The Dead Girls Club

Finished The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A supernatural thriller in the vein of A Head Full of Ghosts about two young girls, a scary story that becomes far too real, and the tragic–and terrifying–consequences that follow one of them into adulthood.

Red Lady, Red Lady, show us your face…

In 1991, Heather Cole and her friends were members of the Dead Girls Club. Obsessed with the macabre, the girls exchanged stories about serial killers and imaginary monsters, like the Red Lady, the spirit of a vengeful witch killed centuries before. Heather knew the stories were just that, until her best friend Becca began insisting the Red Lady was real–and she could prove it.

That belief got Becca killed.

It’s been nearly thirty years, but Heather has never told anyone what really happened that night–that Becca was right and the Red Lady was real. She’s done her best to put that fateful summer, Becca, and the Red Lady, behind her. Until a familiar necklace arrives in the mail, a necklace Heather hasn’t seen since the night Becca died.

The night Heather killed her.

Now, someone else knows what she did…and they’re determined to make Heather pay.”

Stories centered around teen girls and spooky urban legends are really my favorite trope right now, and this is a really fun example. The Red Lady is absolutely terrifying and the way that Becca describes her and the stories that she tells are some of the creepiest I’ve ever heard.

In a lot of ways, Heather never got over the night Becca died (she and the other two friends all stopped speaking to each other not long after) and she’s carried a lot of guilt and questions in the decades since.

This is definitely a scary book but it’s also a good discussion-starter and it has a lot of interesting things to say about female friendship and the obsession that a lot of us have with true crime.

I’m going to be thinking about this one for a while (and if I hear anyone saying my name, I’m not looking).

A Good Neighborhood

Finished A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler. I received a copy for review. It’s out in early February so put a hold request in at the library now.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“In Oak Knoll, a verdant, tight-knit North Carolina neighborhood, professor of forestry and ecology Valerie Alston-Holt is raising her bright and talented biracial son. Xavier is headed to college in the fall, and after years of single parenting, Valerie is facing the prospect of an empty nest. All is well until the Whitmans move in next door―an apparently traditional family with new money, ambition, and a secretly troubled teenaged daughter.

Thanks to his thriving local business, Brad Whitman is something of a celebrity around town, and he’s made a small fortune on his customer service and charm, while his wife, Julia, escaped her trailer park upbringing for the security of marriage and homemaking. Their new house is more than she ever imagined for herself, and who wouldn’t want to live in Oak Knoll? With little in common except a property line, these two very different families quickly find themselves at odds: first, over an historic oak tree in Valerie’s yard, and soon after, the blossoming romance between their two teenagers.

Told from multiple points of view, A Good Neighborhood asks big questions about life in America today―What does it mean to be a good neighbor? How do we live alongside each other when we don’t see eye to eye?―as it explores the effects of class, race, and heartrending star-crossed love in a story that’s as provocative as it is powerful.”

I’ve read Therese Anne Fowler before, but that was her historical fiction about Zelda Fitzgerald. This is an entirely different book (though just as compelling and well-written). This story feels very timely and is also all too plausible. I want to read her other historical fiction, but I also hope that she keeps writing contemporary fiction because she has a real gift for it.

It’s hard to discuss without spoiling so I’ll give you a prediction instead: this is the book that everyone’s going to be talking about, and it’s one of the times that it’s really worth all the hype and comparisons (I’m guessing it’ll be compared to Big Little Lies most often). Make sure you read it before it’s spoiled for you. Highly recommended.

Knives Out

Knives Out is one of the AFI’s 10 best movies for 2019.

Non-spoilery plot: the patriarch of an incredibly wealthy family is dead, apparently of suicide. BUT IT COULD BE MURDER. Daniel Craig is on the case.

I very much enjoyed this movie. It’s a dark comedy with some political statements (it’s not super subtle with them, either) and an excellent whodunit.

Best of all? The cast is amazing. I’m a huge fan of Toni Collette and Jamie Lee Curtis, but there’s also Christopher Plummer, Don Johnson, Chris Evans, Katherine Langford and a lot of other “Oh! It’s that person!” moments.

I don’t know that I’d agree that it’s literally one of the ten best movies of 2019, but it’s also not the worst mistake the AFI has made* and this is a completely delightful movie that I do want to see again.

* = Green Book, last year.

Adventures in Streaming

Welcome back to this! Since we last left, I have gained access to AppleTV AND Disney+.

APPLETV: I’ve started watching Servant and I really like it! I’ve seen three of the four episodes released so far, and I really like it. (I should catch up by the end of this weekend.) I also want to watch The Morning Show, Truth Be Told and Dickinson. It’s very creepy and it’s also a total slow-burn. If you’re only into the fast-paced horror movies that can deliver a scare every 5 minutes or so, you’ll hate it. But it’s really atmospheric and I enjoy it.

DISNEY+:  I wanted to start something while I waited for The Mandalorian to finish its first season, so I chose The Muppets. It lasted for one season on ABC, and I remember liking it but I also know that I didn’t watch all the episodes. I’m a fan and this show is funny and a little edgier than the Muppets tend to be. (Not super edgy—this is still Disney and the Muppets—but Kermit does call his life a “bacon-wrapped hell.”)

HULU: I’m caught up with all my shows, but they’re on winter hiatus now. I also finally started watching Shrill (I loved Lindy West’s books and so far, the show is great, too). It’s very funny so far and I love Aidy Bryant. She’s not playing Lindy West, per se (the character’s name is Annie) but the pilot was taken from her book, Shrill.

NETFLIX: I’ve fallen in love with Schitt’s Creek and I should be caught up in time to watch the sixth season live (I’m starting the fifth season today!). It’s the funniest show and also really sweet. I’m really sad that the sixth season is the last. I love the Roses and the town, and I’m really excited to keep going. This is definitely the show that I’m focused on.

PRIME: I binged the second half of The Good Fight’s second season and its third season over Thanksgiving. I love that show and I can’t wait for it to come back. There’s no release date, so here’s hoping it comes back soon. I haven’t decided what my next Prime/CBS All Access show will be (Tell Me a Story? Marvelous Mrs. Maisel? Fleabag?) but I’ll decide soon. I did stream the 1986 Babes in Toyland, which was fun.

VUDU: I started watching the limited series remake of Are You Afraid of the Dark? The first season has three episodes, and I thought that it would be a fun show to crank through. And the pilot was! It’s definitely meant for a middlegrade audience, so if you want something that’s about on the creepy level of Goosebumps or Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, this is absolutely on that level. I really liked it and can’t wait to keep going. And it centers around a creepy carnival, so I’m all in. Also? They attend Herbert West Middle School, which is only the coolest reference ever.

Meg & Jo

Finished Meg & Jo by Virginia Kantra. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“The March sisters—reliable Meg, independent Jo, stylish Amy, and shy Beth—have grown up to pursue their separate dreams. When Jo followed her ambitions to New York City, she never thought her career in journalism would come crashing down, leaving her struggling to stay afloat in a gig economy as a prep cook and secret food blogger.

Meg appears to have the life she always planned—the handsome husband, the adorable toddlers, the house in a charming subdivision. But sometimes getting everything you’ve ever wanted isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

When their mother’s illness forces the sisters home to North Carolina for the holidays, they’ll rediscover what really matters.

One thing’s for sure—they’ll need the strength of family and the power of sisterhood to remake their lives and reimagine their dreams.”

I really enjoyed this! I enjoyed this updated version, as well as the fact that it focused on the sisters as adults. As the title would imply, it centers around Meg and Jo (there will be a sequel next year that’s more about Beth and Amy).

Meg is a housewife and Jo is a food blogger/prep cook and they love their lives but are also not as happy as they may have believed they would be if their dreams came true. Meg, for example, has always wanted to be a wife and mom and now she is. But she’s also really busy and the only one of her sisters who stayed in their hometown, which means that helping her parents falls on her 100% of the time. Her husband works very hard to ensure that she can stay home with their kids, so she feels guilty asking him to do anything to help around the house or with the kids.

It follows Little Women pretty closely but it also reimagines it in wonderful ways. This book was an absolute delight. Recommended.

Would Like to Meet

Finished Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters. I received a copy for review.

Synopsis (from Goodreads):

In this charming, feel-good debut novel, a cynical assistant at a screenwriting agency must reenact the meet-cute scenes from classic romantic comedy movies in order to help her #1 client get his scriptwriting mojo back–but can a real-life meet-cute be in store for someone who doesn’t believe in happily ever after?

After seven years as an assistant, 29-year-old Evie Summers is ready to finally get the promotion she deserves. But now the TV and film agency she’s been running behind the scenes is in trouble, and Evie will lose her job unless she can convince the agency’s biggest and most arrogant client, Ezra Chester, to finish writing the script for a Hollywood romantic comedy.

The catch? Ezra is suffering from writer’s block–and he’ll only put pen to paper if singleton Evie can prove to him that you can fall in love like they do in the movies. With the future of the agency in jeopardy, Evie embarks on a mission to meet a man the way Sally met Harry or Hugh Grant met Julia Roberts.

But in the course of testing out the meet-cute scenes from classic romantic comedies IRL, not only will Evie encounter one humiliating situation after another, but she’ll have to confront the romantic past that soured her on love. In a novel as hilarious as it is heartwarming, debut author Rachel Winters proves that sometimes real life is better than the movies–and that the best kind of meet-cutes happen when you least expect them.”

I barely made it a third of the way through before I decided to buy copies as presents for a handful of my romance-loving friends. They’re going to be so happy.

This book is amazing. It’s sweet and funny (like, seriously, try to not laugh out loud. You won’t be able to do it) and just wonderful.

I couldn’t love Evie any more than I do. We have the same taste in love stories and she’s an absolute sweetheart. She’s smart and dedicated and a lovely person. I was rooting for her happy ending (in every sense).

This is a debut novel and Rachel Winters is one to watch. I can’t wait for her next book. Highly recommended.

AFI’s Best of 2019 Lists

The AFI named its 10 best movies of 2019. So far, I’ve seen one.

The winners: 1917, The Farewell, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Knives Out, Little Women, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood, Richard Jewell

The Farewell and Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood are available to stream now and The Irishman and Marriage Story are on Netflix (Marriage Story may come out later in the month, actually, but it will be). I’m already seeing Knives Out this weekend and I really want to see everything but 1917 (war movies) and Joker (birth of an incel).

The TV winners: Chernobyl, The Crown, Fosse/Verdon, Game of Thrones, Pose, Succession, Unbelievable, Veep, Watchmen, When They See Us

I’ve seen the first two seasons of the Crown, some of Veep and all the episodes of Game of Thrones. I have HBO and Netflix so I should be able to see When They See Us, Unbelievable and Watchmen. I’m excited to see all of these shows, although I know some will break me.

Fleabag won a special award for TV and Parasite won a special award for movies.


Dangerous Alliance

Finished Dangerous Alliance by Jennieke Cohen. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue meets Jane Austen in this witty, winking historical romance with a dash of mystery!

Lady Victoria Aston has everything she could want: an older sister happily wed, the future of her family estate secure, and ample opportunity to while her time away in the fields around her home.

But now Vicky must marry—or find herself and her family destitute. Armed only with the wisdom she has gained from her beloved novels by Jane Austen, she enters society’s treacherous season.

Sadly, Miss Austen has little to say about Vicky’s exact circumstances: whether the roguish Mr. Carmichael is indeed a scoundrel, if her former best friend, Tom Sherborne, is out for her dowry or for her heart, or even how to fend off the attentions of the foppish Mr. Silby, he of the unfortunate fashion sensibility.

Most unfortunately of all, Vicky’s books are silent on the topic of the mysterious accidents cropping up around her…ones that could prevent her from surviving until her wedding day.”

This was a really fun book! There are a lot of references to Pride & Prejudice and I think there are obviously a lot of similarities. (One of the characters mentions that Tom Sherborne is very similar to Mr. Darcy and I’m not sure there’s ever been a bigger understatement.)

I don’t read historical romances that often, but this one was completely delightful. (Probably because I over-relate to bookish women and because this has a lot of P&P references, which is always a bonus.)

You’ll know where this is headed but you’ll also love the entire journey.

The Confession Club

Finished The Confession Club by Elizabeth Berg. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“When a group of friends in Mason, Missouri, decide to start a monthly supper club, they get more than they bargained for. The plan for congenial evenings—talking, laughing, and sharing recipes, homemade food, and wine—abruptly changes course one night when one of the women reveals something startlingly intimate. The supper club then becomes Confession Club, and the women gather weekly to share not only dinners, but embarrassing misdeeds, deep insecurities, and long-held regrets.

They invite Iris Winters and Maddy Harris to join, and their timing couldn’t be better. Iris is conflicted about her feelings for a charming but troubled man, and Maddy has come back home from New York to escape a problem too big to handle alone. The club offers exactly the kind of support they need to help them make some difficult decisions.

The Confession Club 
is charming, heartwarming, and inspiring. And as in the previous books that take place in Mason, readers will find friendship, community, and kindness on full display.”

I love Elizabeth Berg’s books and I haven’t read them in a while. I’m not sure why; there’s no real reason for it. It was an impulse grab at ALA and then an impulse grab the night before Thanksgiving. (I got the release date wrong, and then decided to read this instead of an early December release.)

The Confession Club felt like comfort food to me, and I loved every page. It also makes me want to start my own confession club. But even without that, this is a sweet and fun book that is also sad and thought-provoking and basically the literary equivalent of hot soup on a cold day when you’re feeling just a bit under the weather: it’s exactly what’s needed.

This is the third in a series, but it’s more of an interconnected set of stories that take place in the same town than an actual series where they need to be read in order. (I do want to read the first two books now, though.)

The Potion Diaries

Finished The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“When the Princess of Nova accidentally poisons herself with a love potion meant for her crush, she falls crown-over-heels in love with her own reflection. Oops. A nationwide hunt is called to find the cure, with competitors travelling the world for the rarest ingredients, deep in magical forests and frozen tundras, facing death at every turn.

Enter Samantha Kemi – an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent. Sam’s family were once the most respected alchemists in the kingdom, but they’ve fallen on hard times, and winning the hunt would save their reputation. But can Sam really compete with the dazzling powers of the ZoroAster megapharma company? Just how close is Sam willing to get to Zain Aster, her dashing former classmate and enemy, in the meantime?

And just to add to the pressure, this quest is ALL OVER social media. And the world news.

No big deal, then.”

I read this for my online book club. I mention that, because this isn’t the book I would’ve grabbed for myself…and that’s too bad, because this is an incredibly fun story that’s over the top in the best way.

Sam is the latest in a long line of alchemists. Her family has fallen from grace (long story) but after the princess accidentally drinks a love potion she meant for someone else, the royal family needs help. She’s one of the people drafted to fix the problem before it’s too late (by which I mean the kingdom literally explodes). I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that a lot of things go wrong and that it’s the actual definition of a madcap romp.

There are two more books in the series. I don’t have them but there’s a really good chance that I’ll pick them up eventually. I’d love to know what happens next to Sam and her family.

If you’re in the mood for a delightful read that goes much faster than its 400 page count would imply, this is for you. It’ls guaranteed to make you smile and take your mind off whatever’s troubling you.