B O O K R E V I E W : Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Happy publication day to Book Lovers by Emily Henry, and thank you so much to @berkleypub and @berkleyromance for a gifted copy of one of my most anticipated books of the year! #berkleypartner #berkleyig

Book agent Nora Stephens always gets the best deals for her authors. She’s organized, tough, and a workaholic. She’s also careful not to fall in love; she’s not that kind of heroine. After all, three of her ex-boyfriends have gone on work trips to small towns only to find their true loves in the wholesome locales. Her one weakness is her little sister, Libby, whom she will always protect and to whom she will never say no.

So when Libby, five months pregnant, asks Nora to visit Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August for a sister’s getaway, Nora packs her bags. Libby has a list—laminated no less!—of things they (Nora) need to do during their vacation, including ride a horse, date a local, and save a small business. Nora can’t resist a good list.

Instead of finding a charming hamlet, though, Sunshine Falls leaves a little to be desired, such as reliable wi-fi and decent restaurants. And rather than running into a handsome denizen, Nora keeps seeing Charlie Lastra, an editor she knows from the city. Two years ago, when first meeting, Charlie chastised her for being six minutes late to a meeting. As far as Nora can tell, time has not made him less serious or brusque. They both know what they want, and it doesn’t include a future with the other, but that might not be the final chapter of their story.

“This book, this job, this trip, this never-ending, days-spanning conversation. I want to make it all last, and I need to know how it ends. I want to finish it, and I need it to go on forever.”

I’ve been eagerly awaiting Book Lovers since I first heard Henry mention it at a virtual event last summer. It’s as good as Beach Read, and transcends the romance genre. Reading this, I both laughed and cried.

📖 Full of bibliophiles and set in the publishing industry, the book celebrates writing and reading.
📖 Multiple characters have to negotiate how to manage balancing their own needs and desires against those of loved ones. It questions when sacrifices are necessary and when they verge into martyrdom.
📖 The book talks a lot about tropes in books, but another theme is family relationships (particularly among siblings) and how people are assigned roles within families.
📖Even though it’s set in South Carolina, it gives a lot of love to NYC!
📖 Charlie might be more swoonworthy than Gus!
📖 No one writes snarky banter (my favorite) better than Henry!

B O O K R E V I E W : Trailed: One Woman’s Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders by Kathryn Miles

Trailed: One Woman’s Quest to Solve the Shenandoah Murders
Kathryn Miles
Algonquin Books
Publication Date: May 3, 2022

Women have not always been welcomed into the outdoors community, but Lollie Winans and Julie Williams both loved nature and had extensive backcountry leadership experience. The two met in 1995 through Woodswomen, an adventure and travel organization run for and by women. In May 1996, the women, still dating and now based in Maine where Lollie was completing her college degree, visited Shenandoah National Park for a week-long backcountry camping with Lollie’s dog, Taj.

When the women didn’t return home as planned, park rangers initiated a search. Their first attempts to locate Lollie and Julie were unsuccessful but then they found their campsite in an isolated clearing not too far from the Appalachian Trail. The scene was a nightmare: their tent had been slashed open, and the women were both found dead, bound by duct tape, and wrapped in their sleeping bags. (Taj, missing, was later found and returned to Lollie’s ex-fiancé.)

Acclimated journalist Kathryn Miles started researching the case for a planned article which became her book, Trailed. As an experienced backpacker herself, Miles told many people she was writing the book so she’d no longer be scared—scared out in nature, doing what she loved. Her experience and comfort with the culture also gave her added insight into both the Lollie and Julie and the people who may have crossed path.

One aspect of the book I appreciated was it’s celebration of the lives of Lollie and Julie and how their loss reverberated through their families, friends, communities, and the author herself.

As she tried to understand what happened to the women, Miles had access to the primary investigators, legal documents, and members of the defense team representing Darrel David Rice. Over her four years of research, she interviewed countless individuals connected to the case, including family members, friends, and people who were in the park in late May 1996. I was very impressed with the depth of her research, the variety of her sources, her determination to complete the story despite the personal costs, and her writing skills.

Miles’s research shows how lack of resources plus human error—-deliberate and unintentional—focused blame on Rice even though no evidence could connect him to the scene. Though a more likely suspect arose, the investigators refused to authorize the forensic tests that might implicate him and finally provide resolution.

If you liked The Third Rainbow Girl or The Facts of a Body, you will love this. I highly recommend to those who enjoy reading true crime.

Thanks to Algonquin Books for including me on the book tour and for an advanced reading copy of the book.

B O O K R E V I E W : Cover Story by Susan Rigetti

Thank you so much to Bibliolifestyle and William Morrow Books for including me on the tour for Cover Story by Susan Rigetti and for a gifted copy of the book. (Publication Date: April 5, 2022)

Although Lora Ricci landed a coveted summer internship at ELLE before her senior year at NYU—a stepping stone to her dream of becoming an editor at a fashion magazine—she harbors a festering secret. She lost her scholarship, and unless she can find a way to pay full tuition to the private university, she’ll lose her standing. She can’t bear to admit her situation to her parents, blue collar workers in Allentown, Pennsylvania, who are so proud of her accomplishments.

Instead, she tries to get the most out of her internship where she is assigned the beauty closet, organizing the makeup samples sent by beauty companies. Her work puts her in the path of Cat Wolff, a contributing editor and mysterious daughter of a European clean-energy mogul. While assigned to work on a story with Cat, as Lora’s time is running out on her summer lease and her summer internship, Lora confesses her situation to the woman who has become her idol and mentor.

Cat offers Lora a solution: drop out of NYU and work full-time as her ghostwriter on a selection of stories that will launch them both into the literary limelight. When Lora loses her apartment, Cat invites her to stay at with her at her lavish suite at the Plaza Hotel, telling her that food, haircuts, spa treatments—anything she wants is available courtesy of her father, as long as she doesn’t tell anyone she is staying with Cat. Lora cannot believe her good fortune, telling herself that nothing in her life will ever compare.

Yet, as the two work and live together, Lora finds that Cat can be unreliable and sometimes even cruel, and as she explores Cat’s world, she fears the world she’s exposed herself to.

Told through diary entries, emails, slack chats, notes, and even Instagram captions, Cover Story’s original format and inventive story introduce unforgettable characters—the sweet, yet gullible Lora, and the glamorous, savvy, and greedy Cat. Even though I worried so much for Lora, I enjoyed reading the book which combines high fashion, publishing, earnest students, hackers, and con artists. I might have whiplash from the ending which is so perfect. Since I finished the book—which I read in a day—I’ve been thinking about it, and I imagine I’ll read it again to try to figure out what I missed the first time. This is definitely in contention for my favorite April read!

B O O K R E V I E W : Nobody But Us by Laure Van Rensburg

Nobody But Us
Laure Van Rensburg
Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: April 12, 2022

Ellie Masterson, a smart but naïve graduate student at NYU, and her boyfriend, the much older and handsome professor Steven Harding leave New York City on a cold winter morning for a short vacation to celebrate their six-month anniversary. They arrive at a beautiful, though isolated, modern cabin with large windows overlooking the woods around the structure.

Their romantic getaway begins with a cozy candlelight dinner and walk on the nearby shore, but soon the fractures in the relationship widen as secrets rise to the surface. After a ferocious storm, the couple are snowed in without cell service or a landline, and what started out as a celebration becomes a battle of wills—one that they may not survive.

This psychological thriller shifts between Ellie and Stephen’s perspectives, along with a journal whose provenance is unknown for most of the book. Learning new information and being surprised along with the characters enhances the suspense. Most of the story advances through their internal processing as well as conversation between the two characters, though there is a flurry of dramatic action towards the end of the book.

Behind the conflict between the characters lies a heartbreaking truth. The book has some significant trigger warnings but sharing them would reveal spoilers. If you’d like them, please send me a DM!

Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for sending me an advanced reading copy of Nobody But Us!

Check out the book’s Spotify playlist!

B O O K R E V I E W : The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth

The Younger Wife 
Sally Hepworth
St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: April 5, 2022

Tully and Rachel Aston can’t believe their fifty-something father, Stephen, is dating Heather, a woman younger than them who he met when she redecorated the house he shared with their mother before her dementia became so bad she had to go to a nursing home.

When the couple announce they are engaged, Tully and Rachel are sure Heather only wants to marry Stephen for his money. And their father is so swept up in the romance, he’s determined to divorce their mother to expedite his wedding.

The sisters begin asking questions, trying to uncover Heather’s past. In doing so, however, they also excavate mysteries of their own family, laying bare long-held secrets and seeing family members differently, unearthing truths some want kept buried.

The Good Sister was one of my favorite reads of 2021, so I was so excited to read this year’s The Younger Wife. Like Hepworth’s other books, The Younger Wife has excellent writing, interesting characters, and lots of family drama. I particularly liked the social contagion—how the hint of an idea spread and the characters started seeing evidence for it everywhere. Rachel, a baker, has a suitor who is very into puns which I loved!

Thank you so much to St. Martin’s Press for sending me an advanced readers copy!