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read what you love • love what you read

Triple Threat

Caul Baby by Morgan Jerkins (Harper)
The Editor by Steven Rowley (G.P. Putnam’s Sons)
Her Dark Lies by J.T. Ellison (Mira Books)


May 10, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Today I am coming at you with not one, but three books to quench your reading desires. Caul births, Jackie O. and a cliffside villa on the coast of Italy is what’s in store for you with this triple threat selection.  Even though all three books could not have been more different, they all are fantastic reads in their own special way and I highly encourage you to add them to your TBR.  Let’s take a look, shall we?

J.T. Ellison did it again with another juicy tale.  Her Dark Lies is overflowing with danger, luxury and secrets galore.  The writing is atmospheric, the characters are layered, and the setting is so incredibly stunning.  A wedding on a remote Italian island sounds fantastic, right?  Throw in a huge storm, a lot of cash, dead bodies and few potential ghosts, and you’ve got yourself quite the tale.  Ellison wowed me with her nod to Daphne du Maurier.  Paying homage to one of her favorite books (Rebecca) in Her Dark Lies was absolutely stellar!  Check out what I had to say about her previous book, Good Girls Lie, RIGHT HERE!

Switching gears…I am a huge fan of Steven Rowley’s, The Editor.  Let me just reiterate that we book lovers LOVE reading about writers, getting published and anything literary related. Now, picture Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis as the editor of an author’s debut novel, and you are officially in the middle of one charming tale. James Smale is the quintessential struggling writer who finally gets his big break with one of the major publishing houses with none other than Jackie O. as his editor.  Who would have thought that this former first lady would not only be editing his book, but also helping him come to terms with his dysfunctional family.  Wit and style paired with wisdom and grace fill the pages of Rowley’s book. I seriously adored Rowley’s humor and found myself chuckling throughout his book (James’ boyfriend Daniel, is an absolute riot in my opinion).  I loved how The Editor hit all the marks for me.  American royalty, family secrets and bookish delight, all tied up into one heartfelt novel equals perfection!  Be sure to stay tuned because Rowley has a new book coming out on May 25, 2021 called, The Guncle, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.  

My last read was probably the most unique one for me.  Caul Baby by Morgan Jerkins follows the Melancon Family from Harlem who are known for their caul, a special layer of skin that is used for healing and fertility.  Let me backup and explain what a caul birth is because I had no clue before reading this book and had to google it for clarity.  A caul birth is basically when a baby is born in an intact amniotic sac.  It is pretty rare and happens in less than one in 80,000 births according to Healthline (knowing this helps to understand the magic behind this story). I loved how Jerkins took this miraculous occurrence and gave it a touch of sorcery to create her story.  The Melancon women are famous for their healing skills and helping moms have successful pregnancies. Women from all over come to these women, willing to pay the steep cost for a piece of their caul.  When the plan falls through for Laila to acquire some caul to ensure a safe pregnancy, she is crushed when her baby is stillborn.  From there, the story takes flight.  Race, gentrification, money, morals and family secrets are all explored in depth with a hint of magical realism to keep things fresh and a wee bit peculiar.  There is so much to unpack from Jerkin’s story.  It is a WONDERFUL choice for your next book club.

Well my friend…three books for the price of one for the win today!

Happy Reading!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S. Click on the book pics below to purchase these gems from your local Indie Bookstore!

Bits & Pieces

Pretending book cover

Pretending by Holly Bourne (Mira Books)

November 30, 2020

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

I am excited to tell you that I just read my very first Holly Bourne novel and I can’t stop thinking about it.   Bourne’s latest novel, Pretending, blew me away.  She tapped into all of my emotions in one swoop.   What I thought was going to be a light and fluffy experience, turned out to be an emotionally raw and engaging read with quite a few laughs on the side.  Let’s take a deeper look into this novel, shall we!

Before I dive into telling you about this book, I need to let you know from the start that Pretending includes rape, sexual assault and recovery.  There is no avoiding it or skipping past it in this novel.  If this subject matter is triggering or one that you are uncomfortable reading about, please gently put this book aside.  

April is single and in her early thirties.  As much as she wants to find Mr. Right and settle down, there is one thing getting in her way…SHE HATES MEN!  She makes it very clear how awful they are from the start.  Her angry tone towards the male population may seem over the top at first glance, but you will quickly learn its origin given her traumatic past.  Being sexually assaulted by her ex-boyfriend took away a part of April she can never get back.  Men want carefree women with no worries.  Women who ooze body confidence like no other.  Women who care, but not too much.  Women who are secure in who they are.  Women who are interesting and want to go to cool places… like Africa.  Women who effortlessly look fabulous all the time.  You get the idea.  The problem is that April is none of these things.  The potential to be that “type” of woman was stolen, along with a part of her soul by a man.  Who on earth wants to date damaged goods?  Baggage is only sexy at the airport on the way to a romantic destination with your lover…am I right?  April can’t get past that fact that once a man sees her for who she really is, they will no doubt run the other way.  

“I want to have someone in my life who completely and utterly knows me, and has earned the knowing of me by their unwavering willingness to stick around while I slowly reveal it all.  It only grows with time and commitment and dedication, and that only comes with someone deciding you are worth the investment to become knowable.  Someone who believes the bits they will learn about you will make them love you only more, not less.”

On a quest for revenge on her ex and on all men who walk the earth, April decides to test her theory out on a dating website.  Instead of being April (her true authentic self), she pretends to be Gretel, a fictional version of herself that encompasses all things that she believes men “want” in a woman. The plot thickens when she starts dating Joshua.  Being “Gretel” seems to be working.  Joshua is smitten with her.  However, as the weeks go by, the real April starts creeping in and Gretel becomes more exhausting to manage. Ultra cool Gretel is difficult to keep up with when flashbacks from April’s past make unexpected appearances while with Joshua.  Her feelings for Joshua become muddy while overseeing Gretel and April’s emotions simultaneously.  Will Joshua see through the lies and discover the “real” woman he is dating?

Pretending worked for me on so many levels.  What I absolutely loved about this book is Bourne’s writing style.  April’s journey toward healing and recovery was written with not only the greatest sensitivity to a difficult subject matter, but with a dark comedic vibe that had me laughing out loud.  Because her private thoughts and vulnerability are fully exposed between the pages of this book, it was easy for me to connect with April.  I personally enjoy getting into a character’s head space while reading.  It is the complexity of their innermost thoughts that oftentimes drive the story forward.   There were definitely times in the book where I wanted to shake what I thought was “sense” into April.  I may have even tried to push her into therapy to process her trauma if I could. However, this is April’s story, and as it unfolds, I quickly realized that what may seem like a traditional and more straightforward approach to healing, may not be her direct path.  “Pretending” to be someone else with an innocent man to seek answers you so desperately need may not sit well with the moralists out there (fair point).  But sometimes storytelling is what we need to truly digest the magnitude of awful things in life.  It also introduces the reader to Joshua, who I really want everyone to meet. Joshua, Joshua, Joshua!!!!

Pretending was the perfect afternoon read.  I am not going to lie, at first I thought the combination of rom-com with the sexual assault component was strange.  It felt weird, even slightly inappropriate to be chuckling and swooning over a gorgeous guy on one page and absolutely horrified and distressed on the next page.  It worked though.  Bourne weaved together an entertaining read about romance, love and self discovery while tackling the issue of sexual assault and recovery with thoughtfulness and grace.  I loved April and her journey and my feelings for Joshua…well lets just say, you will find out soon enough!!!! 

Much love and reading to you!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S.  Thank you to Mira Books for the advance reader copy of Pretending and for having me on this amazing Blog tour. Pretending is out NOW!!!!!

Click the book pic to purchase from your local bookstore.

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