots of emotion.  I was playing around with my own list in the back of my mind as I flipped each page of the book.  We all have different stories to tell. Questions go unanswered and we are constantly on the hunt for closure in order to move on.   People we do not know personally can easily add dimension to our own lives by simply being in our space at the right time. As you read Serle’s story, it’s impossible not to think of your own relationships and how they may or may not impact your journey.  I truly believe that Rebecca Serle is inviting us all to come up with our own dinner guest list. You may need tissue from time to time to blot your eyes, but I think everyone can handle it. At the end of the day, who wouldn’t want to make that once in a lifetime dinner reservation.

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S.  Audrey Hepburn’s real name was Audrey Kathleen Ruston.

She is one out of twelve people to have won an Academy, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony award. She also was soooooooooooooooo pretty!

Click Here to buy The Dinner List By Rebecca Serle

Unconditional Love at its Finest!

This is how it always is book cover

October 9, 2018

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Oh, how our lives are constantly filled with “what ifs”. You can make yourself crazy trying to answer that question, day in and day out about every little thing. However, there is much beauty in a question beginning with these two words. There is a certain mystery in it that will not only evoke interest but will create dialogue, debate, and overall awareness of a new or existing issue. I just finished reading, This is How it Always Is, by Laurie Frankel. My mind has not stopped racing since the completion of this story (making this a FABULOUS book club pick for friends). Because of this, I open my letter to you with another “what if” question. What if your five-year-old son thought he was a girl?  He literally identifies with the female sex in the most natural and innocent way and is completely thrilled with this.

In Frankel’s book, fictional parents, Rosie and Penn embark on an unfamiliar parenting path (off roading, if you will).  Their youngest son (youngest of five boys) Claude believes he is a girl. He loves wearing dresses, playing with his peers who are girls and is the most joyful wearing a two piece bikini in the pool.  He has the most loving parents who not only support him by changing his name to Poppy, but keep this family secret. Like any secret, there are costs to keeping up a lie. Decisions made for one, often impact others in ways unexpected.  At what point during a child’s self-expression should a parent intervene and protect them from the world? In her book, Frankel writes of gender dysphoria and transgender issues with a sensitivity that envelopes compassion, honesty and courage.  It is an absolutely heartwarming story that mixes truth with fairy tale. Frankel gives readers an intimate glance at one family’s unexpected journey into the sea of unknown. Most importantly though, readers can briefly experience a world with no labels, no judgement and unconditional love through the eyes of a five year old child.  I know that fairy tales are not exactly true, but everyone deserves a happy ending.

Enjoy!

Write to you next week!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S.  If you enjoy This is How it Always is, check out Super Late Bloomer…….My Early Days in Transition by Julia Kaye.  This is a Kaye’s personal experience during her early months of gender transition.  It is a Non-Fiction Graphic Novel for adults and is brilliantly executed. Make sure to read the Before and Letter to my younger self  (part of the book) as well.

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