BOOK RECAP: January 2023

Happy February! ☀️ Virtually sharing a bit of summer heat from the Southern Hemisphere, because I’m frankly sick of it already (we’ve been having really high and humid temperatures here… never thought I’d be a winter person). I’ve been doing a great job of not switching to a different book recently, so I started and finished all four of these in January:

Thoughts on this book recap under the cut!

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ARC REVIEW: The Friendship Breakup (2023) – Annie Cathryn

Title: The friendship breakup
Author: Annie Cathryn
Expected publication: February 7th, 2023 by Crooked Lane Books
Pages: 304 (eBook)
Genres: Women’s fiction, momcom, contemporary, fiction
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My rating: 3/5

SUMMARY

Fallon Monroe, mother of one, self-help book junkie, and budding chocolatier, has always relied on her neighborhood friends to get her through the trials of adulthood. So when her bestie Beatrice inexplicably starts ghosting her and takes all their mutual friends with her, Fallon’s left wondering how everything went so wrong. Pushing down a lifetime of insecurities, Fallon doubles down and decides to win them back. First, she hosts an epic Cinco de Mayo party that goes epically wrong. Then she joins a friendship app but discovers a disturbing secret about one of her new friends—a discovery that will test the strength of her loyalty to Beatrice.

Just when she’s about to throw in the towel on the whole friendship mess, Fallon reads a recently unearthed letter she’d refused to open decades earlier—and reading it forces her to finally face the deep-seated fears she’d desperately tried to bury. Now, looking at her friendships through fresh eyes, she must decide between hanging on and letting go.

Fallon is an instantly likeable heroine—as vulnerable as she is determined—and she’ll have readers eagerly turning the pages as they join her on an emotional journey into the hopes and fears of adulthood.

MY THOUGHTS

The protagonist was a fan of self-help books, and it makes sense because this book felt like self-help fiction (not necessarily in a bad way!)

I wasn’t familiar with the genre “mom-com” and, as a single woman with no wishes to be a mother, I probably wouldn’t have picked this book on my own. But I received it as my first widget, and I couldn’t say no. So thanks to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for sending me this in exchange for an honest review.

I couldn’t say no for a second reason, and it’s that the topic is very dear to me. We talk too much about romantic break-ups and not enough about friendship break-ups, and how they can be just as painful and hard to get over. And it’s not even clean, loud break-ups, either, but the passive-aggressive ghosting, as well as just failing to be there. Where are the songs about a friendship gone cold?

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ARC REVIEW: Abyss (2023) – Pilar Quintana

Title: Abyss
Author: Pilar Quintana, translated by Lisa Dillman
Expected publication: February 7th, 2023 by World Editions
Pages: 168 (paperback)
Genres: Women’s fiction, drama, contemporary, fiction
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My rating: 3.5/5

SUMMARY

Claudia is an impressionable eight-year-old girl, trying to understand the world through the eyes of the adults around her. But her hardworking father hardly speaks a word, while her unhappy mother spends her days reading celebrity lifestyle magazines, tending to her enormous collection of plants, and filling Claudia’s head with stories about women who end their lives in tragic ways. Then an interloper arrives, disturbing the delicate balance of family life, and Claudia’s world starts falling apart. In this strikingly vivid portrait of Cali, Colombia, Claudia’s acute observations remind us that children are capable of discerning extremely complex realities even if they cannot fully understand them. In Abyss, Quintana leads us brilliantly into the lonely heart of the child we have all once been, driven by fear of abandonment.

MY THOUGHTS

Abyss (2023) is an evocative novel about the weight of adulthood as seen through a child’s eyes. Thanks to NetGalley and World Editions for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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BOOK REC: Horrorstör (2014) – Grady Hendrix

Title: Horrorstör
Author: Grady Hendrix
Published: September 23rd, 2014 by Quirk Books
Pages: 240 pages (eBook)
Genres: Fiction, horror, adult
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My rating: 4/5

SUMMARY

Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes. Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking.

To unravel the mystery, three employees volunteer to work a nine-hour dusk-till-dawn shift. In the dead of the night, they’ll patrol the empty showroom floor, investigate strange sights and sounds, and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.

A traditional haunted house story in a thoroughly contemporary setting, Horrorstör is designed to retain its luster and natural appearance for a lifetime of use. Pleasingly proportioned with generous French flaps and a softcover binding, Horrorstör delivers the psychological terror you need in the elegant package you deserve.

MY THOUGHTS

If anyone’s reading my posts, they’ve already heard me talk about how much I’m loving Grady Hendrix. But at the time I picked up Horrorstör (2014) for my Halloween-athon 2022, merely because it was the shortest of the list, I’d only read The Final Girl Support Group (2021) before. This turned out to be a great appetizer, and put me on the path to be a fan.

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ARC REVIEW: You should smile more (2023) – Anastasia Ryan

Title: You should smile more
Author: Anastasia Ryan
Expected publication: January 17th, 2023 by Sourcebooks Casablanca
Pages: 360 (eBook)
Genres: Contemporary, new adult, fiction
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My rating: 4/5

SUMMARY

When Vanessa Blair is fired because of her “resting bitch face,” her friends help her launch a revenge plan that’ll bring down the whole company.

Telemarketer Vanessa Blair isn’t in love with her job. It pays the bills and feeds her foster kittens, but offers only one other perk: her friendships with Jane Delaney and Trisha Lam. But, as mind-numbing as her job is, things are about to get worse. Xavier Adams, her self-absorbed boss, calls Vanessa into the conference room and fires her. The reason? Her facial expressions. Apparently, her resting bitch face is wide awake, and it doesn’t matter that her sales numbers are stellar or that she organizes office events.

After a girls’ night of schnapps and imagining retribution, Vanessa awakens to find that Trisha is more literal than she thought, and has implemented a revenge strategy based on the classic business book The Art of War by Sun Tzu. At first, Vanessa wants nothing to do with it. She wants to file for unemployment and move on with her life, possibly with Carter Beckett, the cute, cat-loving unemployment rep assigned to her case. But when Xavier contests her unemployment and ruins her shot at her dream job, Vanessa is all in…

MY THOUGHTS

Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Casablanca for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

I read several romance/comedy books this year that were advertised as being “laugh-out-loud” funny, and ended up being anything but, at least to me (also to many other people with taste.) This one actually didn’t promise me that I would laugh out loud… but I did! I appreciate it when a book overdelivers even if it’s simply by not making any promises.

Anastasia Ryan’s debut novel You should smile more is genuinely a laugh-out-loud story about friendship and revenge. And cats.

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BOOK REVIEW: The trouble with hating you – Sajni Patel

Title: The trouble with hating you
Author: Sajni Patel
Published: May 12th, 2020 by Forever
Pages: 352 pages (eBook)
Genres: Fiction, adult, romance, contemporary
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My rating: 3/5

SUMMARY

Liya Thakkar is a successful biochemical engineer, takeout enthusiast, and happily single woman. The moment she realizes her parents’ latest dinner party is a setup with the man they want her to marry, she’s out the back door in a flash. Imagine her surprise when the same guy shows up at her office a week later — the new lawyer hired to save her struggling company. What’s not surprising: he’s not too thrilled to see her either after that humiliating fiasco.

Jay Shah looks good on paper…and off. Especially if you like that whole gorgeous, charming lawyer-in-a-good-suit thing. He’s also arrogant and infuriating. As their witty office banter turns into late night chats, Liya starts to think he might be the one man who truly accepts her. But falling for each other means exposing their painful pasts. Will Liya keep running, or will she finally give love a real chance?

MY THOUGHTS

The trouble with hating you (2020) is Sajni Patel’s debut romance novel, and it started out nicely: gearing up to hate to friendship to love, Pride and Prejudice vibes, fiery Main Female Character and sensitive Main Male Character, both with a tragic past that informs who they are… and then it just took a turn for the worse.

Liya’s parents try to set her up with Jay by tricking her into thinking it’s just a regular family dinner. When she realizes what’s happening, she runs out on him and his mom – and into her suitor, who has no idea she was being set up and takes it very personally. They both think that’s the end of it, but of course, it’s not: it turns out he’s working at the same company as Liya, and trying to save it. They have a few run-ins where they both think the other is in the wrong and hate each other’s guts. BUT THEN! Jay helps Liya during a vulnerable moment, and they begin to spend more and more time together and grow closer. So far, so good.

However, at some point, Jay suddenly turns into the exact kind of man the book was trying to make a point of criticizing, except he’s hot and waxes poetry and wants to marry Liya, so that makes it okay?

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ARC REVIEW: Ghost Music (2023) – An Yu

Title: Ghost Music
Author: An Yu
Expected publication: January 10th, 2023 by Grove Atlantic
Pages: 240 (eBook)
Genres: Literary fiction, contemporary, adult, magic realism
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My rating: 3/5

SUMMARY

For three years, Song Yan has filled the emptiness of her Beijing apartment with the tentative notes of her young piano students. She gave up on her own career as a concert pianist many years ago, but her husband Bowen, an executive at a car company, has long rebuffed her pleas to have a child. He resists even when his mother arrives from the southwestern Chinese region of Yunnan and begins her own campaign for a grandchild. As tension in the household rises, it becomes harder for Song Yan to keep her usual placid demeanor, especially since she is troubled by dreams of a doorless room she can’t escape, populated only by a strange orange mushroom.

When a parcel of mushrooms native to her mother-in-law’s province is delivered seemingly by mistake, Song Yan sees an opportunity to bond with her, and as the packages continue to arrive every week, the women stir-fry and grill the mushrooms, adding them to soups and noodles. When a letter arrives in the mail from the sender of the mushrooms, Song Yan’s world begins to tilt further into the surreal. Summoned to an uncanny, seemingly ageless house hidden in a hutong that sits in the middle of the congested city, she finds Bai Yu, a once world-famous pianist who disappeared ten years ago.

MY THOUGHTS

Thank you to Grove Atlantic and NetGalley for providing this title in exchange for an honest review.

If you ask me what the plot is about, I will lie.

Because I’m not sure.

An Yu’s Ghost Music (2023) is one of those books where the plot is an excuse to get to the deeper questions about life, death, love, and everything in-between.

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End-Of-year Book Asks

2022 End-of-Year Book Asks

So, there’s this post from 2019 that is making the rounds on Tumblr again, where you ask people to send you a number and you’ll answer questions about the books you’ve read this year. I played that way, but I thought it would be fun to answer all of the questions here. Consider yourself tagged to do it on your blog, too!

As I’m wrapping up for the year, it’s incredible to see that I’ve shared 66 posts during my first year doing… whatever it is I’m doing. I was hoping to share a bit more varied posts, like listicles, analysis, etc., but 66 is still a lot! That’s 7.3 posts per month 😀

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Spotify Wrapped: My Top 10 Books as my Top 10 Songs

Every year for the past few years, we all look forward to our Spotify Wrapped, right? It’s fun! Although, in my case, it’s also kind of embarrassing because it shows how uncool I am… many of my top songs are usually from the 80s 😅 A lot of people on Instagram were doing one version or another of their “Bookstagram Wrapped”, and I came up with my own version too. Keep reading to see my top 10 books as my top 10 songs!

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