The Flatshare

by Beth O’Leary
First sentence: “You’ve got to say this for desperation: It makes you much more open-minded.”
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Content: There is lots of swearing, including f-bombs, and some almost on-screen sex, as well as talk of sex. There are also references to emotional abuse. It’s in the romance section of the bookstore

Tiffy has just broken up with her on-again-off-again boyfriend, Justin. This time it was because he got engaged to another woman, and even though her heart is broken, she knows she needs to get out. The problem is her job working for a small publishing house isn’t going to get her anything fancy in London, and everything in her price range is, well, unsafe for habitation. That is until she finds an ad: Leon, a night nurse, is looking for someone to share his flat. The deal: he gets it during the day, and Tiffy will get it nights and weekends. Sounds ideal. But, then Tiffy and Leon start leaving each other notes, and over the months they realize that they’ve formed a sort-of relationship that actually blossoms into something more when they actually (well, accidentally) meet face-to-face.

There’s more to the story than that: Leon’s brother is in prison for something he didn’t do, and it’s Tiffy’s barrister friend who helps with that. Tiffy’s ex-boyfriend turns out to be abusive, and it’s Leon who helps (along with a therapist, yes) Tiffy process and deal with the emotional trauma. And there are side jaunts involving Welsh castles, knitting and crocheting, and a search for a lost love of a dying man. 

i heard a lot of good stuff about this one when it came out in 2019, but I stuck it on my shelf and said “I’ll get to it eventually” and then never quite did. It was only when I let my social media friends choose my current TBR pile that it actually made it on there, and I’m so glad it did. O’Leary is a good romance writer, hitting the tropes, but also giving us characterizations beyond the tropes. I liked that Leon and Tiffy seemed like real people and that O’Leary surrounded them with an excellent support system. It was all a big, happy found-family, and I adored it. 

I’m so glad I (finally) got around to reading it.

Tiffy has just broken up with her on-agan off-again boyfriend, Justin. This time it was because he got engaged to another owman, and even though her heart is broken, she knows hse needs to get out.

Audiobook: Now Is Not the Time to Panic

by Kevin Wilson
Read by Ginnifer Goodwin
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Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There is some talk of violence and sex, and some swearing (maybe a couple of f-bombs? I can’t remember). It’s in the fiction section of the bookstore.

It’s the summer of 1996 in Coalfield, Tennessee, and there isn’t a whole lot to do, especially if you were 16. Frankie is resigned to another boring summer until she meets Zeke. And the two of them create a poster – Frankie comes up with the words and Zeke the art – that, once they start putting it up all over town, creates a panic. Two people end up dying, and there is talk of the poster coming from a Satanic cult. Frankie and Zeke promise to never tell, but 21 years later, Frankie is contacted by a reporter who has discovered that she is behind the Coalfield Craze of 1996. Now, it seems, the story needs to be told.

On the one hand, the book is an interesting musing on the purpose and reach of art: did the poster mean what everyone thought it meant? What responsibility do Frankie and Zeke have for others’ reactions to their art? There was a bit of coming-of-age, as Frankie had a first love, and her dreams were crushed, and realized that maybe everything isn’t perfect. But – I had issues with her as a 16-year-old. She felt… young. Obsessive. I hated the use of “weird” – she was “weird”, she felt “weird”, and she had a “weird” brain. It was a lot. I liked the narrator; she was sweet and read the book well, but in the end, I wasn’t sure I really got what Wilson was getting at.

In the Lives of Puppets

by T. J. Klune
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the publisher
Release date: April 25, 2023
Content: There are a couple of swear words, including one or two f-bombs, plus some sexual humor. It will be in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

This is one that I feel like the less you know, the better off you are. The basic premise is this: Vic is a human who is living with robots – his father, an anxious vacuum, and a sadistic nurse robot (trust me) – in the forest. One day, he discovers an android, fixes it, and brings it back online. It has a connection to Vic’s father (who is, yes, an android) which changes the course of Vic’s life. 

What really drives this book is the characters. Yes, the plot is loosely based on The Adventures of Pinocchio (the book, not the Disney movie), but it’s the characters that drive the story. We got a couple of copies to pass around the store, and we kept reading passages about Rambo the vacuum and Nurse Rached aloud to each other. We started a text thread of quotes. We laughed a LOT. But it’s more than that, too. Klune is meditating on the purpose of humanity, whether we – with all our negatives – are actually worth being alive. And if we are worth it, what is that worth. 

Also, know that I sobbed for the last 50 pages of the book. Klune pulled me into his world and I felt every bit of it. Heartbreak, love, humor, betrayal, acceptance, and loss. 

I have been positively ruined for other books for a while. You will absolutely want to read this when it comes out in April.

Audiobook: Thank You for Listening

by Julia Whelan
Read by the author (who happens to be a very excellent audiobook narrator)
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm!
Content: There is swearing including multiple f-bombs and some pretty steamy on-screen sex. it’s in the Romance section of the bookstore.

Sewanee Chester was an aspiring actress untl a tragic accident took that off the table. She turned to audiobooks, doing romance unders a pseudonm for a while, but has let that go too, doing more mainstreem books these days. That is until an offer she couldn’t refuse – a dual record with unknown but super steamy narrator Brock McKnight – came along. While she’s heating up the emails and texts with Brock, she still has her mind on Nick, the one-night stand she had in Vegas after a book convention.

Of course there are ups and downs, of course there are high stakes (and low stakes), and of course there is a Happily ever after. But what I thorougly enjoyed about this one is that it was the thing – a romance book – whiile poking fun at all the romance tropes and romance authors and audiobook narrators out there. I love it when the thing is the thing while poking fun at the thing. And this is definitely lots of fun.

I think it was especially fun because Whelan is an excellent narrator, and she did All The Voices, which just made it that much more enjoyable. (In fact, sometimes I wondered if she made certaincharaters the way there wer just so dhe could do that particular voice for them.) I may not have loved it as much if I had just read it, but it was absolutely delightful and hilarious in audio.

I had a hilariously fun time listening to this one. Definitely recommended.

Nona the Ninth

by Tasmyn Muir
First sentence: “In the dream, he told her the words about where he took his degrees his postdoc, his research fellowship.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: September 13, 2022
Review copy snagged from the publisher when it came in.
Others in the series: Gideon the Ninth Harrow the Ninth
Content: It’s violent and sweary. It’s in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

Things you should know:

  1. It’s MUCH better if you read Gideon and Harrow right before reading this one. Seriously. I spent so much time trying to remember things, I finally gave up, found a Wiki, and spent time looking up things to remind myself. If you remember stuff from the previous two books, you will better understand and grasp what is going on in this one.
  2. It’s the …. cheeriest? possibly.. of the three so far. Nona is an endearing character and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with her, Pyrrha, Cam, Palamedes, and all the new characters we met.
  3. I have no idea what the heck happened in the last 1/4 of the book, and I’m not sure I care that I didn’t know. Truthfully: upon reflection, all the pieces were there, I just didn’t catch them. (See, #1.)
  4. Muir blew my mind in the best. way, and I am utterly impressed with her world-building, with her character development, and just the way this story is unfolding.
  5. Bring on Alecto. I can’t wait to see how this ends.

Audiobook: Bookish People

by Susan Coll
Read by Alexa Morden
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Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There is some mild swearing and a couple of f-bombs. There is also mention of suicide. It’s in the Adult Fiction section of the bookstore.

A co-worker – the current Children’s Coordinator at the bookstore – turned me on to this one, saying: It’s super accurate, including down to the vacuum cleaner that won’t work. That was enough for me.

The basic plot: it’s one week at an independent bookstore in Washington, DC (not Politics and Prose, though) where everything seems to go wrong. The owner, Sophie, is having second and third thoughts about running a bookstore and just wants to hide away in the hidden room behind the sports section (I think?). Clemi, the event coordinator, has booked Raymond Chaucer, a notorious poet who is basically known because his wife killed herself. Clemi, however, thinks Chaucer is her real father. In between all that is a lot of rain, some pretty weird and funny customers, and a vacuum cleaner that just won’t work.

it’s particularly silly and fluffy; there’s really not much depth or growth here But the author must have some experience with working at a bookstore; there was a lot of insider baseball from Shelf Awareness (which is more like an industry newsletter, not a blog) to receiving and stocking books (though they order a LOT of books) to those weird customers who show up at author events. In fact, it was the author event, where one attendee just started rambling about spotted owls, that had me howling in laughter. I know those people; I have had those people at events I have run.

The narrator was particularly delightful and engaging, doing voices (I particularly liked her voice for Summer), and basically keeping me engrossed in an increasingly silly plot.

So, not a deep or moving book, but it was good for a few laughs, which I enjoyed.

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking

by T. Kingfisher
First sentence: “There was a dead girl in my aunt’s bakery.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: there is some death by murdering and mild swearing. It’s in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

Mona doesn’t consider herself a wizard. After all, all she does is small magic – like make bread rise or gingerbread men dance. But when a girl turns up dead in her the kitchen of her aunt’s bakery, she soon discovers that someone is out to get her (and all the other people who do magic in her town). And, since now of the adults in Mona’s life seem to be doing anything, she and her friend (the brother of the dead girl) soon decide to challenge the powers that be and make someone listen.

People have been recommending this to me for a while now, and I guess I just felt that Now was the time to read it. I mean, who doesn’t love a possibly sentient sourdough starter named Bob? But it was also more than that: it was about inclusiveness, about finding one’s power, even if you think it’s small, and about making and keeping friends. It’s very sweet I get why Kingfisher self-published it: it’s not really an adult book, but it’s not really a YA one either. it sits in that publishing no person’s land, where if you like the sort of thing – baking, slight mysteries, magic, etc – you’ll probably love this book.

I fell on the love it side, and I don’t regret that at all.

Audiobook: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

by Gabrielle Zevin
Read by Jennifer Kim and Julian Cihi
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: there is swearing, including multiple f-bombs, on-screen instances of some pretty unhealthy BDSM, and some violence. It’s in the Fiction section of the bookstore.

For reference about the title.

It’s really kind of hard to sum this on eup. There is a plot: Sadie and Sam are friends as children, they fall out and meet again as students at MIT And Harvard respectively, and end up making video games togethre with Sams roommate, Marx. But that doesn’t really do this novel justice. It’s really about friendships and all different types of love, and the relationships we make and break and make again. It covers about 40 years, and all the ups and downs in Sadie’s and Sam’s life, set against the backdrop of the games that they have made together over the years.

It didn’t always work for me; I found it to drag sometimes, and at other times I was bored with where the story was going. But in the end, I found it to be sweet and touching, and quite insistent that romantic love, at least as we all think about it, is not the Best Thing Ever, that people can live and thrive with other relationships in their life. It was definitely refreshing in that sense.

And the narration was quite good. She didn’t always do the voices, but I was able to follow the story.

And the narration was lovely. She didn’t do all the voices, but the writing was good enough that I could usually tell who was talking no matter what.

I didn’t absolutely love it, but I really liked it.

Audiobook: Counterfeit

by Kirstin Chen
Read by Catherine Ho
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There was some swearing. It’s in the adult fiction section of the bookstore.

Ava Wong has lived a safe life: the daughter of Chinese immigrants, she chose the safe occupation (lawyer), married well (he’s a doctor) and has a child (he’s two), and is living a “good” life. Except, she’s supremely unhappy. Enter Winnie Fang, Ava’s former roommate at Stanford. She is a woman of the world and has developed a counterfeit scheme where she buys knock-off designer bags from China, purchases the same designer bag and returns the counterfeit to the store, selling the original on eBay for a discounted price. It’s made her, well if not millions, then at least a good living. She sees Ava’s unhappiness, and invites her into her world. The whole book is framed as Ava’s confession to a dective, having been caught out in the scheme, and is taking the fall. Except: is she?

To be honest: I wasn’t all that invested in Ava or Winnie’s story. I liked parts of it, and Ho kept me entertained, but I didn’t really feel connected to the story. It’s not that it wasn’t enjoyable (stick around: part 2 makes part 1 worth it), but in may ways, I felt like it was Rich People Problems, which are very uninspiring right now. . So while it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t all that great either. At least it helped fill the hours at work.

Finlay Donovan is Killing It

by Elle Cosimano
First sentence: “It’s a widely known fact that most moms are ready to kill someone by eight thirty a.m. on any given morning.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is swearing, including some f-bombs, talk of sexual assault, and (of course) death. It’s n the mystery section of the bookstore.

Finlay Donovan’s life is falling apart. Recently divorced, she is spending so much time taking care of her own children that she can’t finish the mystery book she’s supposed to have already had into her editor. Her ex-husband (and his fiance) is no help; he begrudgingly helps her bills when they get too big, but he’s had his lawyer file a motion for sole custody of the kids (even though he doesn’t really want to deal tih the everyday grind of raising them). Nothing seems to be going right.

Then, at a meeting in a Panera with her editor, a woman overhears her talking about the plot of her new book and mistakes her for an assassin. She hires Finlay to off her husband, offeringto pay enough to cover Finaly’s bills for quite a while. Finlay is determined not to dot his (she’s not a killer after all!), but when she’s checking the husband out, he accidentally ends up dead (seriously). Everything goes off the rails after that, with Finaly’s former nanny (who had quit because Finaly’s husband was sexually harassing her) getting in on the deal, and the two of them attempt to figure out who killed the husband while keeping the cops off their trail.

I needed something fluffy that wasn’t a romance, and this definitely delivered. It’s an incredibly smart and funny book, full of twists and turns, while also being a critique of how we look at motherhood and single/divorced moms. It was a lot of fun and the plot was good enough that kept me guessing.

I’m glad there’s a sequel so I can enjoy Finlay some more.