The Unhoneymooners

The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren has been on my TBR list for a while – not sure how it got there. And, it is a fluffy beach read for sure. Having read a number of heavy books of late, this was a nice change of pace. While you sometimes wanted to scream at the characters, overall the author got the reader right into the beautiful setting and it was a pleasant, fast romp. “Olive Torres is used to being the unlucky twin: from inexplicable mishaps to a recent layoff, her life seems to be almost comically jinxed. By contrast, her sister Ami is an eternal champion…she even managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a slew of contests. Unfortunately for Olive, the only thing worse than constant bad luck is having to spend the wedding day with the best man (and her nemesis), Ethan Thomas. Olive braces herself for wedding hell, determined to put on a brave face, but when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. Suddenly there’s a free honeymoon up for grabs, and Olive will be damned if Ethan gets to enjoy paradise solo. Agreeing to a temporary truce, the pair head for Maui. After all, ten days of bliss is worth having to assume the role of loving newlyweds, right? But the weird thing is…Olive doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, the more she pretends to be the luckiest woman alive, the more it feels like she might be.” (Amazon) Again, this is shallow and simple, but nice book candy.

Bluebird, Bluebird

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke was a good mystery, but a little too long. Perhaps it’s my attention span…anyway, I did enjoy it. Amazon describes it: “When it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules — a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about growing up black in the lone star state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home. When his allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he travels up Highway 59 to the small town of Lark, where two murders — a black lawyer from Chicago and a local white woman — have stirred up a hornet’s nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes — and save himself in the process — before Lark’s long-simmering racial fault lines erupt. From a writer and producer of the Emmy winning Fox TV show Empire, Bluebird, Bluebird is a rural noir suffused with the unique music, color, and nuance of East Texas.” If you like a good mystery, try this one.

We Are Not Like Them

We Are Not Like Them by Christine Pride and Jo Piazza was a great and hard-to-put-down read. I thoroughly enjoyed it. “Jen and Riley have been best friends since kindergarten. As adults, they remain as close as sisters, though their lives have taken different directions. Jen married young, and after years of trying, is finally pregnant. Riley pursued her childhood dream of becoming a television journalist and is poised to become one of the first Black female anchors of the top news channel in their hometown of Philadelphia. But the deep bond they share is severely tested when Jen’s husband, a city police officer, is involved in the shooting of an unarmed Black teenager. Six months pregnant, Jen is in freefall as her future, her husband’s freedom, and her friendship with Riley are thrown into uncertainty. Covering this career-making story, Riley wrestles with the implications of this tragic incident for her Black community, her ambitions, and her relationship with her lifelong friend. Like Tayari Jones’s An American Marriage and Jodi Picoult’s Small Great ThingsWe Are Not Like Them explores complex questions of race and how they pervade and shape our most intimate spaces in a deeply divided world. But at its heart, it’s a story of enduring friendship—a love that defies the odds even as it faces its most difficult challenges.” (Amazon) I wondered if the authors were friends who had had tough conversations and was pleased to see this People article describing their connection. I highly recommend this read – you won’t regret it!

The Personal Librarian

The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murraywas a wonderful novel recommended by a fellow book-loving friend. I thoroughly enjoyed it and kept wondering which parts were true. I generally love historical fiction and this story was no exception. Amazon reports: “In her twenties, Belle da Costa Greene is hired by J. P. Morgan to curate a collection of rare manuscripts, books, and artwork for his newly built Pierpont Morgan Library. Belle becomes a fixture in New York City society and one of the most powerful people in the art and book world, known for her impeccable taste and shrewd negotiating for critical works as she helps create a world-class collection. But Belle has a secret, one she must protect at all costs. She was born not Belle da Costa Greene but Belle Marion Greener. She is the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard and a well-known advocate for equality. Belle’s complexion isn’t dark because of her alleged Portuguese heritage that lets her pass as white—her complexion is dark because she is African American.” I highly recommend this engaging novel.

This Close to Okay

I can’t recall how This Close to Okay by Leesa Cross-Smith ended up on my list. The premise sounded good and it was good, but way too long. “On a rainy October night in Kentucky, recently divorced therapist Tallie Clark is on her way home from work when she spots a man precariously standing at the edge of a bridge. Without a second thought, Tallie pulls over and jumps out of the car into the pouring rain. She convinces the man to join her for a cup of coffee, and he eventually agrees to come back to her house, where he finally shares his name: Emmett. Over the course of the emotionally charged weekend that follows, Tallie makes it her mission to provide a safe space for Emmett, though she hesitates to confess that this is also her day job. What she doesn’t realize is that Emmett isn’t the only one who needs healing—and they both are harboring secrets.” I really did enjoy this book and recommend it, but, as I said, it was slower and longer than I realized, though worth finishing.

Crying in H-Mart

Crying in H-Mart by Michelle Zauner has been on my TBR list for a while. It’s a memoir about Zauner and her mother. “In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food. As she grew up, moving to the East Coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, and performing gigs with her fledgling band–and meeting the man who would become her husband–her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother’s diagnosis of terminal cancer, when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her. Vivacious and plainspoken, lyrical and honest, Zauner’s voice is as radiantly alive on the page as it is onstage. Rich with intimate anecdotes that will resonate widely, and complete with family photos, Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and reread.” (Amazon) This was a wonderful, if sad, memoir and if you don’t end up starving and craving Korean food, I can’t understand.

In My Dreams I Hold a Knife

In my Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead was a decent thriller and fast-paced, but not amazing. “Ten years after graduation, Jessica Miller has planned her triumphant return to her southern, elite Duquette University, down to the envious whispers that are sure to follow in her wake. Everyone is going to see the girl she wants them to see—confident, beautiful, indifferent. Not the girl she was when she left campus, back when Heather Shelby’s murder fractured everything, including the tight bond linking the six friends she’d been closest to since freshman year. But not everyone is ready to move on. Not everyone left Duquette ten years ago, and not everyone can let Heather’s murder go unsolved. Someone is determined to trap the real killer, to make the guilty pay. When the six friends are reunited, they will be forced to confront what happened that night—and the years’ worth of secrets each of them would do anything to keep hidden.” (Amazon) If you are looking for something to breeze through, this is it, but I wouldn’t go out of my way.

Falling

T. J. Newman’s Falling was a decent thriller and had an excellent race-to-the-finish ending. I wouldn’t read this one on a plane, though. “You just boarded a flight to New York. There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard. What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped. For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die. The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane. Enjoy the flight.” (Amazon) It was a quick read and entertaining, but not one of the better ones I have read of late.

Beautiful World, Where Are You

I was so excited to read another Sally Rooney book since I loved Normal People (and the show) so much. And, while I liked Beautiful World, Where Are You a lot, I didn’t love it. The lack of quotation marks and the interspersed letters between the main characters where they rambled on about esoteric topics didn’t do it for me. But, overall, it was a solid read. “Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend, Eileen, is getting over a break-up, and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood. Alice, Felix, Eileen, and Simon are still young—but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart. They have sex, they worry about sex, they worry about their friendships and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world?” (Amazon)

When No One is Watching

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole started off slow for me and I almost gave up. But I’m glad I stuck with it. While there were flaws, some cliche and repetitive moments, overall I liked the way Cole drew out the story and I appreciated the premise – it was clever and almost plausible. “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.” (Amazon)