Fiction, Romance, Suspense, Women's Fiction, Young Adult

September Reads!

Since it is unlikely that I will finish another book by tomorrow, here are the books I read this month! Any of the ones with 4 or 5 stars are worth your time. Some quick thoughts:

Thank You For Listening: This unique book, written by a woman who narrates audio books, is about people who narrate audio books! The main characters are great, a lot of their communication is through emails and texts, and the big reveal is very sweet. (Some steaminess.)

Rich Blood: This is a legal thriller with twists and turns aplenty! Jason Rich is a billboard-ambulance-chasing lawyer who must now defend his sister accused of murdering her husband. It keeps you guessing until the very end. I definitely want to read more by this author!

That Fine Line/Double or Nothing: These Cindy Steel books are fantastic, with a lot more going on than the covers would lead you to believe. They are clean romances with tons of hilarity, heart, and homespun characters that you will love. They are the first and second of a four-book series that I plan to continue. Extremely enjoyable!

A Pumpkin and a Patch/How to Get Over Your Ex in Ninety Days: Jennifer Peel is another author I was thrilled to discover this month! Her characters are smart, sensitive, and constantly learning from their mistakes. These clean romances are winners! Highly recommended!

The Deep End/Guaranteed to Bleed/Clouds in My Coffee: These are the first three books in a multi-book cozy mystery series. They are very entertaining, set in the 1970s among the Kansas City country club elite. Money might buy some nice things, but it can’t stop some people from being murdered…*cue sinister laugh* I plan to continue with this clever series!

The Bodyguard/What You Wish For/How to Walk Away: Books by Katherine Center, need I say more? You know I absolutely adore this woman. Hubby and I listened to all three of these in September, sometimes for hours. And guess what? We’re having a tough time finding other audio books we enjoy as much.

I hope you find something you love from this list! Happy Reading!!

One more thing,” as Detective Colombo would say… The “Most Messed Up Book Award” for September goes to Verity, by Colleen Hoover. If you’ve read anything by the popular and divisive “CoHo” then I can tell you that Verity is not within her “normal” style. Some people love it, some people despise it. I just wanted to vacuum that story out of my brain. It. Is. Twisted. And I know I’m not alone in that opinion. You’ve been warned!

Fiction, Young Adult

Letters to the Lost, by Brigid Kemmerer

Twenty days! It’s been twenty days since my last review. I guess I lost my mojo for a few weeks, despite reading some great books. I knew it would take one very special story to get the words flowing again, and this is it.

Letters to the Lost, by Brigid Kemmerer. I’m still experiencing a book hangover, having finished reading it at 6:30am. It is marketed as a YA (Young Adult) book, but the underlining theme is for everyone.

Incorrect assumptions.

We’ve all done it. I can think of some very specific times when I assumed something about someone based on their weight, or education level, or tattoos, or job, or just a less-than-put-together appearance.

And guess what? I was wrong. Very wrong. Extremely wrong.

And did I learn my lesson? Nope. It’s part of being human. Part of being flawed humans. Which brings me to this magnificent book that anyone reading this review should find and devour.

Some “trigger warnings.” (I really hate that phrase.) It does deal with losing a parent, losing a sibling, divorce, suicidal tendencies, and child abuse. But it is so redemptive and all of those subjects are handled with such tender care that I still say, no matter what your personal history may be–read it.

Our two main characters: Juliet Young is mourning her mother, Zoe, a famous war photographer. Her grief is all-consuming. She stops by the cemetery every morning on the way to school. Her mother was gone a lot on assignment, leaving Juliet to idealize her and get into the habit of writing her letters. She still does this, leaving letters behind on her mother’s grave. They are her last link. She’s lost interest in everything else.

Declan Murphy is mourning his entire life. Everything he knew is gone and, while it was far from perfect, it was a lot better than the way things are now. So much so that, in a moment of despair he downed some Jack Daniels, got into his dad’s truck, and plowed it into a building. Now he’s performing community service by mowing grass at the local cemetery…where, on a newer grave, he finds a letter from a girl to her mother.

I will say no more about the plot except to entreat you once again, to read this book. Symbolically, the idea of photography and snapshots figure prominently in the theme of assumptions we make. Are we defined by a moment? Do we do that to others? Do we do it to ourselves?

Like any great story, Letters to the Lost has many layers. As many layers as the reader is willing to uncover. I hope you do.

10/10 Stars

Some libraries use an alternate book cover, so it could look like this. Don’t make assumptions about this design. (See what I did there?) This book is a treasure.

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction, Magical Realism, Romance, Short Stories

Five Goodreads Reviews

In an effort to not get too far behind, I’m going to do some copy/pasting from Goodreads.

The best of the bunch, in my opinion, is the Young Adult novel, You’ve Reached Sam. It is about a teenage boy who is killed in a car accident and, when his girlfriend calls his number just to hear his voicemail message…he answers. That’s right. He answers. It’s as tender and goosebump-inducing as it sounds. I loved it.

Available January 17, 2023
Available April 11, 2023
ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance, Series & Collections

August Reads & September Faves

Here are the books I read and/or listened to in August! I rated them throughout the month so I could share them with you. Some will still be reviewed on this site (mainly You’ve Reached Sam, which touched me deeply.) If a book has 4 or 5 stars, I really enjoyed it. If it has 3 stars it means it’s good, but flawed. Anything with 2 or 1 star…you’ve been warned! All of these are just my opinion, of course.

Lastly, here are two advanced copies I read a while ago that I enjoyed very much. Both are coming out in September:

Right now I’m rereading Katherine Center’s The Bodyguard because my husband and I plan to listen to the audio book this week. Next I’ll be doing a buddy read of The Art of Racing in the Rain with one of the ladies in my online book club. There’s always something to read!

Fiction

Two Gems to Add to Your TBR:

TBR= “To Be Read” list

After suffering through a couple of books that could only be described as, well, duds, I finally found two winners. What do they have in common? They are both emotional, with fantastic main and supporting characters. They are both bravely written. What do I mean by that? I mean that they are books you don’t want to skim. You want to savor them. You want to marinate in their phrasing and uniqueness. In fact, you will find yourself playing them out in your mind like the movie adaptations they both should be (with the guarantee they wouldn’t get ruined.)

The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett, by Annie Lyons, could be seen as a female version of Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove, but that is where the similarities end. Unlike Ove, Eudora has never been married. She’s dedicated herself to the care of her mother and sister. Life doesn’t have much meaning beyond her self-imposed duty and a promise to her father long ago. Now she has a choice to make: endure modern society with its fast-paced ways, rudeness, and digital detachment? Or speed up the inevitable? While Eudora explores whether or not she still has a purpose, we journey back in time and learn more about her earlier years. They were far from easy. Yet, patience, endurance, and serving others can often boomerang back to us when we least expect it. I highly recommend this brilliant book about Eudora Honeysett’s brilliant life! 9.5/10 Stars

The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman, by Julietta Henderson is that Norman, age twelve, really isn’t that funny. But he is smart, polite, kind, and very good to his single mum, Sadie. He is content to be the straight man to the real firecracker, his best friend, Jax. Jax is a force of nature. He’s the one with the ideas, the bravado, and the goals. After all, how many kids would name their future stand-up routine “Sausages and Gravitas?” Only Jax. Except for one problem. Jax is dead. His death pulls the rug out from under Norman and mum, Sadie, needs to find a way to breathe life back into her darling son. With a little help from a willing, unexpected accomplice, it just might be possible. What happens next is the road trip of a lifetime in this book that will grab you by the heart and not let go until the very end. This is brave writing. I loved it. 9.5/10 Stars

Cover Reveal, Fiction, Romance, Series & Collections, Women's Fiction

COVER REVEAL: Return to Satterthwaite Court, by Mimi Matthews

AVAILABLE April 11, 2023

Cover reveal! USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews’ highly-anticipated RETURN TO SATTERTHWAITE COURT releases April 11, 2023. Available to pre-order at your favourite online retailer now. https://www.mimimatthews.com/books/somerset-stories/return-to-satterthwaite-court/ 

SYNOPSIS:From USA Today bestselling author Mimi Matthews comes the long-awaited sequel to her critically acclaimed novels The Work of Art and Gentleman Jim.

The only son of a famous love match, ex-army lieutenant Charles Heywood is determined to make amends for his past mistakes by giving his mother the impossible—the deed to her long-lost childhood home, Satterthwaite Court. But arranging to purchase the remote west country estate is more difficult than Charles ever imagined. The property is mired in secrets, some of which may prove deadly. If he’s going to unravel them, he’ll need the assistance of someone as daring as he is.

At one and twenty, Lady Katherine Beresford has already earned a reputation to rival that of her infamous parents. As skilled with pistols as she is on horseback, she’s never met an obstacle she can’t surmount—or a man she can’t win. That is, until she encounters the infuriatingly somber Lieutenant Heywood. But Kate refuses to be deterred by the raven-haired soldier’s strong, silent facade. After all, faint heart never won a handsome gentleman.

From the wilds of rural Somersetshire to the glittering ballrooms of early-Victorian London, Charles and Kate embark on a cross-country quest to solve a decades’ old mystery. Will the greatest danger be to their hearts—or to their lives?

*****

Thank you to Mimi Matthews for choosing me to be part of the team to reveal the cover to next year’s book!

Books 1 and 2 of the series are some of my favorites! And now the children of these beloved characters will have a story of their very own in Return to Satterthwaite Court!

If you’re new to the historical romance genre, this series is where you want to start. Plenty of swashbuckling good fun too!

Book 3 releases April 2023!
Fiction

The Candid Life of Meena Dave, by Namrata Patel

Meena Dave always knew she was adopted and she made her peace with it. Her adoptive parents were kind and loving. There was no reason to search for her biological mother. But she’s also been on her own for a very long time, orphaned at sixteen. That combination has turned her into a semi-well-adjusted, but solitary and nomadic, person. If you love someone they will get taken away. Home is wherever you are at the moment.

This detached philosophy extends to Meena’s career as a freelance photojournalist, a job that takes her all over the world. A post office box in Manhattan and a rented room in London–these are the only “bases” she needs–until at age thirty four she inherits a Boston apartment from a woman that she’s never met. A lovely space with legal conditions dictating a little of this and a little of that, Meena is forced into some decisions about permanence and commitment. She is also thrust into the building’s personal dynamic that has its own set of rules and a cast of colorful supporting characters.

The Candid Life of Meena Dave is certainly not the first book to address the definition of family, nor will it be the last, but it is definitely unique. Everything comes together at the end, but the journey there is intriguing. (Trust me, that earlier assumption you probably made from my summary will be challenged.) Meena is sensitive and multi-dimensional. We feel for her. Like Meena, we all have a desire to belong and we all have defense mechanisms. We all must adjust to Life’s surprises, deciding when to get out of our comfort zones and take risks. Sometimes the riskiest thing we can do is open our hearts.

I recommend this book highly. (There is a little bit of language, but don’t let that stop you from giving it a try.)

9.5/10 Stars

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction

The Abandoned Ones…

I’ve been asked: “Aren’t there books that you didn’t like?” The short answer is YES. We’ve all started a book and realized it wasn’t for us, right? This year I’ve read nearly two hundred books, but I’ve also left plenty in the discard pile. I get most frustrated when it is a book that others love, but I can’t help how I feel, so I go on to the next one. It could be because there’s a lack of character development or a really unlikable main character. It could be a plot that doesn’t hold my interest. It could be too much gratuitous swearing. Sometimes it’s all of those things.

The reasons may vary, but there should be no guilt. Reading time is too precious to waste and there are too many great books to discover! So give yourself some grace and move on to something you enjoy.

Here are the “abandoned ones” in my pile lately. Apologies if you see one of your favorites!

Fiction, Young Adult

YA Theme: “Life Can Be Messy and Unfair”

I know. File this under “duh,” right? But, once again, two Young Adult novels absolutely nailed it, tackling difficult subjects with humor, pathos, and realism.

Subject #1: “Aging out” of the foster care system.

Subject #2: Dealing with the symptoms and stigma of schizophrenia.

Both intense topics, which makes me suggest that these novels are meant for the older teen–no younger than a mature sixteen year old. Plus they include the language you would expect from the general population at that age and observations about sex, religion, parents, school, and the future.

Interestingly, despite having different gendered narrators who are dealing with different challenges, they reminded me a lot of each other. In fact, in a world easier manipulated, I would love to see Muiriel (What I Carry) and Adam (Words On Bathroom Walls) meet and share a few pages together.

WHAT I CARRY, by Jennifer Longo: Muiriel has been in foster care her entire life. Left at a hospital as an infant, she is unique in that there is no biological family to miss or with whom to reunite. But now she is nearing adulthood. While other teens look forward to turning eighteen, Muiriel dreads it. She will be thrust out on her own by her legal parent–the state of Washington. But she does have skills, like living an absolute minimalist lifestyle, acclimating quickly to new places, and always being polite–twenty homes in seventeen years will teach you things. She’s also distanced and highly suspicious of any person or situation that remotely resembles love, comfort, and stability. Can you blame her? All she needs is the right combination of people to change her mind.

I loved this book. I wish there was a sanitized version of it (regarding some of the language) so I could recommend it for younger teens because it shows a slice of life that most of us will never know. Muiriel is intelligent, witty, sensitive, and profound. You root for her all the way. 9.5/10 Stars

WORDS ON BATHROOM WALLS, by Julia Walton makes us privy to the patient-doctor diaries of sixteen year old Adam. After a scary outburst at his old high school that resulted in a schizophrenia diagnosis, Adam is starting anew. New meds, new school, new friends, and new secrets. No one can know that he carries an imaginary entourage of hallucinations around with him. No one can know about the voices. No one can know that he doubts everything he sees and hears until there is concrete proof that they’re real. No one, that is, except his mom and stepdad, who are loving and supportive, but still treat him like he’s made of glass.

Adam writes these diary entries to his doctor because he refuses to talk to him. Lucky us, because we can feel his sadness and sarcasm, the two most prevalent and conflicting feelings. His condition has no cure, so the only choices are to laugh or cry. When those fail, there is always the ridiculousness of the world in general. 9/10 Stars

Fiction

Remarkably Bright Creatures, by Shelby Van Pelt

About twenty years ago I visited my brother when he lived in Beaverton, Oregon. One day when I was on my own while he was at work, I spent several hours exploring the OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.) The majority of the exhibits are highly visual and tactile, focusing on things like gravity and magnets, those that make for an interactive experience.

Except for one large, brown fish in a tank along a wall.

The tank was in a walking area, not a stop-and-look area–which was what everyone did–just walked on by. Its quiet occupant was largely ignored. As a curious, lone visitor not shackled to a tired or excited child, I was free to move through each area a little slower. Even after two decades I still remember this fish. He/She/It watched EVERYTHING. And I watched him watch. I watched him watch me watching him. And it was like everything else disappeared.

After a few minutes we were in a rhythm. I walked to one end of the tank. He swam to that end. I walked to the other end of the tank. He followed. I put my finger near the glass and moved it back and forth. He followed my finger. It was odd. It was memorable. It was beautiful. I spent eight hours touring the OMSI that day, chuckling at gleeful kids playing with static electricity, watching the IMAX films, going down in the submarine parked outside, treating myself to lunch and a requisite magnet from the gift shop. But the only real detail I’ve never forgotten is that fish.

So when I read about Marcellus the Great Pacific Octopus in Remarkably Bright Creatures, I was immediately transported back to that day. I cannot tell you the species of that fish. I cannot tell you its life span. I can tell you that there seemed to be an intelligence and a loneliness that was going unnoticed by everyone around us.

Marcellus, however, is acknowledged as a “remarkably bright creature.” In fact, he will tell you that himself. Yes, this is a book partly narrated by an octopus. And you will fall in love with him as he orchestrates certain events between the people he likes the most. How does he do this? You’ll need to discover that yourself. Suffice to say that there are two sets of people, some in California and some in Washington State. Little by little you will read about how their stories are interwoven. Marcellus will see to that, I assure you.

I have been watching emerging reviews for this debut novel for weeks and all of them are positive. That amount of hype can often lead to disappointment. Not the case here. The accolades are well-deserved. If nothing else, you will never look at an octopus in the same way again. Perhaps you will think twice about underestimating any creature.

9.5/10 Stars

Author Spotlight, Cozy Mysteries, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Romance, Series & Collections, Women's Fiction

June & July 2022 Reads

I even added stars next to my July favorites!

I guess you could say that I’ve read a lot of books in the last two months! People ask how I do it and this is my answer:

  • I live in a small town where there isn’t much to do.
  • I’m still living the pandemic lifestyle, staying home even more than usual.
  • My husband has had to work lots of overtime lately.
  • We don’t have kids.
  • I sleep terribly.
  • I read fast.
  • My online book group has tons of motivational activities.
  • I upgraded my Kindle from a Basic to a Paperwhite Signature. (I was getting eye strain from the Basic. My poor eyes are so happy now!)

Some books I skim, some I give a great deal of attention to, and there are even some that I start and don’t finish (I don’t list these.) You may recognize some titles from previous posts. There are still a few I plan to acknowledge here, but the ones who had the greatest impact on me have already been reviewed. It’s difficult to get to everything.

I also get asked about authors. Which authors do I recommend? This is a TOUGH question! Everyone’s tastes are different. Please keep in mind that just because I love a book doesn’t mean everyone else will love it. This is why it’s important to read several reviews (unless you’re really brave)–and not just mine–before buying a book. Join Goodreads, read reviews on Amazon, join NetGalley, find a Facebook group for your age and genre preference. Being proactive is the only way to find what YOU enjoy reading.

But to answer the author question, here are some favorites–all fiction. You can find all of them in the “author” section of this site.

I hope this gives you a little glimpse into authors to research and whose works to pursue. For the devoted reader there is truly something for everyone. ❤️

Email subscribers: Visit readwithkristie.com to see the site in its entirety.

HAPPY READING!

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction

We Are The Light, by Matthew Quick

AVAILABLE November 1, 2022

This was a very interesting story. High school counselor Lucas Goodgame is a widower whose wife and sixteen others were killed in a random, violent shooting similar to the one in Aurora, Colorado. Through letters to his former analyst, Lucas describes his life after the tragedy, which includes mentoring the younger brother of the shooter. Eighteen year old Eli Hansen, now perceived as guilty by association, has set up a tent in Lucas’s backyard. Numbed by loss, he cries for days, consumed by a visceral sadness one only achieves when any kind of hope for the future seems impossible.

Over a year we see Lucas, Eli, and others as they try to heal and move forward long after the world has forgotten what happened in their small town. As is common with grief, it comes in waves, it comes unexpectedly, and can be triggered by the smallest (but significant) event. Ever the reluctant hero, Lucas tries to reassemble his life while helping others, convinced that surviving is more than just getting angry, but getting whole. While partnering with Eli on a special project, Lucas has his own team of supporters, ready to pick him up when he needs it the most.

Beautifully written with a hint of magical realism (or perhaps hallucination,) Lucas’s letters touch on everything from the mundane to the profound. His insights show great humanity and emphasize the importance of community after such a shocking event, one which recent history has shown us is, sadly, becoming more and more common.

Author Matthew Quick, who also wrote the powerful Silver Linings Playbook, is no stranger to experiencing or writing about mental illness. His acknowledgments go into detail about how this novel is his first after emerging from a three year writing slump. It is likely that he inserted himself into Lucas, showing the ebb and flow of depression, something to which many of us relate.

8.5/10 Stars

Fiction, Romance

Two Great Reads!

Before I begin my reviews let me tell you one thing I’ve learned lately: A whimsical book cover does not mean it is a whimsical story. Don’t be misled by these two covers. These are meaty books with emotion, depth, trauma, love, redemption, healing, and a myriad of other emotions. Both took me a bit longer to read, partly because there are several characters with whom to get acquainted, most of which are multi-faceted and complex.

THE SIGN FOR HOME, by Blair Fell introduces us to 23 year old Arlo Dilly. Arlo has Usher Type 1, meaning he was born deaf and lost the majority of his sight as he got older, except his sight was nearly gone fairly early. Raised by a tyrannical uncle in an extremely strict Jehovah’s Witness home, Arlo is bright but lonely. His uncle has systematically shut out anything he feels will taint Arlo’s eternal soul, even hiring a JW interpreter who is part informant.

But then, enter Cyril, Arlo’s new interpreter for a community college writing class. Cyril is hearing, gay, and dedicated to the ethics of interpreters. This means the interpreter does not make decisions for the client, he only interprets. Cyril has every intention of keeping his relationship with Arlo professional, but as he gets to know him and sees his potential, he realizes how much of the world Arlo has not been taught, even basic things like choices in the cafeteria. Over time, these two men from extremely different worlds become friends in an adventure I never expected.

Author Blair Fell is an interpreter at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C., widely regarded as the most prestigious university for the Deaf. His writing will make you smile, cry, and get angry as you see how Arlo and others like him are often at the mercy of insensitive, incompetent people who dismiss the vast amount of resources and devices available to the Deaf, Blind, and DeafBlind. This is an emotional, raw story and I am grateful it exists. I learned so much! 9/10 Stars

ADULT ASSEMBLY REQUIRED, by Abbi Waxman is part 2 in her Nina Hill series. I loved The Bookish Life of Nina Hill, but I think I like Adult Assembly Required even better. It’s a bit more serious than its predecessor, but I felt a great connection to main character, Laura Costello, newly arrived in Los Angeles from New York and away from her family for the first time. A Columbia University alumni (daughter of two professors) and soon-to-be grad student at UCLA in physical therapy, Laura, through an early series of mishaps, ends up at Nina Hill’s bookstore needing a place to live. Nina’s extroverted employee, Polly, invites Laura to a large house in Hancock Park owned by 60-ish Maggie, who rents out rooms to young professionals just starting out in life.

Soon Laura is part of an eclectic group–Three guys and three girls in the house, plus Nina and her pub trivia team, who recruit Laura because of her biology/anatomy/sports knowledge. They all take a liking to her, especially horticulturalist housemate “Impossibly Handsome Bob” who, like the book covers above, has a lot more going for him than just his appearance, becoming an invaluable friend.

As Laura finds her niche and her voice, she begins to understand that “assembly” is more than being put back together. “Assembly” also means being part of a group. In this case, a group who supports one another despite their differences.

Abbi Waxman is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers. She does “super intelligent plus witty” characters better than anyone I’ve read, even slightly upstaging my beloved Katherine Center and the irreverent but enjoyable Emily Henry. I savor her writing!

9.5/10 Stars

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction, Suspense

Now Is Not The Time To Panic, by Kevin Wilson

AVAILABLE November 8, 2022

I am not exaggerating when I say this is one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read. Only 50% in, not knowing its conclusion, my mind was bursting with things I wanted to say about it. In fact, most of this review is from notes that flowed out of me before I even knew how it ended.

It is 1996 in Coalfield, Tennessee. Partly out of boredom, with a bit of mischief and a desire to make their marks in a world that was ignoring them, Frankie and Zeke combine their talents and make a poster. Frankie, the writer, creates a cryptic, poetic phrase of which she is very proud. Zeke, the artist, draws a picture to match the phrase.

Next, the two sixteen year olds make hundreds of copies of the poster and start putting them in public places. The rush they get from the town’s initial reaction is exactly the motivation they need to make more…and more…and more. But the more creative they get with the posters’ placement, the more things spiral out of control.

At the risk of spoilers, I’ll say no more about the plot except that it is brilliant. The idea that something as obscure as a poster can escalate into the level of panic that happens is nothing short of genius. Genius that is scary in its truth of the way humans behave. Any kind of extremism throughout history can be traced to an initial idea–or the interpretation of an idea. We’ve seen plenty of that in the last few years.

So is the poster about art? About the interpretation of art? Personal branding? Or is it about people trying to be a part of something bigger than themselves? Politics? Religion? It could be about any, or all, or none of these–making the book as open to discussion as the poster itself.

I highly recommend this book when it becomes available in November. There is some language–these are teenagers, after all–but the concept is so intriguing and the plot so cleverly woven, this really is a book not to be missed.

9.5/10 Stars

ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction, Romance, Women's Fiction

Two Fun, Witty Reads…

Here are two books I read recently that are extremely enjoyable. Happily, they also have intelligent, witty characters and plots with plenty of depth. A win-win!

THE BOOKISH LIFE OF NINA HILL, by Abbi Waxman–seriously, one of the funniest books I have ever read! Laugh-out-loud-at-crazy-hours-in-the-morning funny. There were times I would try to read a passage aloud to my husband and it was so hilarious that I couldn’t even get the words out because I was laughing so much. So who is Nina Hill? She is an introverted employee of a bookstore–one of a tiny group of women who work there–and a trivia team champion. Her recall for facts is amazing (once you learn about racehorses’ birthdays, you’ll never forget) and all of her time is spent reading for competitions, reading for her weekly book group, and reading for fun (Thursday nights only.) Her life is all about planning and learning as much information as possible. This is all fine and good until some unexpected family secrets come to the surface, upending Nina’s organized existence, but also giving her insight into why she is this way. A delight from start to finish with excellent supporting characters. 9/10 Stars

WHEN IN ROME, by Sarah Adams will be available September 20th. I’d seen fellow readers talk about it and was happy when my request for an advanced copy was quickly approved. A fun companion book to Norah Goes Off Script and The Bodyguard where a celebrity and a “normal” person find their lives intersecting. Pop star Amelia “Rae” Rose idolizes Audrey Hepburn and, taking a cue from Princess Ann in Roman Holiday, decides to escape her chaotic life by driving to Rome–Rome, Kentucky, that is, where she ends up stranded in the front yard of grumpy pie shop owner Noah Walker. In a plot that’s a hybrid of Notting Hill and Sweet Home Alabama, Amelia finally has a chance to breathe and reevaluate her life. Like with the previous book, When in Rome also has wonderful supporting characters, partly because they are actually supportive. Another 9/10 Stars.