Book List: Best New Thrillers and Mysteries

Book List: Best New Thrillers and Mysteries

As written in September 2022, anyways. I was recently shopping for books for my fabulous boss’ birthday, and we both tend to read these thrillers and mysteries – so it struck me to put together a book list! I got her many of the ones on here and I highly recommend them!

Without further ado:

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley

This was like an unexpected new favorite for me. My friend from the library kept telling me to read it and I should’ve prioritized it…I loved this one. Even in spite of the weird Jess/Nick Miller name stealing from New Girl (yes, Foley I caught that! How did an editor not?!). There was tons of twists and turns in this one, though I must admit it wasn’t entirely unpredictable. I would’ve loved a great big twist, but instead it was peppered with them at the end of each chapter. I did a lot of gasps while reading! Get a copy here.

The House Across the Lake by Riley Sager

This one started so slow, and then the second half hit and I got whiplash from the craziness! That’s a Riley Sager staple, I think… everything seems normal until it really, really isn’t. I loved the setting of this one, though; the rural Vermont backdrop, and specifically the fact that most of the book unfolds on a single lake of six homes, is kind of wild. It keeps your suspect list short, so things have to get really crazy to make some sense. Pick up a copy here!

Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead by Elle Cosimano

The second installment of Finlay Donovan still hit that perfect mark. While these mysteries absolutely rock, the humor is also top notch and part of the reason I love it so much. The sequel is just as good as the original, and the plot totally thickens here. I think these books would make a great television series – they really remind me of Only Murders in the Building. It’s a good mystery, with good laughs too, in the form of Finlay and Vero’s antics. Check out my review of book one here and get a copy of your very own from Gibson’s here.

The Pallbearers Club by Paul Tremblay

The Pallbearers Club is a weird one, and I don’t even know if it should qualify for this “thrillers and mysteries” list. It really isn’t either, but the sense of suspense it creates definitely qualifies it for something. And I suppose, if you don’t really know what’s happening the whole time, it kind of is a mystery? I’m really not selling it right now, but I did actually like The Pallbearers Club. It was what I imagined Paul Tremblay would write well when I read Survivor Song and didn’t love it earlier this year. It’s weird, but it’s good weird. Get your very own here.

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

Last but certainly not least, The Woman in the Library! I got this gem as a galley earlier this year, and wasn’t even 100% sure I wanted to read it at the time…but I’m so glad I did. What a cool book inside a book inside a book. It has a good and creepy twist I think any fans of the mystery genre will enjoy. The creativity was just off the charts on this one, and I really enjoyed it. See my full review of the book here and get your own copy from good ‘ol Gibson’s here.

These are some “can’t miss”es from this year! With even more to come…I’ve got tons of galleys vying for my attention right now. It was a good summer for some thrillers!

Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez

Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Other Possible Prompts: 23. Author with an X, Y, or Z in their name, 25. A wealthy character, 36. Recommended by a favorite author, 37. Set in a rural area, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover, 52. Published in 2022

This may also meet prompt 34: an author’s photo on the back cover based on my other copies of her books, but I had the ebook of this and I can’t be certain!

I actually received the ARC of this book after I hit the request button so fast I strained a finger, but once I actually read the description of it, I wasn’t really sold. I like Jimenez’ books a lot, and absolutely adore The Friend Zone most of all, but this one didn’t sound up my alley. And honestly it really wasn’t. Where I would give both of her other books five stars, easily, this only got three and a half out of me.

After getting stranded in a ditch in a random town, ER doctor Alexis is pulled out by handsome stranger Daniel and pulled into the wonderful little town he lives in. Fresh out of an abusive relationship and feeling the pressure of her job and family expectations, Alexis is looking for nothing serious, and can’t believe Daniel wants her in his life at all. But she’s glad for the reprieve in the little town of Wakan, with charming Daniel, a baby goat, and his B&B.

When things begin to look too serious, Alexis has to make a decision: does she continue the family legacy, even when it doesn’t bring her happiness, or does she throw away everything for a guy ten years her junior?

The ten year age gap thing really kept coming up and definitely was not crucial to the story…I think in the beginning, Alexis (who primarily goes by Ali, though I do not understand that jump) is worried about looking less than perfect in front of Daniel, but it’s more related to her past abuse than to being older. This was like a weird, forced part of the storyline that I didn’t care to be reminded of.

I really liked Bri, Ali’s best friend and one of the supporting characters…I’m really glad her story is coming next spring. I can’t wait to read that one because it sounds like she has a good sense of humor, which is what I think was really missing from Ali. She just *wasn’t* genuinely funny. Both her and Daniel had these very dumb inside jokes that just did not charm me. I don’t understand why this is, because Jimenez is clearly very capable of writing humor? All of her other books have had a natural warmth to them that this one just didn’t, in my opinion.

I loved the town of Wakan, and the description of the bed and breakfast. I could see both of those settings very easily in my mind. Ali’s natural surroundings, like her home and the hospital, were much harder to visualize. I’m guessing this is done purposefully; they are cold environments she doesn’t connect to or experience her life through, but it makes the story kind of jarring at times.

While this book does switch perspectives, I find that most of my criticism is with Ali and not Daniel. Daniel was likeable and warm; he fits well into his surroundings and comes off in the story as caring but not obsessed with Ali. I think this narrative is more about her, even if he does have issues of his own. She’s the one coming to terms with all of the change in her life. And the two of them, in turn, have some sparks and connection, but it’s not totally visible to the reader. I’m not watching it unfold but more reading about the after-effects. Daniel provides Ali with warmth and consistency after her abusive relationship, and Ali wakes Daniel up to all the possibilities available to him in life. Other than that, I’m only being informed that they somehow fit perfectly.

This book wasn’t bad, it just didn’t really do it for me. The subject matter, the lack of humor, and the *meh* romance don’t rate it high on my list, but I will definitely continue to read Jimenez’ books. The talent is still there, but I’d pass on this plot for a better one.

A copy of Part of Your World was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It was published April 19, 2022.

The Godparent Trap by Rachel Van Dyken

The Godparent Trap by Rachel Van Dyken

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 6. Household object on the cover (pillow, houseplant, picture frames)

Other Possible Prompts: 11. A book with less than 2022 Goodreads ratings, 15. A five-syllable title, 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, 52. Published in 2022

Utterly shocked by just how many prompts this one fits. Anyways, like I wrote on Goodreads, I’m giving the story of this one four stars and the writing two stars – so I’ll meet in the middle at three. Objectively, this is not a great book, but if I’m being honest with myself, I also couldn’t put it down? So that’s still worth mentioning.

After a fatal accident leaves their best friend and sister dead, Colby and Rip become the guardians of their godchildren, Ben and Veira. They move into their friends’ house and attempt to keep some semblance of normalcy for the kids – even though Colby and Rip hate each other’s guts.

The pair had a failed date years before that left a bad taste in their mouths, and their lifestyles couldn’t be more opposite one another – Colby is flighty and carefree, where Rip is strict and rigid. The two are like oil and water, but it seems their friends knew more than they did about themselves when they left their children to both Colby and Rip. The two battle their grief and battle parenthood, as best they can, together.

First off, I just need to clear the air and say that Rip is literally the dumbest name I can think of. Rip (*shudders*). Rest in peace. Which honestly makes this story SO MUCH WORSE WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT. One time I literally read it that way in my head and I outwardly cringed. Who in the hell came up with “Rip”?

Additionally, this book totally reminds me of Life as We Know It, that Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel movie. I do enjoy that movie, because Katherine Heigl rocks, obviously, but this book feels like *literally the exact same plot* and it would be unfair not to acknowledge that fact when talking about the merits of the story. Did I like it? Sure. Was it original? Yea, nope.

Which leaves me to the writing. Which, also, not stellar. There’s a lot of inconsistencies and a lot of implied time gaps that need to be filled differently. I have to note that I’m reading the advance readers copy, so hopefully some of that will work its way out before final publication, but there’s something about the entire tone and flow of the novel that feels disjointed and amateur-ish. Apparently Van Dyken’s written ninety books, so I’m not sure why I’m getting the amateur vibe…but it’s there. Trust me, it’s there. It feels a bit like some moments you’re on the floor with our characters, participating in the action and watching a scene unfold, and then at some points I am a figure just hovering above it all, not even quite able to hear the characters’ voices clearly enough.

I have to give credit regarding the characters, however. Both Colby and Rip (*shudders again*) are well fleshed out and are both likeable in their own ways. They’re certainly the most round and most understandable, whereas some of the supporting characters make odd choices or don’t feel real. But, I suppose, it’s best that our main characters feel the most relatable to the reader.

I just have to say, especially if you’ve gotten this far down into my review, this is objectively not a good book. Like I can’t recommend this to you on it being good literature. It’s fine entertainment for a few hours, but no, it is not a good book.

I hope all that is helpful! Thanks to NetGalley for the advance readers copy of The Godparent Trap, in exchange for my honest review. This book is set to release July 19, 2022.

Have a most fantastic week! 🙂

Love at First Spite by Anna E. Collins

Love at First Spite by Anna E. Collins

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 52. Published in 2022

Other Possible Prompts: 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover

I think I liked this one while reading, but when I look back I’m far less impressed. Not to mention, the second half just grated on my nerves. Let’s jump into it!

After her fiance of three years cheats on her with their realtor, Dani finally snaps. She calls off the wedding and swears off guys altogether – but it really feels like her ex, Sam, got off scott-free. So, together with her cousin and her new landlady, she conspires to buy the lot next door to his house and build a girls retreat – a “spite house”.

As an interior designer, Dani takes the lead on the project, but she needs an architect. The grumpy and off-putting Wyatt volunteers himself, much to Dani’s chagrin – as the time they’ve worked together at their company has not left warm and fuzzy feelings – but once they start working together, sparks seem to be flying in spite of Dani’s no-man rule. If only her revenge wasn’t getting in the way…

I was really digging this romance through the first half, with lots of tension and quips with the “hate” start to their romance, but then they totally lost me through the second half. It started strong, but then I really saw Dani get needy, and Wyatt get truly horrible at communicating. Neither are terribly attractive features, and as a functioning adult, I couldn’t fall into a romance where these two clearly had some growing up still to do. It (spoiler alert) destroyed their good chemistry, and made me disinterested in their success as a couple. As a whole, I quite enjoyed the novel, but the romance does not carry it start to finish.

In fact, the drama of the house build carries the second half. I rooted for Dani in all aspects except her needy romantic self. Mia and Iris were my favorites, because their sass and wisdom make them great supporting characters, but Dani is pretty solid, too. Wyatt, however, was a no from me. I always want the grumpy ones to be Mr. Darcy types, but he falls flat. I just don’t want the chiseled asshole archetype anymore. No soft and squishy insides here.

The “spite house” itself is an interesting concept…but the antics became a little much for me. It overtakes so much of the novel, but I can’t tell if it’s *supposed* to make me uncomfortable or not. It did. It was too much. Too try-hard. Just a build a gorgeous house, block his view, and be done with it all – why do we have to make your ex so mad?? I’m the queen of boundaries, the queen of let it go – this was very much the opposite of establishing a boundary and letting it go.

I can’t decide if I want to recommend this or not. I think I do. I would read Anna Collins again, but this definitely doesn’t top my favorites. I’m curious to see how a second novel pans out.

A copy of Love at First Spite was provided to me by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

That’ll about do it. Big “meh” vibes from me as of late. Enjoy the weekend!

The Wedding Crasher by Mia Sosa

The Wedding Crasher by Mia Sosa

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 33. A bilingual character

Other Possible Prompts: 11. A book with less than 2022 Goodreads ratings (for now!), 15. A five-syllable title, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover, 50. A person of color as the main character, 52. Published in 2022

Again, this was not my favorite, but I think The Wedding Crasher is a huge improvement over The Worst Best Man. People seem to like Mia Sosa’s voice, and I’d have to agree there. She writes a warm hug of a book, that’s for sure.

After witnessing the bride profess her love for another man in a stairwell minutes before the ceremony, Solange stops a complete stranger’s wedding to keep them from a big mistake. Embarrassed and feeling indebted for the inconvenience, she ends up helping the groom, Dean, fake a relationship so that he can help onboard a new lawyer for his firm – and finally make partner.

And as with any fake relationship, somebody has to catch feelings. Unfortunately for Dean and Solange, Dean is committed to his job and his no-emotions romantic plan, and Solange is destined to leave the city at the end of the summer with no strings attached. Can they keep it light and fun while it lasts?

This book started so strong, but really lost me around the middle. It just got a little wild for me, I think, and I’m not ashamed to admit that. There’s a lot going on here, but it’s not a bad story or a bad romance. In fact, the chemistry between Dean and Solange is some of the best I’ve read in a long while. I liked the “forbidden romance” aspect of it, driven by the fact that the pair have polar opposite romantic aspirations, but it did get a bit repetitive after a while – a bit like beating a dead horse.

I really liked Solange’s character. She was sweet and charismatic, smart and giving, and I think she and her family really make this story. She is a magnetic heroine; you can’t peel your eyes away when she’s on the page. She seems like the kind of girl even us super quiet, introverted types will befriend. Solange, combined with her huge Brazilian family, take over the pages and make every character feel like they belong amongst them. The infusion of that culture and family into this novel is a great one.

I didn’t like Dean *as much*, but I understood him at least. That, I guess, is definitely a strength of this book: it’s one of the most realistic romances I’ve read in awhile. Both characters are stubborn and faulty, but if they were real people, I think they would well and truly fall in love. They’re both likeable and I root for them!

I think what it boils down to is a preference thing. This was a huge improvement over The Worst Best Man, I just don’t think it was for me. And that’s totally fine – it may be for you, though, and I will still recommend it to romance readers! And I think I will likely pick up Sosa again, even just one more time.

Big thanks to the publisher for providing an advance readers copy of The Wedding Crasher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I hope you all have the most fabulous week. 🙂

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!

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

Love on the Brain by Ali Hazelwood

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 31. Technology themed

Other Possible Prompts: 5. Chapters have titles, 6. Household object on the cover, 11. A book with less than 2022 Goodreads ratings (for now, anyways!), 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, 52. Published in 2022

Ali Hazelwood does it again! And by it, I definitely mean writing a book so good I’m willing to lose my valuable sleep schedule just to finish it. I’ve quickly become an adoring fan of Hazelwood’s and I’m feeling BLESSED that I was given this advance readers copy. BLESSED.

Bee, a neuroscientist, is absolutely floored to be accepted as the lead on a NASA project designed to help astronauts absorb more information when in space. For Bee, this is the ticket out of her crappy, post-grad life under a misogynistic boss… but she soon discovers her co-lead is her arch nemesis, engineer Levi Ward, and things become a whole lot more complicated.

In the years since she met him in grad school, it doesn’t appear Levi has gotten any better or grown to hate her any less. But under the circumstances, they create a shaky truce for all that extra time they’re spending together, and Bee soon discovers she may like Levi a little more than she originally thought.

This book has so, so many of my favorite romance tropes: workplace romance. Enemies to lovers. The mean one falls for the sunshine one. UGH. I’m so obsessed with this whole book and also now Ali Hazelwood, not me most definitely following her every career move…

This book is The Hating Game but STEM and on speed. I cannot convey my love for it enough. You know when you read The Hating Game and then you started reading contemporary romance in droves, forever chasing the high of reading Sally Thorne’s stunning debut in a single night? No?? Well if not, please know this has been my life for like, five years (I honestly thought it was three years, but didn’t want to misquote, so I checked my Goodreads history and yeah…five years. Five years chasing the high of Lucy and Josh. Also have you seen the movie?? LOVED it). I finally found its equal in Love on the Brain, and I am a forever fan of Hazelwood’s now.

I LOVED Bee. Much like my Lucy, Bee was just an introverted, intelligent, but wonderfully quirky gal who absolutely made the story for me. I connected with Bee and her struggles, even not being a science person myself. You don’t have to understand neuroscience to connect with Bee’s passion for her work. Also, her research assistant, Rocío, reminds me completely of my best friend. Their friendship felt so similar to my own that I found myself dying laughing at their bits. Every character in this story is so well fleshed out and felt like someone I know in my own life, which made it so much more fun.

I didn’t immediately love Levi, but you grow to understand him and it puts him in a new light. Honestly, from the start, he does come off like kind of an ass. But he’s supposed to, and Hazelwood’s way of shifting his character into a new space in the story totally works, and I come to love him, too.

There’s also this added element and depth from these two Twitter accounts in the story. Bee runs an account called @WhatWouldMarieDo, referring to Marie Curie, where she commiserates with other women in STEM fields on the sucky parts of being a woman in STEM. Together with an another account named @shmacademics, the two use their thousands of followers to start a movement in the academic world. I loved this part of the storyline, and once you read it, I think you’ll quickly get a feel as to why.

The drama and climax of this story kind of took me by surprise by I TOTALLY loved it! You will not expect the outcome, and maybe you won’t even suspect the problem…but it’s just so juicy.

So, yeah, I’m kind of recommending this all around. Like pick this up immediately. Pre-order this puppy. Cannot tell you enough; currently screaming my love for it from the roof. Like I said, I was *blessed* with this advance readers copy from the publisher through NetGalley, and Love on the Brain will release August 23, 2022…but if you have any chance of getting your hands on it before then, highly recommend doing so. 😉

Have an AWESOME week friends!

Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner

Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 50. A person of color as the main character

Other Possible Prompts: 25. A wealthy character, 36. Recommend by a favorite author, 45. A book with illustrated people on the cover

Hey y’all! My first f/f romance was a delight. Something to Talk About was everything the hype led me to believe it was!

After a photo hits the press of star-turned-screenwriter Jo Jones laughing and smiling with her assistant Emma, the world decides the two are dating. While it couldn’t be further from the truth, Jo’s insistence on not publicly denying the rumors ends up putting them further in the spotlight and pushing them together even more than before.

But the more time they spend together, the more they realize there may be some truth to the rumors. The two like to be around each other…if only the implications of those rumors weren’t so inappropriate and damaging to their careers in Hollywood.

I have to say first and foremost that if you can’t do slow burn romance, this isn’t for you. I saw a lot of negative reviews online saying “nothing was happening in the first 100 pages” and they dnf-ed it, but it’s soooo good if you do like a slow burn. The will they/won’t they of it all was sweet and genuine and kept me interested in the story, and even wanting more long after it ended.

I liked both Jo and Emma a lot. I thought both their characters were super likeable, even when they made questionable decisions when it came to each other. I really rooted for both of them!

I don’t usually like books with the Hollywood scene, but I thought this one, working in the background of it all, was far more enjoyable and still tastefully done. It acknowledged the popularity and paparazzis without making it overwhelmingly about the stars in their eyes, if you will. I liked that an actor wasn’t our main love interest.

Further, they used the Hollywood scene to make some powerful and important points regarding the Me Too movement. The events of this book can be hard to read, but I think the way they are handled is great. Women lead this novel, and this is a great representation of women supporting women, and the power of that. I really loved all the feminist energy written all over this book.

I enjoyed Something to Talk About even more than I thought I would, truly. I’m glad I read it and I’ll be seeking out more of Wilsner’s work in the future. This was a refreshing romance for me and I hope you’ll give it a shot too! Or, let me know what you thought of it!

Have a great week. 🙂

unlock your storybook heart by amanda lovelace

unlock your storybook heart by amanda lovelace

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge: 10. A book based on a real person

Other Possible Prompts: 11. A book with less than 2022 Goodreads ratings, 26. Has an author’s note, 52. Published in 2022

I love amanda lovelace!! I’m so honored I got a chance to read unlock your storybook heart before it hit shelves, especially because this book resonated with me more than any of her others.

This poetry collection is based on the fairy tale of Beauty & The Beast, but of course, with lovelace’s twists. Our main character is a perfectionist, held to high expectations, a reader and an academic. She lost her mother and works through pain by binging. Destined to find her soul mate by finding the match for the keyhole in her heart, she escapes into books to stave off real life until she finds her knight in shining armor…who isn’t who you would expect.

amanda lovelace’s collection of poetry has always been one of my favorites. I’ve loved reading her evolution in attitude toward herself and the world, and how it’s gotten lighter and more hopeful over time. And that’s why I’ve chosen to use this prompt, based on a real person, because there’s a little piece of amanda in every collection – as she states herself in the author’s note.

While the witch doesn’t burn in this one has always been one of my favorites, lighting a fire in me for change and anger with the way things are, unlock your storybook heart spoke to who I am and to the advice I typically get and never heed. It was an artful reinterpretation of who I am and who I could be, and it’ll be amongst my favorites now. Beauty and the beast is one of my favorite fairy tales. I liked the play on our princess’ character as not only a reader and academic but a perfectionist and “gifted”. lovelace has a talent for twisting these tales to show you a new side of things.

Also, these illustrations?? Stunning. The addition of illustrations to her novels has been amazing. I loved in particular when they were fan-created, but these were stunning and cozy all the same. It just adds a touch more magic to her poetry and helps visualize the fantasy element of her art. It’s just the bump the pages need.

I sometimes find myself feeling lovelace to be repetitive; she can drone too much on the same thoughts in her stories. This one wasn’t as bad, but you can still see it in here. All the same, I really like her work and I would highly recommend it, especially to young women – there are a lot of themes in her stories that you can resonate with. However, there’s a trigger warning in just about every book, and be sure to be mindful of those as needed.

Even as not-a-huge-poetry-fan, I love amanda lovelace, and I loved unlock your storybook heart. Thankful to NetGalley and Andrews-McMeel for the advance readers copy! You can get a copy of your very own on March 15th, next Tuesday!

Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper

Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The 52 Book Club 2022 Challenge Prompt: 41. Involves a Second Chance

Other Possible Prompts: 2. Featuring a library or bookstore, 5. Chapters have titles, 14. A character with superhuman ability, 37. Set in a rural area

This book!!! Too much fun. I legitimately have not read a fantasy book I enjoyed this much in many, many years. It wasn’t entirely what I was expecting – it was better.

After years away, Emmy Harlow returns to her hometown of Thistle Grove in anticipation of a house competition for the town’s founding family witches – over which she is to preside. But there’s good reason for her being gone so long: one of the other witches, Gareth Blackmoore, left her ten years before and made her feel inconsequential – as the Harlows are considered to be the weaker witches, and do not participate in the tournament that brings strength and prosperity to its crowned family. Emmy left magic behind in exchange for leaving behind a family legacy that followed her around like a storm cloud.

Back in Thistle Grove, Emmy and the other houses – Avramov and Thorn – are teaming up. Having been similarly scorned, her best friend Linden and the mysterious Talia Avermov are working together to put the Blackmoores, and Gareth especially, back in their place. But all that time together seems to be creating some sparks between Emmy and Talia…

There’s a lot going on this book so it is a bit hard to describe for you – but I think part of the action and imagination is what makes it so good. As I said, this is one of the first fantasy books I’ve read in a long, long time – I expected magical realism, but it’s pretty far into a fantasy realm. And I actually loved it! Payback’s a Witch was easily accessible and yet tons of fun. The whimsy and magic of it all was a great ride.

The romance was also adorable! That’s what I actually was reading it for – I honestly didn’t realize it was such an in-depth fantasy, though I live for witches and witchy vibes. And even jumping into a romance, I didn’t know this was queer romance, lol. Somehow I missed that – I don’t tend to read descriptions as much anymore, so I just jumped right into the book. After a few minutes, I actually laughed out loud at my own confusion…”That’s odd, I feel like they’re implying that Talia is the love interest? That’s an odd way to describe her if she isn’t.” Silly me! Really not sure how I missed that but oh my lord, are they cute!

I also loved Emmy and Linden’s friendship. It was sweet and genuine, and riddled with shared history that you could feel through the story. Sometimes I read a romance, and I honestly like the best friends more than I like the couple. Sometimes romance stories can feel disingenuine, but a writer can almost always capture best friends. But Linden and Emmy really compliment the romance and highlight the levels of intimacy differences between Talia and Emmy. Linden and Emmy’s sweet moments of friendship build even better expectations of connection between Talia and Emmy.

The storyline, and the ending, absolutely killed it. I can’t even express to you how much this reignited the vibes I gathered from my middle school, fantasy-reading days (but like, obviously…this one is not meant for middle schoolers!). I also want to note that I listened to this as an audiobook, and the performance and reader was very good. I love, love, loved it!

There’s a sequel coming! I’m told there’s another Witches of Thistle Grove book on the horizon…and I literally cannot wait. This book was just tons of fun. That’s the best way to describe it. Please check it out!!