January Stories

I don’t honestly know how’s it already February… all I can remember from the last month is a blur of work, illness (not COVID!), dark grey days and now an impending ice storm heading our direction. January didn’t fill me with much joy to be honest, but some of these books did…

–Marissa

Maggie Finds Her Muse by Dee Ernst was… fine. Not particularly funny, not particularly sexy, not particularly memorable. The sort of love triangle felt flat, and oh, I was so looking forward to reading a romance novel about a romance writer who, at 48, goes to Paris to write her latest novel, eat all the food, and find romance again. Eh. I did love the descriptions of all the food eaten, though. 😉

Greenwich Park by Katherine Faulkner is the familiar trope of the woman who befriends another in a seemingly innocent fashion, and then the book is filled with sinister undertones and “something isn’t right’s”. Helen meets Rachel at a prenatal class and they become friends, but then… dun dun dun! Honestly, this one didn’t much hold my attention, and I don’t care much about any of the characters. I’d give this one a pass.

The Appeal by Janice Hallett is a mystery novel told set in the UK entirely in texts and emails as a small town rallies (and particularly the players in an amateur dramatics group) to raise funds for a terminally ill child… until lies, deception, and murder shroud the town. This sounds dark but was actually more of a cozy British mystery, and the fun was unraveling what was going on just through the written communications.

The Guilt Trip by Sandie Jones was a quick listen… three couples travel to Portugal to celebration the upcoming nuptials of one of their own, but secrets lurk that could undo them all. This was a fine audiobook, a good distraction for busy days, but not a storyline I’ll remember even a few weeks from now…

Made in Manhattan by Lauren Layne was a cute little romance novel. Privileged, Upper East Sider Violet is given the unenviable task of helping her surrogate grandmother in “spiffing up” and making ready for NYC society Cane Stone, a roughneck from Louisiana who finds himself unexpectedly thrust into a new world. Their bickering and flirting was cute, and though you knew how it would end, it was fun getting there.

What Might Have Been by Holly Miller is the follow up to the Sight Of You, which I LOVED, and while I enjoyed this Sliding Doors-style novel, it didn’t grab me the way her debut did. Lucy’s story is divided into two – moving to London and reconnecting with an old boyfriend, or staying in her seaside town and meeting a new beau. Both storylines are compelling, but didn’t have the same emotional punch as her first one, but I still enjoyed it!

The Good Son by Jacquelyn Mitchard was… let’s just say, I had to force myself to skim finish from about a third of the way through. Too long, too boring, too overwrought, too disjointed  (did an editor even read this?). Anyway, son released from prison after murdering his girlfriend, how does the family move forward now, blah blah… didn’t care, still don’t care. Not for me.

Falling by TJ Newman came out around the same time as Hostage by Clare Mackintosh (which I read and LOVED), so I gave this one a miss for a while – but I’m so glad I got back to it on audiobook! A veteran pilot learns his family has kidnapped, and his choice is either to crash the plane or have his family perish. I LOVED all the behind the scenes of how flights work, the sass and cunning of the crew, and the suspense of how it was going to go down. This was a propulsive, compelling story (and a great audiobook listen!) written by an actual flight attendant!

These Precious Days by Ann Patchett is a collection of personal essays – but that barely summarizes this lovely collection. I listened to Ann narrate stories about her three fathers, her travels in Europe as a younger woman, her not having children, her husband Carl, and most poignantly, her friendship with Tom Hanks’s assistant (you have to listen/read to be transported, as that sentence doesn’t do it justice). Her prose, her storytelling, her foundation of knowing who she is (not a mother, a bookshop owner, a wife, a friend, a writer) was so very inspiring to me. I really, really loved listening to this collection.

State of Terror by Louise Penny and Hillary Rodham Clinton was an audiobook listen for me, and I could NOT stop listening! This combines a plucky female Secretary of State (ahem!), an international trail of terrorism that is on its way to American soil, a tricky political landscape, and so many twists and turns and red herrings. I DEVOURED this audiobook, completely invested in the story and the characters and couldn’t wait to hear what would happen next. Louise Penny has been a miss for me in the past, but this one was an absolute winner with Clinton’s insider knowledge of how things work. I want another one by these two!

Unicorn Space by Eve Rodsky is a non-fiction work geared towards women who have too much on their plates and aren’t finding time to nurture their creativity. I love the premise of this, and many of her stories from “Uni’s” resonated with me, but I often found myself a bit bogged down in the telling. A good reminder to set boundaries around finding creativity and joy, though!

Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz is a YA novel from the creator of one of my favorite podcasts, Noble Blood. You’ve got a 1800s Edinburgh setting, body snatching, girl power, romance, everything!

Lucky by Marissa Stapley had a great premise – what if a grifter on the run found out the lottery ticket in her pocket was a huge winner – but she’d get arrested if she tried to claim it? Sadly, I don’t feel like the story held up for me, though it was a fine enough read, and fairly quick.

Taste by Stanley Tucci is a must LISTEN, just to hear his voice talking about food throughout his life (I loved his childhood stories!), exploring Italian cuisine, his recipes, family tales, his cancer diagnosis, and all things in between. I adored this audiobook so, so much.

A Flicker in the Dark by Stacey Willingham got lots of pre-press buzz – a bayou setting, a father confessing to 6 murders when the protagonist was only 12 years old, and now a re-emergence of similar murders happening where psychologist Chloe lives. This one just didn’t live up the hype for me and it took me ages to finish it. A bad book or just the wrong book for my mashed potatoes brain right now?!

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