Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke

Do you read your star signs? Do you follow what your stars tell you? I’ll admit I sometimes check my star sign (Gemini over here), but it’s not something I do every day. None of my friends really live by their astrological signs either, so when I read Minnie Darke’s debut novel, Star-Crossed, I was pleased to see that I was going to be learning more about horoscopes throughout this novel.

Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke tells the story of childhood sweethearts Justine and Nick. Justine is a major skeptic and a Sagittarius, while Nick is an Aquarius  and an astrological devotee. Specifically Nick is a true believer and follower of the horoscopes by his favorite astrologer in a local magazine. After bumping into each other, Justine realizes that Nick’s favorite astrologer works for the same paper that she works for! Moving up as a coffee runner, Justine finds herself with more responsibilities at the newspaper. One of those responsibilities: inputting in the horoscopes for each issue.

Justine and Nick continuously run into each other, leading Justine to believe that the two will eventually fall in love with each other. Nick’s actions continuously prove otherwise. He IS NOT falling in love with Justine. Feeling torn up about this, Justine decides to tweak his horoscope in order to lean Nick more towards her loving arms. By changing Aquarius, Justine is changing fate. What Justine fails to realize is that Nick is not the only astrological devotee of her newspaper. Other Aquarius are making very important life decisions and changes based on Justine’s new horoscopes.

This novel takes fate and destiny and turns them upside down by charting Justine’s meddling throughout months of the newspaper’s horoscopes. By discussing horoscopes, Darke shows readers how going through life on your own is overwhelming, so finding friendship and help through the stars helps people make choices that are hard to figure out when it feels like you are alone.


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I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney

Have you ever recognized someone on the street or in a picture online, but you just can’t place where they’re from? Alice Feeney uses that as a piece of her main character’s development in her latest novel, I Know Who You Are.

I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney is twisty thriller following an actress working to make a name for herself. Aimee Sinclair has the face of someone that most people recognize, but they can’t remember where she is from. Even Aimee has trouble keeping her past life and present life separate. You see, Aimee has a past that she has never shared with anyone and with that past comes a devastating secret that, if uncovered, would have the power to destroy the life she has carefully crafted for herself. There is just one problem: Someone knows Aimee very well. They know her past, what she did, and who she really is.

Aimee seems to have everything going for her, but bubbling just under the surface of her life, things are preparing to destroy everything. Coming home one night, Aimee finds her husband missing. She is at a loss of what to do since his cell phone and wallet are still sitting on the dining room table alongside a giant bouquet of apology flowers. While she is worried, she isn’t in a full-on panic because the night before they had gotten into a heated argument where they both exchanged words that they did not mean and he did things that she will never be able to forget.

Thinking that he will eventually come home, Aimee gets up the next morning for a run and a trip to her favorite coffee shop, only to discover her card has been denied. Calling the bank, Aimee finds out her account has been emptied, theoretically by her. This unnerves her. After reporting her husband missing, detectives show up at her door to question her. Telling them what happened, detectives begin to believe that she is hiding something. They aren’t wrong. Unwilling to divulge everything she knows, Aimee unwillingly sends the police in the wrong direction while the police work to prove that Aimee is behind her husband’s disappearance. Actions come to a head when both sides come up against a wall regarding Aimee’s husband’s disappearance. Aimee’s past has finally come back to haunt her and demands acknowledgment in such a dangerous way that has the power to destroy everything around her.

This novel takes everything that we think we know about ourselves, actors and actresses, the police, and disappearance cases and turns it all on its head. I’ll admit that I thought I had the plot twist figured out pretty early on, but the ending of this book quickly caught me off guard. Check out this book and let me know what you think in the comments below!


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One Day in December by Josie Silver

This book caught my eye when it popped up as a Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club Pick. Seeing that there was a wait list, I decided to hold out and wait until it came out on OverDrive. Just this last week, I stumbled upon this title again as available. I hurriedly checked it out and started reading. I devoured this title in less than two days!

One Day in December by Josie Silver may be in the fiction section, but it definitely is full of romance as two of the main characters feel the constant push and pull of attraction throughout their lives over a ten year history.

Laurie is on her way home when she spots a mysterious man at a bus stop. Through the foggy and misty window on the blustery snowy December day, Laurie is floored by the instant attraction that courses through her. When he lifts his head up and their eyes meet, something jolts through her body and she knows that he is the one for her. Stymied by indecision, Laurie is at a loss of what to do. Just as she’s gathering her courage, her bus drives away.

Thoroughly believing that she and bus boy are fated to find each other again, Laurie and her best friend Sarah spend the next year scouring every conceivable place in London looking for him. She becomes even more obsessed thinking that she sees him in crowds, in cafes, at different bus stops, anywhere and everywhere. Her journey to find bus boy comes to a screeching halt at their annual Christmas party when Sarah finally brings her new boyfriend to show off for Laurie. As they are introduced, Laurie feels that jolt pass through her again. The man that Sarah has been gushing about for months is Jack. Jack is bus boy. Laurie is understandably devastated.

Not wanting to destroy Sarah’s happiness, Laurie and Jack enter into an unspeaking pact to never tell Sarah that the two have met before. As a result, Laurie, Sarah, and Jack live the next ten years somewhat normally. They go through heartbreaks, intense friendships, new romances, family troubles, and new careers, all while fate works behind the scenes to guide them where they need to be.

Told through snippets of different days throughout the ten years that pass after Laurie first saw Jack, One Day in December tells the story of how love changes and morphs as we grow older. While Laurie may not believe in love at first sight, this novel works to prove that fate has a hand in every decision that we make and ultimately will lead us towards happiness in many different forms.


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Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

What are your feelings about fiction that reads like a documentary or a piece of nonfiction? I wasn’t sure how I felt about this until I picked up Taylor Jenkins Reid’s latest book, Daisy Jones & the Six.

I had previously read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by the same author, so when I saw that Jenkins Reid was putting out a new book, I was excited. While I was waiting for my hold to come in, I carefully looked at reviews while avoiding the spoilers. What I read mentioned that if you have the chance, listen to this book on audiobook first. I took this advice and I’m glad I did! Doing so added a level of closeness to each character and depth to their lives that I felt like I would have missed if I had read the print book only. To each their own though! I will tell you that this audiobook is read by a cast of 21 different narrators, so telling each character apart was fairly easy and very entertaining.

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid tells the story of the iconic 1970s rock band, Daisy Jones & the Six. This book will grab you by the heart(and ears) while keeping you invested in the rise and fall of Daisy Jones & the Six. Told as an oral history of this band’s journey, readers are privy to behind-the-scenes insiders knowledge as to the reason behind their split when the band was at the height of their popularity.

The Six and Daisy were initially two separate groups. The Six is a rock band of their own accord, led by Billy Dunne. While the group is getting ready for their first tour, the habits that Billy has picked up over the years start to come to a head when his girlfriend Camila tells him that she is pregnant. Reeling from this news, Billy goes even more off the rails, leading different members of the band to deal with his actions.

Daisy is a club girl growing up and coming of age in LA in the late sixties. With parents who take a hands-off approach to parenting, Daisy leaves their house to pursue her dream of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. She begins sneaking into clubs, sleeping with rock stars, and getting high off of all the drugs, alcohol, and sex she can get her hands on. While she loves the party scene, nothing holds a candle to her love of rock and roll. By the time Daisy hits twenty, Daisy’s intriguing voice is pulling in attention from people all over the city and her beauty begins to make her even more alluring.

When a music producer who works with and knows both Billy and Daisy begins toying with the idea of having them work together, he quickly realizes that he is on to something. While they are famous in their own right without each other, he begins to see that combining Daisy Jones & the Six has the ability to raise their stardom to unspeakable new heights.

Merging the two groups together proves messy, disheartening, challenging, and immensely rewarding as both Daisy and Billy have egos that refuse to be ignored. Taylor Jenkins Reid follows the group as they work on merging together, creating hits that rocket them to the top of the charts, and ultimately breaking apart at the peak of their popularity.


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Sadie by Courtney Summers

I spend a lot of time in the car either driving to work or driving to explore. This means that I have so many hours to fill that the music on the radio starts to repeat itself. I have learned to spend this time listening to podcasts and audiobooks instead. Looking at award-winning book lists, I found Sadie by Courtney Summers: a book that is presented like a true crime podcast. This sounded perfect to me.

Sadie by Courtney Summers highlights the story of Sadie and her sister Mattie. When thirteen-year-old Mattie goes missing from her small Colorado town and is eventually found murdered, her nineteen-year-old sister Sadie is devastated. Sadie has been raising Mattie by herself for years ever since their mother left. While she had some help from her surrogate grandma, Sadie took on the bulk of the responsibilities associated with her and Mattie’s welfare. When Sadie all of a sudden disappears about a year after Mattie is found, her surrogate grandma reaches out for help.

West McCray is a radio personality who has been slowly making his way across the country to work on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America. While stopped in one such town, he overhears a local talking about Sadie’s disappearance. Shortly after, West is contacted by Sadie’s surrogate grandma and finds himself drawn into the case. West decides to turn his examination into the disappearance of Sadie and the murder of Mattie into a true crime podcast called ‘The Girls’.

When Sadie runs away, rumors abound about why she left and where she’s going. Told in the alternating perspectives of both Sadie as she runs away and West’s podcast about her disappearance, readers are able to follow this story from both points of view. While Sadie has run away in order to track down her younger sister Mattie’s killer, West and the rest of her family don’t have access to that information and struggle to find out why she’s gone, where she is, and what has happened to her.

I enjoyed this book as it combines three of my favorite things: true crime, podcasts, and audiobooks. After looking at different reviews, flipping through the print book, and listening to the audiobook, I agree with others when they say that, if given the option, you should listen to the audiobook. By doing so, you are privy to the little audio clues present in the podcast sections that you would miss out on if you only read the book. Give it a try and let me know what you think!


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Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos by Lucy Knisley

I’ll admit this right now: Lucy Knisley is one of my go-to graphic novel writers. I have yet to be disappointed by her delightful drawings and keen insights into the various stages of life that she writes about in each of her graphic novels. I have enjoyed following Lucy as she documents her journey through traveling adventures, food, family, and planning a wedding. When she posted on her Instagram that she was writing and drawing a new book, I was excited and made a note to check it out when it was published. Well…. I found it!

Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos is Lucy’s latest graphic novel. This graphic memoir details Lucy’s desire to become a mother and her struggle to do so. Lucy was told throughout her entire life that anything is possible as long as you work hard enough and want it enough. What she found is that this isn’t true when you’re trying to get pregnant.

Lucy details, for all the world to see, the struggles that she and her partner went through in order to have a baby. She documents her fertility problems, miscarriages, and her eventual pregnancy that was chockful of health issues. This book ends with the birth of her son, Pal, but the information presented in it spans decades (even centuries).

Lucy talks about her own interest in birth starting when she was a young child and then moves through a very intense period where she was trying to find a birth control option that worked for her. When she and her partner decided to try but not try for a baby, Lucy talks about how she began the transition into potential motherhood. In addition to talking about her personal journey, Lucy also talks about the science and history of reproductive health. In her illustrations, Lucy details the positive and negative aspects(and people) surrounding medicine and midwifery.  The history she added brought a necessary higher level to her own personal pregnancy story.

This book is a lovely addition to Lucy’s graphic novel repertoire. It clearly and beautifully illustrates Lucy’s journey to motherhood as well as the history of pregnancy. Check this book out whether you are on any stage of wanting kids, having kids, or avoiding kids at all cost. Let me know what you think!


If you haven’t read Lucy Knisley’s previous books, I highly recommend that you check them out:

 

The Farm by Joanne Ramos

Pregnancy is a taboo subject alongside conception in today’s society. Even though this is something that people go through on a daily basis, anything surrounding pregnancy is seen as something to be kept hidden and not talked about. Joanne Ramos takes this topic and expands upon it in her debut novel.

The Farm by Joanne Ramos feeds upon the desire of wealthy women to have a baby, but still be able to keep their figure, work full time, and not have to rely on a partner to have a baby. Mae Yu, an ambitious businesswoman looking to find her way in the business world, proposes a new plan to give these women what they want: Golden Oaks. Golden Oaks is a luxury retreat nestled, and somewhat hidden away, in New York’s Hudson Valley. This retreat caters to basically every woman’s pregnancy need: massages, personal trainers, meals catered to their exact nutritional needs, and a community of pregnant women going through the exact same process that they are. Sounds perfect, right? There has to be a hidden secretive side at Golden Oaks and sure enough it starts to surface.

The women at Golden Oaks aren’t just regular surrogates: they are ‘Hosts’ at ‘The Farm’ as they call themselves and Golden Oaks. These hosts are promised a very large, lucrative payday when they deliver their children for the clients. The downside: they are trapped at Golden Oaks for the full nine months, they cannot leave the grounds, their movements are monitored 24/7, and they are completely cut off from their former lives. Sure, they have access to computers and video chats with their families and friends, but those calls are monitored and visitors are not allowed. Despite all these restrictions, and partly because they are not disclosed up front when hosts are brought to Golden Oaks, some residents choose to dedicate their lives to the Farm and carry multiple babies for the same women.

Struggling to provide for her daughter, Jane is having trouble holding down a job. When she hears of Golden Oaks through another family member, Jane soon finds herself signing up to carry someone else’s baby, despite the fact that she has a very young daughter at home. Jane, a young immigrant from the Philippines just trying to find a better life, commits to being a ‘Host’ at Golden Oaks and finds her new life to be structured in a way that makes her uncomfortable. As she begins to doubt her choices and wants to go back to her former life, Jane realizes that she must reconnect with her family on the outside. Facing the possibility that she could lose the fee she was promised with the safe and healthy delivery of the child she is carrying, Jane is forced to go to the extremes to get what she wants.

This novel forces readers to question what we consider to be motherhood and all the messy moral, monetary, and reproductive questions that circle the ability to get pregnant. The topic of what women are willing to do to become mothers and how far businesses are willing to go in order to help them happily fulfill their futures is a major component of this book. Give this book a read (or listen) and let me know what you think!


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We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet

What would you do if you found a child abandoned on a bus? In current times, there are procedures in place for how to handle this. Now travel back to World War II. Imagine you found a small child asleep on the backseat of an empty bus after a mass evacuation from a town miles away that had just been bombed. What would you do now? We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet tackles this topic and more as civilians in England during World War II struggle to find a new normal.

We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet begins in December 1940. German bombs are falling on Southampton. In the midst of a massive and chaotic scene, residents are evacuating from the bombed town on buses to rural villages to escape the devastation. Helping to clear one bus in Upton village, Ellen Parr is stunned to find a young girl sleeping in the back of an empty bus, entirely by herself. Picking up the exhausted child and walking through town to search for her mother, Ellen quickly realizes that five-year-old Pamela is utterly alone. Left with no other options, Ellen and her husband take the child and some other refuges home with them.

While the other refuges leave their house in the morning, young Pamela stays. Newly-married Ellen and her husband never thought that they would have children. In fact, they knew that they could never have any biological children of their own, something that Ellen always thought that she was fine with. The addition of Pamela to their home, as well as some other children that the Parrs have taken in, begins to change Ellen’s mind. The longer Pamela stays, the more attached Ellen becomes (Pamela gets attached as well). Ellen starts to think that after the war, Pamela will stay with them and their family will be complete. Once the fighting settles down however, circumstances occur that will once again shatter the quiet idyllic life that the Parrs have created with Pamela. They realize that Pamela was never truly theirs to keep.

Frances Liardet has written a masterful story about the many different forms family and friends can take. As we go through life, Liardet spins a tale of the many different ways we can reach out and change the lives of others. Both the smallest gestures and largest acts can forever alter the lives of others.


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Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts

I love The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum so much so that I wrote one of my final thesis papers comparing the book to the movie starring Judy Garland. This book and the subsequent series helped shape me to become the person I am today.  Knowing this, imagine my excitement when I saw a new book by Elizabeth Letts called Finding Dorothy on the  shelf at work.

Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts is inspired by the story behind The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. L. Frank Baum’s wife, Maud, serves as the catalyst for this book by showing readers what is happening both in 1938 Hollywood and in her past both as a child and a newlywed. In Hollywood in 1938, Maud has learned that M-G-M is adapting Frank’s masterpiece for the screen. Without being asked her opinion on this development, seventy-seven-year-old Maud is convinced that she must make it on to the set in order to talk to the movie producers. Eventually making her way to the lot, Maud is eager to fulfill the promise that she made to Frank: the movie will stay true to the spirit of the book. Maud is the only one left who remembers the secrets of the book.

Maud is invited to the set where she witnesses Judy Garland rehearsing ‘Over the Rainbow’. As she closes her eyes, Maud finds herself transported back to the past. The yearning that Judy infuses into the song is reflective of the yearning that burned through Maud as she was growing up. Maud grew up in the shadow of her suffragette mother. When she decided to go to college, Maud made her way as one of the first women in the Ivy League. Meeting Frank one day drastically changed her life and Maud soon found herself growing fond of this young fellow. As their life grew together, Maud and Frank struggled. Desperate for a new beginning, they moved to the prairie where their life became even harder. The difficult times they experienced together on the prairie helped influence and inspire Frank as he wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Watching Judy Garland bring Dorothy to life reminds Maud of the young girl that she helped to raise in South Dakota. Maud strives to help Judy more than she was able to help the other young girl. Seeing Judy under immense pressure from the studio and witnessing first-hand the advances the men made towards her serves to further strengthen Maud’s resolve to protect Judy.

Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts works to tie together two storylines: the lives of the Baum family members beginning in the 1860s and the development of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1938 Hollywood. Even though Letts imagines the dialogue between the characters, this book is a reflection of her dedicated abilities as a conscientious researcher. Her in-depth research into the lives of Frank and Maud Baum allowed Letts to capture how one family persevered through a mess of love and loss to create a book that has inspired many generations of readers.


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California Girls by Susan Mallery

Have you ever heard the saying that bad things happen in threes? Susan Mallery takes that saying and expands upon it in her newest book, California Girls. Three sisters have their lives together until one fateful week when everything for each of them begins to fall apart. Finola, Zennie, and Ali all live in California with their mother close by. The sisters may live in a sunny state, but their lives have definitely taken a darker turn.

California Girls by Susan Mallery tells the story of Finola, Zennie, and Ali at defining moments in each of their lives. Oldest sister Finola is a popular LA morning show host. She has been married to her husband Nigel for the last four years. Finola loves her job as well as the publicity, fame, and clout the position gives her. She lives a happy and successful life. The couple is set to go to Hawaii for a weeklong vacation when she plans on telling him that she is ready for them to have a child. At her last day of work before her vacation begins, Finola is blindsided when her husband announces (right before she’s supposed to go on air) that he’s been having an affair. Finola decides to deal with this by pretending everything is fine and that Nigel will come back to her when he’s grown tired of his mistress. She hides from the tabloids and continues to believe all will go back to normal.

Middle sister Zennie has also gone through a breakup. However she’s not heartbroken because she never really wanted to be in a relationship anyway. Zennie would rather be doing literally anything else: surfing, running, working out, etc. When her best friend asks her to be the surrogate for her and her husband, Zennie instantly agrees. She would do anything for her best friend and it’s not like she has a pressing desire to pair up and have kids anytime soon(if at all). When she announces this news to her family and friends, almost all of them think she is making a huge mistake. With no way out, Zennie discovers that this surrogate pregnancy is going to be much harder than she initially thought it was going to be.

The youngest sister Ali has always lived in her older sisters’ shadows. Finola is their mother’s favorite, while Zennie is the apple of their father’s eye. Of the three, Ali isn’t the thinnest or the prettiest or the tallest. She’s just Ali. As a result when she first met her fiancé, Ali thought she had found her forever. That forever is destroyed when her fiancé decides to call off the wedding SEVEN WEEKS before they are supposed to get married. To make things worse, he is too cowardly to do it himself and sends his brother Daniel to break things off instead. Ali is drowning in everything she has to do to cancel the wedding, but Daniel keeps showing up and offering to help. His constant support leads Ali to believe that Daniel may end up being more than a friend.

All three sisters are forced to start over their lives, but the good thing is that they have each other to rely on. As this story progresses, readers follow each sisters’ life journey as they rebuild their relationships with each other and with the other people around them. Read this book and let me know what you think in the comments!


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