Category Archives: 2020 Books

Pumpkin

Finished Pumpkin by Julie Murphy. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Waylon Russell Brewer is a fat, openly gay boy stuck in the small West Texas town of Clover City. His plan is to bide his time until he can graduate, move to Austin with his twin sister, Clementine, and finally go Full Waylon, so that he can live his Julie-the-hills-are-alive-with-the-sound-of-music-Andrews truth.

So when Clementine deviates from their master plan right after Waylon gets dumped, he throws caution to the wind and creates an audition tape for his favorite TV drag show, Fiercest of Them All. What he doesn’t count on is the tape accidentally getting shared with the entire school. . . . As a result, Waylon is nominated for prom queen as a joke. Clem’s girlfriend, Hannah Perez, also receives a joke nomination for prom king.

Waylon and Hannah decide there’s only one thing to do: run—and leave high school with a bang. A very glittery bang. Along the way, Waylon discovers that there is a lot more to running for prom court than campaign posters and plastic crowns, especially when he has to spend so much time with the very cute and infuriating prom king nominee Tucker Watson.

Waylon will need to learn that the best plan for tomorrow is living for today . . . especially with the help of some fellow queens. . . . “

I’ve been a huge fan of Julie Murphy’s since I read Dumplin’, and every book I’ve read since has only cemented it.

And you guys. YOU GUYS. Pumpkin is a complete delight. I love Waylon so much and I love this world so much and I am in denial that it’s the last book. I mean, we thought it would be a duology, right? So there’s no reason this couldn’t eventually become a quadrilogy or even a full-fledged series.

This book is just so charming and sweet and fun. Everything about it made me smile. And now if you need me, I’ll be over here, starting the whole series over.

Highly recommended.

People Like Her

Finished People Like Her by Ellery Lloyd. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A razor-sharp, wickedly smart suspense debut about an ambitious influencer mom whose soaring success threatens her marriage, her morals, and her family’s safety.

Followed by Millions, Watched by One

To her adoring fans, Emmy Jackson, aka @the_mamabare, is the honest “Instamum” who always tells it like it is. 

To her skeptical husband, a washed-up novelist who knows just how creative Emmy can be with the truth, she is a breadwinning powerhouse chillingly brilliant at monetizing the intimate details of their family life.

To one of Emmy’s dangerously obsessive followers, she’s the woman that has everything—but deserves none of it.  

As Emmy’s marriage begins to crack under the strain of her growing success and her moral compass veers wildly off course, the more vulnerable she becomes to a very real danger circling ever closer to her family.

In this deeply addictive tale of psychological suspense, Ellery Lloyd raises important questions about technology, social media celebrity, and the way we live today. Probing the dark side of influencer culture and the perils of parenting online, People Like Her explores our desperate need to be seen and the lengths we’ll go to be liked by strangers. It asks what—and who—we sacrifice when make our private lives public, and ultimately lose control of who we let in. . . .”

This is an incredibly fun novel and one that starts out very plausibly. (Yes, by the end, things have taken a sharp turn into “This would never happen” but even so, it is a very, VERY entertaining story.

Emmy is famous on Instagram and she has a lot of fans…and a lot of trolls. And, most alarmingly, at least one of them is dangerous. (I think we’ve all been on the internet long enough to realize that the more people are aware of you, the likelier it is that someone will take a random dislike to you and that people will be mean to/about you.) Her husband Dan, meanwhile, is an author who wrote one book and has been trying to write his second for quite some time. (It feels cruel to specify exactly how long and exactly how far into the writing process he’s gotten.) He definitely seems to consider Emmy’s work to be less important than his own, although they’re also kept afloat because of her income.)

The story is told from both perspectives and that serves the story well. We see that events are remembered differently, and the way that Dan assumes everything she does is incredibly easy. (Spoiler: it’s either very hard or Dan is not skilled in those areas. Or both.)

I loved this book and it is an incredibly fun distraction.

2020: The Books

January:

1) Bibliophile by Jane Mount (1)

2) Throw Like a Girl by Sarah Henning (2)

3) Tweet Cute by Emma Lord (3)

4) Alone Forever by Liz Prince (4)

5) All the Days Past, All the Days to Come by Mildred D. Taylor (5)

6) Loveboat Taipei by Abigail Hing Wen (6)

7) We Used to Be Friends by Amy Spalding (7)

8) Three Things I Know are True by Betty Culley (8)

9) American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (9)

10) Followers by Megan Angelo (10)

11) Infinity Son by Adam Silvera (11)

12) Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano (12)

13) From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks (13)

14) A Bound Woman is a Dangerous Thing by DaMaris B. Hill (14)

15) Creepshow by Stephen King (15)

16) Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy by Rey Terciero and Bre Indigo (16)

17) Not So Pure and Simple by Lamar Giles (17)

18) Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (18)

19) The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead (19)

20) The Red Casket by Darby Karchut (20)

21) My Life With Bob by Pamela Paul (21)

22) Keep Moving by Maggie Smith (22)

23) Beloved by Toni Morrison (23)

February:

1) Hum If You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais (24)

2) The Voting Booth by Brandy Colbert (25)

3) Cleo McDougall Regrets Nothing by Allison Winn Scotch (26)

4) Music From Another World by Robin Talley (27)

5) In Five Years by Rebecca Serle (28)

6) Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed (29)

7) The Holdout by Graham Moore (30)

8) You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen (31)

9) The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper (32)

10) Lucky Caller by Emma Mills (33)

11) What Kind of Girl by Alyssa Sheinmel (34)

12) A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson (35)

13) True To Your Selfie by Megan McCafferty (36)

14) Summer of 79 by Elin Hilderbrand (37)

15) White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo (38)

16) The Phantom Prince by Elizabeth Kendall (39)

17) Don’t Read the Comments by Eric Smith (40)

18) Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (41)

March:

1) Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis (42)

2) Wayside School Beneath the Cloud of Doom by Louis Sachar (43)

3) Only Mostly Devastated by Sophie Gonzales (44)

4) My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf (45)

5) Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson (46)

6) The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert (47)

7) Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore (48)

8) Most Likely by Sarah Watson (49)

9) Untamed by Glennon Doyle (50)

10) How to Be Fine by Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer (51)

11) All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban (52)

April:

1) The Boy From the Woods by Harlan Coben (53)

2) Grown Ups by Marian Keyes (54)

3) Lakewood by Megan Giddings (55)

4) The New Husband by DJ Palmer (56)

5) The Red Lotus by Chris Bohjalian (57)

6) Catch & Kill by Ronan Farrow (58)

7) If it Bleeds by Stephen King (59)

May:

1) Dead Land by Sara Paretsky (60)

2) The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix (61)

3) Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner (62)

4) The Burning by Laura Bates (63)

5) The Perfect Secret by Steena Holmes (64)

6) The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead (65)

7) A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight (66)

8) Ways to Make Sunshine by Renee Watson (67)

9) Before This is Over by Amanda Hickie (68)

10) How to Quit Your Crush by Amy Fellner Dominy (69)

11) Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld (70)

12) Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz (71)

13) Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding (72)

14) Again Again by E. Lockhart (73)

15) If We Were Us by KL Walther (74)

16) Little Creeping Things by Chelsea Ichaso (75)

17) Seven Clues to Home by Gae Polisner and Nora Raleigh Baskin (76)

June:

1) Dear Martin by Nic Stone (77)

2) Dear Justyce by Nic Stone (78)

3) The Other Mrs. Miller by Allison Dickson (79)

4) Home Before Dark by Riley Sager (80)

5) Citizen by Claudia Rankine (81)

6) Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith (82)

7) The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown (83)

8) You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson (84)

9) Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo (85)

10) Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes (86)

11) Five Days by Wes Moore and Erica Green (87)

12) Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender (88)

13) The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth (89)

14) What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate McLaughlin (90)

15) In the Role of Brie Hutchens by Nicole Melleby (91)

16) Anti-Racist Baby by Ibram H. Kendi (92)

17) Woke by Mahogany L. Browne (93)

18) The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (94)

July:

1) 28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand (95)

2) Love, Creekwood by Becky Albertalli (96)

3) Surrender, White People! by DL Hughley (97)

4) Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron (98)

5) What You Wish For by Katherine Center (99)

6) The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon (100)

7) Passing by Nella Larsen (101)

8) I Am Here Now by Barbara Bottner (102)

9) Killers Keep Secrets by James Huddle (103)

10) Blood for the Sun by Errick Nunnally (104)

11) Say Her Name by Zetta Elliott (105)

12) Across That Bridge by John Lewis (106)

13) Lobizona by Romina Garber (107)

14) Kindred by Octavia Butler (108)

15) The Heir Affair by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (109)

August:

1) This is My America by Kim Johnson (110)

2) Prom Dress by Lael Littke (111)

3) Something to Say by Lisa Moore Ramee (112)

4) Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory (113)

5) The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed (114)

6) The Night Swim by Megan Goldin (115)

7) This Little Light by Lori Lansens (116)

8) When These Mountains Burn by David Joy (117)

9) All Eyes on Her by LE Flynn (118)

10) The Assignment by Liza Wiemer (119)

11) Let Me Hear a Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson (120)

12) The Living Dead by George Romero and Daniel Kraus (121)

13) The City Between Us by NK Jemisin (122)

14) One Way or Another by Kara McDowell (123)

September:

1) Scritch Scratch by Lindsay Currie (124)

2) Majesty by Katharine McGee (125)

3) You Can Keep That to Yourself by Adam Smyer (126)

4) Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam (127)

5) Fangs by Sarah Andersen (128)

6) Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer De Leon (128)

7) Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Mejia (129)

8) Chasing Alice by Stephanie L. Fowler (130)

9) Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno (131)

10) Don’t Judge Me by Lisa Schroeder (132)

11) Grown by Tiffany Jackson (133)

12) The Weight of the Stars by K Ancrum (134)

13) The Wicker King by K Ancrum (135)

14) Just Us by Claudia Rankine (136)

15) When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole (137)

16) Now That I’ve Found You by Kristina Forest (138)

17) Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi (139)

18) Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManus (140)

19) There There by Tommy Orange (141)

October:

1) Faith by Carrie Jones (142)

2) On a Good Horse by Darby Karchut (143)

3) Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis (144)

4) Troubles in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand (145)

5) Carry: A Memoir of Survival on Stolen Land by Toni Jensen (146)

6) There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins (147)

7) Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare (148)

8) Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas (149)

9) Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson (150)

10) Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas (151)

11) Misery by Stephen King (152)

12) Unpresidented by Martha Brockenbrough (153)

13) Hoax by Brian Stelter (154)

14) We’re Better Than This by Elijah Cummings (155)

15) The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (156)

16) Riot Baby by Toni Onyebuchi (157)

17) Thoughts of Dog by Matt Nelson (158)

18) Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour (159)

November:

1) Or What You Will by Jo Walton (160)

2) Sanctuary by VV James (161)

3) What If You Fly by Jen Petro-Roy (162)

4) The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult (163)

5) The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune (164)

6) Where the Road Leads Us by Robin Reul (165)

7) Pretty Little Wife by Darby Kane (166)

8) Shit, Actually by Lindy West (167)

9) Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline (168)

10) Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore (169)

11) One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London (170)

December:

1) A Vow So Bold and Deadly by Brigid Kemmerer (171)

2) The Project by Courtney Summers (172)

3) Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief by David Kessler (173)

4) Admission by Julie Buxbaum (174)

5) Pumpkin by Julie Murphy (175)

6) People Like Her by Ellery Lloyd (176)

7) The Half Sister by Sandie Jones (177)

8) The Children of Red Peak by Craig DiLouie (178)

9) In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren (179)

10) This Close to Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith (180)

11) The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins (181)

12) The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley (182)

13) This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens (183)

14) Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon (184)

Don’t Judge Me

Finished Don’t Judge Me by Lisa Schroeder.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Inspired by a true story of girl empowerment, acclaimed author Lisa Schroeder’s new novel explores trust, self-worth, and speaking up — especially when you’re told to keep quiet.

Hazel doesn’t like to make waves. Middle school is hard enough without causing more trouble, right? She’s happy just eating lunch in the library with her BFF, writing secret haikus, and taking care of an adorable rescue tortoise.

But then Hazel discovers a list that rates the girls at her middle school based on their looks — started by her best friend’s older brother. She knows she has to do something, and she can’t do it alone. The wave she’ll be making might turn into a tsunami, but if Hazel can find the courage to speak up, she might just change everything.”

I was so excited to get to read this early, because Lisa Schroeder is one of my absolute most favorite authors. She deals with heavy topics but she does it with sensitivity and while treating her characters and the kids who will be reading her books with the utmost respect.

Hazel is in the middle of a situation that she doesn’t know how to handle. She’s found a notebook that rates the girls at her school (including Hazel herself) and all she knows for sure is that she doesn’t feel comfortable talking to adults about it. She thinks her parents will either go straight to the principal or confront the boy whose notebook she stole (her best friend’s older brother) and she doesn’t want to get in trouble and she doesn’t want to get other people in trouble, either. She just wants this behavior to stop.

I essentially was Hazel in middle school, so I had so much empathy for her. And when she realizes that she is braver and more capable than she thought, I felt like her mom. I was so happy and so proud.

Lisa Schroeder’s books (and Lisa herself) are just pure magic. They always make me happy, even as they remind me that there’s a lot of good in the world. (Yes, there are also awful people. But there are more good people than bad, especially when the good ones speak up.)

Highly recommended.

On a Good Horse

Finished On a Good Horse by Darby Karchut. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“‘Easier to carry the bad when you’re mounted on a good horse.’

Alex Nash dreams of being a soccer star. Or a graphic artist. Maybe both. But being a cowboy? Nope and no way. Not if it means being anything like his seldom seen father.

Then, out of nowhere, tragedy shatters Alex’s world, and when he thinks life couldn’t sucker-punch him again, it does. He’s forced to live with Roberto Nash, a man he barely knows. Or wants to know.

Until Alex finds out his dad has bought him a peace offering of a sort, one with a red coat, lightning speed, and a fighting spirit. A spitfire of a horse that just might heal Alex’s heart and reunite father and son.”

There aren’t any words for how much I enjoyed this book. It’s really funny, which is good because it also deals with a boy who’s lost his mom and who is basically building a relationship with his dad from scratch. It’s not like they’d never met, but the divorce was acrimonious and they didn’t see each other very often.

This is Darby’s contemporary middlegrade debut, and it’s amazing. As anyone who reads her books can attest, one of her very real strengths is writing great father-son relationships, but this one is on a whole other level. Alex and his dad (Rob) have no foundation at all (seriously, Rob is the parent who sees his kid maybe once a year and shows up with a picture book for a seven year old. And it’s not entirely his fault–again, VERY acrimonious divorce and he lives far away) so seeing the two of them learn to connect is absolutely beyond touching. It doesn’t hurt that Rob, bless his heart, is not above bribery (he buys Alex a horse).

Also, a few chapters are from the horse’s perspective. This is a dangerous choice, because it could become sappy or weird or break the book’s pacing. It’s actually fantastic though; Rio is a total smartass and his chapters are wonderful and I laughed through all of them. (He’s also a bit of a marshmallow but don’t repeat that; he would bite me for it.)

I absolutely adore this book. Highly recommended.

Concrete Rose

Finished Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas. This is a prequel to The Hate U Give and will be released on January 12; I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

International phenomenon Angie Thomas revisits Garden Heights seventeen years before the events of The Hate U Give in this searing and poignant exploration of Black boyhood and manhood.

If there’s one thing seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter knows, it’s that a real man takes care of his family. As the son of a former gang legend, Mav does that the only way he knows how: dealing for the King Lords. With this money he can help his mom, who works two jobs while his dad’s in prison.

Life’s not perfect, but with a fly girlfriend and a cousin who always has his back, Mav’s got everything under control.

Until, that is, Maverick finds out he’s a father.

Suddenly he has a baby, Seven, who depends on him for everything. But it’s not so easy to sling dope, finish school, and raise a child. So when he’s offered the chance to go straight, he takes it. In a world where he’s expected to amount to nothing, maybe Mav can prove he’s different.

When King Lord blood runs through your veins, though, you can’t just walk away. Loyalty, revenge, and responsibility threaten to tear Mav apart, especially after the brutal murder of a loved one. He’ll have to figure out for himself what it really means to be a man.”

So like pretty much every single actively literate person I know, I loved Angie Thomas’s first two books (The Hate U Give and On the Come Up) and when I learned that we were getting a prequel to The Hate U Give, I was pretty sure I couldn’t possibly be any more excited…until I learned it was going to be about her dad, Maverick.

I didn’t even know.

This is her best book yet, by a lot. And that’s a bold statement because her other books are beyond amazing. But this is just the best book I’ve read in ages. To put this in perspective, I read it in under 24 hours, and I couldn’t even tell you the last time that happened. Pre-COVID, for sure.

I was completely drawn into the story immediately and getting to see Mav and Lisa and Mav’s mom and Seven…it just felt like such an amazing gift.

This is going to be one of the best books of 2021 and I’m so grateful I got to read it early.

Highly recommended.

The Bookweaver’s Daughter

The Bookweaver’s Daughter by Malavika Kannan (debut YA author)

In the ancient Indian kingdom of Kasmira, stories don’t begin with “once upon a time.”

Instead, Kasmiris start a woman’s story with those who came before her: her parents, grandparents, ancestors. For fourteen-year-old Reya Kandhari, her story always starts the same: with the fabled line of Bookweavers, tracing centuries back to the lost Yogis—the mythical guardians of Kasmiri culture who created the world itself. As a result, Reya’s entire life has been shaped by words. Words of mystique and mythology. Words of magic that allow her father, the Bookweaver, to bring his stories to life. Words of power that make him the target of tyrants who will stop at nothing to destroy magic in Kasmira.

Living in disguise as a peasant in the fields, Reya’s sole focus is protecting the Bookweaver’s secret. But when her father is taken, Reya must flee deep into the jungle, alone with her best friend Nina and one ancient book. Grappling with Reya’s newfound magic, the two girls find themselves in the center of a war of liberation where magic reigns unchecked, and destiny takes a dark turn. As the stakes get higher, Reya realizes that her father’s legacy contains more power than she ever imagined. For Reya Kandhari is more than just a fugitive—she is a symbol of revolution. And that makes her a threat.

In a tale of magic, Indian lore, and radical female friendship, Reya must pass the final test: the Bookweaver’s daughter must weave her own destiny. The fate of Kasmira depends on it.

What are prominent authors and critics saying…

Kirkus Reviews : “In this captivating debut, the author deftly creates a fantasy world with poetic precision. The story is fast paced, and the character development is quite robust for both primary and secondary characters. Reya has a strong character arc that will leave readers rooting for her and her best friend. The fantasy world combines various Indian cultural elements such as food and the grandeur of royalty with magic-weaving. Enchanting.”

Roshani Chokshi, NYT bestselling author of The Gilded Wolves : “A celebration of storytelling by a sparkling new voice who is bound to be a star.”

Amanda Gorman, Inaugural Youth Poet Laureate of the United States: “Kannan’s language is as magical as the story she weaves. This book, with its vibrant world and infectious heroine, is sure to enchant its readers.”

Joan Morgan, Author of She Begat This: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip Hop Feminist Breaks it Down : “The Bookweaver’s Daughter is a captivating, page-turner of a debut with an endearing crew of female characters that embody the eternal magic and sheer badassery of #girlsquads, past and present.”

School Library Journal : “With the descriptive style of Linda Sue Park’s A Single Shard and dialogue reminiscent of M.K. England’s Spellhacker , this novel throws readers immediately into a fantasy world where an evil king reigns and there is only one hope for the land: the magic of the Bookweaver. VERDICT: Fans of medieval fantasy, action/adventure novels, and books with strong heroines will love this novel. Recommended for teen libraries.”

The Bookweaver’s Daughter by Malavika Kannan – click to visit author’s website
Tanglewood Publishing – click on link to find out more and order copies

Available Now | Ages 12+

$17.99/Hardcover: 978-1-939100-41-2 | 250 pages

Distributed by Simon & Schuster Distribution

Dear Justyce

Finished Dear Justyce by Nic Stone. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In the stunning and hard-hitting sequel to the New York Times bestseller Dear Martin, incarcerated teen Quan writes letters to Justyce about his experiences in the American prison system.

Shortly after teenager Quan enters a not guilty plea for the shooting death of a police officer, he is placed in a holding cell to await trial. Through a series of flashbacks and letters to Justyce, the protagonist of Dear Martin, Quan’s story unravels.

From a troubled childhood and bad timing to a coerced confession and prejudiced police work, Nic Stone’s newest novel takes an unflinching look at the flawed practices and ideologies that discriminate against African American boys and minorities in the American justice system.

I finished Dear Martin last night and I was so happy to be able to start Dear Justyce right after. I tore through this sequel and I ended up loving it even more than Dear Martin.

In Dear Martin, we didn’t really get a good sense of who Quan was, only what he did. We knew that he shot and killed a police officer and that he was in a gang, Getting to know him was a really valuable thing for me. We see him as a kid and we see just how much he wants to take care of his younger siblings and how desperate he is for family. (His dad is in prison, his mom is pretty much checked out and her new boyfriend is awful.)

Quan is almost the anti-Justyce. Both teens are incredibly smart, but Justyce has a good support system and that’s something Quan didn’t have. Between the lack of concerned adults in his life and his longing for family, it’s understandable how events unfolded as they did. We also see the effects of racism on him (he got a 98 on a math test and his substitute insisted that he must have cheated; no one believed that he just studied hard).

When I finished Dear Martin and realized the sequel centered around Quan, I was a little disappointed. I was so, so wrong.

I definitely need to read everything that Nic Stone has ever written. Her books are incredible.

Highly recommended.

Now That I’ve Found You

Finished Now That I’ve Found You by Kristina Forest.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Now That I’ve Found You is a YA novel about searching for answers, love, and your eccentric grandma in all the wrong places.

Following in the footsteps of her überfamous grandma, eighteen-year-old Evie Jones is poised to be Hollywood’s next big star. That is until a close friend’s betrayal leads to her being blacklisted . . .

Fortunately, Evie knows just the thing to save her floundering career: a public appearance with America’s most beloved actress—her grandma Gigi, aka the Evelyn Conaway. The only problem? Gigi is a recluse who’s been out of the limelight for almost twenty years. Days before Evie plans to present her grandma with an honorary award in front of Hollywood’s elite, Gigi does the unthinkable: she disappears.

With time running out and her comeback on the line, Evie reluctantly enlists the help of the last person to see Gigi before she vanished: Milo Williams, a cute musician Evie isn’t sure she can trust. As Evie and Milo conduct a wild manhunt across New York City, romance and adventure abound while Evie makes some surprising discoveries about her grandma—and herself.”

This book is exactly what I needed. It’s a super fun love story wrapped up in a story about Hollywood (current and classic). (You should know, though, that the movie star parts are definitely a subplot.)

I was sucked into the story well before the first sentence. The cover and the synopsis and everything about it made me know that I would love it, and I was not wrong.

And I LOVE Evie so much. She’s driven and smart and I love both of those characteristics in people. Yes, she made a silly mistake, but I also feel like the fallout was completely ridiculous. She was joking about her director (who has a British accent) but she didn’t use any slurs and she didn’t say anything negative about his personality. (I guess super rich people don’t have anything approaching a sense of humor?) So the aspect of this that shows how best to overcome those mistakes is actually my favorite part of the story.

My second favorite part? Literally everything else.

Highly recommended.

When No One is Watching

Finished When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Rear Window meets Get Out in this gripping thriller from a critically acclaimed and New York Times Notable author, in which the gentrification of a Brooklyn neighborhood takes on a sinister new meaning…

Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.

But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.

When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other—or themselves—long enough to find out before they too disappear?”

I knew that I wanted to read this when it was billed as Get Out meets Rear Window. (Those are two amazing movies, and this seemed like it was actually perfect for me.)

It may not be what most people would consider traditional horror, but it’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever read, because it’s all very plausible. (Alyssa Cole has a list of further reading to do if you don’t find this book realistic.)

This is very timely but I feel like it would be just as timely in any era of this country’s history. I felt actual dread as I was reading this, and for most of it, everything happening was very insidious. There were so many parts where I was like, “Wait. Did I just read that?” (I did. I always DID just read that.)

We can always find the capital r Racists, the people who are in the Klan and who drop racial slurs and are very obviously about it. This is about the regular people who are just as awful but who hide it really well. And the things they’re planning are awful.

This is an intense book and, while I know that this isn’t what Alyssa Cole usually writes, I’m definitely planning to read more of her books because this one is flat out amazing. Highly recommended.