Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead by Elle Cosimano

Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead by Elle Cosimano

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Other Possible Prompts: 4. Title starting with the letter “F”, 9. A book that sparks joy, 22. An unlikely detective, 43. Author who’s published in more than one genre, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover, 52. Published in 2022

This series is just too good! I wish I had picked it up earlier, because it is just such a joy to read. I love a good mystery, but these hilarious and light-hearted books make my day.

Finlay Donovan is back! After receiving a tip that her own ex-husband Steven has a bounty on his head, Finlay and Vero closely monitor the online chatroom of organized crime, as well as Steven himself. The only trouble is that they can’t tell anyone why they know Steven has a bounty on his head…because it’s in the very same chatroom they were hired to kill several other men from the Russian mob.

Sound interesting yet? These stories are so wild.

Now, Finlay juggles her writing career, mom life, a love triangle, and of course, protecting her ex-husband from a hitman, as she tracks the progress of a killer-for-hire named EasyClean.

I read Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead in a single day. I couldn’t put it down. The story never pulls punches and you’ll probably find you never want to leave the wildly insane plot! I love all the characters, and I love this hilarious next installment. I’m 100% invested in the Russian mob, and a divorced mom and her college-age accountant’s ties to it.

Vero remains my absolute favorite character. I love her standoffishness yet her softness with the kiddos. She’s a great supporting character, but she’s still kind of suspicious. I remember loving her in the first novel but being like “why is a college student helping her bury a body right now” and yeah, that feeling does not dissipate. I really hope the next book holds even more of Vero’s backstory, because she’s awesome. Additionally, I still ship Finlay and Vero.

Finlay Donovan would make an excellent streaming show. Each book would make an awesome season, and since there’s so much action, I think it’d be hard not to binge the whole series in a day. I wanted to see if the incredible internet had already made a dream cast, and yes, Xochitl Gomez should definitely play Vero. I don’t have any ideas for Finlay, though… thoughts?

This book gets five stars from me because I literally cannot think of a way to make it better. The characters are awesome, the plot really adds to the overall story, it stays true to the first book, and it just makes me laugh out loud. The twist ending to this one was something I could only guess in the last fifty pages or so, and it’s such a good one. Makes you laugh at the same time that you’re gasping with surprise. This is a series I will keep on following for many more installments, for sure.

Naturally, I recommend! I hope you all have an awesome week.

My Killer Vacation by Tessa Bailey

My Killer Vacation by Tessa Bailey

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 11. A book with less than 2022 Goodreads ratings (it’s literally 1998 as I write this…I know it won’t last, but I think it’s fair to count it if I read it before it had that many!)

Other Possible Prompts: 2. Featuring a library or bookstore, 5. Chapters have titles, 22. An unlikely detective, 23. Author with an X, Y, or Z in their name, 41. Involves a second chance, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover, 49. Book title starts with the same letter as your first name, 52. Published in 2022

UGH IT’S SO GOOD. I knew My Killer Vacation was a must-read for me, being a combination of all my faves: Tessa Bailey, romance, murder, the-grumpy-one-likes-the-sunshine-one…but oh. em. gee. She knocked it out of the park with this one!

After arriving with her brother at Cape Cod for their vacation, Taylor promptly discovers a body. In their rental house. Not the best way to start a vacation – unless you’re Taylor, and want to help solve the murder. When bounty hunter/PI Myles Sumner shows up to investigate the strange circumstances, Taylor inserts herself into the action, and right into Myles’ life. Taylor wants to be braver, and solving this case is a great way to test her limits…just like getting in bed with Myles would be.

Despite his dedication to a no-strings life on the road, Myles can’t help but be swept away by Taylor. Everything she does draws him closer to her, in such unexpected ways. But when it seems that Taylor and her brother have become targets of the killer on the loose, Myles is caught between protecting her – putting him even closer to her magnetic body – or getting back to his life on the road as soon as possible.

I just need to clear the air first here and point out that the main character’s name is Taylor Bassey. Tessa Bailey. Taylor Bassey…not that we’re not all living vicariously through your stories, Tessa, but could we make it a little less obvious? I actually laughed out loud when I read her full name the first time. Girl, I don’t blame you though.

I had 100% intended to read this book on my vacation, a quick plane-ride read, but it evidently didn’t get that far. I couldn’t help myself, bought it, and read it in under 24 hours. I couldn’t put it down. Tessa just manages to suck you in right from the first page, with everything she writes. This would have been an awesome vacation book, though. I’m a little bummed I had no patience!

I loved Myles. Taylor was great too, but Myles was just…ugh. So good. He slides into the gruff and overprotective role really well, whereas Taylor acting “braver” as part of her storyline is a little more jolting and harder to work into. But I liked both of them, and I think that’s super important. Nothing worse than a romance where you don’t like either protagonist. These two fit together seamlessly and pushed each other in all the right ways.

The romance was sweet but ~sizzling~. They did not lie about that. Tessa’s books have that extra oomph in the steam department that other romance out there right now simply does not. And she *consistently* delivers. Even other authors that I enjoy on occasion, other than maybe Lyssa Kay Adams (which, by the way, where you at Lyssa??), cannot so consistently produce romance this good with such good connection and good steamy sizzle. I will always be here, singing Bailey’s praises.

The Cape backdrop was also kind of fun and definitely reminiscent of her recent releases. I love that we’re always on the coast in one way or another, and she builds a fun atmosphere out of them.

The only weird thing to me was the epilogue… and looking back, it’s not so out of touch with the story as it is jarring and kind of funny. A little weird, but funny. You’ll see what I mean; I can’t spoil it for you!

I’m still processing how great this book is, and how sad I am that I’m months away from another Bailey. I just absolutely loved this one and it made my whole week to have it on my kindle at all. Please pick this up!! This honestly might be my favorite one since Fix Her Up, and I loved that one.

Have a great weekend!

Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 4. Title starting with the letter “F”

Other Possible Prompts: 22. An unlikely detective, 43. Author who’s published in more than one genre, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover

I knew, reading the back of this book after I picked it up at Gibson’s last week, that this one was going to be a wild ride. I seemed to have hit the nail on the head with that one. This book may just be one of the most ridiculous I’ve read as of late, and I absolutely loved it. It’s more like 4.75 stars to me – this just really exceeded my expectations!

Finlay is a recently single mom with a long-overdue deadline on her new romantic suspense book, and now apparently, an overdue electric bill. All in one morning, her daughter cuts off her hair, her ex fires her nanny, the electric gets turned off, and she gets mistaken for a hitwoman at her local Panera. In her attempt to explain the mistake to the stressed-out woman who hires her to kill her husband, she accidentally accepts the job – and gets swept into a world of crime and a real-life murder investigation.

And yes, this book really is just as ridiculous as it sounds. AND I LOVED IT. I laughed, I cringed, I even teared up a bit. The writing is witty and smart. The story, this crazy plot, is still masterful for all that it makes me giggle. And the characters are fantastic.

Of course, Finlay is the star of this show, and I really loved her character. She has so much growth from start to finish. She’s smart and relatable. I think her dire situation in the start of the book makes her more susceptible to all that’s to come after, but it also makes her better to think on her feet. She’s an unlikely heroine, but a heroine all the same.

Funny as this whole narrative is, it made me think of an article I recently saw comparing motherhood to the hero’s journey. We exclude mothers from the narrative of the hero for a multitude of reasons, as listed in that incredible excerpt, including: “we’ve all just internalized that the word “mommy” automatically diminishes whatever noun comes after it” (From Jessi Klein’s I’ll Show Myself Out, which the article above is an excerpt of). Our heroine, Finlay, is a single mom, a writer, a divorcee – quite a few nouns we don’t give much weight to, and further, she’s not exactly exceeding at these endeavours when we start the story. But by some perfect storm, some complete accident, she ends up on a whirlwind that brings her first stress, pain, and confusion, but then success, money, stability – and the respect of those around her. Fundamentally, nothing changed, but Finlay’s confidence blooms. Her comfort in not being a perfect version of someone else brings the character to another level. I’ll leave you to make your own connections on what that means, and what it means to you.

My absolute favorite character was Finlay’s nanny, Vero. She comes back into the story after that original firing, and she is hysterical and naive, but really on top of her shit. At first I was a little suspicious of her, but as the story went on, she really grew on me. I really hope the sequel brings her in a lot more! Vero and Finlay’s easygoing friendship was warm and sisterly, and I loved the effect on both of them, even if it was for weird reasons! I think the two play off each other nicely and bring the story to life even more.

Pro tip for reading: don’t read the last page in this one! I always store my bookmark on the very last page, not just in the back of the book, while I’m reading – and this ending pretty glaringly gives away a good twist/cliffhanger for the sequel.

Suffice to say, I can’t wait to pick up Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead. I have a Barnes & Noble gift card in my wallet calling my name, telling me forty-five minutes really isn’t that long to drive if I can have the sequel right this second…

Have an excellent week, friends!

The Therapist by B.A. Paris

The Therapist by B.A. Paris

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 46. A job title in the title

Other Possible Prompts: 22. An unlikely detective

This one really managed to give me the creeps. Lately I’ve been feeling like I rate books too highly, so I’m denying this one the extra half a star, but I really did enjoy this. It’s creepy and satisfying, and gives you the answers you’ve been longing for by the end.

Alice has just moved in with her long distance boyfriend, Leo, to an exclusive gated neighborhood referred to as “The Circle”. She’s excited to meet her neighbors, and happy with her move to London, until she discovers the real reason they got their home at such a steal: just one year before, it was the site of a brutal murder. A Nina Maxwell was killed presumably by her husband, Oliver, before he took his own life, wracked by guilt.

Driven by a loose connection to the death of her sister, Alice is determined to clear Oliver’s name. She doesn’t believe that the perfect marriage between two kind people could’ve soured so quickly, and so she launches her own investigation, learning from her neighbors while being haunted by the presence in her home.

You don’t really know how “the therapist” ties into this story until the end, really. So many pieces of this puzzle don’t come together until the final pages, and I love that because even when I’m 80% of the way through the book, I have no idea who the culprit is and I trust NO ONE.

My biggest pro-tip is to not finish this book right before entering a vacant home that’s been taken by the elements, where your current job is to open up the attic and crawl space. I’m back, sitting in my car, instead of that creepy ass home (and I pulled down the attic and ran, to be frank). It’s been quite a Wednesday.

I think my biggest complaint with this book is how little I cared for the characters; Alice’s neighbor Eve is really the only one I felt drawn to in any way. Everyone feels pretty disposable from the start, and I don’t feel that the events or revelations of the book make me any more dedicated to the characters, including Alice. I find Alice quite annoying, actually, and chuckled a bit when I saw a review titled “The Therapist: exactly what its main character needs”. By the end, I think they’re hoping you’ll be biting your nails to see how it plays out, but I was more drawn to the story than the characters. We get plunked right into the thick of things from chapter one, but we know very little about the major players until later on. I feel as though this is one of those British literature quirks, because this isn’t the first time I’ve said as much. I think a thriller gains a bit more from making you worry for our main characters’ survival, so that’s not a point in its favor in my opinion.

I’d heard a lot of good things about B.A. Paris’ books before, so I was pretty excited for the twists and turns of this one, but The Therapist plays the long game I think. It kept me guessing ’til the very end, but I don’t know as if it’s the twist of a lifetime. I guess it depends on how many mysteries and thrillers you tend to read, and what you sense about this cast of characters from the very beginning.

This is not all to say I didn’t enjoy it. My mouth was formed in a permanent gasp while I read this book – in less than 24 hours during a work week, no less. It was quite the rollercoaster ride. And I can also thoroughly appreciate that everything comes together with a neat little bow at the end.

I definitely recommend The Therapist, and I think I’ll be checking out some of her other books to measure this one against before I recommend this to people who have already enjoyed her work. I don’t think this is one of her more popular novels, so I’m curious what I’ve missed thus far.

You’ll also notice I switched some of my prompts around for this one – I think The Therapist fits number 46 a bit better than Weather Girl, though I have to admit I’m surprised I had more than one book to fill this prompt! I thought that one would be a toughie. I think my switching may start happening more often the farther I get into this challenge – which is why I’m glad I kept good track of all the possible prompts for each book. I like to read whatever, wherever the wind takes me – which has worked so far, but maybe not for much longer this year. 🙂

I hope you all have a lovely week, friends!

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 12. Set on at least two continents

Other Possible Prompts: 2. Featuring a library or bookstore, 8. Involving the art world, 11. A book with less than 2022 Goodreads ratings (for now!), 22. An unlikely detective, 52. Published in 2022

Another great one!! This book is just, *chef’s kiss*. I thought I was in for a good mystery, but this book is unexpectedly great. Not good. Great. The surprising depth but all around intrigue of this one totally got me. It gave me Agatha Christie vibes…

The Woman in the Library is a book in a book in a book. Read it, read it again… terribly confusing to explain, but so, so good. The main narrative centers around Freddie, an Australian author currently residing in Boston on a fellowship. During a regular trip to the Boston Public Library, Freddie and three other strangers in the Reading Room are united by hearing a woman’s scream. Security initially turns up nothing, but the four later find out a woman has been murdered. Freddie leaves her lunch knowing she has just broken bread with a murderer. Could it be Handsome Man, Heroic Chin, or Freud Girl? She begins writing her novel with her new friends shaping her characters, and the mystery of the murder continues to unfold around them.

If this part of the narrative whodunit isn’t enough to pull you in: Freddie’s story as a novelist is written by another character, outside of that story, by the name of Hannah. Hannah’s a famous novelist from Australia herself, conversing via email with her Bostonian friend and colleague, Leo. After each chapter of Freddie’s story, written and sent by Hannah, we read Leo’s feedback, and his advice for making the book more authentic including Boston locales or American lingo. I absolutely refuse to ruin any of this plot line for you. But please know, there’s so much going on in this book…so many layers…and holy smokes, are they amazing.

Like I said, this book took me by surprise. It just wasn’t what I thought I was jumping into, but now I see why it has such incredible early reviews and ratings. There’s an added layer of depth to this mystery that I find fun and so creative, while at the same time intriguing and nail-biting-worthy.

Not to mention, when it comes to the actual whodunit, I had literally no idea. I was kept guessing the whole frickin’ time. But I’m not going to lie, I’m not great at guessing the murderers or twists in books and movies usually anyways. Which is kind of annoying, because I read and watch so, so many…but regardless, Gentill had me totally thrown off from the very start. Not only is she incredible at building characters and creating depth within them that left me guessing, but adding Leo and his own observations of who the murderer could be also added a back and forth as I was reading. Bottomless depth to this one, and so much fun to read.

The only thing preventing me from giving this the full five stars was Leo’s piece of the story. I wish I had more information. You’ll see what I mean, but again, I don’t want to give too much away. All of that had me gasping in surprise, so I can’t ruin it for you, for sure. But the end to that part of the narrative leaves something wanting in regards to this. Maybe we’re in for a sequel?

Yeah, so in case it wasn’t clear from my review: I highly recommend The Woman in the Library. You should definitely give it a read! I received a copy of The Woman in the Library from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It will release on June 7, 2022. Pre-order it asap! 🙂

Have an awesome week, friends!

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 15. A five-syllable title

Other Possible Prompts: 25. A wealthy character

I’m on a thriller kick lately! I’ve actually been knocking out a lot of my boss’ book recommendations, which included The Couple Next Door. I finally got around to things she told me to read months ago… so without further ado, welcome to your March bonus review. 😉

Anne and Marco Conti make a quick decision one evening to leave their sleeping baby home next door while they attend a neighbors’ dinner party, checking on her routinely until they leave at just after one in the morning. When they return, their six-month-old daughter, Cora, is gone.

The call to the police launches an investigation into her kidnapping that begins to unravel a carefully threaded web of lies, twists, and turns that will keep you guessing until the very, very end.

This is another one of those stories where I’m PETRIFIED that just telling you what the book is about is going to ruin the whole thing. Because it’s like a well of crazy, all the way down.

The perspective of this novel alternates back and forth primarily between Anne, Marcus, and Detective Rasbach, the lead detective on the case – with some other characters interspersed. You’d think, being in the head of just about every character, you may know more about where the story is going…but Lapena keeps it well hidden until she’s ready to reveal each individual detail. Every time something new came to light I gasped a little, thinking that must be where the ~wildness~ ended, and it never was.

One thing that annoyed me from the very beginning about the turn of events is that the detective immediately suspects Anne and Marcus of wrongdoing, and carries out his entire investigation as if they are at fault. He narrates that this is usually the case, that the child is likely already dead, that the parents likely have a hand in it…but it just didn’t sit right with me, even until the very end. It didn’t make me dislike the story, though, and it’s a necessary element of the plot – but it is certainly depressing. It just made me think.

I can’t tell you *which* characters I disliked, because it’ll ruin it for you, but I think the moral judgments of this cast of characters is really intriguing. I think it’s one of the strong points of the novel, similar to Diane Chamberlain’s The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes (keep your eyes peeled for that review at the end of April). Like, some of these characters did some dumb stuff, even borderline horrible stuff, but is it enough to make you hate them? Enough to make you want to see them suffer some consequences? It’s kind of an odd book that might have you changing your mind to the very last page on that front, truthfully.

I’ve decided not to try and fit this one into a prompt for the moment, which is why I only listed possible prompt suggestions. I did finish it in 2022…in fact, I finished it yesterday…but I’ve already filled my two prompt suggestions, so I might only go back and fill it in for 48. Redo one of this year’s prompts but with a different genre if I have to. I’m sticking it on the back burner for now!

I definitely recommend The Couple Next Door, though I apparently don’t have a ton to say about the book! I’m trying to think of some other comments I have, but coming up empty handed. I kind of want to read Not a Happy Family now, and might pick it up at the library next week.

Have an awesome week, peeps!