booklistqueen's reviews
317 reviews

Free Food for Millionaires, by Min Jin Lee

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reflective slow-paced

3.0

 The strong-willed daughter of Korean immigrants, Casey Han is determined to have the glamorous Manhattan lifestyle that she can't afford, even with her Princeton degree. With ever-increasing debt, Casey seizes on any opportunity to make a space for herself in a world of privilege, yet she constantly feels the strain of living above her means.

First, you should know that Free Food for Millionaires is excessively long. The 600-page count feels more worthy of a WWII epic like Pachinko rather than six years in wealthy Manhattan. The story was interesting, if not exactly gripping, with plenty of discussions on race, class, and sex. The characters were severely flawed, but not endearingly so, making them hard to love and often making the novel hard to read. 
Ayesha At Last, by Uzma Jalaluddin

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funny lighthearted medium-paced

4.0

 Ayesha at Last is a Muslim Pride and Prejudice retelling set in modern-day Canada, that is more inspired by Pride and Prejudice instead of being an exact retelling.  A devout Muslim girl, Ayesha has given up her dreams of being a poet to become a teacher with a dependable salary. Although her cousin Hafsa is meeting potential suitors for an arranged marriage, Ayesha would rather find love on her own terms. When she meets the handsome but conservative Khalid, she is caught off guard by his sharp wit and his judgmental attitude.

I thought Ayesha at Last worked great as a love story, as you instantly fall in love with both strong Ayseha and gentle Khalid. Although I didn't like that some of the side characters were stereotypically one-dimensional, I thought Jalaluddin did an excellent job portraying what it is like being both modern and conservative, reminding you that observant doesn't equal backwards or oppressed. 
The Hunger, by Alma Katsu

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dark mysterious tense medium-paced

3.0

 Alma Katsu tells a fictional account of the real-life Donner Party but with a supernatural twist. As the pioneer company makes its way across the Great Plains to California, they are plagued by hardships as a sinister force seems to be brewing. With supplies running low and members disappearing, the group begins to wonder if evil has been residing among them all along. I was skeptical about adding a horror angle to a true tale, and though it was obviously a bit loose with historical accuracy, the overwhelming sense of dread made for a fun read. 
Damnation Spring, by Ash Davidson

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challenging informative slow-paced

3.0

 For generations, Rich Gunderson's family has logged the redwood forest on California's coast and he jumps at the chance to buy a virgin Redwood grove for logging. After a streak of miscarriages, his wife Colleen begins to wonder if there's something in the water. As Colleen investigates the environmental impacts of logging, her search for answers might tear her marriage, and the town, apart.

Damnation Spring is a long slow build that dragged at times with prose overloaded technical logging language. I will admit, I was annoyed that one major plot point was so briefly mentioned that I completely missed it and had to go back to double-check that it was even there. (It was given two sentences in a rather confusing scene). 

The conflict between the logging industry and conservationists made for a great premise, and you really feel for Rich and Colleen. Although I thought it was a pretty solid story, the narrative was so slow that you really have to push through a lot of "meh" to get to the decent ending. 
Things We Do in the Dark, by Jennifer Hillier

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dark mysterious slow-paced

3.0

 When Paris Peralta is found covered in blood standing over her celebrity husband's dead body holding a straight razor, she knows she's looking at a murder charge. Yet, Paris is more worried about her past secrets. Twenty-five years ago, Ruby Reyes was convicted for a similar murder in Canada. Unexpectedly released from prison, Ruby threatens to expose Paris's past, which might force Paris to face two murder charges.

Things We Do in the Dark was a boilerplate mystery with twists so formulaic and obvious they were easy to guess. Although the novel starts in the present day, most of the narrative ends up being tedious backstory explanation. Yet, it was still a quick fun read that made for an enjoyable afternoon, if not a memorable one. 
The Christie Affair, by Nina de Gramont

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mysterious reflective sad slow-paced

3.0

Nina de Gramont boldly reimagines the unsolved eleven-day disappearance of famous mystery writer Agatha Christie. In a glittery world of privilege in 1925, Nan O'Dea begins an affair with Archie Christie. Told from Nan's perspective, The Christie Affair is a tale of a calculated plot to steal another woman's husband, ending in betrayal and possibly murder.

I'm rather surprised The Christie Affair was a Reese Witherspoon book club pick because it was so dull that I ended up skimming the last quarter. I had read Marie Benedict's The Mystery of Mrs. Christie last year, so I was annoyed at how fast and loose de Gramont played with historical facts. Nan's backstory is intriguing and the best part of the book, but it doesn't mesh well with the mystery of the disappearance.
The Lies I Tell, by Julie Clark

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mysterious sad medium-paced

4.0

 Meg. Maggie. Melody. Whatever name she's using at the moment, she's a con artist who slides into your life and takes everything when she leaves. Kat Roberts has been waiting ten years to expose the con artist who upended her life. Yet, when Meg returns, Kat finds matters much more complicated than she realized.

Julie Clark has penned a surprisingly good con artist book where you can easily sympathize with both Kat and Meg. With a quick pace and relatable characters, The Lies I Tell was a fun summer read that leaves you with a satisfying ending. 
The It Girl, by Ruth Ware

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dark mysterious medium-paced

4.0

 April was the first person Hannah met at Oxford, and they quickly became inseparable with their group of friends until April was killed. A decade after April's murder, Hannah learns that the recently deceased convicted killer may have been innocent. With a journalist probing for details and the murderer likely still out there, Hannah reconnects with her old friend group to uncover their long-buried secrets.

Ruth Ware is one of my favorite mystery writers and, having read all her books, I can tell you that The It Girl does not disappoint. Ware's excellent writing makes up for the fact that the story is your standard dark academia prep school murder mystery. Even though the modern timeline is on the slow end, it didn't seem to drag. If you want a solid summer thriller, Ruth Ware is definitely the way to go. 
Carrie Soto Is Back, by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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adventurous emotional inspiring fast-paced

5.0

 When Carrie Soto retired from tennis six years ago, she was the best player the world had ever seen, shattering every record imaginable. Now a hotshot new tennis star is threatening to break Carrie's legacy. At 37, Carrie attempts to come back for one more epic season to defend her title, even if defying all the odds means she has to train with a man from her past.

If you've read Malibu Rising, Carrie Soto is that tennis player, but you don't need to read Malibu Rising to enjoy the book. I love that Reid gives crossovers hinting at her other books in such a way that it's fun for fans, but doesn't preclude you from reading the book independently. 

I absolutely loved Carrie Soto is Back. I started it half an hour before my bedtime and literally did not put it down until I had finished it. Taylor Jenkins Reid shines with her brilliant writing and complex characters. You do, however, need to at least enjoy tennis, because much of the suspense comes from the actual tennis matches.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Ballantine Books through Netgalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. 
Reputation, by Sarah Vaughan

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dark mysterious tense medium-paced

4.0

 As a female politician, Emma knows it only takes one slip-up to ruin your reputation. Using her position as an MP, Emma is determined fight for female victims and pass a law against revenge porn, even though it brings a slew of threats, both online and in person. When her teenage daughter lashes out at a high school bully, the consequences could be disastrous as Emma is put on trial for the death of a reporter who threatened to publish the story. 

Reputation is like a good Law & Order episode - showcasing the lead-up to the crime and then diving into the court case. Not only did Vaughan write a compelling narrative but also she managed to really hit home on her main themes, violence against women and how our reputation affects our actions. The combination of a killer narrative (pun intended) and deeper underlying themes will make this a great book club choice this summer.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Atria Books. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.